Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Catholics suddenly hot in the media. On Monday, I published an interview with Alyssa Bormes, author of a new book called The Catechism of Hockey. The very next day comes a report that the Missouri-based contemplative nuns Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles have collectively been named Billboard Magazine’s Classical Traditional Artist 2012 and 2013. Then comes word that MTVU (MTV’s college channel) has named Pope Francis as its 2013 Man of the Year. And today, Time Magazine announces Pope Francis as its choice for Person of the Year. If this keeps up, we Catholics are going to have to stop complaining about anti-Catholic media bias.

A conversation with Turk Pipkin. Yesterday, I gave a positive review to Angels Sing. I called the film (now out on DVD, iTunes and VOD) which I called “a charming and genuinely touching tale of the importance of family love and of forgiveness (including self-forgiveness). And, indeed, it is. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Turk Pipkin who, besides having a supporting role in the film, is the author of When Angels Sing: A Christmas Story, the bestselling book upon which the film is based.

JWK: So, tell me about the journey of When Angels Sing — from book to movie.

TURK PIPKIN: I wrote the novel When Angels Sing which the movie is based upon and (it’s been) a long haul from when the book first came out — it was a bestseller with Algonquin Books — to finally getting the movie made with this kind of dream cast — Harry Connick and Willie Nelson and all the other great performers. So, I’ve been aboard since Day One. We’ve shortened the title of the book…to Angels Sing for the movie.

JWK: Can you recount the plot for our readers?

TP: Absolutely…Angels Sing is the story of a guy named Michael Walker played by Harry Connick, Jr., He is a great dad, a family man. He lives in Austin, Texas where we shot this film. He has one sort of great failing in his life. He really doesn’t like Christmas. He comes across kind of just as your typical Grinch I guess but as it turns out as Christmas comes near we learn a little bit more about why he doesn’t like Christmas. He has some very good reasons to. I think, in many ways, it’s about what defines family and also what some of us have to give up as individuals for those that we love. It’s very much a family Christmas movie.

JWK: How did the idea for the story come to you?

TP: I wrote this story originally for my children. I have two daughters. When they were a little bit younger, (as a) writer, I wanted to give them something special for Christmas that they would always remember. So, I started working on a Christmas story. It grew and grew and the next thing I knew I had written this book. It was first published in the spirit of being just for the family. There were just fifty hand-bound copies of the book the first year and they were underneath the Christmas tree for my kids and I sent the other copies to other family members and some close friends.

(It’s) a great story of how it got published. One of the books went to my friend Peter Workman, a publisher in New York. I had done a couple of books with him and I just sent him one as a Christmas present. He called me up on Christmas morning and said “Wow! I just read this book!” ’cause it’s a pretty fast read. You can read it in a couple of hours. (He said) “I just read it and I just loved it! Can I walk it…across the street to an editor at Algonquin Books?” And I said “Sure! That would be great!” So, later Algonquin published the book and it became a bestseller. It really went from just a little story for my family to a big success and I guess that proves the point that it’s hard to beat just (writing) what you think is right.

JWK: Besides being a writer and an actor, you’re also a co-founder of something called The Nobelity Project.

TP: That’s correct and good pronunciation because it’s the kind of thing where people kind of want to say “nobility.” We actually were founded by working with kind of an extended group of Nobel Laureates, including Bishop Desmond Tutu, looking at global problems and solutions to come up with ways to tell stories and show (that) maybe these problems aren’t so insurmountable as they often seem. We’ve made three feature films through The Nobelity Project. One is called Nobelity, another is called One Peace at a Time and another is just called Building Hope which is about a high school that we built with a community in Kenya. They’re all three very inspiring films.

TP: It’s a nice fit with Angels Sing because they’re very family oriented. We have school children of all ages who (are helped by) The Nobelity Project and their families, as well. Angels Sing does not have a national partnership with The Nobelity Project but we do have a national partnership with Ronald McDonald House, the great family-oriented charity that serves families and kids in need when kids are in hospitals.

JWK: How are you working with them?

TP: They have been strategic partners on screenings around the country…In New York City we (did) a screening at an AMC Theater that (was) a fundraiser for them. I think when you look at an (organization) that’s dealing with a family in the middle of a crisis, it’s hard to beat Ronald McDonald House. That’s really what they do. They help families in crisis situations.

JWK: What do you hope people who see the film take from it?

TP: Willie Nelson plays a guy in the movie who may or may not be St. Nick. So, Willie plays this great character and he forms a bond with Harry Connick, Jr.’s character and ends up selling them a really incredible house at a deal that makes it almost like a Christmas present from St. Nick. He tells Harry’s character at one point in the movie…that Christmas is what ties families together across generations and a lot of other really great thoughts about the nature of family and the (importance of) of remembering the good times and letting go of the hard times. Christmas is a hard time for a lot of people. They have this name — SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s only natural that something that we all find so special when we’re kids — and we find special for many reasons throughout our life, both religious and just family — (should stir up strong feelings). All of us have lost people that we love. Christmas is a time that we remember that they’re no longer with us. A lot of people who have seen the movie or read the book tell me that they used to kind of dread the coming of Christmas because they knew how it would hit them in some ways — and they’ve really sort of reset their thinking. (The story) helps them to see that it’s not about loss of what was. The true meaning of Christmas (is) about…the promise of the things to come. That applies, as we know, both from a religious point of view and a family point of view.

So, I hope people will come away from the movie with a smile on their face and a big smile on their heart too.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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