Category: Christians working in Arts and Media

Bishop Barron’s ‘Catholicism’ Marks 10 Years With Video and Free Online Screening

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.

From the original press release for the PBS debut:

“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.

Click here to learn more.

Images: Courtesy Word on Fire

 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.

Katy Perry and Pope Francis: ‘My mom has prayed for me my entire life, hoping I’d come back to God’

Katy Perry met the pope, and she liked it.

In an interview published yesterday in the Australian version of Vogue, pop star Katy Perry — who’s currently a judge on ABC’s revival of “American Idol” — talked about going to the Vatican and meeting Pope Francis.

Perry was raised in California by two Pentecostal pastors, but apparently her mother, Mary Hudson, was raised a Catholic. Perry has drifted far from her faith and the gospel music of her youth, and her mother has drifted far from her Catholic roots — but a trip to the Vatican in late April proved enlightening for both.

From Vogue:

“It started when we were on the Asia leg of the tour and I went to mass with my mom,” Katy tells me. “She hadn’t sung those songs in 40 years and watching her made me cry. It’s so beautiful and humbling to re-centre in a place where it’s not about anything else but reconnecting with the divine.”

Hudson wasn’t thrilled about all of her daughter’s music, especially one of her hit songs.

Unsurprisingly, her first megahit, 2008’s I Kissed a Girl, didn’t go platinum around the family dinner table. “My mom has prayed for me my entire life, hoping I’d come back to God. I never left Him, I was just a little bit secular, I was more materialistic and more career-driven. But now that I’m in my 30s, it’s more about spirituality and heart wholeness.”

Perry, 33, boyfriend Orlando Bloom (Legolas from “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” movies) and Hudson, traveled to Rome so Perry could speak at a health-centered Vatican conference, on the subject of meditation.

Then came the moment they met the pope (more pictures here).

Vatican Media Foto/Handout/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

“I’m such a big fan of Pope Francis. It’s a combination of compassion, humility, sternness and refusal. He is rebel – a rebel for Jesus.” Katy lists some papal facts, including that he named himself after Francis of Assisi, her favourite saint, and that he sticks to his vow of poverty despite the lavish surroundings of the Vatican. “He is bringing the Church back to humility and connecting with people. He’s very humble and not frivolous.” He’s also a lover of animals and is often depicted surrounded by wooded creatures, which reminds her of her favourite Disney character, Snow White.

You can read the whole story here.

Back in California, Perry intersected with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles when, in 2014, she tried to buy an eight-acre complex that was the convent home for the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the upscale Los Feliz neighborhood.

Founded in California, the Immaculate Heart Sisters, as they were known, specialized in educating young women. But an encounter with alternative psychology in the 1960s largely led to the dissolution of the order as a Catholic entity. By the time Perry wanted to buy the former convent, there were only a handful of sisters left, and those were advanced in years.

Perry offered $14.5M in cash for the hilltop property, which Archbishop Jose Gomez approved. But, but two of the remaining sisters — who had vacated the property in 2011 — argued that it wasn’t the Archdiocese’s to sell. They objected to the sale — preferring a different buyer – leading to a five-year legal battle with Perry (click here for a full rundown from Billboard). In 2017, a judge ruled in favor of the sale to Perry.

In March 2018, one of the sisters died during a court appearance.

As of the time Perry visited the Vatican, the pope needed to approve Archbishop Gomez’s original contract to sell to Perry. There’s no word whether the two discussed it during their meeting. Reportedly, Perry wants to share the property with her mother and grandmother.

According to the most recent press reports, as of March, the sale was still on hold.

As for the future, we can only hope that Perry’s mother keeps praying — because we all know the power of a mother’s intercession.

Images: Wikimedia Commons; Vatican Media Foto/Handout/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

 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.

‘God Bless the Broken Road’: Catholic Screenwriter Jennifer Dornbush’s Movie Releases a Trailer

This September, “God Bless the Broken Road” hits theaters, telling the faith-based story of a young wife struggling with her husband’s death in Afghanistan.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

In the film, a young mother (True Blood and Hatfields and McCoys‘ Lindsay Pulsipher) struggles to hold onto her faith as she raises her daughter (Steve Jobs‘ Makenzie Moss) in the wake of her husband’s death in Afghanistan.

In the preview, her character is heard saying, “I tried putting my faith in God. I don’t understand why he would do that to us. If he wants me, he knows where to find me.”

Meanwhile, her daughter is convinced a mustard seed she planted in Sunday school will grow and she meets one of the men who served alongside her husband (played by Arthur Cartwright), who tells her that her husband’s faith “gave him the courage to do the impossible.”

The cast also includes former NFL star LaDainian Tomlinson, Jordin Sparks and Andrew W. Walker.

Here’s the official trailer:

Director Harold Cronk (“God’s Not Dead”) is listed as one of the screenwriters, along with Catholic screenwriter, author and forensic specialist Jennifer Dornbursh.

Last year, Dornbush spoke at Family Theater Productions, and beforehand took a few minutes to sit down with us for an interview. Take a look:

Image: Courtesy 10 West Studios/A Really Good Home Pictures

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.

‘Last Man Standing’: Tim Allen Returns to America’s TVs on Sept. 28

Tim Allen returns to TV this fall — it’s ABC’s loss, and Fox’s (and America’s) gain.

TV networks are slowly realizing that if they want to be broadcasters — appealing to a broad audience — in an increasingly crowded marketplace of niche-programming suppliers, they’ll have to learn how to speak more to the middle of the country (or at least all those bits that aren’t major cities and university towns).

CBS has always kept a focus on that, but it’s been more of a challenge in recent years for the other three networks, who have worked harder appealing to young, hip and urban viewers.

With its cancellations of “The Middle” and its reboot of “Roseanne” (which is being reconfigured without its controversial star; we’ll see how that goes), ABC is having a particularly tough time. It didn’t help that the network also canceled Tim Allen’s popular comedy “Last Man Standing,” which ran from 2011 to 2017, despite high ratings.

The fall of the ax shocked Allen and his many loyal fans, who began with him in ABC’s “Home Improvement,” and came back to see him play Mike Baxter, a traditional man with conservative views, who works at a Denver sporting-goods store, and has a wife and three daughters at home.

The cancellation happened in part because the show is a production of Twentieth Century Fox Television, instead of one of ABC’s affiliated studios. But, Fox Broadcasting Company stepped in and picked up its sister studio’s show, which returns to the airwaves on Friday, Sept. 28, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Here’s how Allen reacted in a statement back in May:

“Excited? Team LMS was in the sixth inning, ahead by four runs, stands were packed, and then for no reason, they call off the game. It leaves you sitting in the dugout, holding a bat and puzzled. Now we get the news from Fox that it’s time to get back out on that diamond — hell yes, I’m excited!

When I heard the offer to create more episodes of Last Man Standing, I did a fist pump so hard I threw my back out. It’s the fans! I could not be more grateful for the fans who wrote petitions and kept up the passion and incredible support for the show. And a fist pump, ouch, for [Fox Television Group CEOs] Dana Walden and Gary Newman at Fox for not only listening to the fans, but for making the bold move to bring Last Man Standing back.

I’m sure audiences will be curious to see what we look like after all these years. Oh, has it only been one year? Well, just goes to show you — a lot can happen in a year.”

There will be some changes. Molly Ephraim and Flynn Morrison, who played Mike’s middle daughter Mandy and grandson Boyd, respectively, opted not to return. Both roles are being recast, but no word yet on the replacements (since production usually begins for the fall in July, they’d better hop to it).

The rest of the core cast is back, lead by Nancy Travis as Mike’s wife. Also on board is Hector Elizondo, whose competing pilot, “Guess Who Died,” got a pass from NBC. Show-runner/executive producer Kevin Abbott is also back.

“Last Man Standing” reflected Allen’s own conservative views, but it was known for presenting many different viewpoints.

From Tony Rossi of Catholic organization The Christophers:

One of the strengths of “Last Man Standing” is that it manages to give valid arguments to both its liberal and conservative characters. Not each one is right all the time – and it is a comedy so laughs are paramount – but the writers ably walk the fine line of political debate that still respects the humanity of its characters. In that sense, it’s a more successful entity than the United States Congress and many online comments threads. As a viewer, I appreciate the fact that I’m not being hammered with an agenda, but rather being told an entertaining story with some implicit relevance to today’s times.

The show is also faith-friendly. Mike Baxter is a churchgoer and a man of faith, as is Allen, in his own way.

Here’s Allen, who was raised an Anglican, in the transcript of an ABC News interview, quoted in this blog last June:

Allen’s father died when he was hit by a drunk driver when Allen was just 11. The comedian says that after that, he questioned whether if he had prayed harder or had been with his father that fatal day, he could have prevented his death.

“For years, I just did not like this idea of God, church,” he said. “(I was) still a churchgoer, but constantly a cynic.”

But the cynicism didn’t last. Today, he calls God, “The Builder.”

Allen also told Parade magazine that he and his second wife, actress Jane Hajduk — with whom he has a daughter — attend church on Sundays, and added:

On a philosophical level, I’m very religious. I call myself an intellectual Christian.

Here’s a Father’s Day video from last month with Allen, in character as Mike Baxter, talking about fathers and sons …

Image: Courtesy ABC/20th Century Fox Videos

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.