Category: Christians working in Arts and Media

Twin Friars, Now Priests, Take Over EWTN’s ‘Sunday Night Prime’

Scott and Rusty Montgomery — identical twin brothers, two-thirds of triplets, with sister Katie — grew up Catholic in Lincoln, Nebraska. They had a passion for their faith, and for spreading the Good News of the Gospel. Now, as Fathers Innocent and Angelus, they’re doing just that.

This past Easter, the brothers joined fellow Franciscan Friar of the Renewal (CFR) Father Augustino Torres, as the new hosts of EWTN’s “Sunday Night Live,” which formerly featured CFR co-founder Father Benedict Groeschel. He still appears in clips from earlier shows, with the new trio adding its perspective.

As you can see from the thumbnail, Angelus was a brother at the time, not yet ordained a priest (as his brother Innocent was in 2016).

But last weekend, at New York City’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Brother Angelus joined other seminarians being ordained by Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Click here to see a story at Aleteia, featuring outstanding photographs from the day.

Here’s one:

Jeffrey Bruno | Aleteia … Father Angelus (left); Father Innocent (right)

Here are the new priests talking about how it feels to finally be Fathers …

Their new job on “Sunday Night Prime” isn’t the Montgomery brothers’ first foray into TV. Back in 2015, I wrote about their desire to create a show called “ICONS,” celebrating young Catholics.

And, in early 2016, they did it …

I’m proud to call these guys my pals (they even had me on the radio with them), and can’t wait to see what they do next. Hmmm, maybe they should drop by Family Theater Productions …

Images: YouTube screenshot; courtesy Aleteia

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 Bishop and the Poet: Robert Barron and Bob Dylan

YouTube screenshot

On May 24, 2018, Bob Dylan turns 77 years old, and he’s lost none of the respect, admiration or importance he gained since releasing his debut album in 1962. At that time, Bishop Robert Barron was two years old. I don’t know if the two have ever met, but Dylan has had a huge effect on the media evangelist and now-auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Barron has referenced Dylan in videos and articles, and even said that his discussion of the singer’s work drew the attention of a YouTube-surfing atheist who eventually found his way back to the Faith.

Born into a Jewish family in Minnesota, Dylan appeared to make a public conversion to evangelical Christianity in the late ’70s, with the release of his Christian-themed 19th album, “Slow Train Coming.”

The emphasis on Christian-themed lyrics waned in the mid-’80s, leading to speculation that Dylan had abandoned his newfound Christianity in favor of a return to Jewish practice. Since Dylan is famously private, opinions on his religiosity are largely speculation.

From a 2017 piece at Crux:

Scott M. Marshall, in his new book Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life(BP Books, 2017), casts doubt on this hypothesis. Based on scores of interviews he conducted with many people who have been close to Dylan over the years, evaluations of public comments made by the singer since the late 1970s, and the songs penned and performed since his conversion, Marshall claims that it is wrong to confidently conclude that Dylan ever abandoned his Christian faith.

(Interestingly, he also claims that it is just as wrong to confidently conclude that Dylan ever abandoned his Jewish roots).

Part of Marshall’s thesis is that the Dylan who emerges from his 1983 Lubavitch studies, and subsequently releases Infidels, is not a restored Jew who has rejected Christ, but rather, a Hebrew Christian who has a better and deeper sense of his Judaism and the way it shapes his understanding of the biblical narrative and his relationship with God.

Because Dylan is a man who fiercely guards his privacy, nobody, not even Marshall, knows for sure.

In another Crux piece from about the same time, editor and  longtime Vaticanista John L. Allen Jr. offers a Barron quote from To Light a Fire on the Earth: Proclaiming the Gospel in a Secular Age, his interview/biography of the bishop. Barron says:

Do you remember at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, when Springsteen inducts Bob Dylan and says the snare drum that opens up “Like a Rolling Stone” is like kicking open the door to your mind, and this whole world opens up?

This is cliché to say, but the Old Testament prophet is the right rubric for Bob Dylan. He’s Biblical. He’s a lot of things, of course, but above all, from beginning to end, he’s Biblical. He’s the one, perhaps more than anyone else in pop music, who brings the Biblical worldview into our time.

Buddy Holly, Woody Guthrie, Elvis and others influenced him, but it’s the Biblical take which drives his interest in sin, judgment, eternal life and God.

One of his later songs, called “I’m trying to get to Heaven before they close the door,”has stayed with me. Often when I’m in prayer in my chapel, I’ll look up at the tabernacle and say, “I’m just trying to get to Heaven before they close the door.” When it gets down to it, that’s all I want. I’m just trying to get to Heaven before they close the door.

And, on video, from 2008, when he was merely Chicago’s Father Barron:

Click here for a 2016 Word on Fire podcast, in which Barron discusses the following Dylan-related topics:

  • 0:17  – Bishop Barron at the Bob Dylan concert last weekend
  • 2:40 – Can Bob Dylan serve as a gateway to God?
  • 4:45 – Who is Bob Dylan?
  • 8:32 – Why Bob Dylan is best read as a spiritual poet
  • 10:11 – Bob Dylan’s religious views
  • 12:17 – Biblical elements of Blowin’ in the Wind
  • 15:39 – Bishop Barron on Like a Rolling Stone
  • 21:41 – Bob Dylan and the Resurrection
  • 22:10 – All Along the Watchtower and the Book of Isaiah
  • 26:41 – Finding Jesus in Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love
  • 28:43 – Question from listener: How can we evangelize in a secular workspace?

Let’s finish off with the man himself, starting with “Blowin’ in the Wind,” performed live on TV in 1963:

And, “All Along the Watchtower,” live in Woodstock in 1994 …

Lastly, from 1979, the song called by Rolling Stone the “most religious” on “Slow Train Coming” — “When He Returns” (audio only):

The iron hand it ain’t no match for the iron rod
The strongest wall will crumble and fall to a mighty God
For all those who have eyes and all those who have ears
It is only He who can reduce me to tears
Don’t you cry and don’t you die and don’t you burn
For like a thief in the night, He’ll replace wrong with right
When He returns
Truth is an arrow and the gate is narrow that it passes through
He unleashed His power at an unknown hour that no one knew
How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice? How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?
Can I cast it aside, all this loyalty and this pride?
Will I ever learn that there’ll be no peace, that the war won’t cease
Until He returns?
Surrender your crown on this blood-stained ground, take off your mask
He sees your deeds, He knows your needs even before you ask
How long can you falsify and deny what is real?
How long can you hate yourself for the weakness you conceal?
Of every earthly plan that be known to man, He is unconcerned
He’s got plans of His own to set up His throne
When He returns 

Image: Courtesy Word on Fire

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.

Saint Pope John Paul II at the Movies (Plus ‘The Princess Bride’)

Jon Voight as Pope John Paul II

Saint Pope John Paul II (1920-2005) was a towering figure in many ways. He was physically strong and vital; he was a dynamic speaker; he was the first non-Italian pope in a long time; he stood against modernism and Communism; he survived violence and oppression to stare down violence and oppression; he generated love from without and within.

He’s also a tragic hero — in that his body failed him by increments in front of the whole world, reducing the former hiker and skier to a stooped figure who could barely move or speak. At the same time, the Church he loved and led was torn apart by darkness from within in the last years of his life, when he was significantly weakened.

In short, if you had to invent a pope made for a dramatic story, you couldn’t do better than than the former Karol Józef Wojtyła of Poland.

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that his life and papacy have been dramatized several times, by both American and European producers. Here’s a rundown of some of the ones worth watching.

“Pope John Paul II” (1984)

British actor Albert Finney (in his U.S. TV debut) plays the pope in a CBS TV movie that follows him from his early days as an actor in Poland to being elected pope. Writer Christopher Knopf received a 1985 WGA (Writers Guild of America) Award nomination for his screenplay.

And, here’s the whole thing:

“Karol: A Man Who Became Pope” (2005)

Produced during John Paul II’s lifetime — and seen and praised by both the film’s subject and by his successor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI — the European TV miniseries stars Polish actor Piotr Adamczyk as the young Karol Wojtyla, as he survives World War II to become a priest, a bishop, a cardinal and eventually pontiff.

It was set to be released in early April 2005, but was delayed until later in the month by the pope’s death on April 2 at the age of 84 (a bit over a month shy of his 85th birthday).

It was successful enough to generate a sequel, “Karol: The Pope, the Man,” which came out in 2006.

Writes film reviewer and Catholic deacon, Stephen Greydanus:

Even before production began, the Holy Father met with Polish actor Piotr Adamczyk, who plays him in the film, jokingly telling him, “You are crazy to make a film about me.” After the completed film was screened privately for the Pope, Vatican press spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls described John Paul II as “very impressed” with the portrayal. Then, following a subsequent Vatican screening the day after what would have been the Pope’s 85th birthday, Benedict XVI addressed “a word of admiration” to the director and star, offering some moral reflections on the film’s portrayals of the inhumanity of the Nazi era of Wojtyla’s youth.

Again, here’s the whole thing:

“Pope John Paul II” (2005)

After airing in the Vatican in November 2005 and then on Italian TV, this CBS TV miniseries hit U.S. airwaves in December of that year. British actor Cary Elwes (a Catholic) plays the young Karol Wojtyla, with American actor Jon Voight (also a Catholic) taking over when the Polish cardinal becomes pope.

The new Pope Benedict XVI saw the film. From a CBS News story at the time:

When Pope Benedict screened the mini-series, Voight was sitting near him. “I was able to watch him a little bit, sneak a look… I could see he was moved by it and stuff. It was quite an experience.”

Afterwards, the pope greeted Voight in Italian, probably because the movie had been dubbed in that language for the Italian audience at the screening. Voight doesn’t speak Italian.

“You can see he’s very warm and everything. I could get the words he was talking about. Very sweet.”

As for Pope John Paul II, Voight said, “I really always thought he was such a man of grace and such a moral force. Good guy. Very good guy.”

Elwes is well-known for his role as Wesley in the cult favorite “The Princess Bride,” and apparently the pontiff he was to play was a fan.

From a 2014 New York Post story:

Elwes briefly met His Holiness at the Vatican in 1988, a year after the movie was released. After posing for a quick photo, the pontiff turned to the actor and asked if he was the one from “The Princess and the Bride.” (Infallible, my backside.)

Elwes was so startled, he could barely speak. “Yes,” he answered.

“Very good film. Very funny,” the pope said.

“I mean, what are the chances of that?” Elwes tells The Post. “‘Inconceivable’ was what went through my mind.”

As for the miniseries itself, Greydanus wrote:

Reverent, respectful, well acted and well-paced, Pope John Paul II does about as good a job at covering both halves of its subject’s life as could be hoped for in a TV movie. The miniseries neatly splits its two nights between the pre-election Karol Wojtyla and the reign of Pope John Paul II, with Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride) playing Wojtyla from his youth to the 1978 conclave and Jon Voight (Holes) playing John Paul II from the conclave to his 2005 death.

Both actors do a remarkably good job at evoking the speech, style and physical presence of this most media-exposed of popes. Elwes particularly excels at projecting Wojtyla’s formidable intellect and passion, and Voight is especially good at realizing the Holy Father’s pastoral spirit and iron resolve. Both actors effectively tackle the physicality of the role, Elwes energetic and athletic as the younger Wojtyla and Voight giving an impressively controlled performance from the vigor of the early years of the papacy through the slow decline to that painful final public appearance when all the pope’s immense willpower could not coax speech from his throat.

Unfortunately, the whole movie is not on YouTube. Here’s a trailer:

But, you can buy it from Ignatius Press or from Amazon.com.

“Liberating a Continent: John Paul II and the Fall of Communism”

Of more recent vintage is this documentary, produced by Ignatius Press. Narrated by “The Passion of the Christ” star Jim Caviezel, it can be streamed or purchased at Amazon.com and several other platforms (see here).

George Weigl wrote at First Things:

It took me nineteen years of research and three books (The Final RevolutionWitness to Hope, and The End and the Beginning) to do what executive producer Carl Anderson and writer/director David Naglieri have done in ninety-three minutes of gripping videography and marvelous graphics: explain how and why John Paul played a pivotal, indeed indispensable, role in the greatest drama of the last quarter of the twentieth century, the collapse of European communism. In doing so, they make us think hard, again, about how this miraculous liberation took place—something no one expected on October 16, 1978, when a little-known Polish cardinal, who styled himself the pope “from a far country,” was presented on the central loggia of St. Peter’s as the new Bishop of Rome.

Pope Francis is well on his way to being put into as many TV specials and documentaries as Saint Pope John Paul II, while no great dramas have yet to be announced concerning the life of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

One suspects he’s fine with that.

Image: Courtesy CBS

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.

Mass Enthusiasm With Bishop Barron, Father Mike Schmitz and Lizzie Reezay

So, what’s the big deal about the Catholic Mass anyway? If you’re not sure about that, Internet video is here to help.

But first, a few words from St. Francis of Assisi.

Forget the things St. Francis is said to have said, which he didn’t say (like “Preach always…” and the “Peace Prayer”), here’s something he actually said (or actually wrote), from the Vatican Website:

And as [Jesus] appeared to the Apostles in true flesh, so now also He shows Himself to us in the sacred bread. And as they by their bodily sight saw only His flesh, yet contemplating Him with the eyes of the spirit believed Him to be very God, so we also, as we see our bodily eyes the bread and wine, are to see and firmly believe that it is His most holy body and blood living and true. And in this way the Lord is always with His faithful, as He Himself says: Behold I am with you until the end of the world (Mt 28,20).

That’s the supernatural event happening in every Catholic Mass, but it’s easy to lose sight of that  — especially if you either take Mass for granted or just don’t know much about what’s going on.

Luckily, there are Web resources out there to help — some more engaging than others.

For example, there’s this video from CatholicChicago, which is very informative but not exactly cinematic:

Then there’s this short video from Ascension Press’ “Altaration” series featuring former actor Father Mike Schmitz, which really captures the drama:

Or, where Father Mike takes a more one-on-one approach, in his usual video format:

Los Angeles’ Bishop Robert Barron, known for his “Catholicism” series and much more, has undertaken a new series on the Mass. It is a subject he’s dealt with before, such as in this video from November 2017:

But now he’s taken it to the next level, with an upcoming video series called, unsurprisingly, “The Mass.”

Much of it was filmed at a church in his new hometown of Santa Barbara, Calif. (he’s the auxiliary bishop of the Santa Barbara region of the huge Archdiocese of Los Angeles). The six-episode series launches June. 12.

Episode 1: A Privileged Encounter: The Closest Thing to Heaven on Earth

Episode 2: Called Out of the World: The Introductory Rites

Episode 3: God Speaks Our Story: The Scripture Readings

Episode 4: Responding to Our God: Homily, Creed and Prayer of the Faithful

Episode 5: Preparing for Sacrifice: Offertory and Eucharistic Prayer

Episode 6: The Real Presence Creates Communion: Transubstantiation and Transformation

Click here for the homepage of “The Mass,” where you can sign up for early digital access of episode one; and here for a page with more information. Below is the trailer:

And, last but not least, here’s a video from recent convert to Catholicism (from Church of Christ), 23-year-old YouTuber Lizzie Reezay, a k a LizziesAnswers, whose bubbling-over enthusiasm for the Faith is infectious.

Filmed just prior to her entering the Church this past Easter Vigil, here’s what Lizzie loves about the Mass:

BTW, Family Theater Productions’ own Web series, “Catholic Central,” is working an episode about the Mass, so keep your eyes glued to CatholicCentral.com for when that happens.

In the meantime, here’s our latest effort, a short video on Pentecost (which is this Sunday!).

Hope to see you all at Mass! (Even if you’re not Catholic, we’re always happy to have visitors; here’s a useful guide on Mass etiquette for non-Catholics.)

Image: Word on Fire; Ascension Presents; LizziesAnswers (YouTube screenshot)

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.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen’s Wisdom Compiled in New Book

Journalist turned PR maven Alexis Walkenstein (one of the team behind our recent documentary “The Dating Project”) recently released “Ex Libris — Fulton J. Sheen,” a compilation of writings from pioneering Catholic media evangelist Venerable Archbishop Sheen, who spread the Gospel on radio and TV from 1930 until the late 1930s.

He died in 1979 and is currently interred at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.

Since today, May 8, is the 123rd anniversary of Sheen’s birth, we decided to check in with Walkenstein and see what Sheen means to her, and what she’d like him to mean to others.

How did you first hear about Archbishop Sheen?

Archbishop Sheen would be an occasional topic in our Catholic home growing up, since he was really more of my parents’ generation. In my young-adult professional life as a journalist, I recall particular things about Sheen during one Christmas when my dad decided to gift my mother with a collection of his old radio broadcasts. The media connection intrigued me because I worked in TV.

More personally, I would say Sheen dramatically broke into my life around the time I accepted a new job as spokesperson and director of communications for a diocese in South Florida. I was transitioning from a secular news career in Boston, and I was flooded with all my hopes and dreams (and fears) as I was moving into new territory, career-wise and geography-wise.

I was so excited about moving and praying at the same time for a God-sent husband. I meandered into a local Boston Catholic bookstore before I drove myself south on I-95 to the east coast of Florida. I perused the shelves looking for a spiritual work to mark this time of transition. I plucked Sheen’s Three to Get Married from the shelves and was intrigued because here was this bishop teaching about marriage.

There was so much focus on vocations to priesthood, but at that time I couldn’t remember a bishop speaking about the Sacrament of Marriage with such profound pastoral care pointing to the high call of this vocation. On a practical level, I had no idea what it would be like to work for a bishop and thought Sheen could help me on two fronts, my new job and my desire for my own vocation — marriage.

Why a book, why this book, why now?

The truth is, I never imagined I would be compiling a book on the spirituality of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. Ever. But I can honestly say that Heaven pressed me into service and kept me at my word.

This book is a fulfillment of a promise I made before God and Venerable Fulton Sheen 10 years ago. When I prayed inside the crypt where Sheen buried at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York a decade ago, I asked him to intercede for five intentions.

The whole experience of getting inside the crypt and being in New York was as spontaneous as my last prayer to him that December day. I ended my heartfelt string of prayer requests by saying “If you help me, I will promote you.” I never prayed that way — and was certainly not bargaining with God — but it was more of an offering of myself, almost thanksgiving in advance for what I knew he could do before the throne of God.

Immediately when I emerged from the crypt, I had an email at the top of my inbox from a priest I never met before. The priest was the executive director of the Fulton J. Sheen Foundation in Peoria, Illinois [Ed.: Sheen’s birthplace], and he said he heard about me and asked me to consider helping promote the Sheen cause for canonization in south Florida where I was working. That email dropped the mic and created a domino effect of all types of promotion of Sheen’s cause within Palm Beach and on a national level. The prayers I prayed were being answered almost immediately one by one.

My activities became a labor of love in service to a saint in the making and one of my newest and most fierce intercessors. It wasn’t until about a whole seven years later, when I was approached by Pauline Media to consider compiling this book. That was April, 2015, when I was about to move to Los Angeles, and my life was taking an entirely new direction. I thought my Sheen promo days had peaked and that was it. Not so fast!

My movie work and move to LA was all part of Sheen’s intercession. When the book opportunity emerged the night of my re-entry into the movie biz, Sheen was letting me know very directly that he was behind all the curvy twists and turns of God’s plan for my life.

The book introduces the Gospel as presented by Sheen to a new generation. I’m like the reader. I didn’t know much about Archbishop Sheen, however, I share my personal testimony via the introduction. I then present Sheen’s own words under areas of his main thought such as the mystery of God, human freedom, divine love, sin and knowing Jesus.

On another level, this book reveals Sheen’s efficacy as an intercessor – he’s not just a powerhouse Emmy-toting evangelist, he’s an intercessor for every manner of need. You want a friend in heaven who can move on your behalf in a New York minute? Go to Sheen.

What’s been his biggest impact on your life?

This is hard question to answer because there are very deep and profound things that have happened to me through his intercession as well as his writings, that have impacted me with wisdom to better understand the Gospel. However, I think the biggest impact is the very personal relationship that the saints (or in this case, a saint in the making) want to develop with us.

Again and again, I am astounded by how thin the veil is between heaven and earth, and how responsive Venerable Sheen is to me personally, in the manner in which specific prayers are answered like live scenes from theater and in strategic methodical ways.

On a concrete level, Sheen was the big force in heaven behind my move to Hollywood. I had lived in many other cities, including Atlanta, New York and Palm Beach where I was introduced to Sheen, but three years ago I was back in Boston working in the mainstream at a public relations firm tailored to the business sector. My dad had been very ill, and it was good to be back at home at this particular time, and it seemed that’s where I would stay.

The mainstream job just didn’t satisfy. One day I heard God say, “today’s the day you leave.” I said, “If that’s really you God, make it the worst day ever.” It became the worst day ever ,and I quit my job on the spot without notice. I called on Sheen’s intercession to assist me in pursuit of the roots I wanted to plant in work and in life.

A month later I was asked to help on a movie, which turned into another movie ,which turned into me moving across the country to Los Angeles. I never envisioned moving to L.A. or the very many things that have emerged as a result of this unexpected catapult.

I started my own business, am host of a national radio show and just released this book on Archbishop Sheen. Sheen’s intercession is laced throughout this cross-country move and the new territory and relationships that God had planned for me from the beginning of time. Sheen helps me to see the greatness and vastness of God’s plan for my life when I invite Him to take over. It’s a much better show than I could ever produce.

What do you hope people take away from this book?

It’s my ardent prayer that seekers and the faithful alike will come into a deeper understanding of the meaning of life under Heaven, and that people would come to a greater understanding that, in God’s economy, He gives us saints to assist us in our life’s pilgrimage.

I share a lot in my introduction about my powerful encounter with Archbishop Sheen, and, beyond the introduction, I can say that of the five intentions I asked for help with, three have been realized with the final two unfolding now in Sheen-style dramatic fashion.

What God has done for me through the intercession of Archbishop Sheen, He will do for others. I also want people to know the depths of prayer that went into unearthing the selected quotes for the book. He wrote so many works, but you can’t fit everything in a book like this, so I asked the Holy Spirit to bring forward the themes and words that would penetrate hungry hearts in today’s world.

The care and prayer was intentional in hopes that the seeds of truth on the pages of this book would become rooted in hearts and souls and that every person who picks up this book would receive transformation in Christ through friendship with Archbishop Sheen.

How does Archbishop Sheen matter in the modern world?

Sheen matters in the modern world because Truth matters. Our world would like to drown Truth out. Our world would like to convince us that we don’t need God, and we can do things our own way. Yet, people everywhere are sin-sick and in bondage to things that separate them from the freedom they crave – a freedom that can only be known in Jesus who is Truth itself.

People are looking for solutions to problems and seeking false power for quick fixes. Sheen matters in today’s world because he shows us that Love has a name, and that name is Jesus, and he shows us the power source that connects us to this Love in the Sacramental life of the Church.

Sheen also takes the spiritual ax to the root of our spiritual ills (sin, ego, addiction, lack of faith) and sin habits by exposing the woundedness in a soul void of God.

Sheen unabashedly proclaimed Christ and had a charism for conversion, a zeal for life pointing all to the reality that “life is worth living.” Not only do his potent words matter today, but his intercession matters – for our Church, for youth, for families and all who are called to a particular life of holiness to be lived for the glory of God.

What do you think he’d say about social media?

Can you imagine the Facebook lives and the fiery Tweets? I think Sheen would say #LifeIsWorthLiving and would give everyone a run for their money on Instagram Story! I can only imagine that the two-time Emmy Award-winner would see the social landscape as missionary territory, and the “digital continents” of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram would be fair game for a contemporary platform to proclaim the Gospel.

Knowing his disciplined life and attention to the whole person, I can also imagine Sheen would have something to say about excessive social media use, and the crutch to hide behind screens instead of fostering authentic interactions and relationships. Would he use these platforms to preach Jesus? Yes. Would he warn about living your life out on social media alone and warn against traps to social addiction? Yes, I think he would also help tame the dragon of technological dependence.

 What’s your favorite Bishop Sheen quote?

Easy. “Love is a mutual self-giving that ends in self-recovery.”

Tell us a little about yourself:

I’m an East Coast transplant to Los Angeles, and even though most say I don’t have a Boston accent, I sometimes sound like a Wahlberg or a Kennedy, depending on the day or the score of the Red Sox game.

After just about three years in California, I have fallen in love with the West Coast and all the influences that make up this side of the planet. I’m a storyteller at heart, as a former newswoman turned PR pro. Movies are my day job (more like my 24/7 day job), but writing is my personal passion. I have a little radio show called Mary’s Touch that I host each week and is broadcast on over 60 stations around the world. My contemporary heroes are Saint John Paul II and Venerable Fulton J. Sheen.

If I’m not moving or flying on a plane, I’m not living.

Click here to buy the book from Pauline Books & Media and here for Amazon.com.

Images: Wikimedia Commons; courtesy Alexis Walkenstein, Pauline Books & Media

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.

From Father Ray to Father Rob to Sister Cristina: The Church’s Singing Reality Stars

What are Catholic priests, seminarians and religious doing on reality-TV shows?

While many consider TV to be a wasteland, reality TV especially gets a bad rap … much of it deserved. But as much as the Apostles didn’t just stay in friendly areas, Christians are called to evangelize the whole world — and sometimes that involves a microphone, a camera and a panel of judges.

Last week, Irish priest Father Ray Kelly — who gained fame when a 2014 video of him singing a version of “Hallelujah” at a wedding went viral — appeared in front of Simon Cowell and his fellow judges on “Britain’s Got Talent” (the same show that launched the career of Catholic singer Susan Boyle).

The 65-year-old did a moving rendition of R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts,” linking it to the pain and distress he’s witnessed as a parish priest in County Meath, Ireland. It caused some moist eyes among the British audience and earned a standing ovation from the ordinarily acerbic Cowell.

Take a look:

This is not the first time that Catholics in collars and habits have wowed singing-show judges.

Also in 2014, Ursuline Sister Cristina Scuccia went on a blind audition to Italy’s version of “The Voice” and knocked the judges’ socks off.

Father Kelly’s fate on “BGT” is unknown as of this writing — but his viral video did earn him a short recording contract — but Sister Cristina won it all, as reported by CNN (including a screenshot of a congratulatory Tweet from a Vatican cardinal) …

She’s gone on to have a recording career, but Sister Cristina remains an Ursuline. When she won “The Voice,” she gave thanks to God and recited the Our Father.

Malta-born Father Rob Galea, who’s a parish priest in Australia, auditioned for “The X Factor Australia” in 2015, and was a hit.

He later dropped out of the competition because it conflicted too much with his pastoral and youth-ministry duties. But he’s continued with his ministry and music, as you can see from the video below (which shares a title with his new autobiography, out now from Ave Maria Press). Subtitled, “A Journey From Desperation to Hope,” it recounts Father Galea’s troubled adolescence, deep depression and eventual awakening to his Catholic faith.

BTW, we talked to Father Galea at the recent Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, so watch for that video or videos, coming soon.

Other Catholic have made their mark on non-musical reality shows, including Game Show Network’s “American Bible Challenge.” In season two in 2013, Team Sisters of Mary from the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, came within a whisker of winning the Bible-quiz show, hosted by Jeff Foxworthy. But they did walk away with the fan-favorite award, winding up with a total of $50K in prize money, earmarked to support retired sisters from their order.

The following year, the Sons of Thunder, three men from St. Paul Seminary (one of whom, Father Marc Paveglio, was ordained after their appearance was taped but before it aired) also appeared on “The American Bible Challenge.” They came in second in their episode and won $5K for NET Ministeies, based in West St. Paul, Minnesota.

Happy to report that seminarian Chad VanHoose is now Father VanHoose, as is his Sons of Thunder teammate, Father Mark Pavlak.

Of course, there’s a danger for any priest or sister or seminarian appearing on TV and possibly becoming famous. The temptations of this are obvious and can be serious — but they’re not insurmountable. And along the way, these brave folks present a warm, welcoming, very human face of the Catholic Church to many who may never encounter people like this in their daily lives.

If that’s not the New Evangelization, I don’t know what is.

Image: Courtesy FatherRayKellyNews.com/HeartBeat Records

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