by Father Robert Lauder
First in a Series
AROUND THIS TIME of year parish staffs are making plans and creating programs that might be used in the coming months. I am hoping that every parish has obtained the video series “Catholicism,” written and hosted by theologian Father Robert Barron. Not only can parishes use it as an evangelizing tool, but the series also could be used to great effect in high schools and colleges. I am thinking of using at least part of the series, which consists of 10 shows, with a discussion group I moderate. To state the truth very simply, the series is terrific. I cannot recall seeing any video series that is its equal.
What might strike viewers almost immediately about the series is the quality of the production, which is first class. I have heard that the series was filmed in 15 countries and in more than 50 locations. I suspect that the series cost a large amount of money to produce. The quality of the production is even exceeded by the content of the shows.
In 10 shows, Father Barron takes viewers on a journey through the history of Catholicism. Even more important than the history is the doctrine. Many Catholics feel as though we often are engaged in a battle with contemporary media. Images of the Church in film, television, music and literature are often negative. “Catholicism” is a wonderful antidote. Catholics should be inspired by Father Barron’s series. They may also feel grateful to be part of the Church.
One way to use “Catholicism” in a parish would be to schedule 10 sessions and show one video at each session. I suggest that a more effective program would be to conduct a parish course using the series as a basis for exploring what we believe as Catholics. There is an excellent book, “Catholicism,” that can be read as a companion to the series. The book, written by Father Barron, is made up of an introduction, a coda and a chapter devoted to each of the 10 topics treated in the television series. An instructor, who viewed the series and read the book, would have ample material to present to those attending the course.
In his introduction, which he titles “The Catholic Thing,” Father Barron writes the following:
“What is the Catholic thing? What makes Catholicism, among all of the competing philosophies, ideologies, and religions of the world, distinctive? I stand with Blessed John Henry Newman who said that the great principle of Catholicism is the Incarnation, the enfleshment of God. What do I mean by this? I mean, the Word of God – the mind by which the whole universe came to be – did not remain sequestered in heaven, but rather he entered into this ordinary world of bodies, this grubby arena of history, this compromised and tear-stained human condition of ours. ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us’ (Jn. 1:14): That is the Catholic thing.
“The Incarnation tells central truths concerning both God and us. If God became human without ceasing to be God and without compromising the integrity of the creature that he became, God must not be a competitor with his creation.” (p.1)
I was pleased to read Father Barron’s point about God not being in competition with His creation because the atheistic philosophers of the last 200 years saw the idea of God as against human beings, as an obstacle to the growth and development of human beings. Of course, the opposite is true: precisely because of God’s love for us, we can grow and develop as human persons.
In developing his insight that the Incarnation tells us about ourselves, Father Barron points out that it reveals how much God loves us. I believe that the most profound truth about a human being is that he or she is infinitely loved by God. If that does not encourage us, excite us, make us experience a profound joy even when nothing in our lives seems to be going the way it ought, then I really don’t know what could encourage us or give us a greater sense of our own importance, value and dignity.
Father Barron tries to convey what he sees as a keen sense of the prolongation of the Incarnation throughout space and time. After mentioning several masterpieces inspired by belief in the Incarnation, Father Barron points out that what he wishes to do is to lead us through the Catholic world, often expressed through artistic masterpieces, so that we might enter more and more deeply into the mystery of the Incarnation, the mystery of God’s love for us through the Son of God becoming one of us. Father Barron’s efforts have produced a marvelous television series.[hr] Father Robert Lauder, a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn and philosophy professor at St. John’s University, Jamaica, writes a weekly column for the Catholic Press.