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.

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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

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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.”

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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, 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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