"Father Barron's CATHOLICISM"By George Weigel
Over the next four decades, I wondered whether someone, somewhere, at some point, would do a “Civilization”-like series on Catholicism itself: a Grand Tour of the Catholic world that explored the Church as a culture through its teaching, its art, its music, its architecture—and above all, through the lives it shaped. That has now happened. The result is the most important media initiative in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States.
The man responsible for this feat is Father Robert Barron, a priest of the archdiocese of Chicago and a faculty member at Mundelein Seminary. Father Barron is an old friend (and a colleague on NBC’s Vatican coverage), but I’ll risk the charge of special pleading by stating unequivocally that Father Barron’s “Catholicism”, a 10-part series premiering on public television stations around the country this fall, is a master work by a master teacher. In 10 episodes that take the viewer around the Catholic world, from Chartres to the slums of Calcutta and dozens of points in-between, Father Barron lays out the Catholic proposal in a visually stunning and engaging series of presentations that invites everyone into the heart of the faith, which is friendship with Jesus Christ.
Having talked with Father Barron and his colleagues at Word on Fire, his media ministry, throughout the production of “Catholicism,” I can testify that this was a great labor of love: love for the Lord, love for the Church, and love for the truths the Church teaches. Yet there is nothing saccharine here, nothing cheesy, nothing pop-trendy. It’s Catholic Classic, not Catholic Lite, but John Cummings’ cinematography is so beautiful, Steve Mullen’s original score is so fetching (drawing on ancient chants in a thoroughly contemporary way), and Father Barron’s narration is so deft—the man has a genius for the telling example or analogy—that even the most difficult facets of Catholic belief and practice come alive in a completely accessible way.
At the center of it all is Jesus of Nazareth, posing that unavoidable and disturbing question: “Who do you say that I am?” Viewers of “Catholicism” will get to know many of the great minds and spirits who wrestled with that question over two millennia—Peter and Paul; Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and Dante; Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross; Edith Stein and Katherine Drexel. But throughout the series, the focus keeps coming back to the Lord Jesus. “Catholicism” is built on the firm convictions that it is his Church and that it is his truth that measures all truth. Father Barron understands that post-modern culture poses special challenges for the proclamation of the Gospel. That’s why this committed believer, who is also a fine theologian, can sympathetically but forcefully invite his viewers into a thorough exploration of the Creed (an exploration deepened in the series’ companion book,Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith [Doubleday]).
There is no dithering about the bad news, either: Father Barron knows that the Catholic Church is a community of sinners whose infidelities have often marred the face of the Lord. At the same time, Father Barron’s series displays the innumerable ways that the Catholic Church has been and remains a force for truth, decency, compassion, and sanity in an often-cruel world.
Watch it. Politely lobby your local public television station to show the series in its entirety. Spread the word.
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
The “Catholicism” series
- Fr. Barron "shows off" Catholic faith in 10-part documentary | 6/26/2011
- Euanggelion: The Triumph of Fr. Barron's "Catholicism" | 8/3/2011
- "Priest pioneers own website to talk about God": Father Barron featured on RomeReports.com | 11/18/2010
- Word On Fire featured in Legatus Magazine | 3/1/2010
- UK's The Catholic Herald on Fr. Barron: "Happiness Comes from Self-Giving" | 8/2/2009
- The Anchoress, Elizabeth Scalia of First Things: "Dynamite that will turn the world..." | 12/28/2010
- Father Barron's review of Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" featured on Chicago Tribune's "The Seeker" Blog. | 5/26/2011
- Fr. Barron to launch nationally televised program in October | 9/13/2010
- Crain's Chicago Business: "The Rev. Robert Barron takes to TV, blogs, YouTube as a new-media Catholic priest" | 9/27/2010
- CNN.com Belief Blog: "My Take: Why Christians Should Pray for Christopher Hitchens" | 7/13/2010
- The Catholicism Project -- Posted on the Catholic Media Review | 5/2/2009
- YouTube Heresies Article Featured in America | The National Catholic Weekly | 5/25/2009
- Fr. Barron’s Angels and Demons review is featured in a post on the Ignatius Press Blog. | 5/18/2009
- Priest wages war on 'dumbed-down' version of Catholicism -- From Our Sunday Visitor | 5/6/2009
- "CATHOLICISM: A Course in Revolution" | 9/24/2011
- "Father Barron's CATHOLICISM" | 9/24/2011
- NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: "Catholicism, No Joke" | 9/26/2011
- "The Catholic Revolution Will Be Televised" | 9/24/2011
- Fr. Barron: "I want our story told, and that’s a reason I did this." | 9/26/2011
- "Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith" reviewed by Patheos Book Club | 10/7/2011
- Chicago Sun-Times: Seeing is Believing on ‘Catholicism’ | 10/7/2011
- The Cardinal Newman Society "Eagerly" Recommends CATHOLICISM | 10/9/2011
- ‘Catholicism’ project goes straight to the heart of the Church | 10/9/2011
- Finding Fr. Barron | 10/9/2011
- James Davis of Newsvine.com reviews CATHOLICISM | 10/9/2011
- "Priest's film aims to lift up Catholics"- CATHOLICISM featured in the Chicago Tribune | 10/13/2011
- U.S. Catholic features a review of "Catholicism" | 10/17/2011
- Steven Greydanus of the CT Entertainment Blog reviews CATHOLICISM | 10/18/2011
- Catholic News Service: "‘Catholicism’ series airing on PBS is ‘visually splendid’" | 10/19/2011
- The National Catholic Reporter features an article about CATHOLICISM on PBS | 10/26/2011
- Andrew Sullivan's "The Daily Beast" features a Father Barron Commentary | 10/31/2011
- Father Barron's review of "Ides of March" featured in Washington Post | 11/2/2011
- EWTN Presents Father Robert Barron’s Epic Series ‘Catholicism’ | 11/1/2011
- "America, the National Catholic Weekly" reviews CATHOLICISM | 11/18/2011
- Patheos: Matt Emerson defends CATHOLICISM | 11/18/2011
- "CATHOLICISM is dynamite": Series premieres on Canada's Salt + Light Television | 11/20/2011
- Catholic News Agency runs Father Barron's defense of the new Missal | 11/23/2011
- Catholics Flock to CATHOLICISM Series in Parishes | 2/24/2012
- Catholic News Agency: Let's stop talking about evangelization and do it! | 3/7/2012
- CatholicTV Monthly's February issue features full-length special on Father Barron and CATHOLICISM | 3/15/2012