Category: Fr. David Guffey, C.S.C.

‘The Shack’: FTP’s Father David Guffey Talks About the Controversial New Movie

The-Shack-Sam-Worthington-Octavia-SpencerComing out this weekend, “The Shack,” based on best-selling book by William Paul Young, explores what happens when a grieving father (Sam Worthington) has an encounter with all three Persons of the Trinity, played by different actors — including “Hidden Figures” star Octavia Spencer as God the Father, or “Papa.”

Personifying the Trinity, and other aspects of the book’s theology, have caused some concerns.

Secular outlet The Hollywood Reporter had this to say:

With its sparkly spin on the New Testament, the film will be too New Agey for those who hew closely to doctrine (some conservative Christians have criticized the novel as a work of misguided heresy). But beyond theological debates, the feature is a leaden, belabored affair. However universal the perennial questions and struggles that The Shack illuminates, under Stuart Hazeldine’s plodding direction, its faith-based brand of self-help feels like being trapped in someone else’s spiritual retreat — in real time.

And this, from Catholic deacon and movie critic Steven Greydanus:

Like many popular sensations, from Titanic to Twilight, from Dan Brown to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, The Shack is easy to rip apart if one has a mind to. It’s too didactic for drama, too literal for allegory, too artless for poetry, and too fuzzy for theology. The writing is folksy and florid; when Mack falls in his driveway, he doesn’t just get a bump on his head: The lump emerges “like a humpbacked whale breaching the wild waves of his thinning hair.”

Although an enthusiastic cover blurb from Eugene Peterson compares The Shack to Pilgrim’s Progress, generically and thematically it’s somewhat closer to C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce. Lewis’ brilliant book, however, focuses on familiar foibles of human nature; Young attempts a portrait of sorts of the divine nature.

The Shack is essentially an imaginative exploration of theodicy, of the problem of evil, experienced not in the abstract, but as an existential crisis of faith. More broadly, it could be called a response to disappointment with God and disillusionment with religion.

David GuffeyAlso concerned, founder Lisa Hendey turned to our own Head of Production, Father David Guffey, C.S.C., to get his take. Here’s some of what he had to say:

The film is not a religious teaching on the doctrine of Trinity, any more than the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is a study of physical appearance of God. Each of these use artistic license to point to great truths of faith. Film is an art form and as art, evokes the imagination to discover mystery of life and the workings of God’s grace within it. I would not use this film to talk about Trinity, but instead as an opening to discuss the many ways that God is close to us and the ways that God actively tries to be part of our lives in the best of times and especially in the hardest of times.

I would encourage you to see this film with someone you can talk about it with afterwards. You will want to. It would be a great family movie night film the weekend of March 3, 2017.

After watching the film, invite family members to talk about the times in their life when they feel closest to God. Is it in nature or in a church or at a family gathering? How do we recognize the hand of God at work I the people around us and the events of our lives? Second, and perhaps more difficult, I would encourage a conversation on how the Phillips family coped with loss and grief.

Click here to read the whole thing.

Image: Courtesy Lionsgate

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The Golden Globes’ Roll of Celebrity Deaths: Why Do We Mourn?

mother-angelica-carrie-fisher-prince-david-bowie-ffbOn Sunday, January 8, the telecast of the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards will feature, as it always does, a list of the notable celebrity deaths of the previous year.

This time, the list will be a long one. Among them are stars of earlier eras who reached ripe old ages and passed of natural causes, along with accidental demises, and a fair number of people who succumbed either directly to substance abuse and destructive lifestyles, or at least in part due to the aftereffects of said abuse and lifestyles.

A few took their own lives.

One published list for 2016 has almost 250 names, including David Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman, Nancy Reagan, Joe Garagiola, Morley Safer, Gordie Howe, Arnold Palmer, Florence Henderson, John Glenn, George Michael, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and the one-two punch of Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, who died one day apart right after Christmas.

And, of course, on Easter Sunday, there was EWTN founder Mother Angelica.

Each death brings with it a spasm of public mourning, spreading across social media and generating print and online stories, and endless video reports.

All this, for people the mourners may have never met or even seen in person, or if they did, it was up on a stage or from the stands of a sporting event. And for many, their emotional outpouring for a deceased celebrity may exceed that for deaths of neighbors, co-workers or even family members.

Why do we mourn strangers with such intensity?

EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo had theories, including:

Secretly, it isn’t their death we are disquieted by; it’s our own forthcoming death. Suddenly the icons of youth are gone and we are faced with the inescapable truth: We’re not so young anymore, and all of us eventually will confront the final journey from this life without red carpets, songs, or movie stars.

Closer to home, Family Theater Productions’ Head of Production Father David Guffey, C.S.C., had some thoughts on the phenomenon.

Social media exacerbates it because there’s all sorts of possibilities to publicly express their sorrow. Social media is brilliant, and the perfect medium for it in some ways, because of who celebrities are. Many celebrities in our culture are so much a part of our cultural life, people think they know them. They’ve been in their living rooms; they’ve been with them throughout various points of their lives and their journey, whether it’s a movie or a presence in talk shows or other events. Some people feel quite close to celebrities, and, so, they’re reacting not to a stranger, but someone who feels like a person who’s part of their life.

But, of course, the celebrity really isn’t part of a fan’s life, so Father Guffey cautions:

I would say to people, “We need to put some things in perspective, and it’s okay to be sad about the death of someone but also to step back and say, it might be misplaced grief.” Or, the attention and the love and affection that are given to celebrities might be misplaced, if we aren’t offering the same kind of attention and affection and love to the people who are closest to us.

It’s a relatively few people who go overboard but I think there is peril. It’s very difficult to measure by just a post. You also have to wonder if people have close relationships in their own life, and do they have flesh and blood people that they love and spend time with and treasure and celebrate, or have they become part of a celebrity culture that lives life vicariously through sports celebrities or movie stars or television actors for whom they have no connection at all?

Asked what advice he would give to someone hit hard by a celebrity death, Father Guffey said:

I would try to ask them to pray about “What did this person mean to you? What is it that makes the loss of this person so sad? What role did they play in your life?” At that point, the celebrity has become not a real person, but a symbol of something bigger or greater. So, it’s worth looking at that, whether it’s a good thing.

Maybe people grieved Princess Diana because they grieved for the loss of someone that they perceived as good. Or it could be something more personal, like grieving the loss of youth because Carrie Fisher died at 60, and I’m 55 years old. But it’s
worth reflecting on what’s the underlying cause of the grief.

For a community to grieve the loss of a leader or the loss of a hero, that can be appropriate. It’s always possible to go overboard with grieving, and not living, or not putting things in perspective, because ultimately as Christians we should be rejoicing for them, or praying for their soul as they go before God.

father-mulcahy-william-christopherThe last recorded celebrity death of 2016 — on Dec. 31 — was actor William Christopher, 84, best known for playing Catholic chaplain Lt. Father Francis Mulcahy on “M*A*S*H.”

In the show’s final episode, there was this exchange:

Col. Potter: Well, Francis, you’ve been a godsend.
Father Mulcahy: Look on the bright side: When they tell us to serve our time in Purgatory, we can say, “No thanks, I’ve done mine.”

And the name of the episode?

“Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen.”


Images: Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.


‘Queen of Katwe’: Father David Guffey Looks at the Film — and the Children of Uganda

queen-of-katweDisney’s new film “Queen of Katwe,” in theaters now, shows the gritty reality of life in a Ugandan slum, but does not ask for your pity. Instead, it invites you to be inspired.

“Queen of Katwe” offers an entertaining sports movie (albeit about chess tournaments) that hits all the right story beats about a gifted young woman who, against all odds, rises to greatness. It’s entertaining just on that level.

The film is based on the true story of Phiona Mutesi (played by Medina Malwanga), who grew up in a slum with siblings and her widowed mother, played by Lupita N’yong’o. Like her siblings, Phiona passes her days hawking roasted corn on the streets of Kampala, till one day she discovers a Christian center for kids run by Robert Katende, played by David Oyelowo.

Katende is a mentor who is concerned for the kids in his sports and chess program. Phiona rises among his other students and then beyond, to regional tournaments. The film shows that Katende has a supportive wife and a strong faith, but does so in an organic way that fits within the story as context and background, rather than as a message or a promotion.

On a personal note, two years ago I visited poor neighborhoods outside of Nairobi, Kenya, and I spent some time around Kampala, Uganda. In that time, I met people who worked hard every day to make a living, who had close bonds with family and a deep faith. I met people who, in spite of poverty, lack of civic resources and miserable living conditions, nevertheless had a capacity for hope, joy and generosity. Faith was part of what made this be so.






Some of the people I met on my trip became my heroes: students hungry for education, mentors gracious in guiding youth, parents sacrificing for their children and communities that celebrate life. “Queen of Katwe” exemplifies the spirit I saw there. Not only that, but the film made me want to be a better person in the world I inhabit.

Note from Social Media Manager Kate O’Hare:

In case you didn’t know, chess players have their own patron, Saint Teresa of Avila!


Image: Courtesy Walt Disney Pictures

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.

In Depth: The Prayer and Sacramental Lives of America’s Young Catholic Families

CARA-HCFM-BannerAs Family Theater Productions’ founder, Father Patrick Peyton, CSC, famously said, “The family that prays together stays together.”

But exactly what’s happening out there with Catholic families? On Saturday, Feb. 27, at the recent Los Angeles Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, California, FTP’s current Head of Production, Father David Guffey, CSC, presented a talk on how Catholic families can use existing media for evangelization and catechesis.

Included in that were the results of a 2014 study from Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), commissioned by our parent organization, Holy Cross Family Ministries.

It surveyed Catholic parents between the ages of 25 and 45, with a minor child in the home. One takeaway is that much of religious education for children is now centered in the home, with resources available there, and with parents as primary catechists, rather than in school or parish-based programs.

And sadly, only a small percentage of young parents attend Mass regularly with their children. As the former head of FTP, Father Willy Raymond, observed:

“Sine Dominico, non possumus.” When the Roman judge in 304 AD asked the martyrs of Abitene (present day Tunisia) why they risked death to celebrate the Eucharist, their response was we cannot be our true selves without Mass, without keeping the Lord’s Day. We cannot be followers of Christ, we cannot live, we are empty without this central prayer of our faith.

Unfortunately, too many of these parents aren’t aware of the resources available to them, through media and the Internet, that transmit Catholic information and values.

Rectifying that is central to the mission of Holy Cross Family Ministries, and to Family Theater Productions.

As Father Guffey promised to his listeners, here are some infographics that summarize the CARA reports:


The Young Catholic Parent


Participation in Formal Catholic Practices


Perceptions on Prayer


Click here for the full text of the reports (which are available for online reading and as downloadable PDFs), along with larger versions of the infographics.

Image: Courtesy Holy Cross Family Ministries

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.





Faith-Based Film “War Room” Opens at Number Two

In Theaters Now.

In Theaters Now.

Once again faith based films proved their audience potential. War Room, the latest film by Alex Kendrick (Courageous and Fireproof) earned the first place box office spot on Friday night and came in second, just behind Straight Outta Compton in the overall weekend draw.

The film, released by Sony/Tri-Star, is unapologetically Christian.   They draw on the audiences established with the Kendrick brothers’ previous films such as, Fireproof and Courageous.   An African American family strives to rebuild their life together through prayer, supporting the famous Family Theater tag line, “The Family that prays together, stays together.”  The filmmakers delivered a film to feed an audience hungry for content that has meaning and hope. They wisely released the film in a down time when there are few other great films competing for attention.

Alex and Stephen Kemdrick

Alex and Stephen Kemdrick

I have heard that a significant portion of the weekend’s take was from pre-sales, congregations ordering large blocks of tickets. The real test of the film’s strength will come in the stats for the second and third weeks of release.   Will more people go to see it or did the whole Christian audience go last weekend?

Still this film with no brand name actors and a three million dollar budget brought in $11 million.   It is hard to imagine that it will not do at least $15 million domestic.  Those results are encouraging for us and for other family and faith friendly filmmakers.

UnREAL: Behind the Scenes of Reality Television

UnREAL shows The Reality of Reality

UnREAL shows The Reality of Reality

The Lifetime Channel shows the reality of reality in a scripted series, UnREAL, airing new episodes on Monday nights with the entire season available at the Lifetime Channel website.

Ten years ago a guy walked into my office looking tired and heavy hearted and needing to talk.  He was in a process of discernment.  He loved making films but hated his current job, which he found soul-crushing on the on one hand, but too lucrative to leave on the other.   We talked for awhile before he would even admit that he worked on a reality television program.  He was tired of creating and exaggerating conflict, of manipulating people and making people who were basically good, look like buffoons or villains.

Monday night I felt like I got a glimpse into the world he had described when I watched latest episode of UnREAL on the Lifetime Channel.  This is not a family show, be warned.

Shiri Appleby plays reality show producer Rachel Goldberg

Shiri Appleby plays reality show producer Rachel Goldberg

Rachel (played by Shiri Appleby) produces a fictional reality show called “Everlasting.”  Think, “The Bachelor.”    She always appears weary, on the edge of a deep sadness as she skillfully, if not reluctantly, uses her intuition to get close to contestants, learn their vulnerabilities and then manipulate them to create conflict and further the storyline for the show.

She knows how to induce tears or a cat fight, a tender moment of personal revelation and romance, or a devastating scene of rejection.  All of this is part of her job and she is good at it and miserable for it.


At one point her executive producer Quinn,  played by Constance Zimmer, rallies the crew saying, “We want tears people, bonuses for nudity and for 911 calls.”   The producers want us to believe we are seeing a competition  for true romance.  In fact what the edited episodes of reality shows that end up on the air are contrived by cynical, calloused methods, with little regard to the human dignity of the people cast as contestants.

The show is probably exaggerated but not as much as fans of the genre might hope.   The conversation I had with that man ten years ago was not the last I have had with many other people working reality and discerning a new career path.

Let’s be Real

Here are five things reality show fans need to remember:

  1. Reality” on TV is highly manipulated.  The contestants are carefully cast, the situations contrived, viewers often do not see the context for the shots they see.
  2. If your life was filmed for a week, a skilled editor and producer could make you look however they wanted.  The programs reflect more the agenda of the producers than the reality of the lives of the contestants.
  3. Judging people is never good for the soul.   If I watch reality TV so that I can  let myself be drawn into indignation at their excesses it may seem harmless, but that feeds a dangerous tendency to condemn others and feel self-righteous.
  4. The joyful moments are easy to fake, the suffering is often real.   Try to have compassion for contestants.
  5. Think very, very hard before you would ever consider being part of a reality show.

Live in the fullness of your own reality, Family Theater You Tube and look for the ways that our loving God is always trying to send people and circumstances into your path to invite you to a deeper and fuller life, even if it is not one that would sell on television.