Joseph Pearce

Joseph Pearce is Senior Editor at the Augustine Institute, editor of the St. Austin Review and the author of books on Shakespeare, Tolkien, Chesterton and other Christian literary figures.

Writing for Faith & Culture

We welcome the submission of articles of between 600 and 1,500 words on topics related to Catholic faith and culture. Articles should be emailed as Word attachments to Joseph Pearce.



Augustine Institute Studios’ latest project brings beauty, arts, and people back to the church.

Since launching Symbolon in 2014, Augustine Institute Studios has continued to produce some of the most compelling video programs for adult faith formation. The standard of excellence that Augustine Institute Studios holds itself to is exemplary not only in the world of Catholic video production but in professional video production at large.

Steve Flanigan, executive producer of Augustine Institute Studios, emphasizes the importance of the film team mastering its craft. “We’re going for the same audience that Hollywood does,” says Flanigan. “We still have to capture somebody in the first three to five seconds of a short film. And contentwise, we have that first minute for them to decide whether or not they’re going to stick with it.”

Augustine Institute Studios is approaching its next film with that same dedication to mastery. Specifically geared toward an adult audience, Presence is a sacramental preparation for Holy Communion. Justin Leddick, creative director of Augustine Institute Studios, shares that Presence is an opportunity to inform people, in a rich and substantial way, about the Faith. “You have people in the pews who just nominally know what they know,” says Leddick. “They really don’t have the big picture, and that’s what we’re giving them.”

Flanigan and his team also look at Presence, like all of their projects, as a potential re-entry position into the Church for people who have fallen away. As Flanigan elaborates, “We want to draw them back in, to remind them, by using beauty, of exactly who God is and what God’s plan is.”

Presence addresses the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist head-on—and this story is told with power. “We pull no punches. . . . We actually challenge the viewer right away and say, ‘Do you realize this, what’s happening here?’” And then, after addressing the what, Presence tackles the why. “It’s because of who God is, that he loves us so much and wants to be with us,” says Leddick, “. . . to be with us, but for a purpose. To draw us up to something great, to be more like him.”

Presence presents the solid ground of the truth of the Church’s teaching on the Real Presence in a way that is both informative and engaging. According to Flanigan, “We unpack this incredible truth—why else would saints have died to protect the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ? There is something real here.”

The Augustine Institute Studio team. From left to right: Aurora Cerulli, Ted Mast, Matthew Krekeler, Steve Flanigan, Constance Graves, Jon Ervin, Justin Leddick, Michael Sanchez, Kevin Mallory.

Flanigan and Leddick both emphasize the tremendous contribution of the professors at the Augustine Institute and the depth of knowledge they bring to the sacramental preparation series. “The professors are some of the most brilliant minds anywhere,” Flanigan explains, “and they excel at boiling down the topic, in this case, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, in a way that people can understand.”

Flanigan refers to storytelling craft in the production of Presence. “We love crafting the story, and the story is the story of the Catholic Church.” As a relatively new art form, film is a way to enter into the storytelling of the Church and the Faith. The Augustine Institute Studios team wants to bring the arts back to the Catholic Church as much as they possibly can, and Presence is an opportunity to be a trailblazing force in Catholic film production.  

For Augustine Institute Studios, the favorite part of production is the end process. “It’s how we’re able to move somebody in the Faith. That’s really our goal,” says Flanigan. And for Leddick, each film’s end comes with a particular realization. “For this film, [it is] for people to realize that God is with them. Substantially with them.” Flanigan has already seen the impact of Augustine Institute Studios’ work. “It’s amazing how many people we are reaching. We hear from people all over the world.”

Augustine Institute Studios team is as dedicated to the mission of the New Evangelization as it is to cinematic excellence. “We are becoming the ultimate Catholic filmmakers here,” continues Flanigan. “I do believe that the Augustine Institute is at the cutting edge, and we’re only just beginning.” Even in the complicated, involved nature of filmmaking, the mission that the studio has for Presence is simple. “We want to bring [the audience] along with us, to be able to reach down and touch their hearts,” says Flanigan. “If they give us a chance to see our films, we’ll touch their hearts.”


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