Sunday, August 20, 2006

25 Years

The Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) celebrates its 25 anniversary this month. EWTN is the flagship of Catholic networks. So this is a big deal.

I have to say as far as great television is concerned EWTN has a ways to go. A lot of its shows are at best borderline, and quite a few of them are frankly lame. I remember they used to have a children's show in the late afternoon. A plump woman would sit in a rocking chaird, holidng a teddy bear while she interviewed someone. That "someone' was usually a skinny, scrofulous scholar with as much media appeal as Olive Oyl. I often wondered if anyone other than me was watching.

Then there's the Christmas music. A couple of years ago EWTN started featuring a little family singing group. Four or five sisters with their hands clasped, singing obscure motets. ( I used to sing them myself, so I say "obscure" with all due affection.) The trouble was a) they weren't especially good and b) with their long straight hair, mid-calf jumpbers and flat,s ensible shoes they looked like refugees from some Utah child marriage cult. If EWTN wanted to scream "We are not MTV" they couldn't have done it any louder.

But I just watched a special episode of "The Journey Home,' Marcus Grodi's weekly interview wtih people who found their was either into or back to the Church. This show has itsw ups and downs too; I guess it's hard to find enough interesting reverts (dont' get me started on converts, they can never shut up).

But tonight was different Tonight Marcus hosted-- get ready--


Yes. Dion DiMucci. Dion! "Runaround Sue"! "The Wanderer"! I am talking the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame here, people! I am talking music HISTORY!

But did they focus on Dion? God forbid. Dion shared the panel with two other reverts. One was that young bearded priest- what's his name, Father Sleeves-Rolled-Up- who hosts "Life On The Rock," an earnest but less-than-awesome show aimed at the sub- 30 set. The other was a radio apologist whose radio show is excellent, but whose TV personality is a little lackluster.

Even so, Dion was riveting. He had that Augustinian quality to him, that incredible genuineness, that reach-out-and-touch-him reality. And he had truly touching humility, as evidenced by the fact that he actually listened to those other guys, who weren't anywhere near as interesting as he was.

Over the past week there's been a lot of Cathoic radio time given to EWTN's anniversary, and what it means for Catholic media. The fact is Catholic media in general is pretty lame. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great that someone is on the air explaining the catechsm and the Scriptures. I listen to those shows all the time. I like learning. What I don't like is the "Glenn's Story Corner" schmaltz, or any of the other "how to give a lousy sermon" workshops.

If the powers that be at EWTN had any sense they would be down on their knees begging Dion to host a show for them. Just imagine the kind of interviews he could offer. He could go through the whole Hall of Fame roster. Dion was Class of '89. So were the Rolling Stones. So was Aretha if I'm not mistaken.

I bet they'd return Dion's phone callls.

Oh please, EWTN, get a clue. Sign Dion and I promise I might even send you money.

But you gotta ditch the teddy bear lady, too.


Sister Mary Martha said...

I like to watch the two priests that sit in front of computers and answer questions people ask. One is old and one is young.

I like to see if I can get the right answer before they do. It's like a game show for least in my head.

If I'm tired I put on Mother Angelica and her army of nuns praying the rosary. I can't afford presciption drugs like Ambien
Sister Mary Martha

Ray from MN said...

Dion was the class of '89? More like 59', wasn't it. I was '60.

I agree that EWTN has some lame programming. But being the only channel in the world for a billion Catholics and maybe hundreds of thousands of wannabees, they have to have a lot of basic stuff too. And they have to appeal to children, to the homebound, to families, to scholars, etc. No easy task.

They do have some good preachers. Father John Corapi and Father Larry Richards (radio only) I think are particularly good.

Some of their Q&A shows are good. Fathers Levis and Trigilio, who Sister Mary Martha likes, are very good because they aren't live, so you don't get the really lame questions from 12 year olds (which are important for 12 year old listeners, I'll admit).

One of the best things EWTN has is its library where you can download audio or video files and enjoy past shows at your convenience.

Sue said...

Ray- 89 refers to the year he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Ray from MN said...

Ah, yes Sue, if I had read it closer, I would have picked up on that. That sentence is my official motto that I'll have engraved on a tombstone one day.

I actually did see the Dion show and I was surprised at how great he was, especially compared to most guests.

The man sure has his faith and isn't afraid of expressing it. He could pack a tent every night just telling his story.

Most guys are like me, occasionally our story will slip out, but we're not crazy about telling it to just anybody.

But I like to watch the boring guests on The Journey Home if for no other reason is that they remind me that I do have a story and I should be telling it more often.

bearing said...

Don't get me started on "Glenn's Story Corner."

Joe said...

I am both smilin' and wincin' in recognition.



Veritas said...

As a 27 year old, with a vocation to the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, I can't say how sad I am to read this blog and some of the comments.

Here is a network built in the most ridiculous and unconventional manner in all media history, proof that the hand of God is what keeps it running, and all we can do is complain. O Israel, when will you learn!

My suggestion to all those who have better ideas for EWTN, is to contact the network and join its programming committee. Maybe God is calling you to make changes in programming... pray on it.

I for one was brought back into the Church by EWTN. I don't watch all the programs, but I support the network nonetheless, because Divine Providence may be converting a soul with a particular program that I'm not interested in (this song is not all about you, Carly Simon). What I may not like, maybe doing a world of good for another.

In the words of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta: "The Lord doesn't call us to be successful, but to be faithful". EWTN is faithful to Holy Mother Church, that's all I care about. Now, the way the TRUTH of the Church is presented is not my concern, as long as it's faithful.

I beg your prayers for my vocation.

Veritas said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sue said...

Yo, Veritas-

I gotta hand it to you, you are one certain guy. I personally would never have the nerve, not to mention the blasphemous bad taste, to call myself "truth." But since you're apparently an OT prophet ("O Israel"? For me? I'm flattered!) I guess you can afford to be certain.

"EWTN is fatihful to the truth, and that's all I care about." Good for you. Really. But a lot of people who watch TV and channel-surf care about good television, too. EWTN's staff will, I am certain, tell you themselves they are not reaching the audience they dream of, and there's a reason for that: with one or two exceptoinsits programs are dull and amateurish. That's OK, if all you want to do is preach to the choir- and maybe that's EWTN's goal. But if they want to "push out into the deep" where the really confused people are, they're going tohave to do better than "Super Saints."

I will be happy to pray for your vocation, provided you either a) stay away from the televison part or b) get thyself to film school pronto.- DIH

Anonymous said...

It's pathetic how unappreciative "modern" Catholics are of any orthodox effort to make public our faith. EWTN guided me back to the faith in a way that my parish at the time of my reversion couldn't– by offering solid Catholicism and examples of virtous Catholics from all walks of life. I needed good spiritual food and I found it on EWTN– no cafeteria Catholicism here!

The Journey Home is a particularly inspiring show because it shows converts and reverts– the most interesting Catholics to listen to because they are so unfashionably zealous and sincere in their testimonies. They are truly authentic people who are not afraid of becoming the targets of cheap shots from the fashionistas of the Catholic Lite persuation.

God bless Mother Angelica and all the other unfashionable Catholics on EWTN who want to grow in holiness when holiness is perceived as a boring virtue by many. I want to be boring but happy in Heaven instead of fashionable in this synthetic and insincere society of ours.

Martin in Miami

Anonymous said...

Hey Sue,
Now I know why you're a desperate Irish housewife. You desperately need a life in Christ!

Martin in Miami

Sue said...


Take a few deep breaths there, buddy. All that weather's getting to you.

Do you really thing there's such a thing as "boring but happy in heaven"? I don't. Unless you find God boring...

You cannot affect the culture if you cannot engage it. You can't spread the word if you can't catch anyone's ear. EWTN, like I said, preaches to the choir- in other words, not the culture at large. So it can't affect the broader culture.

EWTN clearly has a powerful effect on you- but then, as a solid defender of "boring" you're the perfect audience for it. As for me I dream of a day when Catholic TV is better, in every sense of the word, than its commercial counterpart.

Veritas said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Veritas said...

By the way, I'm not calling myself nor what I say TRUTH, I'm calling the Magisterium of the Church, preached on EWTN, TRUTH.

Sue said...

Veritas- comment deleted on account of its author clearly has his head too far up his sanctimonious butt.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sue said...

You called it, Marty. Boring is the reason.

GK said...

This is all good stuff. Don't be so harsh on each other. It isn't worth it.

I like Life on the Rock and EWTN Live. I know EWTN Live is boring but it brings home some information that I do not get any where else on the TV.

But, I wouldn't worry about EWTN needing to reach the culture. Everyone gets tired of the culture at some time. I mean there is only so much MTV and Desperate Housewives and American Idle you can take. Eventually every person looks for something deeper.

Sure, EWTN could use some spice but heck. The Desperate Irish Housewife is watching it. Must be something there.

I'll pray we can all just get along and EWTN gets a boat load of money to pay for more splashy programming. Money has power. It is hard to find someone to give boatloads to EWTN.