We’ve been talking about Robert Barron’s Catholicism — both the book and the DVD series — for for months, and I am surprised that with all of my reading, I had missed Maurice Timothy Reidy’s review at America magazine in which Reidy — while liking a great deal about the series — complained that the thing does not adequately embrace the now:
It is wonderful to contemplate that we share a faith with the men who crafted the rose windows at Notre Dame and the African martyrs who died in Uganda. And “Catholicism” is a valuable reminder of this rich patrimony. Yet in general the film fails to convey that the church is a living tradition, one that continues to inspire artists, musicians and writers, as well as young theologians and lay ministers. Shots of worshippers in Mexico and the Philippines are not enough to capture the vitality of the church today.
In his column this week, Matt Emerson responds:
That last sentence is almost self-refuting and ought to incentivize everyone to watch the series for themselves. The pilgrims in adoration before the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe; the thousands crowding John Paul II at the first World Youth Day in Manila; the exuberant cries in St. Peter’s Square greeting the new Pope Benedict XVI; the vibrant, colorful liturgies in Uganda: these and more were dramatic vignettes of not only the vitality of today’s church but, equally, its universality.
And what, I wonder, would better convey a living tradition? Kitsch church mosaics? If that’s the tradition we’re preserving, to hell with it.
I see the power of this documentary in the reaction of my students. I’m not halfway through the series with a group of seniors and already they are more captivated by “Catholicism” than probably anything I’ve ever shown or taught, whether book, article, or movie. One student walked into class the other day and said, “Mr. Emerson, I love this movie.” To be with these students as Father Barron speaks in San Chapelle or as he explains the Beatitudes in the shadow of Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece is as remarkable a moment as anything I’ve experienced as a teacher.
Yes, it seems to me that education should be “first things, first” with enlargements later — after students have gotten those “first things.”
You’ll want to read Matt’s whole piece.
If you have not been adequately enticed into checking out the series and book, yet, do check out Matthew Warner’s “10 Sneak Previews”.