Salt + Light receives the Vatican’s “Capax Dei” award for documentary on St. Kateri

Yesterday in Rome Salt + Light was awarded the “Capax Dei” Prize at the Mirabile Dictu International Catholic Film Festival, organized annually by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture. The award was presented for Salt + Light’s documentary “In Her Footsteps: the Story of Kateri Tekakwitha,” which premiered in Rome last October. The following story appeared this morning on Vatican Radio:

The 4th edition of the Mirabile dictu (Wonderful to relate) International Catholic Film Festival took place this week at the Vatican Auditorium here in Rome. The 2013 Festival was dedicated to Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint, canonized by Benedict XVI last fall.

On the occasion of the final evening of the event, the prestigious “Capax Dei” prize was awarded to the film “In Her Footsteps: the Story of Kateri Tekakwitha” produced by Canada’s Salt and Light TV.

Mirabile Dictu 2“We were very surprised to hear that we received the Capax Dei prize,” said Father Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Salt and Light TV. “The film is one of our best films. We’ve done 45 or 47 documentaries in the past 10 years. The Kateri one is the most recent one . . . it’s quite extraordinary.”

He spoke about the world’s first canonised Native American Saint: “Kateri is an extraordinary figure. It’s a saint of the sixteenth century, that we were able to open up her story 400 years later. She’s a bridge with the native people, she’s a great instrument of reconciliation. She’s a model of chastity, of purity for young people, a bold model of courage. A model of holiness, a young lay woman. Many, many people have responded beautifully to her story.”

Father Rosica spoke about the significance of Saint Kateri today. “The meaning is holiness. Holiness has no dateline, it’s not limited to a particular moment in time.” He described her as an “instrument of the New Evangelization.” “Though the story is old,” he said, “the story is ever new, because it’s a story of holiness which never grows old.”

(Photo courtesy Mirabile Dictu)

Fernando of Lisbon or Anthony of Padua?

Anthony icon cropped

Imagine you are a young man, of noble birth, living in a foreign country, far from family, living amongst the poor and lower classes in 13th century Italy. You have a fine education, the breeding of nobility, your father is a knight to the King of Portugal, and you are now wearing rags, begging for your meals and often living in a tree or a cave. And yet you are profoundly and inexplicably filled with joy.

The young boy’s name is Fernando Matins, and his origins are the noble family de Bulhões of Lisbon, Portugal in the 1200’s. He is the first of four children. He was educated by the best teachers of his city, the Augustinian Canons, a religious order of men who were followers of the Rule of St. Augustine.

As a boy, Fernando was popular, easy going, a brilliant student and an attentive son. It is easy to imagine that his father, a knight, impressed on him the idea of knighthood, service to the King, and the great values of 13th Century chivalry: where defense of the innocent and honor towards all women were of utmost importance.

But Fernando did not follow in the footsteps of his father, but did take this sense of chivalry on another path.  At age 15 Anthony joined the Augustinian Canons in his native Lisbon, where he received an excellent knowledge of the Bible. But at age 25 he encountered the funeral procession of 5 early Franciscan friars, who were martyred in Morocco preaching to the Moors. One can almost picture him meditating on the Gospel, finally discerning that he too must go out on mission to preach the kingdom of God as Jesus commanded his first disciples to do. He joined the Franciscans, was sent off to Africa, but by fate or Providence the winds took his ship to Sicily, where he joined some Franciscan friars on the way to the famous chapter of the Mats in Assisi.

Anthony of Padua<br /><br />
stained glassAssigned by St. Francis himself to the province of Romagna, Anthony soon demonstrated brilliance and persuasion as a teacher of his fellow friars and especially as a preacher.  During the next 10 short years of his life, Anthony emerges from the obscurity of a poor friar working in the kitchen and saying mass without preaching a homily, to one who becomes a de-facto “celebrity preacher” and compassionate confessor to thousands who would eventually hear him. But not after first submitting himself to a life of perfect obedience to his superiors, and service to his fellow friars in their shared life of poverty and service to the poor.  Anthony died at age 36, and was canonized by Pope Gregory IX less than a year later.

The 13th Century is a time riddled with scandalous abuses inside and outside the church. It is a chaotic time as Medieval Europe is slowly emerging into a new era. It is a time of many serious heresies that are born from the great disappointments many have in the church and her ministers. It is a time in which new movements for renewing both society and church are coming from the example of men and women who embrace total poverty – renouncing all earthy possessions in order to posses God only.

The young Anthony shines as a remarkable model of this new style of religious commitment. And in this he touches the hearts of many people. His life is a great witness to the presence of God’s love in the world and in his actions he helps many understand God from a renewed perspective. Anthony, together with his fellow friars, is a great champion of faithfulness to the Church and the hierarchy. He helps people understand the wisdom of the Church while also preaching against the vices and abuses that men in power, clerics as well, often fall into. It is his combination of strong clear words, compassion and dedication to a life of Gospel poverty that propel Anthony forward as a great preacher.

With a remarkable memory for and understanding of scripture, he possesses, already as a young man, the unique gift for candid and moving speech. From town squares to country fields to the halls of the Vatican, as a young Friar he astonishes everyone with his learning and wisdom. After Pope Gregory IX hears him for the first time, he will, with great admiration, refer to the young Anthony as “The Ark of the Testament”.

This gift of preaching, humbled by the life of Franciscan poverty, also serves as a healing balm for many who had lost their faith or are infected by the avarice of the times. He therefore finds himself in a unique position of preacher and confessor to the masses. It is not know how many people turned back to faith after hearing Anthony, nor how many confessed to him and found new light over their personal darkness, but primary sources of the day suggest the numbers are easily in the thousands. Anthony was a light in the darkness, or better yet, bore well the light of Christ to the darkness that had infected his world.

One thing that AnAnthony of Paduathony helps us understood is that God desires that each one of us become a saint. Saint in the sense of finding a personal union with God. Saint in the sense of fulfilling the life God wants for us as an individual. Saint in the sense that “there is more joy in heaven for one repentant sinner than for 99 righteous men.”

Understanding that we are each called to be saints. Saints in the everyday life of service to each other, being love in all our actions, doing what is right even when it is not easy, avoiding the lust for money and power which blind our hearts and poison our souls. He gives us lessons on sanctity that are as relevant today as in the 13th Century.

Anthony walked with people, listened to their sorrows, consoled the outcast, gave food to those who asked, treated children with special care, held womanhood in great respect, maintained a very special love for Mary, came to the defense of the defenseless, fished for the souls of men even while sweeping a floor or cleaning pots in the kitchen, wrote notes on sermons as tools for his fellow friars, obeyed his superiors, and lived out the chivalry he learned from his father, a knight.

When he dies it is no wonder that a great sadness envelops the valley of Padua and within a year the Pope declares him a Saint. Anthony left his homeland of Portugal, determined to give his life as a martyr in the foreign lands of Morocco to a foreign people. But instead God brought him to the heart of his own church, to help heal it of its miseries. He died a “martyr” all the same in a “foreign land”, as he spilled his life slowly and consistently for the God he loved so much.

The one thing that finally ends the debate over St. Anthony really “belongs” to is the agreement that he is a model of holiness and devotion to him is not limited to any one geographic region. People around the world credit St. Anthony with helping them “find” things, whether it be a lost umbrella, a vocation, or much needed help in times of difficulty.  Today images and statues of him grace countless chapels and churches around the world, as he is fondly remembered and invoked by the name of St. Anthony of Padua.

Tommy LongoOur unique story, Finding Saint Anthony: A Story of Loss and Light, directed and produced by filmmaker Edward J. Roy of J6 Entertainment in New York, is a one-hour documentary that explores the life of the thirteenth century Saint Anthony of Padua. A journey punctuated by moments of loss as young Anthony searched for the right path in life, which led to the courageous choice of total surrender to God’s plan for him.

Filmed in various locations in Portugal and Italy, the production of this film was made entirely possible through the generous financial contributions of the Longo family. They have dedicated the film to the memory of Rosa and Antonino Longo – who instilled not only a love of family, but also a solid foundation based on hard work, good values and a sense of doing the right thing, that guide and inspire their family’s legacy. The Longo family has a great devotion to St. Anthony of Padua and wished through this film to make his story known to contemporary audiences.  The late Tommy Longo, patriarch of the Longo family, was not only a successful business man, founder, dreamer, visionary, success story.  He was a man of great decency, honesty, integrity, faithfulness, humanity, goodness and uprightness.  He not only built up a family chain of highly successful supermarkets, but he built up and transmitted a culture of decency and goodness to all those around him.  Now may St. Anthony embrace Tommy and richly bless the Longos for their generosity.

Broadcast Times:
Thursday, June 13          8:00 pm ET / 5:00 pm and 9:00 pm PT
Friday, June 14               12:00 am ET
Friday, June 14               1:00 pm ET / 10:00 am PT
Sunday, June 16             9:00 pm ET / 6:00 pm and 10:00 pm PT
Monday, June 17             1:00 am ET
Monday, June 17             12:30 pm ET / 9:30 am PT
Wednesday, June 19       9:00 am ET / 6:00 am PT

(Images courtesy Theophilia, Loci B. Lenar, and CatholicTradition.org)

One year later, Mali’s refugees still waiting

“How long do you expect to be in Niger?” I asked Abdul Hamid, a refugee from Mali. When I interviewed him last summer, he predicted that his family would remain displaced for “months or years”. Returning was not an option, so long as violent fundamentalists continued to terrorize his community.

Where is he now, nearly a year later? Given the enduring civil war in Mali, he’s likely still in the same Tabareybarey refugee camp, located 40 kilometres inside the border. Run by the United Nations, the camp provides much of what he needs: relative safety, food, clean water, and a medical tent. Still, when our crew visited the camp during the filming of “A New Leaf”, I could not fathom spending more than a day there.

Even by the arid standards of the Sahel region, the terrain was inhospitably barren. The camp’s inhabitants could do nothing but sit in their tents, day after day, taking shelter from the unyielding midday sun. Scrawny goats — the fortunate ones that weren’t been abandoned en route — wandered about, plucking the last dry leaves from the trees. Our presence was a welcome diversion for the children, who loved seeing their faces played back on the LCD screens of our cameras.

According to the UN, there are still 8800 people in this camp, which holds just under a fifth of all Malian refugees in Niger. At present, NGOs are contending with a cholera outbreak in the packed camps.

Incidentally, Pope Francis raised the issue of refugees this past Friday in an address to the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Travelers. He told participants that “the Church is Mother and her maternal attention is manifested with particular tenderness and closeness to one who is constrained to flee from his own country and who lives between uprootedness and integration.”

Our visit to the Tabareybarey camp is documented in the S+L film “A New Leaf”. S+L will air the film tomorrow at 8:00 pm ET / 5:00pm PT, repeating at 12:00 midnight ET / 9:00pm PT. Also this Wednesday – for one day only – S+L will be streaming the film on demand here. In the meantime, watch the trailer above.

New documentary asks: Who is Pope Francis?

Do you remember where you were when the white smoke appeared, heralding the election of Pope Francis? That will always be an easy question for me, since I was in the S+L studio doing live commentary. The third smoke signal of the conclave looked distinctly different from the first two, which were easily discernible as black. Initially, this one appeared grey — light grey — and we, along with most other media outlets, were hesitant to make the call. But then as the plumes grew, it became clear: we have a Pope.

I relived these moments as I watched the documentary “Who is Pope Francis?” The conclave ended a mere eight weeks ago. Still, I felt chills as I watched, once more, the announcement of Georgium Marium Cardinalem Bergoglio as Pope Francis. It was an electrifying moment of live television. In hindsight, it’s even more breathtaking, now that we’ve seen his early effect on the Church.

Created by Madrid-based Goya Productions, “Who is Pope Francis?” is one of the earliest and best biographies of the new pontiff. Through interviews and historical footage, a portrait emerges of Jorge Bergoglio, anticipating how his background and character will impact the papacy.

“Who is Pope Francis?” airs tonight on S+L at 9:00pm ET/6:00pm PT, repeating at 1:00am ET/10:00pm PT. It airs again on Thursday night at the same times. Consult the S+L schedule for additional repeat times.

Spiritandsong.com’s The Commons coming to S+L TV

Learn about your favourite contemporary Catholic artists at spiritandsong.com’s The Commons.

Meet Robert Feduccia, Jackie Francois, Josh Blakesley, Tom Booth, Matt Maher, Sarah Hart, Jesse Manibusan, Curtis Stephan, Trevor Thompson, Ike Ndolo, Sarah Kroger and many others (many slRadio supporting artists), as they give casual and candid interviews, and offer unplugged performances of their songs.

Launched in 2003 by Oregon Catholic Press, as a fruit of their very popular youth hymnal Spirit and Song,  spiritandsong.com is a place where Christians of all ages can experience faith-building music, online prayers, devotions and much more. Spiritandsong.com is the place to go to for contemporary Catholic music. This is the place where you can listen to music all day long with their various playlists, download songs, and get updates on new releases.  You can also meet the artists behind the songs, learn about what they’re up to and book them for your events.

The Commons is one of their initiatives now coming to Salt + Light TV, starting tonight at 9pm ET (6 and 10pm PT).

Salt + Light TV and slRadio are very happy to continue our relationship with OCP and spiritandsong.com with this new partnership, as together we support Catholic artists and their ministry, help you find the music that you love and will help build you up, and together help build the Kingdom of God.

Watch The Commons, every Tuesday at 9pm ET (6 and 10pm PT).

S+L heads to Ottawa for documentary premiere

In the summer of 2012, a food crisis struck West Africa in a region called the Sahel. Salt + Light’s Kris Dmytrenko travelled to Niger to learn about the crisis. Why was it happening? What were Nigeriens doing about it? And how was the world trying to help? Dmytrenko witnessed the efforts of Caritas Niger, a Catholic development organization endorsed by the local bishops. Its projects were supported by Development and Peace and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

Their determination to avert a famine is documented in the S+L film A New Leaf. Development and Peace is hosting a series of free screenings of the film across Canada, beginning with the world premiere in Ottawa, then followed by events in Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Victoria. After each screening, there will be a panel discussion about the documentary, food security, and development issues in the Sahel region of West Africa. The panel will feature special guest Father Isidore Ouedraogo, Executive Secretary of Caritas Burkina Faso.

Attendance is free. Please RSVP to anewleaf@devp.org or call 1-888-234-8533. For more information, visit the A New Leaf webpage.

Ottawa
Monday February 25, 2013 – 7:30pm
Saint Paul University
223 Main Street

Toronto
February 28, 2013 – 7:30pm
Innis Hall
2 Sussex Ave

Winnipeg
March 1, 2013 – 8:00pm
Booth University College Theatre
447 Webb Place

Vancouver
March 2, 2013 – 7:30pm
Chan Centre for the Performing Arts
6265 Crescent Rd

Victoria
March 3, 2013 – 7:30pm
The Vic Theatre
808 Douglas Street

A New Leaf: S+L announces cross-Canada tour

S+L announces the premiere screenings and broadcast debut of its documentary A New Leaf. Screenings will take place in five cities across Canada and the world broadcast premiere will air exclusively on S+L TV.

In the summer of 2012, a food crisis struck West Africa in a region called the Sahel. S+L’s Kris Dmytrenko travelled to Niger to learn about the crisis. Why was it happening? What were Nigeriens doing about it? And how was the world trying to help? Dmytrenko witnessed the efforts of Caritas Niger, a Catholic development organization endorsed by the local bishops. Their projects were supported by the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace and the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

Development and Peace will be hosting a series of premiere screenings across Canada beginning at the end of February and continuing into early March. Cities include Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Victoria. The world television premiere will take place on Thursday, March 7. Visit the A New Leaf webpage for more details.

Expectations soar for epic Bible series

If a television producer predicts that the viewership of his new series will eclipse “Survivor”, “Celebrity Apprentice”, and “The Voice”, some skepticism is warranted. The statement becomes even bolder when the subject of this series is religious. Yet when the producer’s name is Mark Burnett, grand expectations are warranted.

Burnett and his wife Roma Downey are the executive producers of “The Bible”, a ten hour mini-series debuting on the History Channel on March 3. Burnett revolutionized TV with the aforementioned reality programs, while Downey is best known for her role on the long-running series “Touched by an Angel”. Their prayer is that, over the next 25 years, “The Bible” mini-series will reach a larger audience than all of their previous work combined. Their hopes are bolstered by the public’s insatiable appetite for period dramas like “Game of Thrones” and “The Borgias”.

Burnett and Downey previewed an hour of “The Bible” at the studios of Crossroads Television Network (CTS) in Burlington, Ontario. S+L’s Pedro Guevara Mann and I were among the enthusiastic audience who got a sneak peak. Having seen the trailer beforehand, we both anticipated a visually-breathtaking, big-budget production. However, we were even more impressed by the fresh, creative storytelling that injected new drama into the biblical stories, while remaining authentic to the scriptures.

You can see a clip of my interview with Burnett and Downey on Perspectives Daily. The full interview will be seen on a future episode of Catholic Focus.

And God saw that it was good…

Most of us are concerned for the environment. Politicians, organizations and celebrities are constantly urging us to get “greener” and challenge us to “act more responsibly.” It seems that nothing today is more important than the need to take better care of our planet.

On the other hand, another movement is gaining strength: Persons who claim that these concerns are unfounded and nothing but fear-mongering. These people refuse to be “guilted” or scared into action, and criticize this new “religion” as alarmist and extremist with a following of hypocrites.

But between both groups lie the majority: Ordinary people like you and me who are caught in the middle, wondering who to believe and what to do.

The good news is that these two extremes do not represent the full picture. There is another piece to the puzzle, one that presents us with a clear, concise and hope-filled truth; the truth that sees all creation as good, full of dignity and deserving of our care.

Energized by these thoughts, several years ago, Salt + Light Television ventured on a journey with the Environmental Science and Studies Department of the University Of St. Thomas in Houston.  We led with a simple question: What does it mean to be a Catholic environmentalist?

And so was born CREATION, a six-part series that aims to present this-age-old, third option of looking at our environment from the point of view of the Catholic Church and the point of view of God’s design.

CREATION begins with the notion that all creation is good. The series asks the question “why should we care for the environment?” and will take you on a journey from the created world, to the human person, through concepts of respect and stewardship, teachings of Church Fathers, to specific environmental problems.

This Sunday, December 2nd (with a re-broadcast on Wednesday, December 9th) at 9pm ET, we begin with the very first episode: Sense of Wonder. You will meet Sr. Damien Marie Savino, head of the Environmental Science and Studies at UST, and without whom this series would not be possible. You’ll also meet several other professors, scientists and lovers of art and the created world, who help us understand where this call to care the environment comes from.

Why should we care for the environment? In order to answer this question, we begin by travelling to Houston, to see where it leads us.

Tune in on December 2nd and find out.

Nothing More Beautiful: “Evangelizing the Family”

On this season premiere of Nothing More Beautiful, Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton begins with a catechesis as he reflects on evangelizing the family. Witness speaker, Pierluigi Molla, talks about growing up with his mother, St. Gianna Beretta Molla (who beautifully enough, is Salt + Light’s patron saint).

Join us for our season premiere of Nothing More Beautiful at the following times:

Saturday, November 10
9:00 pm and 1:00 am ET
7:00 pm and 11:00 pm MT

Repeat: Wednesday, November 14
8:00 pm and 12:00 pm ET
6:00 pm and 10:00 pm MT

This series is made possible, with many thanks, to Archbishop Smith and our many friends in the Archdiocese of Edmonton.