Category: Inspirational

Struggling to Explain Easter to Small Children?

Baby-crucifixLent is nearly over and we are in the Holiest Week of the Year, but I have to admit that I’m still struggling to properly prepare my preschool-age children for Easter, which we will celebrate this Sunday.

For elementary-school kids, there are many great traditions that may begin with “giving something up” for Lent to honor the sacrifice of Jesus’ 40-day fast in the desert, and may end with making “Resurrection Eggs” to help visualize the story of Jesus dying for our sins and rising on Easter Sunday.

But if your children are not quite old enough to understand the concepts of sacrifice or death, explaining Easter can feel somewhat challenging.

However, letting my kids believe that Easter is just about chocolate and a bunny has not been sitting right with me. As parents, we’re often averse to talking about death with our little ones. We feel it’s too heavy for them to understand. We’re worried about scaring them. But as I contemplated this challenge, I realized that the story of Easter is actually a wonderful way to introduce my kids to the concept of death and to teach them about everlasting life as well. In fact, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, there is nothing for them to fear.

Thankfully, I found several books on Amazon to help convey the story of Easter to young children. Some of them are Prime eligible, so they’ll arrive in just a couple days. Some of them are available for immediate download:

Lily’s Easter Party: The Story of the Resurrection Eggs

The Week That Led To Easter

Benjamin’s Box: The Story of the Resurrection Eggs

The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story

The Resurrection

God Gave Us Easter

This evening, we’re going to read one of the downloadable titles. Every night this week, we’ll make an Easter book part of our bedtime routine.

When we go to Mass this Sunday, they will no doubt have a deeper understanding of why we’re celebrating—and that will make the Easter baskets, the egg hunts and the chocolate treats all the more special.

Korbi is a former full-time TV blogger, writing for sites such as E! Online and Yahoo!. She is now a full-time mom of twin boys. In her free time, she moonlights as a Marriage, Family & Individual Therapist.

Images: Courtesy Laura Zambrana

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.

Easter Sunday: James Dean Proclaims the Resurrection in ‘Hill Number One’ on EWTN

James-Dean-Hill-Number-OneEverybody’s got to start somewhere, and for screen legend James Dean, that was Family Theater Productions.

One advantage of being founded in 1947 is that we’ve gotten to work with some of the biggest stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age — from Bing Crosby to Gregory Peck to Maureen O’Hara to Jimmy Durante.

On March 25, 1951, when the Korean War was in full swing, we released a TV special called “Hill Number One” (click here to watch). The reluctance of a group of American G.I.s to take one more hill on Easter Sunday provides the backdrop for an unusual retelling of the Passion, and that first hill, Golgotha, also known as Calvary.

Hill Number One 1

The cast includes Roddy McDowall as Pvt. Huntington (The Professor), Ruth Hussey as the Virgin Mary, Leif Erickson as Pilate, Joan Leslie as Claudia Procles, Jeanne Cagney (sister of James Cagney) as Mary Magdalene, Gene Lockhart as Matthew. and a very young James Dean — in his first speaking role — as John.

Hill-Number-One-James-Dean

 

As described at the IMDB:

A respectful interpretation of what might have happened among Jesus’s followers in the three days before Crucifixion. The story is told in the modern context of an US Army company stationed in Korea during the Korean War.

As the Catholic chaplain (Gordon Oliver) tells the tale of the Crucifixion and Resurrection, the scene switches to Jerusalem. When the action returns to Korea, the chaplain finishes his talk with an exhortation to listen to Mary and pray always — and use the rosary.

He says, “Of course, the beads don’t tell it to me; I tell it to the beads. That’s what meditation is. That’s what prayer is.”

Father-Patrick-Peyton

It’s a fitting addition, since FTP’s founder, Servant of God Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C. (above) — who produced the special  — was deeply devoted to Mary and to the rosary, earning the nickname “The Rosary Priest.” He appears at the end to speak about the thing dearest to his heart, getting families to pray the rosary together.

Click here to learn about his life and the cause for his sainthood.

As it did last Easter, “Hill Number One” airs Easter Sunday, April 16, on EWTN, at 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT.

The DVD of “Hill Number One” can be bought from the online store of Holy Cross Family Ministries, the parent organization of Family Theater, or from Amazon.com. It can also be streamed on Amazon Prime Video,

Among the comments at Amazon, from “Chief”:

Just as I was walking out the door on my way to Church this past Easter my wife was channel surfing and this movie caught my eye. I was unable to watch it and of course by the time I returned from Mass it had ended. So the next day I looked it up on Amazon ordered it and to my delight it was available, delivered before the expected delivery date and in the condition stated. The movie is corny but the message is timeless and needed now more than ever in this country. This will become a staple for my Easter time movie watching in addition to Jesus of Nazareth.

Last but not least, a peek at James Dean:

Images: Family Theater Productions

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.

Norbertine Web Series ‘City of Saints’ Premieres With ‘The Good Thief’

City-of-Saints-Episode-1In the Catholic world of Southern California, the white-robed Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey are well-known — now the world gets to meet them.

On April 10, “The Good Thief,” the first episode of “City of Saints,” a seven-part series of short Web videos, premiered on CityofSaints.com. It traces the story of a troubled young man whose encounter with one of the Norbertine priests changed his life, comparing it to the story of St. Dismas, the “good thief” who was crucified alongside Christ.

Click here to watch; the page also offers background information on Father Norbert Wood, the Norbertine priest featured in the episode, and St. Dismas.

Father-Norbert-City-of-Saints

 

St. Michael’s Abbey is in Silverado, California, in the heart of Orange County. The Norbertines operate a boys’ boarding school at the abbey, administer parishes in Orange and Los Angeles Counties, release chant CDs — and now, star in a new Web series.

Asked what a Norbertine is, here’s Father Norbert’s reply:

A priest whose life is anchored in the Mysteries of the Altar and who bathes there every day in the fountain flowing from the Savior’s open Heart.

A priest who begins anew every day to walk the path of conversion and who seeks to love and serve with a generous heart like St. Augustine and St. Norbert.

A priest who hungers and thirsts for the Lord and for the salvation of His people and who renews that hunger and thirst each day in prayer.

Here are the upcoming episodes:

City-of-Saints-Norbertines-1

 

City-of-Saints-Norbertines-2

Image: Courtesy Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey

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.

 

5 Ways to Use Nemo and Dory to Teach Family Prayer

Finding Nemo-Poster copy

How do we learn to pray?

Unlike breathing, prayer is not an autonomic reflex. It has to be taught and practiced. Unfortunately, many of the times we spontaneously turn to prayer are pressure moments where we can’t give it a lot of thought.

But, movies can help, especially for parents and kids.

While watching a movie — or a TV episode or online video, for little ones with shorter attention spans — we can stop and talk about how to pray for the characters.

For example, there are many scary moments and big decisions to be made in a film like “Finding Nemo,” and talking about the characters’ dilemmas, rather than those of people you actually know, allows everyone to take a step back and think carefully.

I consulted with a few parents on how to do this, and here are some of their suggestions …

  • Pick a movie or TV episode you’ve seen many times before. The last thing you want to do is make a kid wait to see what happens next when you’re trying to teach him or her something.
  • Don’t do it too often in the video. Pick just the big moments, the crisis and decision points, and ask, “If you had to pray for Nemo or Marlin or Dory here, what would you say?”
  • Ask, from time to time, what the kids think God might want the character to do. Don’t be afraid to disagree with screenwriters’ choices. That improves critical thinking.
  • Keep it quick and light. This is Prayer 101, not a Masters in Theology.
  • If this sparks kids to talk about their own lives or that of their friends, keep that pause button on. No movie or teaching opportunity is more important than connecting with a child who’s willing to open up.

So, pray that movie … and please share your experiences or suggestions in the comments, either on the post, or on Facebook.

Image: Courtesy Disney/Pixar

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.

Launching Lent: Fr. Tony Ricard, Patrick Coffin and Other Catholic Media Pros Reflect on Family Prayer

Sister-Nancy-Usselmann-Joseph-Nesta-Patrick-Coffin-Father-Tony-Ricard-Family-PrayerToday — Wednesday, March 1 — is Ash Wednesday, the official beginning of the Lenten season. In case you were wondering what Lent is all about, here’s Family Theater’s new video explaining it:

One thing all Catholic families can do better is praying together, and Lent may be a perfect time to jump-start that in your home. As part of our ongoing “Faith in Media” series, we talked to Catholic mcdia professionals about the importance of family prayer.

To start with, podcaster, author, speaker and radio host Patrick Coffin gave us his own family prayer:

Coffin also offered us a longer take on family prayer, emphasizing that family prayer is the “great untried solution” to many of the ills besetting the modern family, including divorce and the splintering of family members.

Father Tony Ricard, a priest, speaker, author and evangelist from the Archdiocese of New Orleans discussed the importance of not only talking but listening in prayer, and how we, as a people, have to be “about the business of God.”

Then, Joseph Nesta, senior community-relations officer for Immaculate Heart Radio, told us about how saying a family rosary can create beautiful memories.

Finally, Sister Nancy Usselmann, F.S.P., of the Daughters of Saint Paul, the national director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies, explains how family prayer nourished her own vocation, that of her priest brother, and of her married sister and single sister.

Pray on!

Images: Courtesy Family Theater Productions

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.

St. Valentine’s Day: Let’s Talk to Our Kids About Love

hashtag love“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

As my kids are preparing to celebrate Valentine’s Day at school this week, I am reminded of this Scripture (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8). We often hear it at weddings, but if you read it with your whole family —particularly your children— in mind, it takes on an even more profound meaning. While Valentine’s Day is typically thought of as a romantic holiday, it is also an opportunity to talk with our little ones about love.

The four Bible verses that precede the passage above make it very clear that without love, we have nothing. And the verses that follow it emphasize that love is greater than all things, including hope and faith. That’s pretty powerful stuff. Certainly powerful enough to warrant a conversation with our kids about what love is. Doing so, on or in preparation for Valentine’s Day, is a perfect way to add a spiritual element to the popular celebration and to bring the family closer together.

So, what is love? As parents, the words spoken and the wisdom conveyed in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8, provide incredible guidance: patience, kindness, good will, humility, selflessness, tolerance, forgiveness, care, trust, hope, perseverance. Contained in those four short verses is a parenting handbook which very clearly details the sort of behavior we should be striving to model for our children. What better way could there be to demonstrate our love for them, for our partners, our friends and neighbors?

For most of us, some of these qualities are easier to practice than others. The patience piece is particularly challenging when dealing with young ones. I suspect it is no accident that patience is the very first word used to explain what love is. What a stunning reminder, no?

In that spirit, I started to think of ways our family could talk about and express love in honor of Valentine’s Day. I came up with a few ideas…

  • Take some time to read 1 Corinthians 13 with your kids. Ask them what they think it means and explain it to them in language they will understand. If they’re old enough, watch this video with them:

  • Ask them to think about different ways in which they can practice patience (like waiting for a younger sibling without protest), practice kindness and care (like spending time with an elderly neighbor) or practice forgiveness (like giving a friend a hug after an argument and letting them know everything is okay).
  • Bake Valentine-themed cookies or cupcakes to donate to your local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Talk about why it’s important to show love for those who may be lonely or don’t have much.
  • Have a special Valentine’s Day dinner —could be any day this week— and enlist your children to help with planning the menu, decorating a bit, setting the table or preparing the meal. After saying grace and starting to eat, go around and give each person a chance to say why they love the other members of the family.
  • Consider giving each of your children a special Valentine, or spending some one-on-one time with them, to let them know how much they are loved.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

As a bonus, here’s Father Mike Schmitz sharing what he learned about love from, of all places, a Steve Carell movie:

Korbi is a former full-time TV blogger, writing for sites such as E! Online and Yahoo!. She is now a full-time mom of twin boys. In her free time, she moonlights as a Marriage, Family & Individual Therapist.

Image: Courtesy 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.