Priest wages war on 'dumbed-down' version of Catholicism -- From Our Sunday VisitorBy Carlos Briceno
Father Robert Barron's 10-part documentary aims to reveal power and truth of the faith using art, architecture, literature and music
Father Robert Barron likes to dream big. Consider the documentary series on the Catholic faith he is working on.
The budget is big -- $2.5 million. The backdrops for filming locations are big -- New York City; Kraków, Poland; Mexico City; Rome; and Jerusalem, just to name a few. The goal for the series? It's really big.
"My aim is to convert the world to Catholicism," said Father Barron, who is a priest from the Archdiocese of Chicago. "I say that only half-facetiously."
Called the "Catholicism Project," the documentary is a 10-part series being shot in high definition that promotes and explains the Catholic faith. By exploring various themes, such as the missionary trips of the early apostles and the Communion of Saints, he said he plans to reveal the power and truth of Catholicism using art, architecture, literature and music.
"One of my pet peeves is the dumbing down of Catholicism," Father Barron, the host and writer of the documentary, told Our Sunday Visitor. "My generation -- I came of age right after Vatican II -- got a dumbed-down version of it. Everything was simplified and scaled back, and the splendor of the Church was sort of muted. We're suffering from that. That is not a major problem. That's a major problem in the Church. So, I am waging war against dumbed-down Catholicism."
His major weapon: using the media to evangelize. He hosts a radio show. He frequently appears on YouTube. He writes articles and books. He has his own website -- www.wordonfire.org.
But the documentary project Father Barron is working on, which he plans to complete by the fall of 2010, is his most intensive and expensive media effort. He told OSV he envisions Catholic schools, universities and adult-education classes using the series. But he also hopes to have a slightly more secular version of it broadcast on mainstream television, such as on the History Channel.
Taking time off this spring from his position as Francis Cardinal George Chairman of Faith and Culture at the University of St. Mary of the Lake at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois -- he doesn't teach classes during the summer -- has freed him to concentrate on traveling for most of the year and has led to the completion of part one.
One of the creative talents behind the project is someone who could be considered one of the people Father Barron is trying to reach. Mike Leonard, a veteran television journalist for NBC's "The Today Show" and the executive producer for the series, describes himself as an "average middle-aged Catholic guy who daydreamed his way through Catholic school" and was "indifferent" about his faith.
But he heard Father Barron speak at his parish in the suburbs of Chicago and was impressed by his eloquence. That led him to be interested in working with the priest on the project, he said.
And, now, Leonard said he is becoming less indifferent because of what he is learning about the faith.
In the first episode, for instance, which focuses on the conviction that Jesus is the promised Messiah and the revelation of God become man, Leonard said he understood, for the first time, the richness of the story.
"I don't know if it's the fact that it's totally me -- that I missed it -- or it was his gift of clarifying the story and highlighting the really essential parts of it," Leonard said.
Another fan of the first episode is Margaret Sellig, a mother of three from Rumson, N.J., who recently saw it at a screening in New York City. Sellig, 39, said she grew up going to Mass with her family, believed in God as a child, but lost her faith in her 20s.
"I was agnostic, going down toward the atheist route," she said.
But cracks in her nonbelief started appearing because of her children.
"I wanted them to have everything that I had as a child in having that faith feeling, something to believe in," she said.
So she had her children baptized, enrolled them in religious education classes and started going to Mass as a family.
But two years ago, after becoming ill with an overactive thyroid, she started asking questions about the meaning of life. That led to a friend of hers suggesting she view Father Barron on YouTube. She also started listening to his sermons online. She said she found he had answers to a lot of her questions. Then, in late March, she saw the first episode at the screening and found it "amazing."
"He's so articulate and such a strong speaker, and he has such insight into both the visual and the intellectual and spiritual side of Catholicism," Sellig said.
She said she looks forward to viewing the series when it is released.
"It will be such a nice little nugget of a resource that I can turn to and just soak up all the information and the visuals," she said. "The thing I look forward to the most, I know so many Catholics who have either fallen away from the Church or have lost energy. I feel like I can recommend this wholeheartedly, because I know whatever he does is so great that it may answer some questions, and it may get them energized as well."
Source: Our Sunday Visitor www.osv.com
Carlos Briceno writes from Illinois.
- 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