Category: Inspirational

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.

Advent TV Calendar: Pope’s Choir, ‘Sound of Music,’ ‘Elf,’ ‘A Christmas Story’ and More


Almost there! This is the last Sunday of Advent, and next Sunday is Dec. 25, the big day … Christmas Day! So here’s the final installment of our Advent TV calendar of notable offerings on broadcast, cable and streaming.

Watch, bookmark or load up on the DVR, and save a cookie for us!

December 18, Fourth Sunday of Advent:

“If You Give A Mouse a Christmas Cookie” on Amazon PrimeA mouse and his animal friends try to fix their mistake after destroying the set of the school pageant.

“Home Alone” on HBO GoWhen a Chicago family takes a Christmas trip to Paris and accidentally leaves their young son behind, the little boy defends his house during a string of neighborhood burglaries.

“60 Minutes”: 7:30 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on CBS : Charlie Rose profiles Maestro Massimo Palombella of the Sistine Chapel Choir, known as the “pope’s choir,” and how he restored the men-and-boys choir back to its original Renaissance sound. Apparently it worked. From a CBS press release:

Palombella recalls what one man said to him after a concert, “[He] said the choir I conduct is missing one thing: wings.”

Click here to see a preview.

“The Sound of Music”: 7 p.m. ET/PT on ABC: The classic 1965 Rodgers & Hammerstein musical drama, based on the memoirs of Maria Von Trapp, stars Julie Andrews as Maria, a young Austrian Catholic woman in 1938. While discerning a vocation, she takes a job caring for a widower and his large family. She finds love and also gets caught up in the Nazi takeover of Austria.

December 19, Fourth Monday of Advent:

“America’s Got Talent Holiday Spectacular”: 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC – Some of the series’ past contestants return to the stage to perform holiday-themed entertainment.

December 21, Fourth Wednesday of Advent:

“Christmas with the Kranks” on NetflixWhen a married couple’s daughter decides to make a last minute trip home for the holidays, they rush to create the best Christmas ever.

“Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas”: 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC: Based on the hit 2003 movie, the stop-motion animated special features the voice of Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”) as Buddy, a human raised among Santa’s elves, as he heads to New York City to meet the father he never knew he had. Other voices are Mark Hamill, Ed Asner, Jay Leno and Matt Lauer.



December 23, Fourth Friday of Advent:

“Thomas & Friends: A Very Thomas Christmas” on NetflixAll aboard for a special holiday delivery filled with friendship, teamwork, fun and the perfect Christmas tree.

“A Home for the Holidays”: 8 p.m.ET/PT on CBS: The 18th annual special focuses on foster-care adoption, featuring celebrities who’ve either had their own adoption experiences or are involved with children’s issues.

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas”: 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBCChuck Jones produced and directed the classic 1966 half-hour animated special, which was written by Theodor “Dr. Suess” Geisel based on his book. The special features the voices of Boris Karloff as the Grinch and the narrator, as well as June Foray as Cindy Lou Who. In honor of the special’s 50th anniversary, NBC is airing the full 26-minute version that was originally broadcast.

Or you can watch it here:

“How Murray Saved Christmas”: 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on NBC: Based on Emmy-winning writer/executive producer Mike Reiss’ best-selling children’s book of the same name, it centers on cranky deli owner Murray Weiner (Jerry Stiller), who is forced to fill in for Santa (Kevin Michael Richardson) one Christmas and does a weirdly wonderful job.

“Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love”: 9 p.m. ET/PT: Originally aired Nov. 30, this two-hour movie is a sequel to 2015’s “Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors,” and continues the childhood story of Parton and her family in the hills of Tennessee.

December 24, Christmas Eve:

“A Christmas Story” :24-hour marathon starts 8 p.m. ET/PT on TBS – A young boy named Ralphie attempts to convince his parents, his teacher, and Santa that a Red Ryder B.B. gun really is the perfect Christmas gift.

“Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas” on Netflix – George and The Man In The Yellow Hat are having a merry time counting down to Christmas. But neither can decide what to give each other. Will they find the answers before Christmas morning?

“It’s a Wonderful Life”: 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC: The 1946 classic tells the story of George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) a frustrated small-town husband and father who, in a moment of desperation, wishes his life away, only to learn what the world would be like without him.

“Christmas Eve Mass”: 11:30 p.m ET/PT on NBC: Christians from around the world gather at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, as Pope Francis celebrates Midnight Mass.

“Listen! A Musical Celebration of Christmas at Berea College,” 11:35 p.m. ET/PT on CBS: The one-hour special features students and music faculty from the Christian college in Kentucky, blending sacred and secular Christmas music. Also, there will be a reading from Berea’s newly acquired copy of the St. John’s Bible, the first handwritten and illuminated Bible published since the end of the 15th Century. It was commissioned by Catholic St. John’s Abbey and University, and is the work of calligrapher Donald Jackson.


Image: Courtesy NBC

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.

Our Lady of Guadalupe: The Movie(s)

our_lady_of_guadalupeHollywood has yet to do a big-budget feature film about Saint Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe, but it’s still one of the most amazing stories in

Arrayed in the dress of an Aztec princess, the Virgin Mary appeared more than once to 57-year-old Juan Diego, a simple farmer and laborer in Mexico, starting on the morning of Dec. 9, 1531, on the site of a former Aztec temple. She urged him to tell his bishop that a shrine be built on the site.

The bishop was understandably skeptical and asked for a sign. A relative’s illness derailed Juan Diego’s plans, but Mary found him again. This time, she sent our_lady_of_guadalupe_4x6him in search of blooming roses, out of season in December. But he found them, gathered them into his rough cloak, his tilma, woven from cactus fibers.

Reaching the bishop, Juan Diego opened the tilma and let the roses spill out. To everyone’s astonishment, this also revealed the image in the photo above and at right, which was imprinted directly on the tilma.

On a 2009 visit to the basilica in Mexico City that houses the relic, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked who “painted” the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The rector of the basilica, Monsignor Diego Monroy, told her, “God!”

Although a bunch of showbiz A-listers haven’t yet tackled this story (it ends with increasing faith instead of doubt and apostasy, so that may explain why they’re not interested), there are film versions of the story, both scripted and documentary.

Here’s a sampling:

“Guadalupe” (2006): As described at the IMDB:

Jose Maria and his sister Mercedes are archaeologists who have been given a grant to study the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whom Juan Diego, an ordinary man living near the hill of Tepeyac, witnessed in December 1531.

A commenter noted:

A troubled family in Spain, an American archaeologist and others are drawn to Mexico by the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe. These 20th century ‘pilgrims’ are drawn together and helped in much the same way the Virgin of Guadalupe drew the Spanish and the Mexica together in the 16th century to form a new race, the Mexicans, A gentle dramatization of St. Juan Diego’s vision of the Virgin Mary on Tepayac Hill in 1531 is interwoven with the modern action and is appropriately spoken in Nahuatl.

Click here to learn more.

“The Blood & the Rose” (2013): From the IMDB:

The Blood and the Rose is the story of damnation and salvation, and of a divine miracle of unity and devotion that brought hope and transformed a continent. The Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego. He was an ordinary man who was an extraordinary messenger of faith. A people were converted and our world was changed. This eternal struggle is the battle for our souls.

Catholic star Eduardo Verastegui narrates this documentary. Here’s the description from the official site:

A feature length theatrical documentary shot on location in Mexico and Spain, The Blood & The Rose offers riveting interviews with top experts in the fields of science, history and theology, exploring the mystery of St. Juan Diego’s Tilma and the miraculous image that it bears. More than just a story about a distant event, The Blood & The Rose is an invitation and a calling to emulate St. Juan Diego in our own day, carrying the message of the Virgin of Guadalupe – Patroness of the Americas and Patroness of Life – into the culture in which we live.

The DVD can also be bought from Ignatius Press.

“Guadalupe: The Miracle and the Message” (2015): A TV special produced by the Knights of Columbus. From the press release:

“The message of Our Lady of Guadalupe helped to build bridges between cultures and worlds and began the transformation of our continent into a Christian continent of hope,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, executive producer of the film. “The apparition helped to unite the entire continent in a way that didn’t exist before. Through her intercession, then and now, those throughout this hemisphere have found a deep and shared sense of faith, hope and identity.”

The image itself has long been puzzling to the scientific community, since it has been shown to exist without having been painted, has survived despite extreme age, adverse conditions and a bombing. The image also exhibits features reminiscent of photographs, such as reflections in the image’s eyes, even though it appeared hundreds of years before photography.

Guadalupe: The Miracle and the Message brings this remarkable history to life through modern reenactments, 3D animations which allow viewers an unprecedented glimpse into the intricacies of the centuries-old wonder and interviews with leading theologians, historians and scientists.

The film also dispels popular myths, including that the image’s impact does not extend past Mexico’s border.

Click here to buy the film.

As a bonus, check out “For Greater Glory,” a 2012 feature film, starring Andy Garcia, set during the Cristero War (1926-1929), in which the Catholics of Mexico fought back against their repressive atheistic government. The rebels frequently fought under flags featuring the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

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.

Bishop Barron’s ‘Catholicism: The Pivotal Players’ Comes to PBS in November

pivotal-playersStarting Sunday, Nov. 13, two episodes of “Catholicism: The Pivotal Players,” Bishop Robert Barron‘s follow-up to “Catholicism,” start playing on PBS stations around the country (check local listings for time and channel in your area — or click here for an air schedule).

Viewers who enjoy watching the profiles of Michelangelo and St. Francis of Assisi on PBS are able to buy the first six episodes on DVD — which also includes Saint Catherine of Siena, Blessed John Henry Newman, G.K. Chesterton and Saint Thomas Aquinas — with more to come in the future.

I recently chatted with Father Steve Grunow, the CEO of Bishop Barron’s media apostolate, Word on Fire, and executive producer of both “Catholicism” and “The Pivotal Players.”

Why did PBS pick the Francis and Michelangelo episodes to be the ones to air?

Those two are the crown jewels of volume one. They’re the most beautiful of the episodes. It’s no surprise that those are the ones they would want to show. Also, Francis and Michelangelo have broad appeal to Catholic believers, but now they add extra appeal to people outside the Church.

Wouldn’t you think that Francis is probably the most famous Catholic saint after Mary?

I would think that’s correct — and Michelangelo is probably the best-known Catholic after St. Francis.

Do people realize that Michelangelo was Catholic?

That’s what we uncovered in our research in planning for this, the idea that Michelangelo was a radical secularist or simply a humanist. That’s the trope of modernity. It’s used for its own purposes, but he was a man of intense Catholic spirituality.

Some people picture Francis as a tree-hugging vegetarian who spent all day playing with birds and bunnies — but none of this is true. What do you want people to learn about him?

There’s much more to Francis than any of those types of things. We wanted to show that he was a radical Christian, that he was a disciple of Jesus, embedded in these particular circumstances, in this particular period of time. It was the display of himself as a disciple of Jesus that made him so attractive and strange.

He’s like the grain of salt that gets into the life story, and we’re the oysters. He’s hard for us to take, so we clothe him over time with this mythology to turn him into a pearl that’s easier for us to keep in our gullet.

If you break open that pearl, there’s that grain of sand, and that’s Francis of Assisi. He was a frightening figure when you really look into it, somewhat of a cave dweller. He was very off-putting to most modern sensibilities.

He set out with this personal call from Jesus Christ to proclaim the Gospel in this extraordinary way. That was his mission, and people found that mission to be so foretelling that a movement arose that was associated with the charism of this person, but it wasn’t his role to necessarily give structure to that movement.

What appeal do these profiles have to Millennials?

In particular, these six “Pivotal Players,” they are at the forefront, but they all would resonate with that Millennial period of life, in terms of your own spiritual journey. There’s a tendency, because they’re so monumental to the Church or to the culture, or because they’re historical figures, they all seem old.

But look at Michelangelo — a lot of his major works were accomplished while he was in his 20s. The conversion experience of Francis happens when he was a young man. Catherine was a relatively young woman when her apostolate began. They’re not old people, is the truth of this.

Fewer people probably know British journalist, essayist and novelist G.K. Chesterton, who’s a convert to the Faith. He was prominent around the turn of of the century but not as much now. Why have you included him?

In our initial conversations, we needed a pivotal player who’d be a bridge into modernity. On the theoretical level, Newman takes you into the modern period, but Chesterton is embedded in the modern.

In his vibrant Catholicism as a layman, he anticipates, in his own way, the second Vatican council and its emphasis on being a person called to holiness in the real world.

Catherine of Siena lived in the 14th century, but she was a Dominican tertiary, a writer, philosopher, mystic and speaker, who challenged a expatriate pope to return to the Vatican. What about her resonated with you?

She knew Christ as a friend, a confidante and a companion, and that gave her extraordinary courage. That made her a force to be reckoned with, and made her unstoppable. She maneuvered her way into the papal court, but when she got there, who could stop her?

The thing is, it’s not just being aggressive. That’s not the quality of it. It’s saintly. If a Mother Teresa showed up at your door, you’re going to open the door.

That doesn’t have to do with celebrity, or because she’s pushy, but because there’s a presentation of Christlike-ness. People saw that. The pope recognized her as a bearer of Christ, and not only did he have to receive her, he had to do what she said.

What should be the place of the Church in producing modern media?

We should hold ourselves to standards that are as high, if not higher, than the culture, than modern media has. We shouldn’t be shooting low, just so we can create something. You have to keep your production values high. That entails a lot of sacrifices and costs, but if you create bad media, don’t expect people to watch it. You create good media, and then you get a chance.

You tell the Christian story in a compelling way. We don’t necessarily use marble and frescoes to do that in our time, but we use the tools of film. Television and digital expense is going up. What we place on that should be as high quality as what Michelangelo produced — at least we should be trying.

We’ve got a particular take on this thing called Christianity that [non-Catholic Christians] don’t have. We can’t rely on someone else to do the work for us.

Tune in, and don’t forget, the DVDs are perfect for Christmas giving (and there is also a study guide and other resources).

Here are a few peeks:

Image: Courtesy World on Fire

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.