3 for the Fourth: ‘Lincoln,’ ‘Patton,’ the Pony Express and FIREWORKS!

Most of us are probably thinking about fireworks and cookouts right about now. But perhaps we should remember that it’s called, “Independence Day,” and not merely, “the 4th of July,” as we often call it.

While there aren’t really a ton of family-friendly viewing options available to stream that are about America’s founding itself, there are quite a few good options that have to do with other parts of our nation’s history.

(Last year, we highlighted “John Adams,” “1776” and “Last of the Mohicans” — click here for that)

So if you’re interested in celebrating the day our country declared independence with a little patriotic viewing in addition to your outdoor festivities, here are three options available to stream right now that can get you and your family in the American spirit.

Lincoln (2012)

I actually saw this film in the theater when it first came out, and it takes a lot of hype and excitement to get me to spend $12 on a ticket. This particular movie did not disappoint.

Starring Daniel Day-Lewis as a conflicted Abraham Lincoln trying to get Congress to pass the amendment that would end slavery, this 2.5 hour war movie is a little intense at times. Steven Spielberg directed the film, which was nominated for several Oscars (winning two), so you can bet it never bores.

While some of the war images (and some language) might be too much for younger viewers, it’s free of sexual content and gratuitous violence.

Lincoln is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Google Play and Netflix.

Patton (1970)

For a more old-school style movie about America’s past wars, check out the 1970 film “Patton,” which is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, iTunes and Google Play. Nearly three hours long, this winner of seven Oscars takes a look at the monumental personage of American General George S. Patton (George C. Scott) and the role he played in World War II.

The film is rated PG, but keep in mind that the PG of 1970 looks a bit different than today’s PG-rated movie. The film has a fair amount of realistic war violence, as well as some language.

Spirit of the Pony Express (2012)

Take a look back at an interesting point in American history, the precursor of our modern mail system, the Pony Express.

This G-rated documentary features a look at the actual trail that Pony Express riders used from California to Missouri as they delivered mail, and it discusses just why the Pony Express was so important during its short time of operation in the mid-1800s. It also has some pretty cool-looking reenactments, and plenty of horsies if your kids are as into them as mine are.

“Spirit of the Pony Express” is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

BONUS — Ambient Fireworks!

In case you can’t get out to watch some spectacular fire works tomorrow night, never fear, because YouTube has 10 hours of fireworks you can put on your TV. And the best part about these fireworks is that you can control the volume yourself!

About the author:

Adrienne is a freelance writer specializing entertainment, parenting, relationships, and other lifestyle topics.

Images: Courtesy Walt Disney Studios/20th Century Fox

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

‘Today, Hope, Faith and Love Won’: Twitter’s Fr. Goyo on a Wedding He’ll Never Forget

Fr. Gregorio “Goyo” Hidalgo lives the life of an ordinary parish priest not far from the Reagan Presidential Library in Southern California. What makes his ordinary life extraordinary is he has a gift for sharing it on social media — even if the story he’s telling is both beautiful and tragic.

On May 12, the Spanish-born priest shared on his Twitter account (@FrGoyo) — where he currently has 11.8K followers, after only about a year — the story of Estela and Nicolas. He officiated at their wedding … in the hospital where Estela is in the last stages of a battle against cancer.

The hospital staff came together to put on a lovely event for the couple. which Father Goyo shared in a series of tweets. EWTN’s ChurchPop picked up the story, but it wasn’t the only one. Here it is on Catholic News Agency’s Spanish-language sister agency, ACI Prensa; and here it is in Hungarian.

This isn’t the only time Fr. Goyo was in the news because of Twitter. Back in January, he tweeted about going to a hospital to offer Communion to a patient, when a mix-up in room numbers allowed him to also administer the sacraments to a dying woman — which Catholic News Agency also picked up.

A couple of weeks ago, he updated the story of Estela and Nicolas:

But none of the places that picked up the original Twitter thread reported the whole story. Fr. Goyo is the vicar at St. Rose of Lima Church in Simi Valley. On a warm June day, we settle at a table and chairs outside the rectory kitchen to talk. He reveals that the couple was already civilly married and had a family.

“They had kids,” Fr. Goyo says, “and they would marry sacramentally. So, they needed what we call a convalidation, which is a sacramental marriage. They knew it. The most beautiful part about this was, both of them wanted to receive the sacrament, and they didn’t know how to do it.

“They said, ‘Father, we married civilly. We don’t know why we did it. We came to this country; we did it this way.’ … And, you know what, I’m going to say this, I admire those who know this state of life (and say), ‘I’m going to get out of it.’

“It’s not like they said, ‘Who cares? Let’s go to Communion and Mass every day. We don’t care. We are not including the eyes of God.’ They knew it, and because of knowing it, they wanted to get out of it.”

In other words, the couple had not been wed in the Church and were technically living in sin. So, before Estela died, they wanted their marriage blessed by the Church, so that they could licitly receive all the sacraments.

So, Fr. Goyo consulted a canon lawyer and made sure he did everything necessary to do the sacramental wedding properly. He’s thrilled that this couple let conscience be a guide.

“In fact,” he says, “there are people showing up to get married at parishes, who are living together, right? They’re just doing it to shut their parents up and really don’t think it’s that big a deal. Yeah, these people knew it was a big deal. They have three kids; six, five and two.”

Fr. Goyo wanted to make sure his readers knew that he was doing something by the Church’s rules, to bring Estela and Nicolas fully back into the fold.

“Even though it was a love story,” he says, “it was a sacramental story. It was a love story with God, more than themselves.”

While he’s very open on Twitter, Fr. Goyo is still feeling his way about the best use of it to describe a priest’s life and the Faith. Sometimes, a joke goes wrong, but he approaches all of it with an open heart and a sincere desire to make people love the Church.

That’s because he knows what it’s like to abandon the practice of Catholicism and embrace the secular world.

Fr. Goyo has much in common with St. Augustine. Both spent their youth seeking wealth and pleasure, while devout mothers kept praying. After a decade or so away from the Faith, Goyo Hidalgo crashed. When he picked himself back up, a childhood desire to become a priest was reawakened. (BTW, he put his full conversion and vocation story in a video on Twitter, of course.)

As I type, Fr. Goyo, who’s on vacation back in his native Toledo, Spain, just tweeted:

Power of prayer, indeed.

Image: Courtesy @FrGoyo on Twitter; Kate O’Hare

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.


Boston College singles Matt and Shanzi, “The Dating Project”

We’ve got five DVDs of our groundbreaking documentary, “The Dating Project,” and we’re looking for five lucky folks to take them home.

After our theatrical preview in April — with sold-out theaters in Los Angeles, New York and other major cities — the film is now available on DVD at Target and Walmart (and at their online stores), and for digital streaming or purchase at (which also sells the DVD), Vudu, Google Play and iTunes (actually, we sold out at Amazon and just restocked).

Or, you can just go to the official Website. There’s also a curriculum for friends or small groups.

Here’s what a professional matchmaker in L.A. recently had to say:

As soon as I watched The Dating Project, I started recommending it to our Bachelors and Bachelorettes. With beautiful cinematography and honest, touching testimonials, this film challenges the hook-up culture with grace and dignity. It begins a dialogue for all singles to look beyond superficial encounters to unearth true, joyful love in their own lives.

– Cristina (Conti) Pineda, Celebrity Matchmaker at Matchmakers In The City

“The Dating Project” was also mentioned in a video from social-media influencer, speaker and college chaplain Father Mike Schmitz:

Here’s how the Quad City Times described it:

“The Dating Project,” whose subtitle is ”A movie for every single person,” is a documentary. Don’t think that means it isn’t interesting or full of fascinating characters, because it is. It’s every bit as engaging, compelling and thought-provoking as a feature film.

The movie’s demographic is the 50 percent of people in the United States who are single. Of those, it’s especially aimed at people in their early 20s to 40s who seek a partner they can love and with whom they can form a relationship. The script follows in particular five different people who consider why they are alone, what their romantic history is like and what they think about the concept of dating.

 At the center of the movie is Kerry Cronin, known as “the dating doctor,” a professor at Boston College who teaches her students about dating (check out some of her wonderful lectures on YouTube if you’d like to do a little research before you go.)
And, Catholic relationship experts Jason and Crystalina Evert, sponsored by Ascension, are sponsoring a Catholic Dating Facebook Live at 7:30 p.m. ET on Monday, July 2. Click here for the event page.

Now that I’ve got you all interested, click HERE to enter to win (starting Saturday, June 23). We’ll randomly choose five winners from among the entrants and notify them in early July. Note: To deliver your DVD, winners must supply a full name and mailing address (NOT a P.O. Box).

The giveaway starts Saturday, June 23 and ends one week later.

Images: Courtesy Family Theater Productions, Paulist Productions, MPower Pictures, PureFlix

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

‘Tag’: The Real ‘Tag Bro’ Priest on Family, Friendship and Sacrifice

Tag premiere — Father Sean Raftis (6th from the left)

Father Sean Raftis is an ordinary parish priest in Columbia Falls, Montana, but an extraordinary group of friends he’s maintained since grade school — and their decades-long game of tag — recently inspired a Hollywood movie.

Released on June 15, “Tag” is very loosely based on the real-life story, outlined in a 2013 Wall Street Journal article (which, to this day, is behind the WSJ’s paywall). What stays the same between reality and fiction is men well into midlife who still designate a period of time during each year, as outlined in a Tag Participation Agreement, to see who’s It.

What’s changed is that the 10 Tag Brothers are now five, and the tag time is in May instead of February. Also, while the Tag Brothers did do some wacky things to tag each other (as you can see in clips at the end of the film), the movie takes it to an extreme level, as four pals (Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Hannibal Buress, Jake Johnson) try to tag the one who’s never been It (Jeremy Renner).

“Tag: is “40 to 50 percent more profane than it needs to be…”

As to the movie, here’s what I said in my Pax Culturati blog at Patheos (which also includes an account of going to the premiere with Father Raftis):

Frankly, the movie is 40 to 50 percent more profane than it needs to be; there’s a miscarriage gag that’s in seriously poor taste (not sure, though, how a miscarriage gag could ever be in anything but poor taste); and the breaking of a (not Catholic) church stained-glass window seemed both unnecessary and a lost opportunity for a laugh and a realization that maybe some things are still sacred. Oh, well.

But, it was funny (and I’m a hard sell on comedy), and the underlying sweetness of a story about male friendship enduring into adulthood somehow survived.

Needless to say, none of the pals in “Tag” is a priest or likely to become one, but Father Raftis was a bit of a hit at the premiere, especially with young viewers who wanted photos with him.

The priest as “every man,” and a nod to Father Peyton …

But, he hasn’t gotten a big head.

“I like the idea of the priest being every man,” he says. “I grew up on the north side of Spokane, as a regular kid, an ordinary kid, wasn’t that great in athletics. I had health issues, but I was still able to make great friends through grade school.”

Father Raftis also gives credit to the love and self-sacrifice of his parents, who sent him to Catholic school and to Gonzaga University (named after Jesuit St. Aloysius Gonzaga, whose feast day is today, June 21).

He even tosses in a reference to Family Theater Productions’ founder, Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., noting that his siblings also serve others: his brother, as a police officer, and his sister, as a caregiver.

“Therein lies the domestic church of Father Peyton,” he says. “The family that prays together, stays together.

“Having that domestic church and living that out made all the difference in my life, and I’m so grateful to God for everything. I wrote to [my friend, screenwriter Karen Hall], before I went to the premiere, and I said, ‘Any counseling you can give?’ Her counsel was exactly right. She said, ‘Soak it in and give all the glory to God, from whom all good things come.’

“That was an opportunity to try, as an ordinary guy. It’s kind of funny, because the monks saved Western civilization by preserving the great works of philosophy and Scripture. Here I am — I played a game of tag.

“Christ blesses that ordinary aspect, and that’s something that’s necessary for us priests. It was a great privilege and a blessing and a humbling lesson to be there as a priest. I’m not Cardinal Avery Dulles; I’m not Father Richard John Neuhaus; and I’m certainly not Karol Wojtyla, but being a Tag Brother, or a Tag Priest, is pretty cool.

“I’m trying to reach out to people who might not otherwise have had contact with a priest, because a lot of people don’t.”

Finding God in everything …

I watched Father Raftis take pictures with the young people, greet the actors, greet a couple of young police officers outside the premiere, shake hands with any number of folks who probably never see a priest except on TV.

The movie wasn’t especially holy, and certainly not for the whole family, but it did introduce a lot of people to Father Raftis and his friends.

“We’re to find God in everything,” he says, “especially in the small things. It’s like that tiny, whispering sound. I didn’t find God in the earthquake; I didn’t find God in the great noises; it was in that tiny, whispering sound.

“That’s something we need to reconnect with, and part of that is our association with our friends in Christ, our friends at the work place, where we’re called to witness to Christ.”

But don’t fear, Father Raftis has not gone Hollywood.

“I’m not a star, and that and two bucks will get you a cup of coffee. Fame is fleeting; time is fleeting. What matters is how we follow Christ. That’s the one thing I have to be very cautious about and very cognizant of, is my calling to be a priest. I’m not called to be a Hollywood star.

“That comes with its own set of talents, and its own set of disciplines. I have enough of a challenge being a priest and trying to be a good one.”

After his Hollywood adventure, Father Raftis returned to St. Richard Church in Columbia Falls.

“I had Mass on Sunday [after the premiere]. I did the Extraordinary Form only, and I did a homily, and I did an apologia [about the movie], saying, ‘Look, it’s R-rated.’ One of the guys came up — he’s a highly decorated retired Marine — and he said, ‘Father, look, the movie is going to do what it does. We know who you are. There are going to be good things happening because of this.’

“That’s my only hope, that something good happens for God out of it. … People yearn, they starve for brotherly or sisterly affection. When we yearn for friendship, we yearn for the Divine.”

Does the game go on?

“Yeah,” he says, “it goes on indefinitely, until one of us is standing.”

Images: Courtesy Kate O’Hare, Warner Bros., Father Sean Raftis

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

‘The Dating Project’ on Digital and DVD: Can a Documentary Help You Find Love?

Dr. Kerry Cronin, “The Dating Project”

Think of all the great marriages you know. Each started with a moment of meeting. Maybe it went well; maybe it went badly. But there can be no potential of a happy ending without a beginning. That’s the message of the new documentary “The Dating Project,” which had a theatrical preview in April and is out now in digital HD and on DV

The feature-length film profiles five singles — between college-age and 40s — trying to find love in a culture where the entire social script of dating and mating has been deconstructed.

If you wonder why 50 percent of America is single, and why so many young people aren’t getting married, it may be because many don’t even know where to start, in terms of building a healthy relationship from the ground up.

“The Dating Project” is both heartbreaking and heartwarming, funny and forlorn. It doesn’t sugarcoat the difficulty of finding love in modern America, but it does offer some practical suggestions.

At the core of “The Dating Project” is the work of Boston College philosophy professor Dr. Kerry Cronin. About 12 years ago, responding to something she noticed about her students’ difficulty with forming relationships, she decided to challenge them to ask someone out on a date — no alcohol, no physical contact other than a hug, during the day, no more than 90 mins in length, etc.

To her amazement, this apparently simple task hit many of her students as an entirely novel idea, as opposed to just “hanging out” or “hooking up” with someone, which can mean anything from a drunken make-out session to sex.

Here’s Cronin’s assignment to her students (also available at the Website for the film,

Over the years, Cronin has seen the hookup culture only expand on campus, and the social script for dating steadily erode — not only in college, but in the adult working world as well. At the same time, the entertainment industry isn’t helping people form a realistic notion of romance.

“My students are convinced,” she says, “by some sort of formula of romantic comedies, maybe, that you’re going to hate somebody until you love that person, suddenly. The formula of seeing somebody across a room, or the bookstore, and then 10 years later you find that person.

“I like the idea of a soulmate, but guess what? We’re all souls, and we’re all searching for love and relationships and connection. The fact of the matter is, there are a lot of great possibilities out there. Attraction can grow; crushes can grow; feelings can change.

“But we’re mesmerized by the, ‘Oh, it was an instantaneous thing, and that’s it, the chemistry.’ A lot of college students especially will say to me, “I just figured, sometime in my 20s, it will just happen’ — as though, there’s nothing I have to do myself.

“It’s a version of, ‘God will drop someone in my lap, whom God picked for me from time immemorial.'”

Among many Christians, there’s the idea that dating is solely a precursor to marriage, and that you should not go on dates with anyone unless that person is a likely marriage prospect. Cronin disagrees with this all-or-nothing approach (with the understanding that, despite lax modern mores, dating someone isn’t necessarily synonymous with having sex).

“I like to advocate for low-stakes dating,” she says. “We learn a lot about ourselves in dating, and it’s not just simply utilitarian in that way. We learn about other people in the world, and God, in dating people outside our usual type.

“We learn how to put another person first, put another person’s cares and concerns maybe before our own. We learn how to navigate emotional landscapes that are different from the landscapes we’re dealing with in friendships and family relationships.

“You learn how to open your heart, and you learn about some things that you shouldn’t open your heart to, and things that don’t work with you and your values.”

While a first date that reveals seriously unpleasant or dangerous things about the other person should send you in the opposite direction, Cronin urges that a merely shaky first round might deserve a do-over.

She says, “There’s a lot that goes on in a first date about nerves, and we’re all awkward. We’re trying to make our way through the first-date conversation. It’s almost always worthwhile to go on a second and even a third date, just to really see if you can uncover in yourself, and another person, what’s really up with that person.”

Chris Meehan, “The Dating Project”

Asked what she’s like single people to take away from “The Dating Project,” Cronin says, “Just try. Just try. A lot of people are paralyzed by their fears and their past, and what went wrong in the past and could go wrong in the future. Sometimes you just have to try.”

If it doesn’t work out?

“You can try again,” Cronin says. “When you try, people around you find out that you’re trying, and so then they might be willing to ask you out. Dating begets dating. If you try, then other people might try with you.”

Not specifically a Christian film, “The Dating Project” counts many faithful Catholics among the filmmakers, and it’s suffused with Catholic values. There is a brief (but not explicit) discussion among friends about pornography. With that proviso in mind, it’s suitable for mature middle-schoolers and up, for youth groups, young-adult ministries, and anyone who’s free and willing to date or knows someone who is.

“The Dating Project” — from Paulist Productions, MPower Pictures and Family Theater Productions, and distributed by PureFlix — is currently available on DVD (including in Target and Walmart), and for digital rental or purchase from several platforms, including Amazon Video, iTunes, Vudu and Google Play. Click here to learn more.

There’s even a discussion guide created by Focus on the Family’s Boundless young-adult ministry — click here to sign up.

Image: Courtesy PureFlix/Paulist Productions/MPower/Family Theater Productions

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.