Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 04/25/22
Get me a Catholic Harrison Ford! A Catholic priest, embarks on 2,500-mile pilgrimage with his skeptical, twenty-something children in an effort to convince them that seven ancient, mountain-top monasteries, which stretch across Europe to the Middle East in a perfectly straight line, represent an integrated spiritual system that has practical benefits to society today. The line of monasteries is named after an archangel and his weapon, St. Michael’s Sword.
With a synopsis that sounds like an ecclesiastical take on Indiana Jones, Angel Quest: Reconnecting with the Supernatural is actually a proposed hour-long television documentary hosted by Fr. Dwight Longenecker. The well-known Catholic priest, author, blogger and podcaster is also a South Carolina pastor – as well as a former Anglican priest who served as a school chaplain in Cambridge and country parson on the Isle of Wight before converting to Catholicism in 1995. Due to a wrinkle in Church law regarding such clerical conversions, he’s also married with children. In other words, he’s a fascinating real-life character.
From his days at Oxford, and later as an Anglican priest in England, Fr. Longenecker had long been interested in the sacred geographic alignment of the St. Michael monasteries. In his earlier years he backpacked across Europe to Israel and stayed at a few of the sites, talking with the monks who ran them. He also long lamented what he sees as modern culture’s moral decline and rejection of transcendent and supernatural truths that he believes has historically nurtured and given birth to human progress.
Believing that a connection with the supernatural through prayer and worship was responsible for the progress of civilization, he decided to conduct a pilgrimage to the seven monasteries. When he came up with the idea of chronicling his intercontinental family trek on film (expect a book as well), he turned to his friend, and veteran documentary filmmaker of 35 years, Stan Williams. While the movie already has interest from PBS, a BBC producer and EWTN, as is usual in the film business (emphasis on business), a journey of 2,500 miles begins with the first dollar. Hence, the following fundraising trailer. My Q&A with Stan Williams follows.
JWK: Why do you feel the story of these monasteries is important to tell?
Stan Williams: Monastic life during the last twenty centuries preserved every significant discipline of Western Civilization and made human progress possible. Against tyrannical overlords and barbarian invaders, the monks that inhabited these mountain-top sites, physically and spiritually protected and strengthened nearby villagers. They educated and advanced literacy, and scientific progress, helped communities avoid pestilence and famine. They made possible the age of enlightenment and reason. But, over the centuries, society missed something important – and misses still today. The rigorous age of reason and human advancement was made possibly by a supernatural cause—the Judeo-Christian worldview and its reliance on prayer and worship of the divine. Without that connection and pursuit of truth, beauty, and what is good, only corruption, decay, chaos, and death would follow.
JWK: Where do you see Angel Quest running?
SW: We have active interest from (my) local PBS affiliate who aired an earlier documentary of (mine). They hope to promote it nationally among the other PBS affiliates. We also have interest from a BBC producer, and EWTN has expressed interest, insofar as they have aired dozens of (my) earlier productions. Also, being that it will be shot in six different countries we expect it to be picked up internationally, specifically in Ireland, England, France, Italy, Greece, and Israel.
JWK: How can people help you get the documentary made?
SW: Pray to St. Michael for major funders, corporations, and family foundations to sponsor the project. Individuals can become Associate, Executive, and Angel producers, and make tax deducible contributions. Individuals can donate a minimum of $25 and be included in the social media status reports from the field as scouting and production take place this summer (2022) and next. The website – under the Join Us, Follow Us, and Store tabs – detail the many ways people can follow us and financially support the project. We need to raise $10,000 for the summer of 2022’s scouting and early filming and $280,000 for the main documentary travel and production in 2023.
JWK: Anything else?
SW: (Besides) the financial need for contributions, prayer will be the most important. The monks in the monasteries – yesterday and today – only made progress in the physical realm by putting their priorities in the spiritual real of prayer and worship. Thus, we relish everyone’s prayers for our spiritual and temporal success along this two-year effort.
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11