EWTN To Air “The Hidden Rebellion:” What America Can Learn From France’s Reign of Terror

Today, more and more people in America like to say they are socialists. But do most of us understand what this means?

posterDuring the Reign of Terror in 1793, French Catholics – who lived in a country that was predominantly Catholic – found out. You can too when EWTN airs “The Hidden Rebellion,” an original docu-drama which describes one of history’s most chilling instances of genocide – a genocide in which 70% of those slaughtered by revolutionary mobs and soldiers were not nobility, as is commonly supposed, but fellow commoners. (Airs 10 p.m. ET, Saturday, Nov. 5 on EWTN, www.ewtn.com/channelfinder.)

Writer/Director/Producer Daniel Rabourdin believed in the importance of this project so much that he gave four years of his life to film this docu-drama in his native France. You’ll learn about the overthrow of King Louis XVI, a strong Catholic who forgave his persecutors before he was beheaded, his wife killed, and his children disappeared. But most of the program follows the farmers in the Vendee who rebelled against the revolutionaries who tried to send their sons into war in Prussia (now Germany); who began jailing priests and bishops and substituting lay people to say the Mass; and who began raising taxes to support an army which grew ever more massive as they appointed political officers to shadow the real soldiers and to report on them.

pic-1Most importantly, you’ll come to understand the ideology that led the revolutionaries to slaughter so many of their own countrymen.

“The French Revolution is considered a shift from the monarchy to democracy, but the new ‘democratic’ government became more and more radical, eventually becoming what we would today call ‘socialist,’” says Rabourdin, who was born in France and became a U.S. citizen six years ago because he wished to live in a freer society. “It was also a shift from a Catholic civilization to, at best, a deist civilization; at worst, an anti-Christian civilization.”

During the program, viewers will get a clear understanding of the difference between a free market society and socialism.

chl_0077Says Rabourdin: “In the free market, in a free republic, we say to citizens, ‘Feel free to create and to prosper. We will, as a government, only stop you if you commit a crime. We’re not the ones who reward you either. We are only here to do justice.’” 

But he says the French Revolution Ideologue – and today’s Socialist – is there to educate citizens about the “correct” way to work, the “correct” way to contract work relationships with others, the “correct” way to decide of salaries, etc.

vendean-fleeing-2-chl_9542-copy“So they had, and still have today, a plan for micromanaging human life,” Rabourdin continues. “It is in the DNA of their ideology. It’s why they want to take charge of the education of children. It’s why they try to outlaw home schooling. It’s why today we feel the oppression of political correctness. It’s oppressive because they attempt to reach into the smallest actions of our lives: actions such as what words we must use when we address a woman or a man.”

As viewers will see “the mob in the French Revolution had power in the streets almost as strong as the army had.” Similarly today, Rabourdin says, the media and educators have some people so converted to a socialist ideology that “their violence is barely veiled. They enforce intolerance against people of good will and Christians. Forgiveness is not a Socialist principle, but it is a Christian principle, which includes true tolerance.”

chl_8862Despite all the above, Rabourdin isn’t pessimistic. He says that today’s Catholics face a battle for hearts and minds, maybe even their own hearts and minds – just as they did during the French Revolution — and it won’t be won by “a sad version of Christianity.”

Instead, he says: “This is a healthy alert for us to stop being lazy culturally and to invest in education, with a lot more good colleges than we have now. Also, to produce a lot more writers, movie producers and even musicians. Because the Reign of Terror in 1793 did not start at the beginning of that year. It started culturally with people like Descartes a century earlier. They were novelists, very good writers. They could seduce the hearts and minds – and that took time.”

chl_8678He also believes this is a time when Catholics need to do a better job of re-learning the social teachings of the Church; teachings such as subsidiarity. “By this we mean that if a ‘lower’ level of society, like the family, can do a job well, such as educating children, the higher level of society, like the city, must not do the job of the family. What the city or the government can do is to help the family to do its job well with such things as tax breaks and allowing families to make their own decisions about how they want to educate their children. This is the alternative to the micro-management of top-down socialism.”

chl_8942In 1801, after seven years of terror, Napoleon would eventually sign an agreement with the Pope admitting that Catholicism was the religion of most of the French people and declaring that they were again free to publicly practice their religion. Nevertheless, to this day, church buildings in France remain property of the state. Rabourdin said the school system also remains “extremely anti-clerical so the young have been indoctrinated against the Faith and many other things for 200 hundred years now. It’s not surprising then that only 4% of the population still practice the faith.”

chl_9787Says Rabourdin: “I came to America because there is more freedom here for a man of good will; double that for a man who is Christian. But I can see the signs that America is becoming like France now. And I speak of the France affected by the excesses of the French Revolution. It’s still up to us to have a better society. We should never give up the fight. We should do it in peace,” he says, “but do it!”

NOTE: To purchase a DVD, stream the full-length version of this program or bring it to your church, please visit www.hiddenrebellion.com.

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EWTN’s New Mini-Series Reveals The Real Truth About ‘The Inquisition’

Were you taught that the Inquisition was a series of events fueled by religious fanaticism and rife with cruelty and terror? If so, prepare to be surprised by the truth of what really happened. Get the facts when EWTN premieres “The Inquisition,” an original four-part docudrama co-produced by EWTN, Stefano Mazzeo, and Lux Communication.

cardinal-inquisitor-at-prayerThe mini-series airs 9:30 p.m. ET, Wednesday through Saturday, Oct. 26-29. The Wednesday airing will be preceded by a special “EWTN Live” interview at 8 p.m. ET with Producer, Writer, and Director Stefano Mazzeo, and Professor Thomas F. Madden, chair of the Department of History at St. Louis University, both of whom EWTN viewers will remember from their work on a previous blockbuster mini-series: “The Crusades.”

inquisition-2-img_3077“The mini-series features live action drama sequences and interviews with leading historians and churchman to reveal the truth about one of the most misunderstood periods in Church history,” said EWTN President & COO Doug Keck, who served as Executive Producer of the series. “There were, in fact, multiple “inquisitions” in different countries over the centuries, including the widely misunderstand Spanish Inquisition.”

Filmed on location in six European countries and beautifully scored by Chorus Salvatoris, the mini-series takes on myths and heresies that are prevalent even today – as well as the real reason Galileo got into trouble!

inquisition-with-cardinalFor example, did you know that many misrepresentations about the Spanish Inquisition were developed over four centuries ago by Protestant Northern Europe as part of a propaganda campaign against the Catholic Church? Producer Mazzeo says that Spain was the Catholic superpower of the age and the Protestant countries needed a stick with which to attack Spain and the Catholic Church in order to cement the Reformation and secure the loyalty of their converts. In other words, they needed to give people a reason not to want to be Catholic! Of course, that’s not the only reason. There was also the fact that England and Spain were locked in a battle over land in the New World, and more.

What most people don’t know is that “[t]he Spanish Inquisition was set up to deal with Jews and Muslims who were converting to gain social standing and power, not [because they believed in the faith],” Mazzeo said.

actors-who-played-the-inquisitionsThe problem is that these fake Catholics were introducing heresies and immorality into the Church. “The main reason for the Inquisition was [to help insure] that everyone would go to heaven,” Mazzeo continued, which is one reason only those who had been baptized were tried. “They did not want people to lose their souls. [Many will be surprised to learn that] while heresy was a crime punishable by death by the state, “the clerics of the Inquisition were forbidden to engage in torture or even to pronounce the death penalty!”

In fact, secular “justice” in the 16th Century was so cruel that, in England, many Catholics were being tried and executed for simply being Catholics. By inquisition-3-crucifix-from-avila-cathedralcontrast, in countries that had an Inquisition in place, many prisoners in secular prisons blasphemed in order to be transferred and tried by Inquisitors because they were much more lenient.

Yet myths about Spanish torture and cruelty – which the Spanish called “the black legend” – abound. So how did the black legend get started? Those expelled from the country for infiltrating the Church with their heresies began to use the printing press to write lies about the Spanish. Today, Mazzeo said, new “black legends” are being created by the modern secular media and some are still aimed at the Catholic Church.

the-scribe“The way Pope Pius XII is treated is a black legend,” Mazzeo said. “The Crusades was a black legend of the Enlightenment period. Today, militant secularists create black legends that the Church is anti-women. For example, the witch craze hysteria that swept Protestant Northern Europe in the Early Modern Era saw thousands of women being executed on hearsay of or the testament of a jealous neighbor. In Catholic countries, where the Inquisition was in place, if someone was accused of things like sleeping with the Devil or flying, the Inquisitors became very skeptical; they were university-trained canon lawyers and theologians!”

When EWTN asked Mazzeo to create a mini-series about the Inquisition for EWTN, he said, “I wanted to look into why this has such a bad reputation. Why can’t people see it for what it really is? What surprised me was how in favor of the Inquisition I became.”

Please take note of this series and share it with your friends. It’s television worth seeing!


Posted in Catholic History, Christian persecution, Culture of Death, Religion, Spanish, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

This Year’s Must See Film: EWTN’s ‘A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing’

22-saul-alinsky Why is political discourse so bad right now? How have Christian beliefs, particularly Catholic beliefs, and those who hold them come to be reviled by so many in the secular culture? Where did political correctness, gender conflict, gender confusion — and so many other aspects of the Culture of Death — come from?

The answer to these, and many other questions, can be found in the EWTN Original Documentary “A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing,” a chilling look at the impact of Community Activist Saul Alinsky, whose “Rules for Radicals” still wields a huge influence on American culture – and the world. If you missed the premiere of this blockbuster event, then tune in at 10:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, Oct. 1 for the encore, which EWTN is bringing back by popular demand!

A special “EWTN Live” episode, in which Fr. Mitch Pacwa interviews “Wolf” Producers Richard and Stephen Payne of Arcadia Films, will also encore in the hour leading up to the documentary (9:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, Oct. 1). This film is especially interesting because EWTN’s Fr. Mitch is interviewed in this film about his own experience with Alinksy’s tactics.

saul-alinsky_lrg_parallax_4500x2531As a young novice, Fr. Mitch – like most of us — had no idea what Alinsky-style community organizing was all about until he, and several other novices, were assigned to a Chicago parish that just happened to have two priests trained in the technique. These priests wanted to stop the violence between the Hispanic, Black and Italian gangs and touted Alinskyian style organizing as a way to do this.

Notice that the goal is worthy. Father Mitch says Catholics are particularly vulnerable to these techniques because our faith teaches us to help others. Unfortunately, Alinsky’s community organizers use Marxist techniques that call for someone or some group to be cast as an “enemy” who must be isolated and demonized. They are taught to treat people not as individuals but as symbols.

Father Mitch notes that the Catholic faith, in contrast, teaches the importance of “solidarity” and respect for the individual. As most Catholics who were around when Poland achieved its freedom from Communist rule and the Berlin Wall fell, Pope St. John Paul II was a particularly strong proponent of solidarity.

Alinsky further teaches: “The end justifies almost any means. All effective actions require a passport of morality. You do what you can and clothe it in moral garments. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Make the enemy live up to its own rules. Moral rationalization is indispensable at times of action, whether to justify the selection or the use of ends and means.”

10504116-standardYou’ll have to tune in to find out what happened in that Chicago parish, but suffice it to say that Father Mitch personally witnessed the execution of a former gang member – as a result of this demonization and stirring up of “enmities” with the goal of trying to help people – which had a profound effect on him.

And that’s another part of the problem. When people work in “solidarity” with one another, great things can happen. But even when these community organizers win the battle – and they often do – they lose the war.

“Even in the communities where there has been Alinskyian organizing, do we see less racism? Or, do we see more polarization?” asks Alinsky Biographer Stephanie Block. “Do we see less poverty, or are there problems with poverty greater now? There’s a real good argument that they’re greater.”

Block also notes that Alinksy “may have had a utopian vision, but what he’s laying out is a situation whereby it has to create the very unrest and disparities that he would say he’s trying to fight against.”

As the film shows, Alinksy was a socialist who utilized Marxist theory; a student Machiavelli’s book, “The Prince;” and an activist who spoke admiringly of Communists as being on the right side of things.

rochester_rallyFor many Catholics, it will be enough to know that this Community Organizer dedicated his most influential work, “Rules for Radicals,” to Lucifer. You read that right. His dedication reads: “Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgement of the very first radical who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom, Lucifer.”

Alinsky’s supporters make light of this, but unfortunately this was not the only time this Community Organizer expressed his admiration for the dark side. In a “Playboy” interview, a few weeks before he died, the film tells us that Alinsky said: “If there is an afterlife, and I have anything to say about it, I will unreservedly choose to go to hell. Hell would be heaven to me. … Once I get into hell, I’ll start organizing the ‘have nots’ over there with a smile. They’re my kind of people.”

Alinsky did not work in a vacuum. As the film notes, he was helped by “the great tsunami wave of European cultural Marxism that would sweep over post-World War II America and empower him in organizing what St. Pope John Paul II termed, the Culture of Death.” Key members of a Marxist institution known as the Institute for Social Research, which was brought to the U.S. from Europe after World War II, “developed ‘critical theory’ as a strategy to change, revolutionize, and bring down America by criticizing it.”

People from the Institute also developed “what we now call political correctness” as well as the “sexual revolution, the search for pleasure.” As the film also points out, “Critical theory exploited the differences between the sexes to excite gender conflict. It exploited their commonalities to incite gender confusion.”

jim-morlino-saul-alinskyNorman Thomas, America’s Socialist Party candidate in the 1940s once said: “The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism. But under the name liberalism they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program until one day America will be a socialist nation without knowing how it happened.”

Watch this film. Become aware of their tactics. Do not be deceived.

And always remember what Jesus taught: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” (MT 7:15-16)

Posted in Catholic, Christian, Christian persecution, Culture of Death, Religious, religious freedom, religious persecution, TV | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

From Solid Catholic Country To Mission Territory: Lessons from Sweden

Sweden Enanger, Halsingland another amazing inside imageIf you were to see a brochure from a Catholic travel company advertising a trip to a country with some of the world’s most gorgeous medieval Catholic churches, a roster of legendary saints, and a spring of healing water, what country would you suppose they were promoting? France? Portugal? We’re going to guess that Sweden would not be one of the countries that came to mind – and with good reason!

After all, this is a country where only 1.5% of the population is Catholic. A country with only one Catholic bishop and a smattering of traveling Catholic priests to cover 44 parishes. A country in which a European court ruled that a woman may not become a midwife unless she is willing to participate in an abortion.

But this wasn’t always so!Sweden Enanger, Halsingland wow inside image

“During medieval times, Sweden was a very developed Catholic country, especially after St. Brigid’s death until the Reformation,” says Ulf Silfverling, Executive Editor of Katolsk Observator, one of a small number of magazines for Swedish Catholics. “We have a treasure trove of well-preserved medieval churches with fantastic alfresco paintings where you can almost see the whole Bible. What this tells us about the Catholic faith in Sweden is not well-known, even among Europeans!”

Sweden Njutanger, Halsingland women statuesSilfverling, who recently visited EWTN in the hopes of starting a Catholic television station in his country, has made it his mission to find and photograph Sweden’s amazing Catholic past in the hopes of restoring its Catholic future.

Silfverling says that the prejudiced secular media likes to portray Catholicism as a backward immigrant church which is only now arriving on their shores. Yet he has thousands of photographs to back up his claim that the Catholic Church was an integral part of his country’s history. So what happened?

“We didn’t have Napoleon or the French revolution,” he says. “We didn’t have the first and second World Wars so a lot of the medieval art and architecture was preserved.” Instead, there was the Reformation and what Silfverling calls “the great secularization.”

Sweden Enanger, Halsingland mother mary again frescoAs a consequence of the Reformation, Silfverling says “the King commanded that church frescoes be whitewashed;” in other cases, frescoes on church walls were destroyed when windows were installed. While Silfverling says the people didn’t want to do this, they did. Fortunately, the whitewash ended up protecting the images, as did the fact that most of these churches had no heat.

The churches themselves were taken over by the Church of Sweden, a branch of Lutheranism. Fortunately, they did not destroy all the statues. Instead, they placed some of them in church basements.

Catholics today would be amazed to visit Sweden’s beautiful medieval “Lutheran” churches. Says Silfverling: “Most Lutherans would not be comfortable with the saints and Mary, yet Swedish churches are filled with such images. They don’t know what a tabernacle is so they put a stone or a candle inside. But we have Lutheran churches with votive lights!”

Sweden Njutanger, Halsingland altarLike the Catholic Church, Sweden’s Lutheran Church has experienced a great decline in numbers; Silfverling also says it has become very secularized. “It’s more or less a social institution,” he said. “Most Lutherans here only go to church for weddings and funerals.”

Yet many of them hunger to know God and they are turning to the Catholic Church to find Him. How does Silfverling know that? Because most of the readers of the Katolsk Obervator, Silfverling’s magazine, are Lutheran! “There is an interest in the Catholic faith and life among many who formerly belonged to the Lutheran Church,” he says.

Sweden Enanger, Halsingland another gorgeous insideMeanwhile, it is Catholics like Silfverling who keep the Church and her history alive. In addition to the great St. Brigid and the recently canonized St. Mother Elizabeth, Silfverling delights in telling the stories of lesser known Swedish Catholic saints like St. Botvid and St. Romfar – saints whose histories help tell the story of Catholicism in Sweden.

For example, St. Botvid converted to Catholicism following a trip to England. After his return to Sweden, the future saint began preaching and baptizing, much to the consternation of many of his countrymen. Eventually, a servant killed him. Although St. Botvid was buried in a small, out-of-the-way church, his brother vowed to honor him by building a much larger church in his name, which can still be seen on the road to Stockholm.

Sweden Enanger, Halsingland statue on wallHere’s where things get interesting. Silfverling said he was told that once that larger church was built, St. Botvid’s remains had to be exhumed and his coffin carried to the new church. However, the coffin was too heavy to carry without the pallbearers resting the casket on the ground. This they did, exactly two kilometers from the old church. According to Swedish oral tradition, which is very strong, a spring of pure, clean, cold water immediately gushed from the ground. As in Lourdes, France, many healings reportedly occurred when people walked into these waters.

Silfverling wondered if this was true so he went looking for this spring using the exact measurements he was given. Lo and behold, he found that spring! However, because there are no signs, most visitors would never discover it.

Sweden Njutanger, Halsingland outside of churchSilfverling also loves telling the story of St. Romfar. Although some of the stories about this 13th Century Swede may be the stuff of legends, they convey a sense of who this man was to his countrymen. St. Romfar was converted abroad and became a priest. It is said that he returned to Sweden with a beautiful chalice. Because his would-be parishioners were not yet Christianized, Father Romfar feared the chalice would be stolen. So he announced: “Whoever steals this will be hanged.” Some days later, the chalice was stolen. When the priest questioned the people, they told him to look in his backpack. It was there and so, the story goes, they hanged him. Today, in Sweden, there is beautiful church named after St. Romfar, as well as an association.

Sweden Enanger, Halsingland really beautiful inside part of churchA few weeks ago, Silfverling traveled all the way to Irondale, Alabama from Sweden with his wife. His initial goal is to start an EWTN affiliate in his country. Even though EWTN provides extensive satellite coverage, relatively few cable TV operators in Europe carry the Network as they consider that, in the highly secularized environment which prevails in Western Europe, Catholic religious programming would have a very limited following.

“Such is the case in the Nordic countries where Christians of many traditions have been falling away from their faith,” Silfverling said. “However, with many Catholic immigrants coming to live in the Nordic countries, and the increasing interest in Catholicism, we founded the Saint Romfar Association (SRA) whose sole purpose is to provide a Swedish “node” for making a selection of EWTN programs subtitled in the Swedish language available either by broadcast and/or through its website. We also plan to produce programs, news, interviews, and liturgy at the local level for viewers in Sweden, and also in other countries, Sweden Njutanger, Halsingland entire altarwho want to know more about how Catholics in Sweden are living out their faith.”

We wish Silfverling much success and hope he succeeds in bringing more Catholics to his homeland.

“There’s a lot for a Catholic to discover,” he said, “if only you know where to look!”

For more information about EWTN in Sweden, please visit https://sanktromfar.se/in-english/. For guided tours of “Catholic” Sweden, please email info@pilgrimtravels.se.


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From the NFL to Serving the Homeless: ‘Icons Spotlight’ Explores Transformation in Lives of Young Adults Who Encounter Christ!

CFR Brothers Innocent and Angelus at EWTN just before pre-taping an episode of "EWTN Live."

CFR Brothers Innocent and Angelus at EWTN to pre-tape an episode of “EWTN Live.”

“Now, more than ever, the world will only believe teachers who are witnesses. That’s especially true of young people. It’s been our experience that you can’t just get up and give a talk. The words bounce off of them. But if you first spent an hour with [young people] and give witness, their hearts are moved immediately.”


Your eyes do not deceive you! These friars are actually twins, who know each other so well, they can and do complete each other's sentences!

Your eyes do not deceive you! These friars are actually twins, who know each other so well, they can and do complete each other’s sentences!

These are the words of Brothers Innocent and Angelus, CFR friars and twins, who know each other so well they can – and do – complete each other’s sentences! The two young friars, whom you may have seen on “Sunday Night Prime,” are in town pre-taping an upcoming “EWTN Live” show focusing on a mini-series of three specials they just completed for EWTN called “Icons Spotlight.” Father Mitch’s interview with this dynamic duo airs 8 p.m. ET, Wednesday, June 15 on “EWTN Live.” Then, tune in for Episodes 1-3, which air 9:30 p.m. ET, Wednesday through Friday, June 15-18, on EWTN.

Former NFL Eric Mahl

Former NFL Player Eric Mahl gave up his football career to serve the homeless.

For their three specials, the friars decided to look for youth to whom the audience could not only relate, but who had obviously encountered Christ. Episode 1 spotlights Eric Mahl, a former NFL player who had an experience of Christ that led him to give up everything to serve the homeless – a tough man whose depth of compassion for the homeless will move you to tears.


Nathan and Monica adopted a child with special needs.

Nathan and Monica adopted a child with special needs.

Episode 2 really switches things up when the spotlight shifts to Nathan and Monica, a couple who couldn’t have their own children so they adopted a baby – with special needs.

“When their adopted child Caiden is brought out, we have this moment. They are a family; we know God’s mercy is here,” Brother Innocent said. “It’s just really beautiful!”



Carmen Casterion helps legal immigrants connect with their U.S. sponsors.

Episode 3 features Carmen Casterion, a missionary with Corazon Puro (Pure Heart), a CFR apostolate that partners with Catholic Charities to help refugees who legally immigrate to the U.S. Carmen, a lively young woman from the Bronx, helps families, or sometimes a single child, get a shower, clothes and food and then find their way to the American family who is sponsoring them.

“Basically what we need to be as Catholics is icons of God’s mercy,” Brother Angelus said. “We hope the way these young people are living these works of mercy will give our audience hope that, if they can do it, we can too!”

If you like what you see, please check out www.Iconsmedia.org to find out how you can support these friars in their quest to film many more episodes of “Icons Spotlight!”

Posted in Uncategorized, Young Adults, Youth | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In ‘Discovering Damien’, EWTN’s New Special, We Discover Our Best Selves

View of cliffs St. Damien summited once a week from Kaluapapa and Kalawao to the rest of Molokai

St. Damien climbed these cliffs once a week as he traveled to leper colonies from Kaluapapa and Kalawao to the rest of Molokai.

What if we could see suffering as a gift?

Leprosy – or what we now call Hansen’s disease – is one of the most dreaded diseases of all time. Before a cure was discovered, those who contracted the disease, no matter how young, were separately from their families and banished in places such as Molokai, which is one of Hawaii’s islands.

“There was no infrastructure. No buildings. No way to care for them. No religious presence. There was sexual abuse of the young and a lot of drunk and disorderly conduct. People figured, ‘We’re already here. What are you going to do to us?’”

Sunday Mass on the beach in Molokai 8

Father Nathan, who led the pilgrimage of young adults who wished to follow in the footsteps of St. Damien, celebrates Mass on the beach in Molokai.

The speaker is Jeremy Rivera, director and producer of the EWTN special, “Discovering Damien: Saint of Molokai.” (Airs 10 p.m. ET, Tuesday, May 10, his feast day, and 11 p.m. ET, Saturday, May 14.) You know him from his previous work with EWTN: “Seek: The Experience” and “You’re Amazing with Justin Fatica.”

“Molokai was like going to jail for a crime you didn’t commit,” Rivera continues. “What a beautiful prison it was; a paradise surrounded by 2,000 foot wall cliffs. There was one trail up. An armed guard was ordered to shoot anyone trying to escape.”

All Participants at Volcano National Park 3

Father Nathan and the young adults you will meet in the EWTN special “Discovering Damien: Saint of Molokai.”

In this EWTN special, Rivera follows 20 young adults, led by Fr. Nathan Cromly, CSJ, on a pilgrimage to Hawaii and Molokai. These youth wished to walk in the footsteps of St. Damien in order to discover who he was.

Father Nathan working with camera crew on Mauna Loa

“Discovering Damien” Pilgrimage Leader Father Nathan works with the camera crew on Mauna Loa, one of five volcanoes that make up the Island of Hawaii.

Fr. Damien was born in Belgium on Jan. 3, 1840. He was ordained a priest in 1864 in Honolulu and served there for nine years. In 1873, he and three other priests volunteered to go to Molokai. The priests were supposed to rotate. Fr. Damien was selected to go first, but when he heard that the patients on Molokai had rejoiced at getting a “permanent priest,” he announced that he would not be returning to the big island of Hawaii.

If given this assignment, where would you begin? Fr. Damien wanted to restore his patients’ dignity and to increase their respect for one another so he started a Christian burial association. “People would die along the side of the road and no one would bury them,” Rivera said. “Fr. Damien thought if he could help people honor each other in their death, they would treat each other a little better in their life.”

Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Catholic Church built by St. Damien in 1874 10

Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Catholic Church, erected in 1874, is one of four churches St. Damien built on Molokai.

Father Damien built churches, hospitals, and schools. He even started a band. He also ordered clothing for the boys and girls. Once a year, a boat would come and drop off needed supplies. But how could he afford this?

Rivera says money came in from everywhere thanks, in part, to a most unlikely source: the famous poet, Robert Louis Stevenson, who was suffering from tuberculosis. Stevenson came to Molokai for eight days and stayed with Fr. Damien taking no precautions. Stevenson would say the experience renewed his faith.

View of cliffs St. Damien summited once a week from Kaluapapa and Kalawao to the rest of Molokai 2

The cliffs of Molokai were a beautiful prison which helped keep exiles suffering from leprosy, now known as Hansen’s disease, from leaving the island. They are said to be the tallest in the world.

Rivera says Fr. Damien never had to ask for money; others did it for him. But while Fr. Damien was helping others, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, who was helping him?

Says Rivera: “Once or twice a year, the neighboring island priest would come in a boat. Fr. Damien would wade out into the water and shout his sins to the priest. The humility!”

So what do you think Fr. Damien thought of the life he had chosen? Says Rivera: “I said a little prayer to him before this interview. I asked what he would want me to say? I think he would have said, ‘I would never have thought of this on my own. I was just the vessel to introduce the rest of the world to these beautiful souls that everyone else had discarded.’ He wouldn’t want the attention on him as much as on being the door to these people who were suffering and dying of a terrible disease.”

St. Damien statue in St. Philomen Church built by St. Damien in Kalawao- exile leper colony

This statue of St. Damien can be found in St. Philomena Church, which was built by St. Damien for the Kalawao leper colony.

Rivera said Robert Louis Stevenson’s visit completely transformed his vision of the lepers. Rivera recalls that St. Francis kissed a leper and that transformed him, and he remembers the example of Blessed Mother Teresa, who famously said, “I wouldn’t touch a leper for a thousand pounds. Yet I willingly care for him for the love of God.”

“It’s interesting how God can change our perspective and vision of suffering because these souls truly were beautiful!” Rivera said.

Father Damien contracted leprosy in 1885 and died Oct. 11, 1889. But Rivera says his is not a sad story.

Many directors hope their films will be motivational or inspirational. Rivera hopes “Discovering Damien” will be transformational.

Father Nathan celebrating Mass Day 1 at Volcano National Park

Father Nathan celebrates Mass at Volcano National Park.

“I want people to come away different. I want them to connect with their heart – and ask culturally relevant questions.”

As part of Rivera’s next project for EWTN, he will travel to Ireland to discover St. Patrick.

“St. Patrick faced atheism and paganism, much like we see today,” he said. “St. Damien, St. Patrick, and all the saints challenge us in our own day and age. They are really not that different. They speak to us.”

If only we will listen.


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St. Catherine of Siena: A Saint for Our Time

St. Catherine of Siena by Elisabetta Valgiusti 15She is one of the most important figures in Church history – one of only four female doctors out of the 36 doctors of the Church. Yet St. Catherine of Siena, a 14th Century mystic, was only 24 when she began her public mission, which lasted just eight years. Despite living at a time when most women were regarded as little more than chattel, she managed to accomplish things that seemed impossible for anyone, much less a female.

This spiritual dynamo also happens to be the subject of new EWTN docu-drama “St. Catherine of Siena” by Writer/Producer/Director Elisabetta Valgiusti, who is well-known to EWTN audiences for her courageous documentaries on religious persecution around the world. (Airs 10 p.m. ET, Sunday, April 24; 5 a.m. ET, Thursday, April 28; 10 a.m. ET, Friday, April 29; and 1 a.m. ET, Saturday, April 30.)

“How alive she was!” says Valgiusti. “She could do things that look impossible for a woman at that time – and also this time! She was not even a nun; she was a lay person – and young! She reminds me of Mother Angelica. St. Catherine of Siena by Elisabetta Valgiusti 19She had the skill, the capacity to dare to keep going, to face obstacles and form some kind of strategy. There were a lot of failures, a lot of problems, but she kept going.”

Catherine spent her childhood and youth in Siena doing works of mercy. But the Lord eventually revealed to her that He would be sending her to speak to Kings and Popes in His name. Catherine’s extensive travels included France, where she went to convince the Pope to return to Rome, and many other places. “I tried to keep that in my program because I think it shows much she was guided by the Holy Spirit,” Valgiusti said. “It was a mission to save souls. Even when she was speaking to [political figures at high levels], she had in mind the salvation of souls and service to the Lord and to the Church.”

Valgiusti used two actresses to portray Catherine – one portrays Catherine as a young girl who spent much time in prayer, and another portrays St. Catherine by Elisabetta Valgiusti 4Catherine as a young woman whose active life, powered by the Holy Spirit, made such a difference in the world.

Fr. Thomas McDermott, O.P., who wrote the book, “St. Catherine of Siena: Spiritual Development in Her Life and Teaching,” served as the theological consultant to the docu-drama. “Father McDermott makes the importance of St. Catherine’s teachings clear,” Valgiusti says.

In addition, Valgiusti scored an interview with the Metropolitan Archbishop of Siena, H. E. Msgr. Antonio Buoncristiani. The Archbishop provides an important perspective on the spirituality of the Sienese saint and her role in the history and culture of the city, and explains that, even today, the city of Siena is committed to keeping the life and works of this important doctor of the Church alive.

St. Catherine of Siena by Elisabetta Valgiusti 9In fact, that’s a theme of many of St. Catherine’s many supporters. As Valgiusti traveled to Siena, Genoa, Florence, Rome, Varazze, and to the famous Lecceto Monastery during filming, she was struck by just how much St. Catherine’s witness resonates with people around the world today.

She found that St. Catherine’s spirit lives on in an order dedicated to her in Mosul, Iraq, which is now under occupation by the Islamic State. During the filming, Valgiusti interviewed a religious sister who formerly resided in one of the 19 convents in the now occupied territory. “I made one of the sisters’ witness to what happened to them,” she said.

She also discovered a wonderful chorus of 20 nuns from the Lecceto Monastery in Tuscany, which St. Catherine used to visit, and which today is home to an order of Augustinian nuns. Viewers will hear some of their beautiful singing in the film. Valgiusti was especially thrilled to be able to include magnificent pieces of sacred music composed by Rev. Father Valentino Miserachs, Maestro of the Liberiana Chappel of St. Maria Maggiore Basilica in Rome in the docu-drama.

Finally, Valgiusti discovered that St. Catherine’s spirit lives on in the City of Varazze, which was freed from the Black Plague, also known as the Black St. Catherine of Siena by Elisabetta Valgiusti 7Death and the Bubonic Plague, thanks to St. Catherine’s intercession. Valgiusti found that even today the citizens of Varazze host an annual parade, complete with costumes, in which St. Catherine’s life and the miracles associated with her are recounted.

“In my docu-drama, I try to give a sense of a devotion that is alive,” Valgiusti says.

St. Catherine’s witness extends to the filmmaker herself. Even though Valgiusti is known for her intrepid adventures to the Middle East and Africa, where Christians today suffer so much, she says she marvels at the things St. Catherine was able to do and the places she was able to go. In completing this film, and in planning her future itinerary, Valgiusti says simply: “St. Catherine always gives me some courage.”

So what does Valgiusti hope viewers take away from this film?

“I’d like for them to be inspired to know more about St. Catherine,” she said. “She left her masterpiece “The Dialogue,” 26 prayers, and 381 letters. Many letters have been translated. There are books like Father McDermott’s. He also has a beautiful website about St. Catherine, http://www.drawnbylove.com.

“St. Catherine faced some of the same problems we do: the political situation, the situation in the church, the poverty, the salvation of souls,” Valgiusti continued. “If you follow her, you can grow and also be helped in your personal spiritual way of believing.”


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