What is the source and summit of the Catholic faith? The Eucharist. And, according to author Flannery O’Connor, when a fellow writer said it was a beautiful symbol: “If it’s a symbol, to hell with it.”
Bishop Robert Barron is busy traveling, shooting new episodes for his “Catholicism: The Pivotal Players” series, including one on O’Connor, whose sometimes hard-edged tales touch on the deepest recesses of the human heart and the ever-present chance of redemption.
In the clip below from the O’Connor episode, posted Aug. 14, Barron can be seen in the rose gardens at Yaddo, an artist’s colony and retreat near the famed Thoroughbred racecourse in Saratoga Springs, in upstate New York. It includes the above quote and more.
As demonstrated by the exodus of many disciples as soon as Christ started talking about the true nature of the Eucharist, it’s a hard thing to accept: that the Son of God can be fully present — Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity — under the appearance of bread and wine.
In Family Theater Productions’ online series “Catholic Central,” we consider the Eucharist to be so important that we dedicated two episodes to it. It’s a serious subject, and host Kai (Kaiser Johnson) and Libby (Elizabeth Slater) treat it as such, but with the lighthearted touch seen throughout the show (which is still releasing new episodes regularly).
So, how lighthearted?
Take a look at “Eucharist 101” (full episode page here, with transcript and study materials):
And the follow-up episode, about the “Real Presence” (full page here):
Catholics love Mary and the saints, but Jesus is the undisputed Lord, Savior and King, who gives Himself to us at every Mass, in the humblest and most miraculous of ways.
It may be the dog days of August, but we’re talking horses. After all, we had another Triple Crown winner this year with Justify, and the annual Thoroughbred-racing season is well underway at the historic Saratoga Springs Racecourse in my hometown in upstate New York. So, let’s get horsey — take it away, guest blogger Adrienne Thorne!
…Kate O’Hare (editor)
When it comes to non-animated fare, it might feel like there’s just not a lot out there that you can watch with your kids. There’s one little sub-genre, though, that I’ve found to be refreshingly clean, on the whole. That sub-genre is horse drama.
My kids happen to love watching shows and movies that have lots of “horsies” in them. And I’ll admit that sometimes these types of shows and movies do run a little on the cheesy side, or a lot on the cheesy side in some cases. But here are five picks that are actually pretty entertaining.
This 11-season Canadian horse drama is about a teenage girl who loses her mother and decides to carry on her mom’s work of rehabilitating damaged, untrainable horses. There’s lots of family and relationship drama, plenty of storylines revolving around problems with the horses, and an abundance positive values.
On the downside, it’s a bit cheesy here and there (especially the first season — but it gets quite a bit better later on!), and the later seasons tend toward the edgier end of the PG spectrum, with occasional discussion of things like unwed pregnancy and substance abuse — though it’s all treated in a pretty family-friendly way.
This Netflix original series is about a 15-year-old American girl who spends the summer on an English island with some family and discovers her natural ability with horses.
I have to admit that I started watching this G-rated series expecting it to be unwatchably cheesy, but I was pleasantly surprised. There’s a bit of silliness here and there, and definitely more cute teenaged boys crushing on the heroine than feels realistic, but over all it’s not bad.
I remember watching this B&W comedy series about a talking horse named Mister Ed when I was a small child. And as a parent now, I can definitely see why my parents let me. Like most comedy shows of the late 50s and early 60s, this one is pretty clean. And littler kids will probably get a real kick out of the fact that that palomino horse is talking!
This is one of those little movies that look like they could be pretty hit or miss quality-wise, but it’s not bad at all. It’s a PG drama about a feisty pre-teen girl whose unknown father is a rodeo star. Without ever really intending to follow in his footsteps, she discovers she has a knack for riding and begins training with a trick-riding team.
If something educational is more your taste, you might enjoy this documentary about a post-World War II Dutch immigrant who bought a horse bound for the glue factory and trained him into an elite jumper. The film takes a look at their training process, the surprising victories they went on to achieve, and the bond between man and horse.
“Harry & Snowman” is streaming on Netflix right now.
And a bonus from the editor — since I’m a huge Thoroughbred-racing fan, I couldn’t close this out without including two of my favorite films in the genre: 2010’s “Secretariat,” about racing’s second “Big Red” and the 1973 Triple Crown winner (after a 25-year drought), which is on Amazon Prime and Netflix; and 2003’s “Seabiscuit,” about the legendary underdog champion of the Great Depression, available on Amazon Prime, HBO GO and HBO NOW.
“Secretariat” is PG and suitable for all audiences; “Seabiscuit” is PG-13, for some mature themes, and is probably best for middle-schoolers and up.
And my favorite bit from “Secretariat,” featuring a gospel arrangement of a classic hymn:
A decade ago, then-Father Robert Barron started filming his acclaimed “Catholicism” series, which premiered in the fall of 2011 on PBS, and has since gone on to become one of the most beloved and acclaimed presentations about the Faith.
Available on DVD and online, “Catholicism” not only became a mainstream media phenomenon but a catechetical one as well, with many Catholic educators using the show to teach both children and adults.
Emphasizing the scope, history, beauty and faces of the Church past and present, “Catholicism” set a gold standard for portraying the Catholic Church in the mainstream media. Beautifully shot all around the world and carefully researched, it’s leagues beyond many sensational popular documentaries and movies that often trivialize, sensationalize or outright misrepresent the Church, her teachings and her history.
“The filming of the Catholicism series was one of the most exciting and rewarding periods of my life,” said Fr. Barron. “Our team traveled the globe to capture some of the beauty, truth, and texture of Catholicism. I am thrilled that people across the country will have the opportunity to share in the series, and I hope to engage the imaginations of both Catholics and non-Catholics.“
“This series changed the way I think and act. The global settings were stunning, but it was Fr. Barron s brilliant insights on life s most challenging issues that shook me to the core,’ admitted [executive producer and filmmaker] Mike Leonard. “Whatever your belief or background, there is much to gain from this deep and profound excursion into spirituality, logic and the human experience,” he added.
In this sweeping documentary, Father Barron tells the story of Catholicism around the world using art, architecture, literature, music and all the riches of the Catholic tradition. The production crew travels to some of the most magnificent and sacred sites in Jerusalem, Rome, Krakow, Warsaw, New York, Istanbul, Ephesus, Lourdes, Mexico City, Athens, Corinth, Mexico City, Uganda, Manila, Sao Paolo, Auschwitz, Kolkata, Philadelphia, Chicago, and beyond.
The team was granted exclusive access to film privately in many locations inaccessible to the general public. Highlights include some of the world s architectural and artistic masterpieces and most sacred places: The Dome of The Rock, the Hagia Sophia, the tomb of Mother Teresa, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, rare views of the Pantheon, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Pope’s private gardens, Chartres, Notre Dame, and Cologne Cathedrals, as well as one of the largest religious celebrations on the planet, the feast of the Ugandan martyrs.
To mark the occasion, now-Bishop Barron and executive producer Steve Grunow of Barron’s Word on Fire apostolate have released this video:
Word on Fire has also made the whole 10-part series free for viewing online for a limited time.
Catholic actor Patricia Heaton just finished a nine-year run on ABC with “The Middle,” and now she and her company, Four Boys Entertainment, have found a new studio home.
Heaton founded Four Boys in 2001 with British-born actor, producer and director David Hunt, and the name came from their four sons. The company has worked with ABC, Fox and NBC, along with Warner Bros. Television, and is currently in pre-production on an independent film called “Florence, Not Italy,” for Hunt to direct.
The new production overall deal is with CBS TV Studios, which has produced such shows as “The King of Queens,” the “CSI” and “NCIS” franchises, “The Amazing Race” and “The Good Wife.”
Under the CBS Studios pact, FourBoys will develop and produce new series projects and will be seeking a TV vehicle for Heaton to develop and star in, though her acting services will remain non-exclusive to the studio.
The deal brings Heaton back in the CBS fold after her starring role on Everybody Loves Raymond, which earned her three Emmy awards. The hugely successful family comedy also aired for nine seasons.
There’s no word yet what projects FourBoys will be bringing to CBS, but the network has shown an openness to faith-based material, whether it’s last season’s “Living Biblically” or this coming fall’s “God Friended Me,” so it could get interesting.
Family Theater Productions serves a youth audience with our Catholic Centralonline series, and now we’re moving out to an even wider swath of teens with Next Level, a new film described as “‘Fame’ meets ‘High School Musical.'”
Currently filming in Los Angeles, Next Level features several young performers with sizable social followings. Lauren Orlando (@laurenorlando on Twitter; @laurenorlando88 on Instagram) and Emily Skinner (“Andi Mack”) star as two teen girls competing for the final top spot at an intensive summer performing arts program.
Dance Moms alum Chloe Lukasiak, social media star Lauren Orlando, and Emily Skinner (Andi Mack) are set to star in YA dance feature, Next Level, along with Chloe East, Brooke Butler, Hayden Summerall, Will Simmon, and Ellarose Kaylor. The film is being directed by Ilyssa Goodman, producer of A Cinderella Story film series.
The script was written by Byron Kavanagh (Disney’s Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything and Nickelodeon’s Kickin” It). Kristi Kaylor and Lisa McGuire of The Loft Entertainment are producing the pic with exec producers Family Theater Productions and Beverly Hills Teddy Bear.