Catholic Star Mark Wahlberg Shares His Faith in Chicago

As a former rapper and underwear model, who has battled drug addiction, and is a convicted felon who spent time in jail as a teen, Catholic Mark Wahlberg knows more than many about the power of faith and forgiveness.

On Friday, Oct. 20, the 46-year-old actor and producer joined Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich in front of a crowd of more than 1,000 at the UIC Pavilion in the Windy City for the Chicago Archdiocese’s (re)ENCOUNTER event, designed to draw young adults into the Catholic faith.

After his time in prison, Wahlberg turned to his parish priest for help getting back on the straight and narrow, but it took a few years to extricate himself from that life. It also took time for Wahlberg to totally turn around his showbiz choices and devote himself to his faith.

As reported in the Chicago Tribune, speaking prior to the (re)ENCOUNTER  event, Wahlberg said:

 I just always hope that God is a movie fan and also forgiving, because I’ve made some poor choices in my past.

In particular, he’s not especially proud of his role in the 1997 feature film “Boogie Nights,” in which he played a 1970s high-school dropout drawn into the porn industry. Chicago Inc. asked Wahlberg if he’d ever prayed for forgiveness for a particular movie, and he said:

 “Boogie Nights” is up there at the top of the list.

Regarding his troubled past, Wahlberg said:

I’ve never been shy about sharing my past and the bad decisions I’ve made and being affiliated with gangs, being incarcerated, so absolutely I think they can identify with me on a personal level, and that’s why I’ve continued to try to do as much as I can to help young people.

It’s one thing to give money, or to start programs, but to be there and be able to talk to them, and tell them there is someone who has been through the same things they are going through and was able to turn their life around, and turn it into a big positive. That’s always important.

Now living in Los Angeles, Wahlberg — whose brother, Donnie Wahlberg, stars in CBS’ “Blue Bloods” — is a husband and father of two daughters and two sons.

Here are a couple of clips related to the event — one of a press conference, and the other from the event itself.

And if you have the time, click here for the full video of the event, as streamed by CatholicChicago.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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.

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5 for Friday: ‘Planet Earth,’ Mickey Mouse Halloween, Dove Awards and More

We’re back, with a new lineup of family-suitable shows airing on cable and broadcast networks from tonight through Monday (all times Eastern; check local listings).

Planet Earth II — Friday, 8 p.m., BBC America

A decade after the first “Planet Earth” natural-history documentary, this 2016 follow-up, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, travels the globe to study wildlife habitats. Along with the wilderness, it also looks at how animals have adapted to urban landscapes. Four episodes air Friday — “Islands,” “Mountains,” “Jungles” and “Deserts” — and two more air Saturday (at midnight and 1 a.m., so fire up the DVR) — “Grasslands” and “Cities.”

Touchdown in Israel — Friday, 8 p.m., NFL Network

New England Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft, an observant Jew, has long been involved with taking American football to Israel, helping to create leagues and building facilities.

In this NFL Films production, he takes 18 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame on a trip to the Holy Land, on a pilgrimage that is as much about spirituality (in the clip, we see an athlete being baptized) as sports.

From NFL Films:

[They visit] historical and biblical landmarks including the Mount of Beatitudes, Jordan River, Masada, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Western Wall, City of David and the Dead Sea. Together, the football legends absorb the Holy Land’s offerings and form powerful bonds with one another.

The Scariest Story Ever: A Mickey Mouse Halloween Spooktacular — Sunday, 8:30 p.m., Disney Channel

Originally aired on Oct. 8, this half-hour special gets three more airings before Halloween, including this one. On Halloween, Mickey has decked out his house in spooky finery, and he, along with pals Donald and Goofy, plan to tell the assembled young ‘uns hair-raising tales. When the attempts fall flat, Mickey is challenged to come up with a really scary story before the stroke of midnight.

The whole thing is also posted here.

48th Annual GMA Dove Awards — Sunday, 9 p.m., TBN

From TBN:

Since 1970, the GMA Dove Awards has honored outstanding achievements and excellence in Christian Music. The show celebrates our rich musical diversity. Awards are presented to individuals representing modern Rock, Rap/Hip Hop, Pop/Contemporary, Inspirational, Southern Gospel, Urban, Bluegrass, Country, Worship and more!

Hosted by award-winning singer-songwriter Kari Jobe and Gospel Music powerhouse Tasha Cobbs Leonard, TBN’s exclusive broadcast of the Dove Awards will include memorable performances from award-winning artists and groups like Hillsong Worship, Casting Crowns, CeCe Winans, Reba McEntire, Hezekiah Walker, Danny Gokey, MercyMe, Micah Tyler, Travis Greene, Zach Williams, and more.

Among the presenters for this captivating night of music will be a host of popular singers, songwriters, artists, and Christian leaders, including Chris Tomlin, for KING & COUNTRY, Matt Maher, Beth Moore, Dr. Bobby Jones, Chonda Pierce, Jaci Velasquez, Gov. Mike Huckabee, Montell Jordan, Trace Adkins, John Gray, Tye Tribbett, and others.

The actual ceremony took place Oct. 17 in Nashville, Tennessee. After winning an award for bluegrass/country/roots album of the year for “Sing It Now: Songs of Faith and Hope,” Reba McEntire said:

“It’s not mine. It’s God’s. We’ll give Him all the glory. I’ll put it up on the mantle, and think of Him every time I look at it.”

Here’s a clip from someone at the awards:

Remember the Titans — Monday, 8 p.m., TNT

While its historical accuracy has been disputed, this 2000, fact-inspired sports drama is an uplifting story about how a newly integrated high-school football team in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1971 transcended deep racial divisions in the school and the community to come together as a team.

Considering the current controversies in professional football, it might spark some important conversations.

From CommonSense Media:

Parents need to know that Remember the Titans tells the inspirational true story about the struggles and victories of a newly-integrated high school football team in 1971 Alexandria, Virginia. As such, the film reflects the divisive nature of the times — the film begins with a near-riot scene between African-Americans and whites on the street separated by the police as bottles and windows break. The racial tensions of the town — segregation in restaurants, racial slurs, fist fights in the high school — are shown to highlight the backdrop in which the Titans must learn to get along and play together as a team. The movie includes racist comments and situations and some locker room insults. A major character is critically injured in a car accident. When the boys refer to a long-haired teammate as a “fruitcake,” he responds by kissing one of them on the mouth. There are some scuffles and threats of more serious violence. Ultimately, Remember the Titans is a deeply moving film about the courage of individuals and the power of sports to transcend perceived and ingrained differences.

BONUS: Since Family Theater Productions is a Holy Cross apostolate, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that the football Trojans of USC (which has a great Catholic center) head to Notre Dame University, a Holy Cross school, to face the Fighting Irish — Saturday, 7:30 p.m., NBC

Image: Courtesy Disney Channel

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.

‘Father Brown,’ ‘Father Dowling’ and ‘Cadfael’: Catholic Crimesolvers We All Can Love

In a sea of negativity about the Catholic faith in entertainment, “Father Brown” is a welcome bright spot, but he doesn’t stand alone in TV history.

Father Brown — A Pastor With a Nose for Crime

The British series currently airs in America mostly on PBS stations (and independent ones, like Los Angeles’ KCET), but it’s also available on Netflix. Loosely based on the character created by Catholic British writer G.K. Chesterton, it stars Mark Williams as Father Brown, a mild-mannered but quick-witted British Catholic priest in the 1950s.

Helped by his parish secretary, Irish Mrs. McCarthy (Sorcha Cusack) and various local police inspectors and sergeants, Father Brown runs into a startling number of murders in the fictional town of Kembleford in Cotswold, where he’s the pastor of St. Mary’s Church.

It’s also worth noting how many of those involved in the crimes — whether victims, perpetrators or witnesses — are Catholic (unusual in heavily Protestant England, but apparently common in Kembleford). But, this does give Father Brown the opportunity to discuss theology and offer sacraments, especially Confession.

Perhaps because this is the cozy-mystery genre, “Father Brown” gets away with a lot more positive Catholic content than most shows, and no one in the audience seems to mind — since it’s been airing on BBC One since January 2013.

Always, as much as solving mysteries, Father Brown is focused on helping people and saving souls — which is just as it should be.

Father Dowling Mysteries — A Priest and a Nun Form a Crimesolving Team

The good Father Brown follows in the footsteps of “Father Dowling Mysteries,” based on the book series by Ralph McInerny. Starring Tom Bosley as Chicago priest Father Dowling, and Tracy Nelson as his sidekick, streetwise Sister Stephanie “Steve” Oskowski, it launched as a TV movie in November 1987. As a series, it spent one year on NBC and two more on ABC, lasting from January 1989 to May 1991.

And if you’re interested, you can check out the novels the series is based on. Author McInerny was a scholar of the Faith who taught at the University of Notre Dame (run by the Holy Cross Order, under whose auspices also sits Family Theater Productions).

From the New York Times‘ obit for him in Feb. 2010:

Mr. McInerny, who taught philosophy and medieval studies at Notre Dame, was an expert on Thomas Aquinas, the 13th-century Catholic theologian and philosopher; much of his published scholarship included biographical and exegetical texts on Aquinas, and he edited a volume of Aquinas translations for Penguin Classics. He also wrote on the sixth-century philosopher Boethius, the 12th-century Spanish Arabic scholar Averroes and later thinkers and theologians, including Cardinal Newman, Kierkegaard, Pascal and Descartes.

He was far better known, however, as a novelist, and especially as the creator of Roger Dowling, a former canon lawyer whose career was derailed by drink and who has become, in his rehabilitation, a parish priest in a Midwestern town called Fox River, where he runs across an inordinate number of murders and shows an unusual gift for solving them.

Known for their clever plotting, the clarity of their writing and Father Dowling’s perspicacity and moral rigor, the series grew to more than two dozen books after the character was introduced in “Her Death of Cold” in 1977. Transposed to Chicago, and with Father Dowling’s first name changed to Frank, the books became the basis for a television series, “The Father Dowling Mysteries,” starring Tom Bosley, which ran from 1989 to 1991. The Father Dowling books also had a religious subtext, with the main character serving as a messenger for the author’s traditional view of Catholicism. “Dowling is idealized for more than liturgical purity,” Anita Gandolfo wrote in the 1992 book “Testing the Faith: The New Catholic Fiction in America.” “Father Dowling embodies a medieval worldview with its unambiguous moral order and universally accepted recognition of the truth of that order.”

Currently, it airs on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and is on DVD

Cadfael — A Crusader Turns Monk and Detective

In between Father Brown and Father Dowling was “Cadfael,” based on “The Cadfael Chronicles,” a series of historical murder mysteries written between 1977 and 1994 by linguist-scholar Edith Pargeter, writing under the pen name of Ellis Peters.

Between 1994 and 1998, British network ITV aired the TV adaptation, “Cadfael,” starring Derek Jacobi as the 12th-century Crusader-turned-Benedictine-monk, who lived at an abbey in Shrewsbury, England. Brother Cadfael used his knowledge of the world and human nature, along with a extensive familiarity with herbal medicine (learned in the Holy Land), to solve crimes.

The series aired on PBS as part of its former “Mystery!” anthology series.

Brother Cadfael’s violent past sometimes intrudes on his contemplative present, as he is called upon to be a medical examiner, detective, doctor and diplomat. “Cadfael” is not as gentle as either of the previous two series, and its theme of a soldier trying to move beyond the terrible things he saw in battle is both challenging and very contemporary.

But, Cadfael is a true man of faith.

“Cadfael” is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime and on DVD (and YouTube).

Image: Courtesy BBC One

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.

3 for Tuesday: ‘Nature,’ ‘Great Pumpkin,’ ‘Toy Story’

Believe it or not, there is family-suitable programming in primetime on weeknights — not a lot, but some. And we’ve got a trio for you …

Nature: Animal Reunions — Wednesday, 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings for time and channel in your area)

From PBS:

What happens when people are reunited with the wild animals with which they forged a deep bond years ago? Will these gorillas, elephants, cheetahs and chimpanzees still recognize their human caregivers and how will they react? That is the premise of this program which also raises the question whether wild creatures can really experience emotions like joy, devotion, and love. It’s a debate that many animal lovers are convinced is true and the scientific community is beginning to accept. Animal Reunions — narrated by actor Richard Thomas — contains interviews with scientists, authors, and caregivers including scenes of their journeys to reconnect with their former wild charges.

The full episode can be seen here.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown — Thursday, 8 p.m., ABC

The holiday classic is back!

From ABC:

In the 1966 animated special It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, The PEANUTS gang celebrates Halloween, with Linus hoping that, finally, he will be visited by The Great Pumpkin, while Charlie Brown is invited to a Halloween party.

The whole thing can be seen here.

Toy Story of TERROR! — Thursday, 8:30 p.m., ABC

From ABC:

Disney•Pixar presents a spooky tale featuring all of the favorite characters from the “Toy Story” films. What starts out as a fun road trip for the “Toy Story” gang takes an unexpected turn for the worse when the trip detours to a roadside motel. After one of the toys goes missing, the others find themselves caught up in a mysterious sequence of events that must be solved before they all suffer the same fate in this “Toy Story OF TERROR!”

Voices include Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Wallace Shawn, Joan Cusack, Timothy Dalton and Carl Weathers.


Image: Courtesy ABC

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 for Friday: ‘Great Performances,’ ‘Ninja Warrior’ ‘Tanked’ and More

NBC filming segment with Sean Bryan, “The Papal Ninja,” for “American Ninja Warrior”

It’s the weekend again, and what is there that’s suitable for the family to watch together? Fear not, we got you — and you don’t even need to subscribe to a streaming service. (All times Eastern)

Great Performances: Grammy Salute to Music Legends — Friday, 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings for time and channel in your area)

Kids won’t have heard of a lot of the folks receiving the Grammy’s Special Merit Awards for 2017, but if you start singing and dancing around the living room, they may join in. Few things bond a family more than sharing music. This year’s honorees include Shirley Caesar, Ahmad Jamal, Charley Pride, Jimmie Rodgers, Nina Simone, Sly Stone, and the Velvet Underground.

Performers include Caesar and Pride; the Velvet Underground’s John Cale and Maureen “Moe” Tucker; Kirk Franklin; Le’Andria Johnson; Randy Newman; Vernon Reid; Catherine Russell; Valerie Simpson; Russell Thompkins Jr.; Neal McCoy; Dionne Warwick; Charlie Wilson; and Dwight Yoakam.

“American Ninja Warrior” — Friday, 8 and 9 p.m., MNT; and Saturday, 8 and 9 p.m., NBCSN

The NBC reality-competition show — in which only the eventual winner (if there is one) gets any prize money — attracts dedicated athletes from around the country who train on their own, striving to achieve incredible feats. The show is very family- and faith-friendly, allowing competitors to talk about their families, backgrounds, lives and beliefs. Just be prepared for young ones wanting to jump from every piece of furniture. Some parents have even built “Ninja” courses in their backyards or taken their kids for lessons at a local gym

Sure beats video games!

Among the top competitors are several dedicated Christians, including Catholics Joe “The Weatherman” Moravsky, and one of FTP’s good friends, Sean “The Papal Ninja” Bryan.

Here’s a couple recent videos we did with Bryan.

“Tanked” — Friday, 8 and 9 p.m. (new episode), Animal Planet

Currently in its 13th season, the show follows Las Vegas-based brothers-in-law and business partners Wayde King and Brett Raymer as they travel around the country, installing outrageous and elaborate aquariums for businesses, attractions and celebrities. The show is fast, clean, funny and demonstrates the values of hard work, family, dedication to quality and teamwork.

There’s also an online aquarium game, where kids can design and build the virtual aquarium of their dreams.

Here’s a recent clip:

“Halloween Wars” — Food, Saturday 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.; Sunday, 9 p.m. (new episode)

In the reality-competition show, six teams made up of an expert pumpkin carver, a cake artist and a sugar artist go into battle to create mind-blowing Halloween-themed displays — but only one team can win! Scary but tasty … and know your kids’ tolerance for Halloween spooks and scares before you tune in.

Guy’s Grocery Games — Sunday, 8 p.m. (new episode)

I’ll admit to getting hooked on this one at the nail salon (note to self: always eat before going to the nail salon). Host Guy Fieri sends chef competitors down the aisles of a specially built supermarket set with orders to create original dishes for judges to sample. As we’ve seen in recent years, kids go crazy for cooking shows, and a lot of them turn out to be excellent in the kitchen. Well, anything good starts with good ingredients, so the sooner kids learn their way around a grocery store, the less time they’ll spend living on ramen noodles when they’re older.

Sunday’s episode is a Halloween special. From Food Network:

Aisle of Terror

In this spooktastic Halloween episode, four chefs must create dishes that don’t scare the judges! Starting off with a hearty lunch is not an easy feat when Guy shocks them with a daunting Red Light Special. In the next game, Guy tricks the chefs into making a savory treat with sweets in Single Aisle Showdown. In the final game, Guy hands the chefs his Grocery List filled with spooky items like bone marrow, blood orange and black garlic and tells them to make their best dish. Which chef will get to go on the Shopping Spree and which will be scared straight out of the grocery store?

Here’s a clip from an earlier season:


Image: Kate O’Hare for 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.

EWTN Celebrates Fatima 100 and the Rosary With Two Specials

Friday, Oct. 13, represents the 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun in 1917, the most publicly spectacular manifestation of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal.

From eyewitness accounts at EWTN’s 100 Years of Fatima site:

From the road, where the vehicles were parked and where hundreds of people who had not dared to brave the mud were congregated, one could see the immense multitude turn toward the sun, which appeared free from clouds and in its zenith. It looked like a plaque of dull silver, and it was possible to look at it without the least discomfort. It might have been an eclipse which was taking place. But at that moment a great shout went up, and one could hear the spectators nearest at hand shouting: “A miracle! A miracle!”

Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was biblical as they stood bareheaded, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws—the sun “danced” according to the typical expression of the people.

Standing at the step of an omnibus was an old man. With his face turned to the sun, he recited the Credo in a loud voice. I asked who he was and was told Senhor Joao da Cunha Vasconcelos. I saw him afterwards going up to those around him who still had their hats on, and vehemently imploring them to uncover before such an extraordinary demonstration of the existence of God.

Identical scenes were repeated elsewhere, and in one place a woman cried out: “How terrible! There are even men who do not uncover before such a stupendous miracle!”

Tomorrow, EWTN marks the occasion with two special events. From my inbox:

EWTN To Broadcast Two Special Fatima-Related Events –

At 10 a.m. ET, EWTN will broadcast the 15th annual Worldwide Children’s Eucharistic Holy Hour live from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (BSNIC). This annual event spiritually unites the children of the world before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. The children will make reparation to console Jesus, and pray for their families, their countries and the world.

Fr. Chris Alar, MIC, Director of the Association of Marian Helpers of the Immaculate Conception, will preside at the Holy Hour. For further information, please go to

That evening, Cardinal Donald Wuerl will lead a Historic Candlelight Rosary Procession and a Prayer of Entrustment for individuals, and families to Our Lady of Fatima’s Immaculate Heart. EWTN will broadcast the event live from the BSNIC at 7 p.m. ET, Friday, Oct. 13.

“Gather your families, wherever you are on the evening of October 13, if possible, tune in to EWTN, light a candle, pray the Rosary and the prayer of Entrustment, spiritually uniting with Cardinal Wuerl,” said Connie Schneider, Director of the two events said. “We hope Catholics worldwide will join in from their dioceses, parishes, homes, nursing homes…everywhere!” 

A Family Entrustment Pamphlet is available to help families follow along with the prayers during this special event.

Click here to learn more about how Fatima, Portugal, is marking the event.

And if you’d like to pray the rosary with FTP’s founder, Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., the “Rosary Priest,” who traveled the world (and created our company) to promote family unity, faith and prayer, click here for an entire series of videos that let you experience the mysteries of the rosary with Father Peyton.

Here’s a sample:

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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.