Kathy Schiffer is a Catholic blogger. In addition to her blog Seasons of Grace, her articles have appeared in the National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Zenit, the Michigan Catholic, Legatus Magazine, and other Catholic publications. She’s worked for Catholic and other Christian ministries since 1988, as radio producer, director of special events and media relations coordinator. Kathy and her husband, Deacon Jerry Schiffer, have three adult children.
“Blessed be God in all his designs.” That was the fervent prayer of Father Solanus Casey, the beloved Capuchin friar who provided soup for the hungry, kind words for the troubled, and a healing touch for the sick in Detroit.
Father Solanus will be beatified on November 18, 2017, in Detroit's Ford Field; and this week, the Capuchin Friars' Solanus Casey Center has released a new film for children titled EXTRAORDINARY: Stories about Father Solanus Casey for Children, which recounts eleven of the hundreds of faith stories from the life of the humble priest. Each fascinating and true anecdote from Fr. Solanus' life is told by a child, while another child colors a large drawing that is eventually revealed to be a colorful illustration of the story. In all, 22 children bring to the screen the stories of faith and healing in Father Solanus' life: an encounter with bees; a surprise delivery of bread that saved the day for the soup kitchen; a crippled boy who could walk again; prayers that saved the day for a motor car company, and more.
The host of EXTRAORDINARY is 12-year-old Grace (Gracie) Mischel. Gracie, we learn late in the film, is a “miracle child” who was helped by Solanus Casey. Gracie exhibited signs of hydrocephalus while still in the womb, and doctors encouraged her mother to consider abortion; but her devout parents visited the tomb of Fr. Solanus to ask his intercession, and Gracie was born healthy.
At the world premiere showing of EXTRAORDINARY July 16 in Southfield, Michigan, Gracie and other cast members gathered to celebrate the film's release.
Stan Williams of SWC Films, producer of the film, talked with the Register about his inspiration for the project. “We had thought about producing an animated story for children,” he said, “but our budget wouldn't allow it. I was driving to a meeting to discuss different animation techniques. I was praying the Rosary as I passed Comerica Park on northbound I-75, and the idea just popped into my head: 'Why don't you use children as narrators, with time-lapse photography of children coloring these adult-sized pictures of the stories?'”
Stan's idea was well received; and he set to work bringing his idea to fruition. Kelly Nieto, whose own work has included the popular “The Cross and the Light” musical, directed the film. Michigan-based composer James Stonehouse composed the original orchestral score consisting of 14 movements; and famed Catholic illustrator and graphic novel artist Sean Lam created the drawings.
Father David Preuss, director of the Solanus Casey Center, told the Register that the project is not intended for profit, but rather, to teach young children about the holy and beloved friar whose prayers helped the poor and needy from Detroit and around the world. “It will be a great film to use in its entirety, or in sections in the classroom,” he explained.
Because it's set up in segments, it's perfect for showing during Vacation Bible School or during classroom CCD classes. If a teacher is able to use just one segment, it still makes sense. The DVD will be available for purchase, or you can download the segments online. There will be a free study guide available at the website. Large coloring books of the illustrations will be available for purchase; or you can download the illustrations in a smaller format from the website.
From our perspective as Capuchins, the film shows that biblical stories are not just historical pieces, but they are really templates to show us how we should be living.
Stan Williams hopes that the film will eventually be broadcast on Catholic television – either in its entirety (the film runs one hour and 13 minutes), or divided into brief interstitials.
Father Preuss wanted people to understand that the miracles and graces which come through the intercession of Father Solanus Casey continue today. He said,
God works with great power. Every day at the Solanus Casey Center, we see people come through and tell us how their prayers have been answered.
The full-length 72-minute video is available for download at the Solanus Casey Center's official project website. Also available are images for coloring, and a helpful Study Guide.