Peter Baklinski

Masterminds behind chart-smashing nun’s Advent album credit pro-life conversion with success

Peter Baklinski
Peter Baklinski
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FLORIDA, 12 December, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The angelic voices of a new order of young nuns has taken the world by storm, surpassing Rod Stewart, Taylor Swift, and One Direction in sales last week at major retail outlets such as Amazon and Barnes&Noble.

But behind the astonishing success of Advent at Ephesus lies the amazing story of the Catholic masterminds behind the album, couple Kevin and Monica Fitzgibbons. LifeSiteNews managed to reach them in the midst of their busy schedules and convince them to tell their story.

Once upon a time Kevin and Monica were both highly motivated individuals working at the top in the music entertainment business for mega companies like Sony and DreamWorks. And both were Catholics from large families who had gradually abandoned their faith in their journey to the top.

An entertainment project brought them together in 1997 and they began dating. Each discovered that the other was a non-practicing Catholic. They decided during the penitential season of Lent to go on a Mass date. Something happened to them during the service.

“We immediately felt that God had put both of us together because we were numb-skulls and he wanted us both to figure things out,” Kevin confessed.

“Yeah, he was sick of both of us at that point,” joked Monica.

Kevin and Monica related their experiences of the emptiness, shallowness, and selfishness that exist in the entertainment industry, where God is unwelcome. Most artists, they said, think only of themselves and seek their own glory, trampling over others in their pursuit of wealth and fame, without much interest in the beauty and truth inherent in genuine art. In the end, they said, the industry sucks the soul out of those closest to it, leaving in its path a trail of empty, broken individuals.

The young couple was interested in marriage, but they were troubled by how many of their co-workers failed dismally at marriage. They witnessed infidelity, divorce, and couples who were technically married but living completely separate lives. And they were uneasy about how the entertainment industry viewed children as a hindrance to success.

“The entertainment industry is a lifestyle, and one that is not very kid-friendly. We weren’t comfortable with that,” Monica related.

Kevin and Monica wanted more for their relationship, but they didn’t know how to get there. 

“There was a lot of warfare in our dating as we tried to figure out ‘who we are’ and ‘what is love,’” said Monica.

It began to dawn on the couple that God would somehow have to be part of the equation if they wanted to succeed in their relationship.

Double Life

Kevin and Monica married in the Catholic Church in 2000. As they advanced in their careers and grew deeper in their marriage and in their faith, it became evident to them that they were “leading a double life”.

They realized that they couldn’t take their marriage and faith seriously and continue selling their souls to the devil in the secular entertainment industry. Something would have to give. They decided it wasn’t going to be their love for one another and their newly discovered love for Jesus and his blessed mother Mary.

“The closer we got into our faith, the more we got pulled away from the secular side of the music business,” Kevin related.

It was around this time that the couple learned that they were expecting. Pregnancy became a “total game-changer” for them.

Monica says that at around this time she began to notice that there were no role models that she could relate to in her work environment, especially at the VP senior director level. She noticed that all the women at the top were unmarried and that they “didn’t have a very feminine quality to them.” She “began to be afraid” that she would have to compromise her dreams of raising children if she was to stay relevant in her workplace.

Meanwhile, Kevin’s own views of unborn babies and fatherhood had been formed largely by his pro-choice co-workers who considered pregnancy to be a choice between a woman and her doctor.

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Ultrasound Game-changer

But a 3D ultrasound of their pregnancy radically changed their hearts and minds about everything.

“After seeing the image of our baby, we realized that we had been numbskulls for so long. We were immediately converted to being pro-life,” they said.

The baptism of their newborn son helped Kevin and Monica realize even more clearly that the industry they worked for was waging a war for the souls of men, women, and children. The Old Rite baptism includes an exorcism where Satan is bound in the name of Jesus and commanded to depart forever from the life of the newly baptized.

The couple says that they suddenly saw that their work in the entertainment industry largely advanced the kingdom of darkness and selfishness, not the kingdom of beauty and truth. They saw through the glamour of the music and film that they had devoted their lives to. They saw the “hold” that it had on them. And they despised what they saw.

The couple decided to extract themselves from the industry, but the more they tried to cut themselves loose, the more they were offered lucrative business deals and raises in their salaries.

It wasn’t until watching Gibson’s Passion of The Christ that the couple realized that it was possible to go independent and produce art that didn’t follow a “copycat cookie cutter” formula.

“The Passion of The Christ was a real kick in the face for us,” Monica related.

The couple moved to Arizona and started Aim Higher Media with the goal of helping real artists get their art out to the masses without it being hijacked by Hollywood nihilism.

“We wanted to help artists who wanted to put out their Christian or Catholic inspired art but who didn’t want it compromised. We wanted them to get their message out without it being edited or spliced,” the couple said.

“We wanted to shine a light on what is true and beautiful in our faith. We have so many hidden gems in the Catholic faith as far as the arts go, especially in sacred music,” said Kevin.

The couple’s connections to the industry allowed them to accomplish big things with very little.

Singing Nuns

Music from the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles was recently brought to Kevin and Monica’s attention by their son while they were riding in the car one day. The parents were amazed at the calming effect it had on their now five children (all under the age of nine). Kevin was so impressed by what he heard that he decided to approach the nuns about helping them with their next album.

The nuns agreed.

The Benedictines of Mary are a new monastic order of nuns, founded in 1995. The monastery, which is named Ephesus, is located in Gower, Missouri.  The nuns are semi-cloistered, living a simple life of union with God in prayer, as guided by the Rule of St. Benedict. They pray and sacrifice especially for the sanctification of priests.

The nuns sing together eight times a day as they chant the Divine Office in Latin. They make priestly vestments and sacred linens as well as take care of a small farm that includes animals, gardens, and orchards.

Kevin and Monica enlisted Grammy and Oscar winning producer Glenn Rosenstein to record the album right in the nuns’ chapel. He set up a mobile recording studio and captured Advent at Ephesus in three days, the only amount of time that the nuns would allot for a public intrusion into their secluded way of life.

Advent at Ephesus has maintained the first position on Billboard’s Classical Music Chart for the third straight week.

“Regardless of your political or religious beliefs, you can’t deny the beauty of this art. Anyone who listens to the sisters singing immediately recognizes its beauty,” said Kevin.

Kevin and Monica say that the album’s success is owed not only to God, but to Mary, the mother of Jesus.

“Mary has been a strong and gentle force leading us always ever closer to Her Son and for anything noteworthy we have to offer, it is by way of Her intercession.”

They are grateful for being given a change to bring good into the world through beautiful art.

“If you have ever had a dark past, then you will understand what motivates a soul to try to repair and make a difference,” they said.


A portion of the sales for readers who purchase Advent at Ephesus using the following graphic links will go to LifeSiteNews.com:

US readers:                                    Canadian readers:

                         

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Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
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Indiana faces backlash as it becomes 20th state to protect religious liberty

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By Ben Johnson

INDIANAPOLIS, IN, March 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On Thursday, Indiana became the 20th state to prevent the government from forcing people of faith to violate their religious beliefs in business or the public square.

Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SB 101) into law, saying the freedom of religion is a preeminent American value.

“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” Pence said.

Gov. Pence, a possible dark horse candidate for president in 2016, cited court cases brought by religious organizations and employers, including Catholic universities, against the HHS mandate. “One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.”

The new law could also prevent Christian business owners from being compelled to bake a cake or take photographs of a same-sex "marriage" ceremony, if doing so violates their faith. In recent years, business owners have seen an increased level of prosecution for denying such services, despite their religious and moral beliefs.

The state's pro-life organization applauded Pence for his stance. "Indiana's pro-life community is grateful to Gov. Mike Pence for signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law,” said Indiana Right to Life's president and CEO Mike Fichter. “This bill will give pro-lifers a necessary legal recourse if they are pressured to support abortion against their deeply-held religious beliefs.”

“RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government,” he said.

The state RFRA is based on the federal bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The Supreme Court cited the federal law when it ruled that Hobby Lobby had the right to refuse to fund abortion-inducing drugs, if doing so violated its owners' sincerely held religious beliefs.

In signing the measure – similar to the one Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed – Pence and the state of Indiana have faced a torrent of venom from opponents of the bill, who claim it grants a “right to discriminate” and raises the spectre of segregation.

"They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national homosexual pressure group.

The Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination based in the state capital, has said it will move its 2017 annual convention if the RFRA became state law. The NCAA warned the bill's adoption “might affect future events” in the Hoosier state.

Pence denied such concerns, saying, "This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way I would've vetoed it."

The bill's supporters say that, under the Obama administration, it is Christians who are most likely to suffer discrimination.

"Originally RFRA laws were intended to protect small religious groups from undue burdens on practicing their faith in public life,” said Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. “It was not imagined there would come a day when laws might seek to jail or financially destroy nuns, rabbis or Christian camp counselors who prefer to abstain from the next wave of sexual and gender experimentation. And there's always a next wave.”

The bill's supporters note that it does not end the government's right to coerce people of faith into violating their conscience in every situation. However, it requires that doing so has to serve a compelling government interest and the government must use the least restrictive means possible. “There will be times when a state or federal government can show it has a compelling reason for burdening religious expression – to ensure public safety, for instance,” said Sarah Torre, an expert at the Heritage Foundation. “But Religious Freedom Restoration Acts set a high bar for the government to meet in order to restrict religious freedom.”

Restricting the ability of government to interfere in people's private decisions, especially their religious decisions, is the very purpose of the Constitution, its supporters say.

"Religious freedom is the cornerstone of all liberty for all people,” Tooley said. “Deny or reduce it, and there are no ultimate limits on the state's power to coerce."

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Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting.
Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon

Porn is transforming our men from protectors into predators. Fight back.

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By Jonathon van Maren

Since I’ve gotten involved in anti-pornography work, I’ve met countless men who struggle, fight, or have beaten pornography. Each person seems to deal with the guilt and shame that accompanies porn use in a different way—some deny that it’s “all that bad,” others pretend that they could “stop whenever they want,” many insist that “everyone is doing it,” and most, when pressed, admit to a deep sense of self-loathing.

One worry surfaces often in conversation: What do my past or current struggles with pornography say about me as a man? Can I ever move past this and have a meaningful and fulfilling relationship?

I want to address this question just briefly, since I’ve encountered it so many times.

First, however, I’ve written before how I at times dislike the language of “struggling” with pornography or pornography “addiction,” not because they aren’t accurate but because too often they are used as an excuse rather than an explanation. It is true, many do in fact “struggle” with what can legitimately be considered an addiction, but when this language is used to describe an interminable battle with no end (and I’ve met dozens of men for whom this is the case), then I prefer we use terminology like “fighting my porn habit.” A semantic debate, certainly, but one I think is important. We need to stop struggling with porn and start fighting it.

Secondly, pornography does do devastating things to one’s sense of masculinity. We know this. Pornography enslaves men by the millions, perverting their role as protector and defender of the more vulnerable and turning them into sexual cannibals, consuming those they see on-screen to satisfy their sexual appetites.

What often starts as mere curiosity or an accidental encounter can turn into something that invades the mind and twists even the most basic attractions. I’ve met porn users who can’t believe the types of things they want to watch. They haven’t simply been using porn. Porn has actively reshaped them into something they don’t recognize and don’t like. 

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Porn is this generation’s great assault on masculinity and the role of men in society. It is essential that we win this battle for the sake of society’s survival. Contrary to what the gender-bending and family-morphing progressive elites claim, good husbands and good fathers and good church leaders are necessary for a healthy society. But pornography is destroying marriages, creating distant and disconnected fathers, and, metaphoricaclly castrating men, hindering their ability and desire to make a positive difference in the society around us.

So, with this sobering set of facts in mind let’s return to the question: what do pornography struggles, past and present, say about a man?

The proper way to respond is with everything that is good about masculinity. We have to fight pornography as men have fought countless evils throughout the ages. We need to fight pornography to protect women, and wives, and children, and our society at large. This is how pornography threatens society, by castrating men, and turning them from protectors into predators. Rooting out the evil in our own lives allows us to better fulfill the role we are called to perform in the lives of others. Battling our own demons enables us to battle the wider cultural demons. Every day without porn is another bit of virtue built. Virtue is not something you’re born with. Virtues are habits that you build. And one day without porn is the first step towards the virtue of being porn-free.

Many men ask me if men who have had past porn addictions are cut out for being in a relationship or working in the pro-life movement or in other areas where we are called to protect and defend the weak and vulnerable. And the answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Our society needs men who know what it means to fight battles and win. Our society needs men who can say that they fought porn and they beat porn, because their families and their friends were too important to risk. Our society needs men who rose to the challenge that the evils of their generation threw at them, and became better men as the result. And our society needs men who can help their friends and their sons and those around them fight the plague of pornography and free themselves from it, too—and who can understand better and offer encouragement more relevant than someone who has fought and been freed themselves?

So the answer to men is yes. Fight pornography. Beat pornography. And join the ranks of those who support their fellow men and women still fighting. Lend them support and encouragement. We cannot change the fact that porn has left an enormous path of destruction in its wake. But we can change the fact that too many people aren’t fighting it. We can change our own involvement. And we can rise to the challenge and face this threat to masculinity with all that is good about masculinity.

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Red Alert!

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By John-Henry Westen

I don’t like having to do this, but we have always found it best to be totally upfront with our readers: our Spring fundraising campaign is now worrying us! 

You see, with just 6 days remaining, we have only raised 30% of our goal, with $125,000 still left to raise. That is a long ways to go yet.

We have no choice but to reach our minimum goal of $175,000 if we are going to be able to continue serving the 5+ million readers who rely on us every month for investigative and groundbreaking news reports on life, faith and family issues.

Every year, LifeSite readership continues to grow by leaps and bounds. This year, we are again experiencing record-breaking interest, with over 6 million people visiting our website last month alone!

This unprecedented growth in turn creates its own demand for increased staff and resources, as we struggle to serve these millions of new readers.

And especially keep this in mind. As many more people read LifeSite, our mission of bringing about cultural change gets boosted. Our ultimate goal has always been to educate and activate the public to take well-informed, needed actions.

Another upside to our huge growth in readers is that it should be that much easier to reach our goal. To put it simply: if each person who read this one email donated whatever they could (even just $10) we would easily surpass our goal! 

Today, I hope you will join the many heroes who keep this ship afloat, and enable us to proclaim the truth through our reporting to tens of millions of people every year!

Your donations to LifeSite cause major things to happen! We see that every day and it is very exciting. Please join with us in making a cultural impact with a donation of ANY AMOUNT right now. 

You can also donate by phone or mail. We would love to hear from you!

Thank you so much for your support. 

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