“Nothing saccharine here, nothing cheesy, nothing pop-trendy”

About three weeks ago, I published a post about the series called Catholicism being aired on over 80 public television stations this fall that I hope to catch in its entirety.

This morning, I tripped over George Weigel’s review of the same series:

Catholicism 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]).

I’m reading that book now and hope to share some words on it in the coming days.

Regular readers know that my journey back to my Catholic roots culminated earlier this year with my confirmation after nearly a year of being reintroduced to the basics of the faith via the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA).  Having been asked by my priest to be a part of the leadership team for the next class of RCIA, my learning continues and I can’t tell you how much at home I’m feeling as that education forges ahead.

I urge seekers to watch this series, to read Father Barron’s book, to check into the historic and true Catholic faith and believe not that which is propagated by the ignorant.

I’ve found a home.  You might as well.

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