Category: News & Trends

’13 Reasons Why’: Father Mike Schmitz Talks Choosing Hope Instead of Suicide

In this new video, speaker and college chaplain Father Mike Schmitz takes on the issue of suicide and the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why.”

His biggest problem is that the show depicts suicide as a revenge story, in which a troubled teen girl takes her own life and leaves behind recorded explanations of why it’s the fault of many people around her. But, as Father Mike points out, it’s not the suicide victim’s enemies who will suffer, but instead it’s those who cared about the person who will be hardest hit.

He also discusses the Church’s stance on suicide, and how people may not always be morally responsible for what they do.

Take a look:

Back in June, our own Catholic-mom blogger, Korbi Ghosh Biggins, who’s also a licensed marriage and family therapist, wrote a detailed review of “13 Reasons Why.”

Click here for the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt that relates to Father Mike’s point:

While the series certainly opens the door to explore and discuss difficult subjects with teenagers, it also portrays suicide —and the process by which a person may get to that place in life— quite inaccurately. “13 Reasons” depicts Hannah’s decision as an act of revenge against the people who hurt her or let her down. In reality, people at risk for suicide are very rarely thinking about others when contemplating or preparing to end their life. Suicide is a mental health issue and the vast majority of people at risk are suffering from a debilitating mental health disorder such as major depression or bipolar disorder.

Traumatic events, like being raped or mercilessly bullied, can certainly contribute to the onset of mental-health issues like depression. However, post-traumatic stress, depression and bipolar disorder are all treatable. There is a way out for those who feel trapped in hopelessness — ways that do not include suicide. Unfortunately, “13 Reasons Why” fails to give the viewer any credible insight into their options for seeking help, which is troubling and dangerous.

In fact, the series seems to effectively romanticize suicide. I would go as far as saying that, for the impressionable and possibly desperate, it glamorizes suicide to some degree.

Please do watch Father Mike’s video and read Korbi’s whole piece — then share both with anyone you know who might be contemplating suicide or connected to someone that is.

You could save a life … maybe even your own.

Incidentally, “13 Reasons Why” is returning for a second season. The deceased main character, Hannah (Katherine Langford), will make some sort of appearance. Here’s a tidbit from about the theme of the sophomore season:

One thing that we should definitely expect, according to [series star] Dylan Minnette’s new interview with Entertainment Tonight‘s Katie Krause, is for season 2 of the series to focus on “recovery.”
“[The new season] kicks off a few months after season one,” Minnette explained to ET. “This season particularly is a lot about recovery.”

Images: Courtesy Netflix, Pixabay, Father Mike Schmitz

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Family Theater Priest: I Blessed the Set of ‘Annabelle Creation’

(Father David Guffey is Head of Production for Family Theater Productions, based in Hollywood.)

Several months ago, I picked up the phone in my office and heard a friend ask, “Father David, could you bless a set of a movie?”

He went on to explain that they were shooting a horror film on the Warner Brothers lot, and some of the cast were a little freaked out by the story. So, I trekked over to Warner Brothers in Burbank and found my way to the sound stage. I did not see the script, but the set itself was eerie. With stole and holy water in hand, and a small group of cast and crew present, I blessed the set, adapting prayers from the official Book of Blessings. The movie they were making is Anabelle Creation, and it opens nationally this weekend.

The film is the latest release in the Conjuring Series, from James Wann. The films feature stories of demonic possession and the people who fight it. Anabelle Creation is a prequel to the Anabelle film released in 2014. The film opening this weekend tells the story of the dollmaker (Anthony LaPaglia) who created Anabelle. He and his wife (Miranda Otto) suffered the loss of their young daughter, a beloved only child. In their grief, they become vulnerable to a seductive and sinister bargain.

Fans of the series will not be disappointed in this latest installment.

It is an R-rated (for frightening content) horror film. While most people will never experience the intensity of evil portrayed in the story, the methods the devil uses are all too familiar in everyday life. The devil is opportunistic, looking for any opening to insert himself into a person’s life. The devil is a deceiver who seduces people into thinking that something destructive is life-giving, and that life-giving things are destructive. Finally, the devil is a divider of peoples. You will find all these dynamics in Anabelle Creation.

Evil does influence life. What people of faith know is that God and the forces of love are more powerful than anything the devil can dish up. This truth was more completely realized in the original Conjuring films, which were based on the real life work of Catholic paranormal researchers Ed and Lorraine Warren.

Anabelle Creation shows the patterns of evil with little of the hope in the forces of good. This makes for a great scary movie, but an incomplete one for people who believe and have confidence that ultimately, God wins. People of faith can resist evil and in fact do every day.

It was with this hope that I blessed the set of the film. Stephanie Sigman, one of the actresses present at the rite thanked me and said she felt more secure knowing the set had been blessed. Every little blessing helps defeat evil. You can see her this weekend playing Sister Charlotte in Annabelle Creation.

Father Guffey also participated in an Aug. 9 panel on the film, sponsored by New Line Cinema and Fuller Seminary’s Reel Spirituality, which preceded a screening at the ArcLight Theater in Pasadena, California. The panel topic was “In Defense of Evil,” and featured the film’s director, David F. Sandberg; Dr. Craig Detweiler, author and director of the Center for Entertainment Media & Culture at Pepperdine University; the moderator was Dr. Kutter Callaway, assistant professor of theology and culture, at Fuller Theological Seminary, an Evangelical institution in Pasadena.

(NOTE: According to Variety, Annabelle: Creation is on its way to a 36M+ opening weekend.)

Image: Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

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‘Garage Sale Mystery’ Takes Over August Sundays on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

Solving crimes has never gone out of fashion on television, but these days it’s often laden with sex, violence and deep dives into depraved lifestyles. And then, there’s “Garage Sale Mystery” on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Based on novels by Suzi Weinert and presented in two-hour movie installments since 2013, it’s a TV version of what’s known in mystery fiction as a “cozy mystery,” which feature a (frequently, but not always) female amateur sleuth. She’s got brains and keen observational skills, along with great instincts and knowledge of human nature. Sometimes she’s married; sometimes she’s not.

But when the local police need a bit of extra help in solving the unusually high rate of murders that happen in her (often small) hometown, the cozy-mystery sleuth is there.

Cozy mysteries offer viewers a chance to puzzle through clues and the vagaries of human behavior without having to wallow in the darker side.

From “Murder, She Wrote” to “Father Brown,” the cozy remains a TV constant, but has been largely supplanted by mystery dramas centered on police or military investigators. Those have their place, but there’s nothing like watching a bright but dedicated amateur show the pros how it’s done — especially one, like Jennifer, who doesn’t flinch at the prospect of a morgue visit.

Last week, I attended a screening of “Murder by Text,” a “Garage Sale Mystery,” at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills, California, attended by Hallmark executives, fans, friends and stars, including “Garage” star Lori Loughlin.

She plays antique-store owner Jennifer Shannon, a wife and mother of two teen children, whose eye for detail and knack for deductive reasoning entertains her family and helps local Detective Lynwood (Kevin O’Grady) burnish his cases-closed stats.

With side plots involving the family and Dani (Sarah Strange), who works in Jennifer’s store (an actual antique shop in British Columbia, Canada, where the show is shot), “Garage” tells an entertaining story that keeps it light, humorous and interesting.

“Murder by Text” also features Jennifer’s husband (Rick Ravenello) and daughter in a dispute over his company’s plan to turn a local historic building into condos, without raised voices or slammed doors. While I thought daughter Hannah (Eva Bourne) still acted like a bit of a brat — you don’t slap bumper stickers on people’s cars without their permission — the issue resolved with good sense and good humor.

How refreshing.

While the murder element of the show may disturb young children, “Garage Sale Mysteries” is perfectly suitable for preteens and up.

Here’s what’s coming up in August:

Garage Sale Mystery: The Beach Murder (August 6, 9 p.m. ET/PT): Jennifer wades into a murder when a young internet entrepreneur drowns in the ocean, the apparent victim of a surfing accident.

Garage Sale Mystery: Murder by Text (August 13, 9 p.m. ET/PT): After a bass player sends a cryptic suicide text, Jennifer suspects the apparent suicide was actually murder. Meanwhile, Dani deals with a visit from her sister, who may have hidden talents (and a secret).

Garage Sale Mystery: Murder Most Medieval (August 20, 9 p.m ET/PT): Jennifer finds a dead body in a suit of armor purchased for her client.

Garage Sale Mystery: A Case of Murder (August 27, 9 p.m. ET/PT): A tape inside an old recorder Jennifer purchases may hold the sound of an actual murder.

And courtesy of Parade magazine, a clip from “Murder Most Medieval”…

Image: Courtesy Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

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Patricia Heaton: The Once and Current Catholic, in Her Own Words

On Sunday, July 30, Patricia Heaton, star of ABC’s hit sitcom “The Middle,” had a confession to make on Twitter:

Then, the next day, she read the account of Christian Joni Earekson Tada, speaking 50 years after injuries from a diving accident put her in a wheelchair.

Struck by the woman’s comments, Heaton tweeted the below:

The conversation continued at her Twitter page.

Heaton’s spiritual journey has a few twists and turns, from being a cradle Catholic to drifting away after divorce, to Protestant communities, and eventually back to the Church, annulment and reconciliation.

In June, I had the pleasure of attending a wonderful Catholic conference in the Diocese of Orange, sponsored by the Orange Catholic Foundation, and Heaton gave the hilarious and moving keynote address.

Her story resonates with a Catholic revert like me, and will touch cradles, reverts and converts alike. Enjoy:

BTW, ABC has just announced that the upcoming ninth season of “The Middle” will be its last. Learn more here.

Image: Courtesy ABC

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.

Miraculously Back on TV, Tracy Morgan Says, ‘Thank God’

Prior to 2014, Tracy Morgan was known for two things: cutting-edge comedy and crazy behavior. Then, on June 7, 2014, he was involved in a brutal car accident on the New Jersey Turnpike involving a tractor-trailer. It left Morgan with broken bones and a head injury, and he was in a coma for two weeks. His friend and comedy collaborator James McNair was killed.

In a Nov. 2015 interview, he said:

But after surviving something like that, I’m probably never going to feel normal. I went to the other side. This is not something I’m making up. Do you know what God said to me? He said, “Your room ain’t ready. I still got something for you to do.” And here I am, doing an interview with you.

On Thursday, July 27, Morgan sat before assembled TV critics at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, promoting a new show called “The Real O.G.,”coming out Oct. 24 on TBS.

Here’s how TBS’ executive v.p. of original programming, Brett Weitz, introduced him:

Tracy Morgan was knocking at death’s door, and possibly because God,
Saint Peter, or whoever just wasn’t quite ready to deal with his
wise-*** remarks, he was given a second chance at life and
another opportunity to bring his bold, raw, and hysterical point
of view back into our homes. For that, we are eternally

“The Last O.G.” centers on Tray, an ex-con recently released
from prison after a 15-year stint, only to find his most beloved
Brooklyn isn’t what it once was. In his quest to acclimate,
Tracy will once again be given a second chance. But this time,
it’s to reconnect with the family he left behind, both those he
knew and those he’s just finding out about.

It’s too early to know whether the comedy will be suitable for families to watch. But, Morgan’s remarks indicated he has no axes to grind, that he just wants to tell a story about people of good will in an awkward situation trying to do the best they can.

What was most striking about the panel was Morgan’s open, heartfelt statements about faith.

Here’s a sampling …

On what it means to have a second chance at TV … and life:

Thank God. That’s all I got to say. Self-explanatory. Thank God.

On surrounding himself with such great talents as co-stars Cedric the Entertaining and actress Tiffany Haddish, rather than doing a show centered more just on him:

Maybe I’m just a better man now since the accident. Maybe I’m just a better man. It ain’t about me. It’s bigger than me. I’m just thankful — I’m fortunate to have these folks around me. …

We just lucked up and got what we wanted with the people, the folks that could do it. I’m just a better man now. I know it ain’t about me. It’s bigger
than me. I thank God for that.

On what he’s learned:

You can have a billion dollars and be a piece of s***. You have to be good to others. I know my reward is not — forget about what you all see me wearing. That is not my reward. My reward is when He welcomes me back into
His Kingdom.

And I’m rewarded that way by how I treat you all, how I treat my brothers and my sisters. I got redemption. I’m here.

Listen, I had to get hit by the truck. If I didn’t get hit by the truck, I wouldn’t be able to make the impact that I’m making right now. So, good. Thank you.

Whether “The Real O.G.” is a success or not, Morgan surely knows from whence his help comes.

Image: Buchan/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

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.

Jeannie Gaffigan Updates Her Life After Surgery to Remove Brain Tumor

On April 18, Jeannie Gaffigan, wife and creative partner of comedian Jim Gaffigan, underwent a nine-hour surgery to remove a tumor wrapped around her brain stem.

Recovery for the 47-year-old Catholic mother of five has been difficult. She suffered aspiration pneumonia in the hospital, that landed her in the ICU for two weeks. Because of the surgery, her throat was paralyzed and she has had a temporary tracheotomy and a feeding tube.

Gaffigan and her husband have said that the ordeal has reaffirmed their faith and taught their children about being compassionate.

Now, through People magazine, Gaffigan has given an update on her condition. She still has the feeding tube, but she’s progressed to taking food by mouth, and has worked her way up to purees. The tracheotomy has been removed, and she can now breathe without an oxygen tank.

Read the whole thing here, but below is an excerpt from her essay.

As my cranial nerves start to come back to life, I have found a new appreciation for everything. Every moment is a gift from God.

My love for my [five children] which seemed boundless before has multiplied a thousand fold as has my love for Jim. The marriage vow “in sickness and in health” became more than just words, and I am inspired every day by the strength and courage of the man who held everything together through this hurricane brought on by the brain tumor.

I dodged a bullet and my life will never be the same. Don’t wait for the hurricane to hang on to your family and friends and to find the blessings and the glory in every detail. Do it now.

Image: Twitter/Wikipedia

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.