Catholic News Service columnist
Thank God for Father Robert Barron. He has revitalized our adult education program for two years in a row.
Last year, he taught us about the seven deadly sins and the seven saving virtues. This year, he is reacquainting us with the history and magnificence of Catholicism.
If you have been on another planet or in a parallel universe, you may not have heard of Father Barron. He is the poster priest of what Pope Benedict XVI means by the “new evangelization.”
Not only is Father Barron smart, he talks like me with a flat Chicago accent. He also founded and directs Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, which puts out books and videos of extraordinarily good quality.
I was educated about Father Barron by my parishioners. One man in our parish, Russ Spaulding, discovered Father Barron online. Russ kept telling me every weekend after Mass about this great new media priest. He said that he was the new Archbishop Fulton Sheen.
Finally, I took a look myself.
I was made a believer when I first saw his videos on the seven deadly sins. Father Barron had a way of lifting our minds to think the big picture. I loved his use of literature to make his point. He quoted everything from Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy” to Bob Dylan’s music.
Father Barron’s use of literature opens us to the wider world. It underscores that our Catholic faith is truly universal. We can appreciate any truth, no matter where it is found. It finds a home in the Catholic mind and heart, even if not specifically Catholic.
Father Barron has an interesting technique, which works well in appealing to the modern mind. He does two things.
First, he focuses on the basic and eternal truths of the faith.
Second, he illustrates those truths with beauty that is found in our Catholic tradition in music, art, literature and philosophy.
His method has meaning.
By focusing on the basics of our faith, he reminds us of what unites us as Catholics. We’ve had enough of the controversies. Now we want to be reminded of what we agree on. Liberal and conservative Catholics can come away singing from the same hymn book.
Father Barron’s “Catholicism” series, for instance, is focused on the big things: the mystery of God, the teachings of Jesus, the life of prayer and the sacramental life of the church. These are the essentials that we really need to talk about. Plenty of other people can deal with the controversy of the moment.
Many undereducated Catholic adults need to learn or relearn the basics of our faith. We need to remind ourselves what makes us distinctive among religions.
By presenting everything with beauty, Father Barron reminds us that religion should inspire. His videos use music, art, architecture and poetry to lift our spirits. Every now and then I find myself emotional as I am transported by Mozart or touched by some image of a pilgrimage to Lourdes.
Father Barron has remembered what the ancient Greeks knew, that beauty is one of the attributes of God.
The nice thing about Father Barron’s videos is that, when we hit the “play” button, they don’t just entertain us for an hour; they stimulate discussion.
Father Barron has done something we have needed for a long time. He has given us a tool to make us want to know God better.
Thank God for that!