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The Saints – Helping us Today

David Payne, Director of CaFE (Catholic Faith Exploration), shares his experiences about the making of a new six-part DVD on the saints, aimed at parishes and schools, that has stretched his faith and broadened his horizons.

During the papal visit last year, in his address to young people at Twickenham, Pope Benedict said, ‘I hope that among those of you listening to me today there are some of the future saints of the twenty-first century.’ He challenged the young people to grow in holiness and suggested that, in a celebrity-obsessed culture, some of the saints could be very positive role models. Clearly, in order for this to happen they need to be made more accessible. We at CaFE have responded with a twelve-month project to produce a TV-quality resource to go behind the myths and discover the men and women who have shaped our Faith. We were tempted to call the new series ‘Knocking the Plaster off the Saints!’ but in the end decided on something more subtle!

I am aware that many of my peers are also very ignorant about saints and I want to discover how they can help and inspire us in our busy lives todayCatholic Evangelisation Services was established in 1996 and under the CaFE banner we have produced a wide variety of resources for adult formation and sacramental preparation and for youth. The aim is to help Catholics grow in faith and equip them to reach out to others. The Church has frequently reminded us to use modern media as a means of evangelization. The CaFE resources do this by presenting catechesis, in the tradition of the Church but in a modern and relevant way, that can be used flexibly in small, or larger, group settings or even in house groups. Currently over one-third of the parishes in the UK have run some form of CaFE programme.

Things have gradually evolved from the early productions that were filmed in a studio with a small audience, to the BELIEVE series which is a six-week course reflecting on the Creed. This is a TV-quality, documentary-style film shot on location in the Holy Land. The very positive feedback from that series was the inspiration for the latest CES venture on the saints.

In the introduction to the series I reveal that ‘my mum was a convert from Methodism and Dad was Anglican, and, though I encountered Jesus in my mid twenties and returned to the Church and the sacraments, I never really got the saints. So I set out on a journey to discover the men and women behind the myths. I am aware that many of my peers are also very ignorant about saints and I want to discover how they can help and inspire us in our busy lives today.’ The film, shot on various locations around Europe, is like a pilgrimage; it is not just information or a travelogue but rather a living catechesis that takes us on a journey of faith.

The six-section series begins in Ireland with St Patrick and focuses upon the proclamation of the Good News. Filmed at the hill of Tara and at Downpatrick Cathedral, where it is thought St Patrick may be buried, we tell the story of the saint’s bold and courageous missionary life. This is followed by testimonies from people who are living the spirit of St Patrick today, one of whom is Rob Clarke, the director of Spirit Radio, a Christian station which is broadcasting the Good News throughout Ireland.

From Ireland we travel to Italy and meet Fr Christopher Jamison who introduces us to St Benedict. Filmed at Monte Cassino monastery and the famous cave in Subiaco, we begin to get in touch with St Benedict. We then move to the monasteries at Worth and Ampleforth to discover the rich Benedictine tradition of growing in faith through prayer, Scripture and community. Dispelling the myth that the Benedictine tradition is only appropriate to monastic life, there are testimonies from people such as Ian Yardley, a young construction worker who in his busy life today is much inspired by the spirit of St Benedict.

There are moving stories of lives that have been inspired by St FrancisStaying in Italy but picking up a very different theme, we go to Assisi where Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino speaks very movingly about St Francis. Through his life and legacy we get in touch with our God whose heart breaks for the poor and marginalized. There are moving stories of lives that have been inspired by St Francis either in traditional religious life, such as Fr Emmanuel Mansford working in a soup kitchen in London’s East End, or through ordinary lay people living out Franciscan spirituality in their everyday work at an inner-city drop-in centre for asylum seekers in Leeds.

Still in Italy but now in Siena, our exploration takes on a more mystical note as we discover the radical holiness of the lay vocation through St Catherine. Her life and teaching is explained by two university lecturers, Ralph Martin from the Sacred Heart Seminary in Detriot, USA and Sr Catherine Joseph Droite who lectures at the Angelicum in Rome. We are inspired by St Catherine’s life lived in the power of the Spirit and with a deep Eucharistic focus. To bring St Catherine into our modern world we interview John Pridmore, an ex-East-End gangster who has been profoundly helped by this challenging saint and Doctor of the Church.

St Francis of AssisiThe scenery then changes as we move to Spain and meet Fr Nick King SJ who explains how St Ignatius of Loyola can help us to grow in discernment in our everyday lives. St Ignatius is ‘put to the test’ as we film students in Imperial College, London being helped by Ignatian spirituality in the university chaplaincy.

Finally we travel to Lisieux in France to encounter the simplicity of faith modelled by St Thérèse. Fr Iain Matthew and Fr Michael McGoldrick reflect upon St Thérèse from their Carmelite perspective and then we see the spirituality of the Little Way being lived very dynamically in the life of an RE teacher working in a tough South London boys school.

These are only a few of the many inspiring interviews that we have filmed. The series is like a ‘Divine strategy for catechesis’ with a very interesting wrapping! The topics that develop as we travel through the history of the Church are profound and vital to all of our lives today. I have had the privilege of filming in some amazing places and interviewing many fascinating people. It feels as if I have actually encountered the saints themselves in this way. I am definitely now totally ‘converted’ to them and feel that I have gained six new friends whose witness, teaching and intercession are becoming invaluable to me. We have decided that this series can only be volume 1. There are obviously so many other inspirational saints who deserve some ‘unwrapping’ at a suitable time in the future as we continue to respond to the challenge from the Pope.

The series will be a valuable resource for parish programmes, RCIA, schools and sacramental courses. Each session lasts thirty-five minutes and is easy to run in a relaxed café style with supporting publicity materials. The DVD is accompanied by a leader’s guide with questions for small-group discussion. For further information see: or contact 0845 050 9428.

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