Bishop Robert Barron Takes on ‘David the King’ in New Video

On Sept. 5, Bishop Robert Barron’s Word on Fire apostolate releases “David the King,” a new study program including video talks by the Los Angeles Archdiocese auxiliary bishop and extensive Bible-study materials.

Here’s the trailer:

Here’s a taste of the first lesson:

Click here for a sample of the Lesson 1 study guide.

In addition to the videos, the study program is structured for seven 90-minute sessions on the Davidic themes of Kingship in the Old Testament and their fulfillment in Christ in the New.

From the Website:

Each section of the study guide provides a detailed commentary on the DVD and “Questions for Understanding” based on the presentation, Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Each section also includes “Questions for Reflection” that help you connect the material to your own life and experience.

Each session includes DVD viewing and small group discussion of Study Guide questions. Participants read the commentary in the study guide and prepare the questions before the small group discussion. This preparation can be accomplished either before or after they view the DVD, as the Commentary in each lesson is very detailed.

There is also free training available for study-group leaders.

The entire “David the King” program is available for pre-order, and those who take advantage will receive it in advance of the Sept. 5 launch date.

And, of course, the first set of “Catholicism: The Pivotal Players” is available, with more episodes in production.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Bishop Barron, and I’m eager to see what his long-term effect will be on the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. Here’s something he said to me on the topic, shortly after arriving in L.A. in 2015:

Now that I’m here in this great entertainment capital, which includes the whole world, it’s an important question. One thing I’ve tried to do in my evangelical work is to reach out to TV and to movies and to popular culture, and try to find what the Church Fathers called seeds of worth, the signs and echoes of the Faith that you see in pop culture, and to point those out, so as to lead more positively.

It’s easy enough to say that there are all sorts of negativity within media culture — and there is — but my preferred method is to find the points of contact and to emphasize those.

In a more direct way, you can think of [the training and mentorship program]Act One here in Hollywood, trying to bring Christians into screenwriting. That’s a good thing.

My thing, from an evangelical standpoint, is to look out into popular culture, to find the points of contact and thereby draw people closer.

So that’s been my strategy, kind of an affirmative orthodoxy, if you will. It’s a hopeful way to engage popular culture.

Click here for more on how the bishop found himself in Southern California.

Apparently it was a surprise:

“I was in my room on a lazy Sunday afternoon,” he said. “I had finished Mass, and I was back in my room, watching golf. This phone call comes from the apostolic nuncio, [Archbishop Carlo Maria] Viagano.

“I knew exactly what it meant — that’s the only reason he calls people. I knew it what it meant but I was really surprised by Los Angeles. That was nowhere even vaguely on my radar screen, because the whole bishop thing wasn’t on my radar.

“If someone becomes an auxiliary bishop, first, it’s almost always in your hometown. If someone had mentioned Chicago, that would make more immediate sense. So, I never dreamed of being a bishop in Los Angeles.”

Let’s all keep Bishop Barron and his work in our prayers!

Image: Courtesy Word on Fire

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.

Ellie Kemper and Stephen Colbert Talk Her Baby’s Catholic Baptism

On Wednesday night, Aug. 17, Ellie Kemper, star of Netflix’s “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” stopped by to visit a fellow Catholic on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” and revealed a big milestone in the life of her one-year-old son, James.

Kemper and writer husband Michael Koman, who’s Jewish, were married in a Catholic ceremony — last summer, a very pregnant Kemper told Colbert that story — and like many interfaith couples, had to make a major decision when the first child came along.

“We were sort of figuring out how to raise James, with what religion,” she told Colbert. “We’re going the Catholic route. He did get baptized.”

Kemper revealed James was baptized in May, when he was 10 months old — and she was a little concerned that he might be too big for the priest to manage. Apparently, young James did scream, but all turned out well — even when he grabbed a shard of glass at his grandparents’ house.

“An hour after the baptism,” Kemper said, “I found James with a shard of glass in his hand! It was in my parents’ house …He was miraculously unhurt. I don’t know if he was testing God. I don’t know what the point was, but I mean, he turned out OK. I don’t know if it was a sign.”

Kemper then finished off with a bravura, more grown-up (but still clean!) rendition of the song played by her son’s favorite toy.

Here’s the whole thing. Enjoy!

Congrats to Ellie, Michael and James, who seems to have gotten a good start on life.

Image: Courtesy CBS

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.



Dads, Tell Your Kids a Joke — It Could Be a Memory Forever

It’s National Tell a Joke Day, so why should that matter to dads?

My dad, who passed away last November at the age of 91, was know for puns and limericks (as any waitress who served him found out). Just thinking of them makes me smile. Today’s kids are no different.

Today, the Ad Council released a video showing kids relating the silly jokes their dads told them, and then snuggling with their fathers. You’ll laugh … and maybe tear up a bit.

Below is the full press release from the Ad Council, plus links …

A Message to Dads across America: Take time to be a dad today

According to an Ad Council survey, 86% of dads spend more time with their children today than their own fathers did with them. However, a majority of dads (7 out of 10) also reported that they could use tips on how to be a better parent. To inspire and support fathers everywhere, the Ad Council, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse have launched a new series of public service advertisements (PSAs) to encourage dads to recognize the critical role fathers play in their children’s lives through something as simple as a dad joke. The TV spots feature kids re-telling jokes their dads shared with them, highlighting that even the smallest moments fathers spend with their children can have the biggest difference in their children’s lives.

More On Fatherhood Involvement:

These PSAs are reaching out to all fathers to inspire and support men in their commitment to responsible fatherhood. The PSAs communicate to fathers that their presence is essential to their children’s well-being. The tagline “Take time to be a dad today” is part of an ongoing effort to encourage dads to play an active role in their children’s lives. The campaign also serves as a resource for fathers by providing the information they need to become more involved with their kids.
Click here to learn more:
Subscribe for Ad Council’s latest PSAs:

Of course, dads can always turn in prayer to St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus, for support and consolation. He’s there to listen!

Images: Courtesy the Ad Council

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.

’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

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.

‘Born This Way’ Star Rachel Osterbach Talks Independence for Those With Down Syndrome

Having just completed its third season on A&E, the docuseries “Born This Way,” which focuses on young adults with Down Syndrome, took home an 2016 Emmy for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Series, and is nominated again in that category for 2017, along with five other nominations.

The show has done much to raise the profile of people with Down Syndrome and acknowledge, along with the challenges, their capabilities, accomplishments, aspirations (which are much like anyone else’s) and essential humanity.

Among the young people profiled is Rachel Osterbach, 34, of Fountain Valley, California, who works for a local insurance company. She graduated with her class from Edison High School, and attended a Regional Occupational Program at Orange Coast College.

From a 2014 piece about her in the Orange County Register:

Her father, Gary Osterbach, says his daughter has always been a positive person who has never let any setback bring her down.

“She has inspired me and my wife with her positive attitude,” he said. “We’re very proud of her.”

He said he heard about the voluntary board position through the Down Syndrome Association of Orange County, of which Rachel is a member.

Rachel Osterbach also is a charter member of the Toastmasters Gavel Club and one of 15 global messengers in Orange County for the Special Olympics. She was an avid participant in her younger days and has collected more than 100 medals in basketball, bocce ball, soccer, track and field and rhythmic gymnastics. As a global messenger, she acts as an ambassador speaking about the Special Olympics.

Osterbach also has her own IMDB page, listing her as an actress.

I recently conducted an email interview with Osterbach about her life and aspirations:

What is the biggest misconception you think people have of those with Down syndrome?

People think that if you have Down Syndrome that you cannot do very much – that is not true.

Much of the conversation about Down Syndrome focuses on children — but of course they grow up. What is the show teaching about what it’s like to live as an adult with Down syndrome?

The show is teaching people that individuals with Down Syndrome can lead an independent life – they can hold a job, they can have a relationship with a partner, they can overcome fears, and they can have goals and dreams and achieve them – like everybody else.

Many parents are very afraid of having a child with Down syndrome. What would you like to say to them?

Don’t be afraid because your son or daughter can achieve anything and can find great happiness in life.You will laugh with them, you will cry with them, you will enjoy their successes with them and be there for them when they are struggling, just like you would with any child.

What do you like about your current job?

I love being with my co-workers and being part of a team. I also enjoy my work in the mailroom – opening and sorting mail, receiving and sending emails, and being sure that everything gets done on time.

What makes you interested in acting?

Acting is my dream – what I like most is that it gives me a chance to express all different emotions.

What did it mean to you for the show to win at the Emmys?

It meant a lot to me – it meant that people loved the show and it made me proud to be part of it. I also got to go on stage with the cast to accept the Emmy which was presented to us by Julianne Hough and Vanessa Hudgens – a moment I will never forget.

Which challenge that you’ve overcome makes you the most proud?

I am most proud of the fact that I have overcome my fear of loud noises and crowds, which has enabled me now to attend concerts and plays that I never would have been able to attend before.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I see myself being married, living with my husband independently,and being a famous actress.

Here’s a clip of Osterbach’s favorite singer, Adam Lambert, helping her overcome her fears:

And another that shows her with fellow “Born This Way” cast members:

No airdate has yet been set for a fourth season.

Full episodes are available online (if you have a cooperating cable provider) or through Amazon Prime Video.

Image: Courtesy Rachel Osterbach

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.

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

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.