March 17 is St. Patrick’s feast day, but as all Catholics know, we are surrounded by a cloud of saintly witnesses every day of the year.
Now, the Augustine Institute and the Norbertines of Saint Michael’s Abbey are offering new ways to see and hear saintly stories.
Released today, “The Trials of Saint Patrick,” the second production from the Augustine Institute Radio Theatre, tells the truth behind the legend. From the homepage:
The Trials of Saint Patrick tells the dramatic story of how a kidnapped slave risked his life to become a champion of the Christian faith to the outer-reaches of the Roman Empire. With the Augustine Institute Radio Theatre’s high-quality acting, cinematic sound design and musical score, the much-loved Saint Patrick will be seen in a fresh new light.
Augustine Institute audio dramas capture the power and passion of the most compelling stories on the best theatre screen there is: your imagination.
A young man of wealth who became a traumatized prisoner of war and outcast. A holy beggar, he embraced the lepers, challenged a Pope, debated a Sultan and shook his world to its very core. Discover the Francis you never knew in Brother Francis. The Barefoot Saint of Assisi. 10 exciting episodes with over 50 actors capturing the power and passion of Francis of Assisi.
Also, in the inbox today landed “City of Saints,” a seven-episode series from the Norbertines of Saint Michael’s Abbey (in Orange County, California), and Kinnane Films.
We don’t know much about it yet, except the trailer (click here for that; it can’t be embedded), which shows scenes of the Norbertines and of various people, says that the series tells seven true stories, and reminds is that “Every saint has a history; every sinner has a future.”
If you enter your email, the first episode lands in your own inbox on Monday, April 10.
If you don’t know about the Norbertine Fathers, here’s a little vignette of their communal life, from 2010:
Image: Norbertines of Saint Michael’s Abbey/Kinnane Films
Beloved by viewers for both his performance as Jesus in Mel Gibson’s 2044 blockbuster, “The Passion of the Christ,” and as the star of the long-running CBS series “Person of Interest” — which ended after five seasons last spring — Jim Caviezel may be returning to CBS this fall.
Once a CBS drama star, always a CBS drama star. Jim Caviezel, who headlined the network’s long-running procedural Person of Interest, has been tapped to lead the cast of its untitled Navy SEAL drama pilot from former Justifiedexecutive producers Ben Cavell, Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly and Shameless executive producer Chris Chulack.
Written by Cavell and directed by Chulack, the project follows the lives of the elite Navy SEALs as they train, plan and execute the most dangerous, high-stakes missions our country can ask. Caviezel will play Jason, the respected, committed leader of his assault team who’s been through more than a dozen deployments.
Cavell, Timberman, Beverly and Chulack executive produce for CBS TV Studios.
In the Navy SEAL pilot, Caviezel joins another actor from a long-running CBS procedural: former CSI: NY co-star A.J. Buckley. Also previously cast in the project are Max Thieriot, Neil Brown Jr. and Toni Trucks.
Caviezel next stars in The Ballad of Lefty Brown, which just premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival. He is repped by ICM Partners and attorney Frank Stewart.
Along with being a film and TV star, Caviezel is also a longtime friend of Family Theater Productions, having met our founder, Father Patrick Peyton, by chance, in 1991. The aging priest agreed to the young actor’s impromptus request for confession and gave him sage advice.
Click hereto watch the moving video — a screenshot is below — in which he describes the life-changing encounter.
As Bones is heading into its series finale next week, star David Boreanaz has been tapped as the lead of CBS’ Navy SEAL drama pilot. Boreanaz replaces Jim Caviezel, who was cast in the role last week. Cavizel, who has a long history with CBS as the star of the long-running crime drama series Person of Interest, has parted ways with the network and the Navy SEAL pilot’s producer CBS TV Studios over creative differences.
There have been movies and TV specials about Our Lady of Guadalupe before, as we outlined here in December — but none of them was a big Hollywood feature. Now, that’s about to change.
As reported by Deadline.com, veteran screenwriter Joe Eszterhas (“Basic Instinct,” “Nowhere to Run,” “Flashdance”), a Hungarian-born Catholic, has penned a new script about Juan Diego’s vision of the Madonna in 1571 Mexico, and taken it to LightWorkers Media, run by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett. Through Lightworkers, the movie will go to MGM, where Burnett is also president of television and digital media.
Here’s some of what Deadline had to say (the article also tells the whole story of Juan Diego, which is a bit of surprise for a secular entertainment-news outlet):
Eszterhas had been working on the script long before the faith-based push became popular at Hollywood studios.
The thought about writing a screenplay about Our Lady of Guadalupe came to him 14 years ago during what he calls his life-changing “Christian conversion.” The screenwriter would later write a book entitled Crossbearer to share his story about that moment sitting on the curb in his cul-de-sac in 2001 at his wits end after battling cancer and addiction. A man who was once the highest-paid screenwriter in Hollywood with a wild lifestyle was now feeling defeated, and found himself begging God for help. That’s when something other-worldly happened.
When he regained his health, Eszterhas traveled to Mexico City to do research and to pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe to help him become a messenger for God. The end result is the spec script that Lightworkers just picked up.
Eszterhas told Deadline that his wife, Naomi, inspired to write the script about the Blessed Mother as she herself, felt a closeness to her. Downey herself played the Blessed Virgin Mary in both Son of God and the TV mini-series The Bible.
As soon as we get an idea of casting or a release date, we’ll let you know.
Coming 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.
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.
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.
Also concerned, CatholicMom.com 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.
It’s the First Friday of March, and we’re starting a new feature, spotlighting family-friendly viewing each month. Enjoy!
“Shark Tank”: There are always several episodes available to view on ABC.com and on Hulu, but watching “Shark Tank” live on Friday nights can be a nice way to start the weekend.
Though the reality show is its eighth season, and is already a multiple Emmy-award winner, the new episodes continue to be as fresh and exciting as the ideas that each entrepreneur brings into the “tank,” in search of funding from the panel of “sharks.”
Every episode presents a real opportunity to witness the American dream come true for hardworking and creative people, and gives viewers an insight into what it takes to win over investors.
This week, a mom from San Diego and two brothers get their shot. There’s also a profile on “shark” Robert Herjavec who shares his story about immigrating as a child from Eastern Europe to North America, escaping Communism and how this experience influenced his very impressive business success.
“Lark Rise To Candleford”: If you’re looking for a television series to binge-watch without having to worry about “explaining” questionable scenes and storyline choices to your kids, this BBC show—set in the English countryside and chronicling the small town life of its characters—ran for four complete seasons and every episode is available to watch on Amazon Prime. It is clean but also charming, heartwarming but also clever… as you might expect a British show to be.
“peg + cat”:This an animated kids series is in its second season on PBS right now, but if you have a preschool or kindergarten-aged child and you haven’t yet given it a shot, it’s worth checking out with them. There are several episodes available on Amazon Prime and YouTube—some for free and others for a small fee.
The show introduces basic math to little ones in a way they can understand. It is surprising how capable young children are of picking up introductory math concepts (like counting, recognizing patterns, sorting, proportions, drawing diagrams) if presented in a way they’re entertained by—and if you have daughters, you may especially appreciate that the protagonist is a little girl.
Research continually shows that girls are less confident and more anxious about math than boys are, even at a very young age. The show provides a female role model who demonstrates skills—especially creative and persistent problem solving—that are vital to understanding math and eventually science as well. The other plus to “peg + cat” is that if you watch this show alongside your child, you will also get ideas on how to incorporate math concepts into simple games and exercises at home.
“Savoring Our Faith”:Although many are aware of the existence of EWTN Global Catholic Television Network, the expansiveness of their programming seems to be a better kept secret. Did you have any clue that EWTN has its own cooking show?!
The host, Fr. Leo Patalinghug, is quite likeable, a skilled chef and adept at weaving lessons from the Bible into lessons for the kitchen. You can find the list of episodes and airdates here—from the U.S. and Canada all the way to Africa and the Pacific Rim—or just check it out on YouTube.
“Heartland” – Another not-so-well known programming outlet for families? Light TV. Light TV is a digital broadcast network that was launched by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey at the end of last year. When over-the-air stations — your local network affiliates and independent channels — went digital, the expanded bandwith capacity meant there were digital “subchannels” available. Some show programming related to the main channel; others are given over to independent networks, like Light TV.
They can be accessed with a digital antenna or on selected cable systems. Click here for an earlier blog post about the network and how to find it.
The series and movies that air on Light TV are chosen specifically because of their family-friendly nature, so while the content is not brand new, it may be new to you and you can be sure it’s pretty safe to watch with your kids.
“Heartland” was one of the first shows to air on Light TV and definitely represents the vibe that Light TV is aiming to accomplish. A Canadian series, which is in its tenth season and continues to film original episodes, follows a family with a love for horses and a common goal to keep their ranch running after they suffer a serious tragedy. The show is also available to watch on Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Just one parenting note: I would skip over the opening scenes as they contain some content regarding the aforementioned tragedy that could be scary for little kids.
See you next month!
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.
On Feb. 2, “Touched by an Angel” creator Martha Williamson sat down for a talk at Bel-Air Presbyterian in Los Angeles, as part of its faith-based Beacon Hollywood ministry.
Williamson is currently known for “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” a series of movies on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, which premieres a new installment, “Higher Ground,” on Sunday, Feb. 19, at 9 p.m. ET.
The series focuses on the “POstables,” a team based in the Denver, Colorado, office of the U.S. Postal Service, which attempts to deliver mail lost in transit and left undelivered. It’s up to the POstables to make sure the “dead letters” are, as Williamson says, “delivered late, but right on time.”
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans handyman and blues singer-songwriter Gabe Recolte was left homeless before he had the chance to express his love for club owner Hattie. Oliver and his team retrieve Gabe’s love letter years later and face challenges in solving the mystery. Stars Keb ‘Mo, Eric Mabius, Kristin Booth, Crystal Lowe and Geoff Gustafson.
While the stories of the POstables continue through each movie, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” also lets Williamson tell a story about new characters in each installment — as she did with “Touched by an Angel” — with faith themes threaded through.
We’ll deal with “Touched” in another post, but here are some selections from what Williams had to say about her new project.
On the tentative romance between head POstable Oliver O’Toole (Eric Mabius) and postal detective Shane McInerney (Kristin Booth):
I wanted to explore a man who’s a Christian, whose life was messed up. So, he’s married, and his wife has left him and taken off to Paris. He’s finally worked through that, and what it meant to be a man of honor and not take up with this other woman, even though he hadn’t even seen his wife for almost three years. But he wanted to do the right thing until he was released to do something else, and he was really was struggling.
He’s basically in love but hasn’t said it yet to Shane.
She is a 21st-Century technology woman, and he is a 20th-Century, basically a Luddite, who doesn’t even own a cellphone. The two of them should not be together whatsoever, but that’s not how God works, and so they’ve been going back and forth.
She’s not a believer and he is, so to pitch that to Hallmark without them thinking it it’s going to be a Christian show, was a real tap dance. But I said, “Just trust me, and as we develop these characters you’re going to want to see what happens, and you’re going to want to see his level of faith.”
On how Hallmark responded:
Michelle Vicary, the senior executive vice president [at Hallmark], said, “I’m not afraid of God,” which I thought was a very powerful thing to hear at a network.
They’ve been very supportive and I think the challenge for this that they are human. They are walking in faith, and they are at different points at faith. And they actually are responsible for maintaining other people’s faith. It’s a tremendous act of faith.
How fan response planted a seed for “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”:
I found some letters that had been written to me that I never read. Fan letters. I was reminded of how people’s lives had been changed. …
I’ll never forget this one little boy in an airport once he said, “My mommy and my sister and me, we watch [‘Touched by an Angel’] all the time. My daddy watches it too, but he watches it in the den because he cries.”
And I thought that was just adorable because it said so much, that this poor man, you know, was wanting to feel things but he didn’t want to appear weak, apparently. So I thought, “Wouldn’t it be interesting to have somebody like Oliver, a guy who’s really weak in so many ways but strong in his faith and that’s what keeps him going, and he’s a kind person?”
There’s this amazing web of fans for this crazy little show. They just deconstruct every single line. They see the Biblical references in it, even though it’s not there. … What they love is there’s this really sexy guy who struggles. He has fallen and gotten himself back up. He made bad decisions but he can still be a man of faith, and he’s a gentleman. He opens the door not because you’re a woman, he opens the door because you’re a human.
On the mature love story in “Higher Ground”:
Keb ‘Mo is one of the most remarkable blues artists in the country. Back, a few months ago performed in the White House for President and Mrs. Obamam and he performed with James Taylor and Eric Clapton. I mean, he’s an incredible musician and he’s an old friend.
One more thing you should always do is never be afraid to reach out to somebody you admire and tell them that you admire them and say thank you. Which is exactly what I did with Keb ‘Mo, and we ended up begin friends, and now he’s on our show. Hallmark is not known for its diversity, and so it took three years to get this romantic couple on the screen, and I’m very happy about that.
And also, we know this, they ain’t young. They’re older folks. Who can fall in love too.
On the romances you’ll see — including Oliver and Shane — and the future:
I didn’t know if “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” was going to be picked up for three more movies, so I wrote this with the intention that, if this is the last show that we ever see in this series of movies, we will resolve some things.
The two couples that you see will come together in ways that the audience has been waiting for for a long time. I’m very happy about that, but most importantly, we finally see Shane realize, step up and become something of a believer, I would say.
She acknowledges that God has been working in her life. That’s huge. So, all the little tiny pieces were pulled together, and happily, we were picked up for three more movies for 2017, so I’m going to be busy for a while.
Here’s a sneak peek at “Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Higher Ground” …