Category: Faith and Family on the Internet

Catholic High Schools Battle ‘Prayer-Shaming’ in Two Videos

Want to feel proud of Catholic high-school students? Here are a couple of videos that celebrate prayer, faith and freedom — and also remind us of the sobering reality a lot of young people face in our violent world.

This especially warms our hearts, since Family Theater Productions’ founder, Servant of God Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., was a strong proponent of the rosary, especially the family rosary, and of prayer in general. He’s known for the phrase “The Family That Prays Together Stays Together,” based on his own experiences of daily family rosaries growing up in Ireland.

No doubt he’d be very pleased to see the video below, created in 2015 by students and teachers at East Catholic High School in Manchester, Connecticut.

It urges all of those who love God and pray to come out of the shadows.

As they say: “No more prayer shaming. Let’s bring God and prayer back into our lives.”

In early 2016, in the wake of the December 2015 terrorist shooting in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14 people and injured 22 more, students at Notre Dame High School in nearby Riverside, California, made a similar video to support East Catholic High.

After the San Bernardino shooting, there were indeed incidents of “prayer-shaming,” as many on social media made cynical attacks on those who offered prayers. From a story in The Atlantic:

The most powerful evidence against this backlash toward prayer comes not from the Twitterverse, but from San Bernardino. “Pray for us,” a woman texted her father from inside the Inland Regional Center, while she and her colleagues hid from the gunfire. Outside the building, evacuated workers bowed their heads and held hands. They prayed.

The video is also a reminder that today’s high-schoolers live with constant reports of terrorist attacks and school shootings — and in the case of these kids, terror took someone they knew.

Pray for our Catholic schools and students. Let’s keep them strong, keep them Catholic, and keep them dedicated to Christ, the Faith, the Church and to prayer.

Amen.

Image: 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.

Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima With Film

Saturday, May 13, is the 100th anniversary of the first appearance of Our Lady of Fatima to three shepherd children in Portugal in 1917. When you’re not watching coverage of the papal visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima on EWTN, you can slip in a few movies.

“The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima” (1952; available via DVD from Amazon Prime): As described by Deacon Steven Greydanus:

[It] is an old-fashioned production in the Golden Age tradition of religious fare like The Song of Bernadette. It’s not as good a movie as The Song of Bernadette (the best of Hollywood’s Golden Age piety, in my opinion), but it’s well made, entertaining, and fairly faithful to the main facts (despite liberties such as Gilbert Roland’s fictional rascal with a heart of gold, added to help mediate the story for mainstream audiences).

“The 13th Day” (2009; available via DVD from Amazon Prime): The editorial review at Amazon describes this British production thus:

In a world torn apart by persecution, war and oppression, 3 children in Fatima, Portugal were chosen by God to offer an urgent message of hope to the world. Based on the memoirs of the oldest seer, Lucia Santos, and many thousands of independent eye-witness accounts, The 13th Day dramatizes the true story of three young shepherds who experienced six apparitions of Our Lady between May and October 1917, which culminated in the final prophesied Miracle of the Sun on October 13th. Abducted from their homes, thrown into prison and interrogated under the threat of death in the government’s attempt to silence them, the children remained true to their story about the crucial messages from Mary of prayer, repentance and conversion for the world.

Our Lady gave a secret to the children told in three parts, from a harrowing vision of hell, to prophetic warnings of future events including the advent and timing of the Second World War, the spread of communism, and the attempted assassination of the Pope.

Stylistically beautiful and technically innovative, the film uses state-of-the-art digital effects to create stunning images of the visions and the final miracle that have never before been fully realized on screen. Shot on location in Portugal and in the UK, the film has a cast of hundreds to re-create the scenes of the 70,000 strong crowds, with 3 young Portuguese actors playing the iconic roles of the Seers.

Witness the greatest miracle of the 20th Century, and experience the incredible, emotionally-charged and harrowing world of three young children whose choice to remain loyal to their beliefs, even in the face of death, would inspire thousands.

Filmed in High Definition with Dolby Surround Sound. Stars Jane Lesley, Michael D’Cruze, Filipa Fernandes and Tarek Merlin.

“Finding Fatima” (2010; available via DVD from Amazon Prime): If your tastes run more to documentary, here’s one from the same filmmakers who produced “The 13th Day.” It combines archival footage, dramatic reenactments, interviews with experts and visual effects to tell the whole story of the the apparitions, which began with an angel and continued on the 13th of each month between May and Oct. 1917 (when the Miracle of the Sun is reported to have happened in front of scores of onlookers).

“The Song of Bernadette” (1943; available to stream via Amazon Prime): Of course, Fatima isn’t the only place Our Lady is reported to have appeared. This Hollywood classic stars Jennifer Jones as peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous, who reported 18 visions of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes, France, between February and July 1858. Having been based on a novel about the events, it’s not perfectly historically accurate, but it is moving and won four Academy Awards, including best actress for Jones.

One pope associated strongly with Fatima is John Paul II, and for good reason. On May 13, 1981, the 64th anniversary of Fatima, Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca fired on the pope at point-blank range at the Vatican.

From a 2016 story at Crux:

Yet the two bullets Agca fired at the pope somehow went wide of their targets, one grazing off John Paul’s elbow and the other penetrating his abdomen but narrowly missing a major artery.

To John Paul II, it was no mystery at all why he survived: the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima.

On the anniversary of the assassination attempt, John Paul II traveled to the shrine of Fatima in Portugal to give thanks to Mary for saving his life, placing the bullet doctors had removed from his body in the crown of the Virgin’s statue, where it remains to this day.

There have been a few films about JPII, but one of the best is a 2005 CBS miniseries, called, unsurprisingly, “John Paul II.” Available on DVD from Amazon Prime, it stars Cary Elwes as the young Karol Wojtyla, and Jon Voight as the elder Wojtyla, when he was Pope John Paul II.

From a review by Deacon Steven Greydanus:

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.

Have a Blessed Feast of Our Lady of Fatima!

Images: © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro / CC BY-SA 3.0; Kristyn Brown

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.

NBC to Do ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ Live Musical in Spring 2018

NBC — home to the hit family drama “This Is Us,” and the network that aired one season of “A.D.: The Bible Continues” — has chosen “Jesus Christ Superstar” as its next live TV musical, to air in Spring 2018.

Staged on Broadway in 1971, “Superstar” follows NBC’s other live musical events, including adaptations of “The Sound of Music,” “Peter Pan,” “The Wiz” and “Hairspray.”

Original show creators Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice are executive producers for the event, and will oversee any new music or lyrics for the NBC vision. The other executive producers — Mark Platt (“La La Land”), Craig Zadan and Neil Meron — are also veterans of musical productions.

Says Variety:

“As we continue to expand the profile of our live musicals, we are thrilled to be partnering with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice to bring a new live staging of the iconic ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ to NBC,” said Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment. “Casting has just begun, but we want to fill out this classic show with as many recording artists as possible to give proper voice to what is the original rock opera score.”

The choice of “Superstar” follows Fox’s Palm Sunday, 2016, presentation of Tyler Perry’s “The Passion.” The live event was based on a Dutch production chronicling the last hours of Christ’s life, staged in New Orleans and featuring a panoply of pop-music performers.

Apparently NBC is also on the hunt for authentic music stars to fill out the cast.

We don’t have an airdate for “Superstar” either, but if it’s Spring 2018, odds are very good it will air either on Palm or Easter Sunday.

For those too young to remember “Superstar,” it’s a rock-musical take on the last week leading up to the Crucifixion, largely from Judas’ perspective (or at least the perspective assigned to him in this version of the Passion narrative).

Most people who know “Superstar” have either heard the original cast album or seen the 1973 film version, starring Ted Neeley as Jesus, and Yvonne Elliman as Mary Magdalene. But at its heart, it’s still a stage show.

Also from Variety:

The musical first opened at the Mark Hellinger Theatre on Broadway in 1971 and starred Jeff Fenholt as Jesus and Ben Vereen as Judas, and was nominated for five Tony Awards that year. Prior to making its way to the stage, the musical was originally conceived as a concept album that hit no. 1 on the Billboard charts. Since then, the show has been performed in nearly 20 countries and translated into 18 different languages. In the 46 years since its debut, “Jesus Christ Superstar” has been revived many times, including Tony-nominated runs in 2000 and 2012.

From a Catholic perspective, “Superstar” is not good catechesis, but then, why would anyone expect a 1970s rock musical to be that, anyway? But it is an engaging, very human portrayal of Christ, and many folks — myself included — have found it spiritually uplifting and effective.

NBC’s version could be great, or awful, or somewhere in between, but throwing up a few prayers starting now can’t hurt.

Many Christians have decried “Jesus Christ Superstar,” but the Vatican did approve a version for pilgrims back in 1999.

From the U.K. Guardian:

Gerald O’Collins, a professor of theology at Gregorian university in Rome, said that accusations that the musical demeaned or trivialised Jesus were misplaced. “Christians have been depicting Him on stage since the passion plays of the middle ages,” he said. “This is no different.”

Here’s a peek at Ted Neeley’s performance:

Here’s Elliman, with Mary Magdalene’s signature song:

And Carl Anderson, as Judas, singing the musical’s signature song:

And here’s the entire 1973 movie, filmed in Israel (it’s not a great quality video; for better, grab it off Amazon Prime):

Image: Original Broadway logo

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.

EWTN to Premiere ‘The Message of Fatima’ On May 10

The year 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions at Cova da Iria, near Fatima, a city 110 miles north of Lisbon, Portugal — and EWTN is rolling out a new miniseries to mark the occasion, called “The Message of Fatima.”

Between May 13 and Oct. 13, 1917, three Portuguese shepherd children — Francisco and Jacinta Marto, and their cousin Lucia dos Santos — saw monthly visions of Our Lady.

Mary instructed the children to pray the rosary for world peace, to end World War I, to convert sinners, and to bring Russia back to the Faith.

From Franciscan Media:

Mary gave the children three secrets. Following the deaths of Francisco and Jacinta in 1919 and 1920 respectively, Lucia revealed the first secret in 1927. It concerned devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The second secret was a vision of hell. When Lucia grew up she became a Carmelite nun and died in 2005 at the age of 97.

Pope John Paul II directed the Holy See’s Secretary of State to reveal the third secret in 2000; it spoke of a “bishop in white” who was shot by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows into him. Many people linked this vision to the assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981.

The feast of Our Lady of Fatima was approved by the local bishop in 1930; it was added to the Church’s worldwide calendar in 2002.

The Feast of Our Lady of Fatima is Saturday, May 13 … and the very next day, Sunday, May 14, is Mother’s Day — so that weekend, we celebrate both our Mother in Heaven and all the mothers on Earth.

In a May 4 blog post, EWTN revealed extensive details about its docudrama miniseries “The Message of Fatima,” written, produced and directed by Stefano Mazzeo.

From the EWTN blog:

Not everyone knows that an Angel appeared to the three shepherd children in 1916 to prepare them for the apparitions from the Mother of God the following year. Episode 1 of this important docu-drama, which airs at 6:30 p.m. ET, Wednesday, May 10, prepares viewers for what is to come by conveying the Angel’s messages. At 8 p.m. ET that same evening, Fr. Mitch Pacwa will interview Writer/Director Mazzeo on “EWTN Live.”

Then, just as at Fatima in 1917, EWTN will air an account of one of the six apparitions on the 13th of the same month in which they originally occurred. Each monthly episode will begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, beginning Saturday, May 13 and ending Friday, Oct. 13 with the Miracle of the Sun.

The production was filmed on location in Fatima, featuring a trio of young actors that looks strikingly like the original seers, along with such authentic settings as the church in which the children were baptized, went to First Confession and First Holy Communion.

Said Mazzeo:

“Pope Benedict XVI said, “We would be mistaken to think that Fatima’s prophetic mission is complete. The message will continue to be lived out as long as there are people on earth. It’s a private revelation, so we don’t have to believe it, but it does lead us to and re-emphasize the deposit of faith. I cannot say for sure that anything will happen this year, but I believe that the message of Fatima is not finished yet. The prophesies are ongoing.”

Click here to read the whole thing, which includes several stills from the production.

There are also reports that Pope Francis will canonize Blessed Francisco and Blessed Jacinta — who died while still children — during an upcoming visit to the Fatima shrine in Portugal on May 12-23. The sainthood cause for Servant of God Sister Lucia is ongoing, and in February, it passed an important milestone on the way to beatification, the last step before canonization.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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.

 

For Mother’s Day, PBS Offers a Grieving Son’s ‘Requiem’ Mass

From PBS for Mother’s Day, “Requiem for My Mother” follows a son trying to deal with the sudden loss of his beloved mother by writing a new choral work for her, a traditional Catholic Requiem Mass — which premiered at the Vatican.

From the inbox:

REQUIEM FOR MY MOTHER

PREMIERES NATIONALLY ON PUBLIC TELEVISION IN MAY 2017

IN CONJUNCTION WITH MOTHER’S DAY

Inspiring Story of the Power of Music to Transcend Loss and Inspire a New Generation

Requiem for My Mother is an award-winning documentary and a compelling musical celebration of life and love, loss and acceptance. The film chronicles the personal journey of prolific Hollywood film score composer Stephen Edwards as he is forced to deal with the sudden loss of his mother, Rosalie Edwards, whose passion for music transformed his life and who was his constant inspiration. To deal with his loss, Edwards channels his anger, passion, sadness, and faith into a major new choral work — a “Requiem,” the traditional Catholic mass for the dead. The film follows the thrilling creation of the piece and the massive preparations leading up to its international premiere at a renowned music festival in Rome’s Vatican City. In collaboration with the Continuo Arts Foundation, along their renowned conductor Candace Wicke, the Requiem goes from a son’s personal lament to a soaring 160-voice choral performance with a 50-piece orchestra, staged in one of the most beautiful and sacred places in the world, the Basilica of St. Ignatius of Loyola in Rome. Directed by Stephen Edwards and David Haugland,Requiem for My Mother premieres nationally on public television in May 2017 (check local listings) in conjunction with Mother’s Day.

The film introduces us to the remarkable Rosalie Edwards, the beautiful daughter of Sicilian-American immigrants, proudly recalled by Edwards as a “typical 1950s glamour girl.” A mother of four, Rosalie was a dedicated musician who instilled her love of music in her children and became their biggest champion. Through vintage photos, old home movies, and interviews with his siblings, Edwards shares his memories of his mother and his Michigan upbringing. Rosalie’s story is intercut with the nerve-wracking preparations for the Requiem’s debut as conductor Wicke, a friend of Rosalie’s, and Edwards travel to rehearsals in Wisconsin, Miami and New York, as amateur choirs from far-flung parishes are painstakingly taught the piece. With time running out, the question looms. Will this massive choir, along with members from the Prague Philharmonic — with only one rehearsal — rise to the occasion for the most important musical moment of Edwards’s life?

A moving personal story as well as a rousing performance film, Requiem for My Mother reminds us of music’s power to transform grief into beauty, healing and hope for the future.

For complete information on the film and to listen to the Requiem, visit http://www.requiemformymother.com/.

Requiem for My Mother is an RFFM production in cooperation with the Continuo Arts Foundation. South Carolina ETV is the presenting station.

For more information, visit: http://www.requiemformymother.com/

Find it on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/requiemformymother/

About Stephen Edwards

Michigan native Stephen Edwards’ music education began at an early age, with training by his mother, Rosalie Edwards, followed by studies at Interlochen Music Camp and Lawrence University, where he was recipient of the “Outstanding Classical Soloist” award sponsored by DownBeat magazine, and selected as a participant in the All-American College Orchestra National Talent Search sponsored by Disney. Mr. Edwards continued his studies at the Dick Grove School of Music in Los Angeles, and immediately started working as a session musician for film and TV composers, such as Mike Post. A prolific composer, Stephen has scored more than 60 movies, from comedy to action, martial arts to documentaries. Recent and upcoming projects include a Dolph Lundgren zombie movie called Dead Trigger, Cops and Robbers with Tom Berenger, and Stoic with Antonio Banderas.

Image: Wikimedia Commons; RFFM Productions/Continuo Arts Foundation; Facebook: RequiemforMyMother (Stephen Edwards)

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.

Should Christians Even Try to Break into Hollywood?

Christian-Catholic-filmmaking-cinemaSo you’re a screenwriter, director, actor or producer, and you’re a serious Christian. Is working outside the Hollywood system the only way to find success?

It’s one way — but it’s definitely not the only one.

After all, Christ teaches us that everything is possible, if we’re oriented properly.

In the first daily Mass reading for today, April 28, from the Acts of the Apostles, regarding the failure of movements that rose up against nascent Christianity, we hear (emphasis mine):

So now I tell you,
have nothing to do with these men, and let them go.
For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin,
it will destroy itself.
But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them;
you may even find yourselves fighting against God.”

So, what is a Christian Hollywood hopeful to make of this? Will Jesus descend from the Heavens with an army of angels and help you storm showbiz?

Probably not, but that doesn’t mean we should necessarily abandon the entertainment industry to rampant secularism and the dictatorship of relativism. If you really want to influence the culture and evangelize for Truth, Beauty and Goodness, why not use the megaphone that already exists?

Is Indie Film the Only Way to Go for Christians?

Not at all. You can work within the system, but first, you’ve got to identify your strengths and your niche, and become great at what you do. That’s the advice Catholic screenwriter Jennifer Dornbush gives in this video.

It’s not easy for anybody to break into the TV and movie studio system. But it can be done, as seen with the success of Sony Pictures’ faith-based Affirm Films division.

From a November 2016 piece in Deadline.comhere’s a selection from an internal memo by Steven Bersch, president of Sony Worldwide Acquisitions, who oversees the label. The occasion was the promotions of two executives to work under Rich Peluso, who has run Affirm since 2007, and who was also promoted to Executive Vice President.

These well-deserved promotions come at an auspicious moment for AFFIRM Films. In the past few years, our studio has become the industry leader in films for audiences of faith; by forging powerful connections with incredible reach, AFFIRM has no peer in reaching the core audience for these films. Behind films like War Room, which hit #1 on the domestic box office chart on the way to $68M and RISEN, and as the faith-based marketing partner for the Columbia Pictures Miracles from Heaven and Heaven is for Real, which became the #2 faith-based film of all time, the studio has now notched seven of the top 10 faith-based domestic openings of all time and is currently the most profitable faith-based studio, delivering over $420 million in domestic box office.

And, by the way, according to his LinkedIn profile, Peluso is based in Nashville, so not all of Hollywood is in Los Angeles.

OK, But are Big Studios My Only Alternative to Independent Film?

No. All big studios were once small studios, or even other businesses that grew studio arms. That process is still happening. In the digital space, look at how streaming content suppliers like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime have quickly become major players in production.

Netflix has just leased Hollywood studio space; Hulu is making strategic partnerships, such as this one with A&E Studios for an Afghanistan War drama; and Amazon Prime’s latest pilot slate even includes a Christian-themed science-fiction drama called “Oasis.” 

At the same time, faith-based service PureFlix has become a substantial studio itself, including its recent $3M “The Case for Christ,” which has a 79% rating at secular site Rotten Tomatoes.

Hollywood Hasn’t Given Up on Faith-Friendly and Family Fare, So Don’t Give Up on Hollywood

By all means, if you want to make a film on your own, go for it.

Successful TV producer Chris Brancato even endorses the idea:

But just because the existing entertainment industry seems hostile to Christians, remember, in one way or another, it’s hostile to everyone.

If you are talented, excellent, persistent and determined — and you’re lucky enough to have Christ on your side — you can find your voice, and you can find your place.

Just look at Father Patrick Peyton’s Family Theater Productions — we’ve been on Sunset Boulevard since the 1950s, and we’re still here.

It won’t be easy, but nothing’s ever easy in the TV and movie business. You may fail spectacularly and wind up taking another road, but the only absolute guarantee of failure is not to try.

To further your education in the Hollywood area — with a Christian influence — try programs offered by Act One, John Paul the Great University, the School of Film and Television at Loyola Marymount University, the Cinema and Media Arts Program at Biola University, or the Cinematic Arts department at Asuza Pacific University.

Image: Adobe Stock

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.