Heroic Priesthood: A New Film from Fr. Robert Barron

Priesthood 1Is there anyone out there who doesn’t agree that the Catholic priesthood has faced an onslaught of criticism in the last decade?

Since 2002, when reports of clergy abuse hit the headlines en masse and the U.S. Bishops initiated a strong program of zero tolerance and healing, too often even faithful Catholic priests have been regarded with mistrust.  Good priests have too often been painted with the same broad brush that is used to mark the very small percentage of priests who have, in fact, betrayed their sacred trust and taken sexual liberties with members of their flocks.

The net effect of this cautionary attitude is that good priests find it more difficult to gain trust, and thus to extend the offer of Christ’s grace to the people they serve.

Priesthood 2The damage wrought by the sins of some members of the clergy comes at a time when priests and the sacraments and spiritual leadership they bring are needed, at a time when the Church is in crisis.  Today it sometimes seems that the culture war is over, that the battle has been lost to proponents of “rights” including the “right” to contraception and abortion, to promiscuity, to illicit sexual relationships.

Father Robert Barron, Rector of Mundelein Seminary and creator of the acclaimed CATHOLICISM film series, acknowledges this crisis.  He said:

We’re currently experiencing the darkest period in the history of American Catholicism. People are drifting away from religion at massive rates.  They’re disenchanted with God and disappointed with the Church. The fastest growing group is the so-called ‘nones,’ those who express no religious affiliation.”

Today, Father Barron announces the release of a new twelve-minute film intended to take on the problem, showcasing the priesthood in a positive light.  From the press release for the unveiling of “Heroic Priesthood“: 

It was in response to these trends that Father Barron created CATHOLICISM, an epic ten-part documentary on the Catholic faith, which aired nationally on PBS and was seen by millions around the world.

“The CATHOLICISM series remains one of the most exciting and fruitful projects of my life,” said Father Barron. “Our team traveled the globe to capture the beauty, truth, and texture of Catholicism, and the result was a fresh presentation of the faith for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.”

What the CATHOLICISM did for the Catholic faith in general, his newest project, “Heroic Priesthood” (http://HeroicPriesthood.com), aims to do for the priesthood in particular.

“As a long-time theology professor and now Rector of Mundelein Seminary, I’ve seen firsthand the challenges facing today’s priests. The priesthood is looked upon with suspicion and confusion by most of the culture—especially by young people. We need to change that.”

The twelve-minute film, produced by Father Barron’s Word on Fire Catholic Ministries in partnership with Spirit Juice Studios, a premier Catholic design studio based in Chicago, aims to alter those misperceptions.

“My goal with this film is to reach as many people as possible—certainly priests and seminarians, but especially young Catholic men. I want them to see that holiness is heroic and that Jesus Christ’s invitation to the priesthood is an invitation to an extraordinary life.”

Shot on location at Mundelein Seminary, the film centers on three seminarians and an annual basketball tournament, which brings together future priests from across the country. Through world-class cinematography and a stirring musical core, the film illuminates the high idealism and adventure of the Catholic priesthood like never before.

Viewers can watch the entire film free online, along with extra video resources from Father Barron, at http://HeroicPriesthood.com.

Word on Fire is also making the film available on DVD for bulk ordering. The ministry hopes to equip bishops, dioceses, parishes, and priests with thousands of copies in order to reach every Catholic young man in the country.

“I want young men to understand that the Catholic priesthood seeks the integration of mind, body, and soul and that the priesthood is a flourishing way of life. If young men glimpse the radical, resplendent, and ultimately heroic call of the priesthood, this film will have been a success.”

  • fredx2

    The message of any such film has to be “This new crop of priests is different”. That’s the most important message that has to go out. Young people have been conditioned to think the church is an ongoing nightmare of permissive sex abuse. They have been told by Hollywood (who constantly has their ear) that sex abuse is still being hidden, priests are still being moved around etc. This is a false narrative, since for the most part, the problem has drastically improved. But they still believe it.
    The greater culture has to understand the truth of what happened. That there was a period when the church lacked priests and they took in any warm body, and didn’t much question who. That priests at that time where not expected to be rigorously Catholic, they were even told to be experimenters, to break things down and build up their own slightly bizarre church. That was a mistake. In one sense , the lack of Catholicism caused the sex abuse crisis.
    Now, this has been corrected and the new crop of priests are different. These men are Catholic.
    That is the message that has to go out.

    UPDATE: Now that I have watched the film:
    1) Are you sure you want to start out the movie with a guy who could not make the sports team and then had a good cry? Good grief.
    2) The “Very Reverend” next to Barron’s name at the end sounds pompous. This will not impress the younger generation.
    3) Overall though, very good film, the message is spot on – these new priests are MEN.
    4) Now you’ve done a 12 minute film. Next goal is to get a full length feature film in theaters with the same ideas. Until you’ve done that, you’ve put a bucket in the ocean.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Fred, thanks for the comment. A few responses from someone involved with the film:

      1. We’re sure.

      2. “Very Reverend” is the formal title given to rectors of Catholic seminaries. It’s not pompous; it’s official.

      3. Thank you.

      4. We do what we can. I’m curious what you’re doing to support such a lofty goal, besides casually dismissing our hard work as “a bucket in the ocean”?

      • Francine

        EXACTLY BRANDON!!! Gee whiz, Jesus only started with 12 disciples, which was drop in the bucket, even back then. THE FILM IS AWESOME!!! 6th grade boys DO CRY!!! TRUST ME ON THAT. I LOVE the whole HUMAN factor of the film. Often people forget priests are HUMAN BEINGS. I am a DRE and FULLY PLAN TO SHOW THIS FILM TO ALL the 6th graders and up!!! GREAT JOB!!

      • MaggieMelchior

        I like that it’s only 12 minutes long. I’m a faith formation & youth ministry director and I’m SO EXCITED to use this with our young men this year during “Vocation Night.” Any longer than 12 minutes would be too long and they would lose interest. The USCCB’s “Fishers of Men” film is great but it’s 23 minutes long. I can tell the youth are starting to get antsy by the end when we show it. “Heroic Priesthood” is a great length- long enough for serious content and inspiration, but not long enough they get bored.

    • Francine

      6th grade boys cry all the time, plus it shows the human factor. Full length does not equate to full quality.

    • Guest

      As for your second point, seminary rectors have the official title “Very Reverend.” Somewhat disconcerting to me was the listing of Mundelein’s Father Rector as the “Creator” of the film as the very first line of the credits. And he was on camera himself way too much, especially for a man who struggles mightily to look right into the camera and communicate with his video audience.

  • Guest

    Competitive sports have their place in seminary life, and it’s always good to see some inclusion of athletics in vocations promotions. But a full 12-minute highly professional film on basketball at the seminary? Seriously? It was almost like basketball was put on equal footing with the priesthood.


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