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 For guided tours of “Catholic” Sweden, please email


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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 to find out how you can support these friars in their quest to film many more episodes of “Icons Spotlight!”

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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,

“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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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,

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

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, 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,, while the series is expected to be available shortly after it airs.

Posted in afterlife, Catholic, EWTN, Heaven | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 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

Also, for more information about yoga and other New Age practices, check out Sue’s blog posts for “Women of Grace” at

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