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.

 

UPDATED: 5 for First Friday: Family-Friendly Viewing for April

TumbleLeaf-Spring-a-Ling-FFBIt’s the First Friday of the month, so we’re spotlighting some family-friendly viewing options for April. Take a look …

“Tumble Leaf Spring-a-ling Surprise”: The series — which received four Daytime Emmy Award nominations this year, including Outstanding Pre-School Children’s Animated Program– is streaming a new special on Amazon Prime this month.

“Tumble Leaf Spring-a-ling Surprise” follows Bloom the Bunny and his friends as they hunt for their lost eggs. Along the way, they find signs of the season of spring are everywhere. It’s a fun and colorful journey, in stop-motion animation, which can be interactive as well when your little ones begin to spot lost eggs on-screen before the characters do. It’s also a nice way to get them ready for an Easter egg hunt of their own if you plan on having one.

UPDATE 4/12/2017:

To celebrate the beginning of spring, Amazon Original Special Tumble Leaf Spring-A-Ling Surprise will be free to stream on Prime Video in the US beginning Friday, April 14 at 12 a.m. PST and ending Sunday, April 16 at 11:59 p.m. PST; no Prime membership required.

Check out the trailer:

“Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery ”: The second season of the well-done CNN miniseries debuted last month and concludes on Sunday, April 9, using scientific technology and archaeological research to learn more about the life of Jesus. Though you might feel suspicious of this subject matter being tackled by a major news organization, there’s nothing to fear here. A number of theologians, scholars and historians contribute to the episodes in a respectful way.

Of course, no scientific fact can replace what faith already accomplishes, but the episodes are interesting if you’re into history, ancient artifacts and Bible stories. If you have older children, this series may help to pique their interest in the church. The topics explored this season include the childhood home of Jesus, the tombs of King Herod and Lazarus, the bones of Peter and relics related to Thomas. Watch Sunday at 9PM ET on CNN and preview the series online at CNN.com.

Click here to see a clip from Sunday’s finale, which explores the tradition that St. Thomas brought Christianity to India.

“An American Tail”: The 1986 animated family film comes to Netflix this month along with “An American Tail: Fievel Goes West” and “An American Tail: The Mystery of the Night Monster.” It’s been more than thirty years, but the story of Fievel Mousekewitz and his family as they emigrate from Russia to the U.S. in search of freedom still holds up. Just tell your kids it’s the “Finding Nemo” from your childhood.

Here’s a peek:

“The Secret Life of Pets”: Last summer’s computer-animated hit feature, following a Jack Russell Terrier named Max whose life is turned upside down when his owner adopts a stray dog named Duke, comes to Netflix on April 22, and is another great option for family movie night. For siblings, there may even be a good lesson on teamwork and sticking together in there.

“Easter From King’s”: BBC Worldwide launched their subscription-based, video-on-demand service called BritBox this past month, which is making a whole lot of British programming available to American audiences for the first time. The cost for BritBox is $6.99 a month, but you can take advantage of a 7-day free trial as new users. If you’re looking for some music to play during your family’s Easter dinner, you may consider Kings College Choral Scholars, at King’s College at Cambridge. Featuring hymns and readings, it is a rare look into an Anglican Easter service abroad which includes one of the most prestigious choirs in the world.

Or, you can watch it here.

Also, don’t forget the Solemn Mass of Palm Sunday from the Vatican, available on EWTN.

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 Amazon Prime

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.

Christopher Awards: ‘Hacksaw Ridge,’ ‘This Is Us,’ Dolly Parton and More …

Hacksaw-Ridge-This-Is-Us-ChristophersHollywood can often seem hostile to family values, but The Christopher Awards intend to honor good where it can be found, whether in movies, television or books.

The Christopher Awards were created in 1949 to celebrate writers, producers, directors, authors and illustrators whose work “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.”

Today, March 28, The Christophers — founded by Maryknoll priest Father James Keller in 1945 — released the 68th Annual Christopher Award winners, to be presented in New York City on May 16.

Said director of communications Tony Rossi:

“The powerful love of family is a thread in so many of our winning projects this year, be it family we’re related to by blood or those whose kindness and selflessness lead us to form an emotional and spiritual connection with them. These are the kinds of bonds that can change people’s lives and change the world.”

The movie winners are “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hidden Figures,” “The Hollars” and “Queen of Katwe” (or own Father David Guffey reviewed that one). Said “Hidden Figures” director Ted Melfi (a previous winner for “St. Vincent” in 2014):

“Movies that entertain are the norm, but films that enlighten, educate and inspire are so rare, yet so important and the Christopher Award shines light on these films, further illuminating their footprint on the planet. As one candle has the ability to cast out darkness, such is the power of one film to impact hearts and minds for the better. It’s truly an honor to be considered for a Christopher Award…and an incredible blessing to be awarded one.”

The TV offerings blend TV-movies, scripted series and documentary. They are “60 Minutes: Gold Star Parents,” “America ReFramed: In the Game,” “Born This Way: Bachelor Pad,” “Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love,” “Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing” and hit freshman drama “This Is Us” (I had my say on that one).

Click here to read the whole release, including the rundown of worthy books for adults and young people.

Image: Courtesy NBC/Lionsgate

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.