Behind the Scenes of EWTN’s Original Motion Picture “Kateri!”

Kateri with Anastasia

On the set of EWTN’s new movie “Kateri” with the young Mohawk girl who became a saint, and her friend Anastasia.

During the filming of EWTN’s first major motion picture, “Kateri,” fhe story of the young Mohawk girl who became the first Native American saint, Writer/Director James Kelty says there were many “blessed” moments involving cast and crew. Of all the stories Kelty tells, my favorite involves the set’s costume person, Marilyn Mixemong, who is from Canada.

Kelty says that Mixemong got to know all the actors on the set, including the 50 or so extras from Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Mendota, California, who traveled 100 miles from their Central Valley location to the coast to participate in a full day of filming. When Mixemong returned to Canada, she continued to correspond with some of them.

“Marilyn had a third class relic of Kateri,” Kelty said. “She mailed it to them. One of the extras was the grandmother of a one-and-a-half-year-old girl who Kateri inside chapelcouldn’t walk yet. There was a lot of concern. The little girl’s name was Kateri. The grandmother pinned the relic to the little girl. A couple days or weeks later, I’m not sure, the little girl was at Mass and started taking her first steps. They were blown away!”

We hope EWTN viewers will also be blown away when EWTN airs “Kateri” at 9:30 p.m. ET, Wednesday, Nov. 18 and 8 p.m. ET, Saturday, Nov. 21. Before the Wednesday premiere, don’t miss Fr. Mitch Pacwa’s live interview with Kelty on a special “EWTN Live” at 8 p.m. ET, Nov. 18.

Kateri priest by fire

Father Jacques de Lamberville, one of the Jesuit missionaries.

Kelty is no stranger to EWTN having produced a mini-series viewers will remember called “Footprints in the Wilderness,” which was about St. Issac Jogues and Rene Goupil, who were two of the eight North American Martyrs. Kateri was born about 10 years after the deaths of these missionaries and in the same village they attempted to Christianize. He also produced the five-part series, “Serra – Every Forward, Never Back,” which aired on EWTN in 2013.

“I was trying to go back 400 years, to see how they lived and what they probably had to go through,” said Kelty, who wrote the screenplay for “Kateri.”  “There was terrible dislocation, disease, and intertribal warfare — it wasn’t always the Europeans [with whom the tribes were warring]. If you read the personal accounts of the Jesuit missionaries, it really draws you in.”

Kateri Fr. Fremin

Jesuit Missionary Father James Fremin

Another great inspiration for Kelty was his interview with Historian and McGill University Professor Alan Greer, who wrote a book called “Catherine Tekakwitha.”

“There’s a lot we don’t know; a lot we have to fill in according to our best guess and prayer,” Kelty continued. “But Greer’s point of view allowed me to see it as a secular historian would see it. I could see the shortcomings in his views and compare it with the hagiographies written by the Jesuit missionaries and come up with something that I think is as honest and truthful as we could make it. It was an honor and a privilege.”

Kateri Indian in woods

Iowerano, Kateri’s uncle

John Elson, EWTN’s Director of Program Acquisitions and Co-Productions, who produced the film along with Executive Producer Doug Keck, says Kelty’s extensive research is one reason the film is so moving.

“People are often presented as if they were born saints and were that way their whole lives without any sense of growth and development,” Elson said. “Kateri is a saint, but previous to this, she was a young Mohawk girl. The importance of missionaries is also beautifully captured in the movie. That’s a subject that is often an overlooked part of the story.”

Filming on Morro Bay, Calfornia before the fog rolled in!

Filming on Morro Bay, Calfornia before the fog rolled in!

One of Kelty’s favorite memories involves the canoe scenes with the Jesuit missionaries. The crew was filming in a saltwater inlet, in a back part of Morro Bay, California. Kelty says the cast was on shore, shooting a dialogue scene, when the weather changed.

“All of a sudden this incredible fog descended. I said, ‘Stop everything. Get in those canoes and paddle your arms off into this fog. Then turn around and come towards us.’ In the film, you see these ghostly shapes coming out of that fog. There’s a ghostly shimmer on the water. There is no way Hollywood with all its money could have done it better!

Kateri Snowy Canadian winter“The snow that fell the day we arrived [in Canada] and the fog that suddenly appeared on Morro Bay (California] were two knock-your-socks-off things that happened. I call them goose bump moments. This production was blessed. There is no other way to say it.”

St. Kateri devotees, rejoice! Kelty will follow up this movie with an original four-part docudrama mini-series on St. Kateri, which will premiere on her feast day, July 14, 2016. He promises it will go into even more detail about the background and history of this beloved saint and the missionaries who gave their lives to Christianize an area that is now part of Canada.

Posted in Canada, EWTN, Father Jacques de Lamberville, Father James Fremin, Iowerano, Jesuit, Jesuit missionaries, Kateri Tekakwitha, Morro Bay, North American martyrs, United States | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is Heaven Really Like? EWTN’s New Mini-Series ‘A Travel Guide to Heaven’ Will Console And Inspire Viewers At All Stages of Life

Are you having a hard time dealing with your own mortality or getting over the loss of a family member? I have a suggestion. Tune in to EWTN’s new six-part mini-series, “A Travel Guide to Heaven” with Host Anthony DeStefano, author of the bestselling book of the same name. (Airs 6:30 p.m. ET, Monday through Saturday, Nov. 9-14, on EWTN, http://www.ewtn.com/channelfinder.)

Anthony DeStefano, host of EWTN's new mini-series "A Travel Guide to Heaven," meets Pope Francis.

Anthony DeStefano, host of EWTN’s new mini-series “A Travel Guide to Heaven,” meets Pope Francis. Find EWTN at http://www.ewtn.com/channelfinder.

When my husband of 35 years was dying of cancer, this new series wasn’t available. Fortunately, DeStefano’s book was. I showed it to my husband, who was having a hard time reading at that point. So each night, I read a chapter to him. My dog-lover husband especially enjoyed the chapter, “Do All Dogs Go To Heaven?”

We realized that, in the midst of the sorrow surrounding an impending death, there can also be joy when anticipating the happiness that you or your loved one in a state of grace is soon to enjoy!

I’m not the only one who feels that way as is evident from the many testimonials on the “Travel Guide to Heaven” website, www.travelguidetoheaven.com. Here’s what one reader had to say: “I just suffered a loss in my family. I purchased the book and couldn’t put it down. I’ve always believed in Heaven, but it just seemed like some far-away place [where] you just worshipped all the time. You brought Heaven right down to earth and made me really want to go there. It has changed how I view the earth now. I’m noticing my surroundings a lot more. I’m telling everyone they need to read this book.”

On the set with Anthony DeStefano, host of EWTN's new mini-series, "A Travel Guide to Heaven," which premieres at 6:30 p.m. ET, M-Sat., Nov. 9-14 on EWTN.

On the set with Anthony DeStefano, host of EWTN’s new mini-series, “A Travel Guide to Heaven,” which premieres at 6:30 p.m. ET, Monday through Saturday, Nov. 9-14 on EWTN.

DeStefano says that while he has written many books in the 13 years since “Travel Guide” was published, this one remains his favorite and the one for which he is best known.

“Writing about seeing friends and family members alive again in Heaven—and even about being reunited with beloved pets who died—was a truly joyful experience for me, and one I don’t ever expect to duplicate,” DeStefano said.

The mini-series, like the book, answers many important questions, such as: Where is heaven? What is it like? What will we do? Will we be able to have meaningful relationships with our fellow travelers? What will they be like? Do dogs and other pets go to heaven? What is the best thing about heaven?

A portion of each episode of EWTN's new mini-series, "A Travel Guide to Heaven," was filmed in Rome, Assisi, Florence, Venice, the Amalfi Coast, Rome’s hill towns, and New York.

A portion of each episode of EWTN’s new mini-series, “A Travel Guide to Heaven,” was filmed in Rome, Assisi, Florence, Venice, the Amalfi Coast, Rome’s hill towns, and New York.

The six 30-minute episodes were filmed on location in Rome, Assisi, Florence, Venice, the Amalfi Coast, Rome’s hill towns, and New York. In other words, the visuals are as fun and uplifting as the subject – which makes this a great mini-series and book for people at all stages of life – including children!

“My goal in writing “A Travel Guide to Heaven” was to create something that seemed lighthearted and playful, but did not in any way compromise orthodox Catholic theology or water down the Bible,” DeStefano said. “To me, a book on Heaven shouldn’t ever languish on some dusty shelf in the back of a seminary library. To me, since everyone should want to go to Heaven, everyone should want to read about it. And when they read about it, they should want to smile.”

So tune in to this series, which is certain to become as beloved as this classic book.

Note: In a hurry? The book – as well as “A Travel Guide to Heaven for Kids” – is available now from EWTN Religious Catalogue, http://bit.ly/1MF6tvt, while the series is expected to be available shortly after it airs.

Posted in afterlife, Catholic, EWTN, Heaven | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s Wrong With Yoga and Other New Age Practices?

Some New Age practices are clearly against Christian beliefs. However, it’s a little harder to discern the problem with other, more common, practices.

I had that problem with yoga – even though I had been told that yoga positions are actually designed to “worship one of more than three million Hindu gods and/or facilitate the flow of prana (life force energy) through the body.”

While I have never been a yoga practitioner myself, I didn’t really understand why this would be a problem if you were just doing it to get exercise and not with the intention of worshiping false gods.

Susan Brinkmann, "Women of Grace" journalist and author of a new book on the New Age entitled "Learn to Discern," shown here in EWTN's lobby just after filming a new episode for WOG.

Susan Brinkmann, “Women of Grace” journalist and author of a new book on the New Age entitled “Learn to Discern Compendium,” shown here in EWTN’s lobby just after filming a new episode for WOG.

Enter Susan “Sue” Brinkmann, a journalist for Johnnette’s Benkovic’s “Women of Grace” and an expert on New Age practices (who I am quoting above). Sue, who also happens to be a great friend, just wrote a book that you can purchase through EWTN Religious Catalogue, called “Learn to Discern Compendium.” (Find the link below.)

While the story I am about to share here is not in her new book, trust me, you can learn a LOT about New Age practices, including yoga, by purchasing this must-read book.

Sue recently told me that “Women of Grace” frequently gets questions about yoga. It was during one of Johnnette’s retreats that this question came up once again. That day, Sue was especially tired and the last thing she wanted to do was speak in front of a room full of people. But a yoga question came up and Johnnette called her forward.

As Sue stood up, she said a quick prayer to the Holy Spirit and was suddenly inspired to do the following.

“Alright everybody,” she said. “On your feet. “We are now going to exercise the muscle underneath our upper arms. Are you ready?”

Sue then raised her arm and performed a very exaggerated and very deliberate Sign of the Cross!

WOW! Wow! The group burst into spontaneous applause.

Of course! Could the Sign of the Cross EVER be “just an exercise”! Of course not! So how could a yoga pose to a Hindu god be“just an exercise.”

This is so brilliant, I had to share it! Susan Brinkmann’s book is equally inspired. Get it; read it; learn from it; share it! You can find it at http://www.ewtnreligiouscatalogue.com/shop.axd/ProductDetails?edp_no=30517.

Also, for more information about yoga and other New Age practices, check out Sue’s blog posts for “Women of Grace” at http://www.womenofgrace.com/blog/?p=17011.

Posted in Catholic, Christian, New Age | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

What’s Wrong With Physician-Assisted Suicide? The Most Important Show You Will Watch All Year

It’s the next great battle and make no mistake family, our future as people, as a nation, and as citizens of this world and the next depends on it.

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D, President of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith and the Spitzer Center, has has extensive national media experience including Larry King Live (debating Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow, and Deepak Chopra on God and modern physics), the Today Show (debating euthanasia), The History Channel in “God and The Universe,” a multi-part PBS series “Closer to the Truth,” and the Hugh Hewitt Show. He has also appeared on dozens of nationally syndicated radio programs.

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D, President of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith and the Spitzer Center, has has extensive national media experience including Larry King Live (debating Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow, and Deepak Chopra on God and modern physics), the Today Show (debating euthanasia), The History Channel in “God and The Universe,” a multi-part PBS series “Closer to the Truth,” and the Hugh Hewitt Show. He has also appeared on dozens of nationally syndicated radio programs.

“The culture of suicide is the culture of despair – it’s the culture of un-love. If there were enough love out there, nobody would want to commit suicide. Something’s going wrong when we morally sanction suicide within the culture.”

So says Father Robert Spitzer, S.J., President of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith and the Spitzer Center, in a must-see presentation filmed live at the NAPA Institute 2015 Conference in California. “The Case Against Physician-Assisted Suicide” will air at approximately 9:45 a.m. ET, Saturday, Oct. 17, immediately following George Weigel’s 9 a.m. ET address on “The Evangelical Future of Catholicism in the Next America.” (Other talks by top Catholic theologians will follow throughout the day.)

If you are having a tough time explaining to others why this is wrong – if part of you buys into the “mercy” killing language used by “right to die” proponents – then you cannot afford to miss this presentation. Tape it, study it, learn from it.

Right-to-die proponents like to invoke the specter of patients being kept alive by machines at the end of their lives or screaming in pain. But Father Spitzer clears the deck of these fears right from the outset invoking the church’s longstanding doctrine of extraordinary means and the legitimacy of pain management that may nonetheless carry some risk.

However, right-to-die proponents are now bombarding society with the message that, at the end of life, you and I might as well commit suicide because we will no longer have “quality of life.” Let’s think about this.

Father Robert Spitzer, S.J., says there are four levels of happiness in life, which correspond to the four levels of quality of life. Level 3 involves the contribution we make to family, friends, organizations, society, the Church, the Kingdom of God, and the salvation of souls. We can make such contributions no matter what our age our physical condition.

Father Robert Spitzer, S.J., says there are four levels of happiness in life, which correspond to the four levels of quality of life. Level 3 involves the contribution we make to family, friends, organizations, society, the Church, the Kingdom of God, and the salvation of souls. We can make such contributions no matter what our age our physical condition.

As we grow older, and hopefully wiser, Fr. Spitzer says happiness in life more often depends on the contribution we make to family, friends, organizations, society, the Church, the Kingdom of God, and the salvation of a soul who needs help (level three happiness) or on our faith (level 4 happiness), which calls us to literally link up with God who is our eternal destiny. Our happiness is no longer completely dependent on the material things we own (level 1 happiness) or being better than others at sports or our jobs (level two happiness). It’s not that we would no longer find pleasure in those lower level things, but we realize that there are more important things in life.

Unfortunately, when right-to-die proponents talk about quality of life, they are stuck at these lower levels of happiness. (I can’t beat John at tennis anymore, what good am I?) When you have a terminal illness, says Fr. Spitzer, level 1 and 2 happiness decrease, but level 3 and 4 increase.

“[At the end of life], if you’ve got any forgiving you’ve got to do, you’re going to be motivated. If you have somebody who has to forgive you, now’s the time to call them in because now you are vulnerable. When we are vulnerable, the Holy Spirit can drive right into our hearts with a truck full of grace. All our defenses are down. We don’t care anymore about level 2 abilities.

“Vulnerability is such a blessed gift. It allows us to forgive and to be forgiven; it allows us to transmit the wisdom of our lives and to have wisdom transmitted to us and for us to accept it; it allows us to give compassion and to accept compassion; it allows us to grow in faith. When we see our lives coming to an end, we are so open to grace, it is simply unbelievable.”

Right-to-die proponents like to say that they are not hurting anyone, that they are just giving people options, but Father Spitzer says that, to many people, this legislation says something quite different. That is why advocates for the mentally or physically challenged are universally against this legislation.

The top level of happiness and quality of life, says Father Robert Spitzer, S.J. , is faith, which calls us to literally link up with God who is our eternal destiny. Anyone can talk to God, no matter their age or physical condition.

The top level of happiness and quality of life, says Father Robert Spitzer, S.J. , is faith, which calls us to literally link up with God, Who is our Eternal Destiny. Anyone can talk to God, no matter their age or physical condition.

“It is being proclaimed from the rooftops, that your life isn’t worth anything. It’s pure indignity. You have to have help in your life? How dare you? You should be ashamed of yourself. You need someone? You should be ashamed of yourself. It’s the rule of autonomy gone crazy. It is totally the opposite direction from Christianity. … Instead of being the occasion for compassion, we call compassion giving you a suicide pill so you can take your own life and end the indignity of it all.”

Father says such legislation won’t just affect the physically and mentally challenged.

“Every single person who needs help, every person who has a disability or challenge of some kind or another, every single person who needs help in their life for whatever reason, will now have to feel inferior. … It is completely converse to Christianity and to any humane effort whatsoever. This is not good legislation. It really will impact people who are most in need of our help. People who deserve our help, not our disdain.”

Already, some insurance companies in right-to-die states are telling cancer patients with lesser insurance that they won’t pay for their treatment, but will pay for the pills needed to commit suicide. “We are creating two classes,” says Fr. Spitzer, “those who can afford NOT to commit suicide, and those who are compelled to commit suicide to get basic coverage.”

At the end of their lives, Father Spitzer says people are vulnerable to relatives who are concerned about costs or who simply don’t want the burden of caring for their family member; those without family are vulnerable to doctors who believe they should commit suicide; those with depression or self-esteem issues may interpret a discussion of a right-to-die option as indifference to their death, while the “stoically responsible” often think it’s their “duty” to die so they don’t inconvenience others.

“What becomes legal becomes socially acceptable; what becomes socially acceptable becomes moral because everybody else is doing it,” says Fr. Spitzer. “People look at what other people are doing – it’s called social norming – and they adjust their behaviors according to the social norms.”

That’s why Father says you and I must do everything we can to fight this legislation.

“This legislation is a disaster. It’s a disaster for love; it’s a disaster for Christ; it’s a disaster for culture; it’s a disaster for the weak; it’s a disaster for the poor; it just simply has to be stopped.

“With every single scintilla of energy in our fibers and sinews and bones, it has to be stopped.”

Posted in Assisted Suicide, Euthanasia, EWTN, Magis Center, mercy killing, NAPA Institute, Physician-assisted suicide, right-to-die | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Learn How To Answer Pro-Abortion Advocates in EWTN’s New Mini-Series ‘When They Say, You Say’

Wish you could respond to pro-abortion advocates in a manner that stands a chance of converting them?

Wish no longer! Instead, tune in to “When They Say, You Say” at 6:30 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, Oct. 5-9 on EWTN, www.ewtn.com/channelfinder. This EWTN original mini-series – with Olivia Turner, director of American Victims of Abortion, part of the Outreach Department of the National Right to Life Committee – is destined to become an EWTN classic – and readers of “Inside EWTN” are the first to learn about it!

Learn how to answer pro-abortion falacious arguments in  EWTN's  new mini-series, "When THey Say, You Say" with Olivia Gans Turner, part of the National Right To Life Committee's Outreach Department.

Learn how to answer fallacious pro-abortion arguments in EWTN’s new mini-series, “When They Say, You Say.” Host Olivia Gans Turner is a member of the National Right To Life Committee’s Outreach Department.

This special program is based on an idea developed by Turner and Mary Balch, NRLC state legislation director. The two women believe that everyone can become a good speaker and advocate for life; that all of us can learn to do this well, regardless of previous experience.

EWTN President Doug Keck first heard Turner speak at the National Right to Life Conference a couple years ago and was blown away by how good she is. Turner is much in demand having spoken in all 50 states and 17 countries as well as at Oxford, Cambridge, the United Nations, the European Union, and more than 52 universities and colleges, including all of the Ivy League. She has also testified at Congressional hearings, filed an amicus brief before the U.S. Supreme Court, and appeared on Nightline, Fox News, National Public Radio, NBC, ABC, and CBS, among others news outlets.

However, as you will learn from this behind-the-scenes interview, her outspokenness was birthed as a result of the pain of her own abortion. She stresses that she was only able to speak effectively about this after experiencing God’s healing grace and mercy.

“I am one of the original women who came up through the movement in the early ‘80s when the first comments about post-abortive syndrome were made,” Turner said. “I was one of a small group of women who created an outreach called ‘Women Exploited By Abortion.’ That did well, but couldn’t be sustained because we all still had so much to learn about the damage done by abortion to our lives.”

In 1985, the National Right to Life Committee gave Turner an opportunity to work out of their offices to develop an official program. Initially, Turner had a hard time finding women who could go on television and radio shows and speak intelligently about their abortion without crying.

It's  important that women considering an abortion see the ultrasound of their baby so they understand it's not just a mass of cells but  a real baby!

It’s important that women considering an abortion see the ultrasound of their baby so they understand it’s not just a mass of cells but a real baby!

“Pro-life people are sometimes very moved by someone who is still emotionally wrung out,” she said. “But that woman has not completed her healing journey. God’s design is not to lock us into this place of pain and sadness. Finding people who were in a place to speak with passion and real sincerity, who could bring people to understand what we know now, but do it in a way that didn’t make you worry about their tears, but hear the actual message [was key.]”

Turner says the pro-abortion movement was not prepared to deal with all the post-abortive women who regretted their abortion.

“[Back then], when an abortion was performed, they believed they silenced two people. Now, they try to discredit our experience [saying], ‘I’m so sorry you had a bad experience, but your experience is not necessarily representative of all women.’ However, I know that my experience is the experience of abortion for the vast majority of women. I can speak on behalf of every women that ever had an abortion because our experiences are so universal.”

Turner says the media has spent decades successfully ignoring these horrific stories. Decades of legalized abortion “means our society is so injured, so wounded, that actually allowing ourselves to hear the truth behind the sad stories means coming to terms with our own social grief. Everybody’s family is somehow grieving a loss. This has absolutely been a culture wreck! The presence of individuals who are able to speak compassionately about this experience will help begin this cultural healing.”

However, Turner also knows that the pro-life movement needs to do more than tell the stories of all the women who have been hurt by abortion – especially the women who are often victimized again when the media ignores their politically incorrect pain.

What is the pro-life movement to do? Turner has an answer. She is currently coordinating her program with the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Cleveland and Baltimore. A lay community has evolved out of the initial program.

“They work on the concept that this isn’t about healing from abortion. It’s about teaching the woman to have a spiritual life. We wouldn’t have been in this situation if our spiritual life had been good. We involve spouses. The women work, share and heal as a community. They are not just supporting each other in their grief, but in their walk closer and closer to the Crucified and Risen Jesus. It’s the third day! The cross is behind you! Move on!”

Turner also recommends Project Rachel – and she says she had a great conversation with a priest about the healing power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and reconciliation to the Communion of Saints.

“Nothing is more valuable than getting back to the Eucharist,” she said. “I knew enough to know that that was where my child was – at the Communion of Saints. But I couldn’t go there unless I could be cleaned [through the Sacrament of Reconciliation]. That’s the journey!”

Turned is especially gratified that EWTN’s mini-series, “When They Say, You Say”, is coming out at this time.

“I know we were some of the first in this country to experience the desire of many in the Church and society to extend a true, compassionate hand of loving mercy, despite the awful things we had done,” said Turner, who has both given and received such mercy. “It has been amazing to live in that grace.”

In the upcoming Year of Mercy, Turner hopes viewers of her series – especially those still suffering from their abortions – will have their lives changed, as she did, by that saving grace and mercy, which are, as always, an undeserved gift from our loving God and from His Church.

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When You’re About to Lose It: A Practical Idea for Parents

Lisa Popcak and her husband Greg shared practical ideas of how to transform family life Sept. 23 at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

Lisa Popcak and her husband, Dr. Greg Popcak, shared practical ideas of how to transform family life Sept. 23 at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

Lisa Popcak was having one of those days. She was fearful she was just going to lose it with her children. As a desperate measure, she winged up a prayer to the Blessed Mother. Help me!

As she told this story, Popcak, who was delivering a speech with her husband Dr. Greg Popcak at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, had everyone’s attention.

This harried mom was suddenly given an inspiration. She immediately stopped what she was trying to do and asked her children to join her on the sofa.

I heard this speech as I was passing through a conference room so I am paraphrasing the following, but it is the gist of what Lisa Popcak said, and it is too good not to share!

“Kids, Mom is about to lose it and you don’t deserve that. I don’t want to lose it so I am asking you to please, please pray for Mommy right now.”

The children solemnly placed their little hands on their mother’s arm, knee, and shoulder and began to pray.

“Jesus, please help Mommy not to lose it — and please help us to be good children so she doesn’t get mad at us.” And on it went.

Lisa’s eyes filled with tears as she told this story. Her anger, she said, had been turned into a moment of grace.

Good Catholics know that “to them that love God ALL things work together unto good.” Romans 8:28. But here we have a practical example of how to apply that knowledge.

May Jesus and Our Lady help us, their children, to always remember to turn to them whenever we are about to lose it with our own children or with one another!

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May Your Light Shine Before All: What Families Can Learn From the Heroic Witness of a 9/11 Family

Cardinal  Robert Sarah  gives a talk about "heroic witness" Sept. 23 at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

Cardinal Robert Sarah gives a keynote address about “heroic witness” Sept. 23 at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

Imagine being the mother of 10 children – ages 1 to 15 – and losing your firefighter husband during the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11. What good, you might ask, could possibly come from that?

During his September 23 keynote address at the World Meeting of Families, Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, answered that question with a touching and memorable story about the “heroic witness” of one “very Catholic” family who brought “light to the greatest darkness.”

Here we share that story and what the Cardinal said we might learn from this in an address titled “The Light of the Family in a Dark World.”

The morning of 9/11, Jean Palombo, the mother of this large family, woke up worried that she might be pregnant yet again. “It can’t be happening so soon,” she thought. “I’ll go crazy.”

When she confided her worry to her husband Frank, he said, “Don’t worry about that – but what will we call him?”

“I started to laugh,” Jean said. “He always knew how to make me laugh.”

Jean’s laughter was temporarily quelled that day when her brave firefighter husband lost his life along with almost 3,000 other victims of the worst terror attack ever perpetrated on U.S. soil.

In an interview about two months after the tragedy, the Cardinal said this woman talked about her life’s journey to date. As a young woman, Jean said she had left the Church and decided she did not want any children.

However, after experiencing a missionary outreach, something changed. Jean witnessed Christ in a couple expecting their fourth child. After experiencing God’s love through this couple, Jean changed in a radical way, going on to have 10 children.

Of her husband’s death, the woman said, “I miss him terribly and I cry a lot, but I know he will continue to bless us in heaven. I think God works for the good of those who love Him. The children often console me with a word.” (Thank God for those children!)

When asked what she thought of the terrorists, she said, “I can only say, ‘Father, forgive them for they do not know what they have done.’”

During the interview, the Cardinal said that Jean acknowledged her fear, but said she was clinging to the Church and trying to do God’s Will.

Said the Cardinal: “Five years ago, Jean, already a young widow with 10 children, was diagnosed with cancer. She died two years ago. Her eight sons carried her coffin into the Basilica of the Sacred Heart where there were 200 people and 30 priests.”

At the funeral, a neighbor was struck by the demeanor of the woman’s youngest daughter, Maggie, who was now 15. Why, she asked her, are you so peaceful?

The daughter said, “Because my Mom is in heaven. I know she has complete joy. What more could I want for her?”

The daughter, who was only a teenager, was not thinking about herself, but about her mother. God, however, was also thinking of Maggie.

“Maggie’s many brothers and sisters are taking care of her today,” said the Cardinal. “Thank God for large families!”

This family’s eldest son is now 29. In the coming year the Cardinal revealed, to the delight of the crowd at the World Meeting of Families, that this young man will become a priest.

Said Cardinal Sarah: “Evil does not have the last word! God brings good from evil. This is how God has worked from the beginning of creation. God is not overcoming evil with evil; he overcomes evil with good.

“A young married husband and wife in the U.S. were granted the grace to love selflessly to the end; first, by repenting, then by receiving and believing in the Good News. The Faith with which they lived instills hope in us that we too can bring the light of the Gospel to the world.”

May all of us learn to repent, to believe, and to follow God’s will for us so that we too may follow the Cardinal’s call to be “heroic witnesses” who bring light and hope to a darkened world.

God bless you Family!

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