Priest Videos and Problems of Recommendation

I have received probably three dozen emails over the past two days tipping me off to “a new priest video” or asking me to please post the video, or demanding to know why I have not yet posted it, as is my duty as a Catholic blogger.

But I don’t want to mischaracterize the emails. Most people are very nice, and they just want to make sure I am aware of this new video that advocates for the priesthood.

Well, I am aware of it, but I haven’t posted it here for a very simple reason. I don’t much like it. It clocks in at over three minutes, I find it overlong; it feels unending. Moreover, I find the thing a trifle too-something (call it proud, call it triumphalist, but I’m not sure I mean either of those words, just something that’s not doing it for me — defensive, maybe?). Even worse, it strikes me as being a bit short on joy.

It’s just not to my taste, that’s all. A few months ago I was asked to preview a film that I really wanted to like, because it celebrates Mass and the Eucharist, but it was so poorly done, I just couldn’t like it. I couldn’t bring myself to say that I did, or to recommend it to others simply because there aren’t enough such films out there and “something is better than nothing.” Particularly when the issue matters, sometimes nothing is better than something that doesn’t really do it justice. I guess that’s how I feel about this video. I think I’d be doing a disservice to both the well-intentioned filmmakers, and to the church, by effusively praising something that I really didn’t think met the need.

By all means see what you think; you might love it, but I much-prefer this one from 2009, which manages to be short, pointed and very joyful indeed:

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About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Frank La Rocca


    It’s the Action-Adventure hero music that undermines it. It lacks humility in its tone.
    I agree with you assessment.


  • Deacon Greg Kandra

    Amen, Elizabeth. You nailed it.

    I’m with you. LOVE the Dolan NYPRIEST clip. This one, not so much. I’d send it back to the edit room for another cut with a lot of notes. It’s not ready for prime time.

    Dcn. G.

  • John

    I completely disagree. You are entitled to your own opinion, but I don’t agree with speaking out against the video itself this strongly. That will only discourage film makers from attempting videos like this. If you don’t like it, that’s fine…but a whole post bashing a video that does its best to support the priesthood? That’s just wrong.

    The video is meant to be a pump-up video for Catholics. The Priesthood is an amazing thing and should be seen as such. I like the other video you posted as well, but they serve different purposes. As I said before, it’s fine if you don’t like it, but taking this much effort to spread to the world that you don’t like it seems just wrong.

  • Maggie Goff

    I do love the one that you posted, and have had it in my favorites since it came out, and have watched it several times. I do have that feeling of joy bubbling up in me when I watch it.

    I don’t get that same feeling watching the newer one, but it does have Fr John Hallowell and I like him a lot.

  • Maggie Goff

    Funny you mentioned humility, Frank. I was thinking the same thing.

  • Joanne K McPortland

    Really, the music was the first part I noticed, too. And the slickness of production, which seems to reflect a smugness of viewpoint. (I have the same problem with the Catholics Come Home videos.) Going back through it, there is an isolation in the shot selection—the opening sunrise shot shows a church in the middle of nowhere, the priests are mostly shown alone in closeup, etc—that makes the priest the lone salvific figure, as though the Church were not Christ’s whole Body. And the “props”—the thurible, the ostensorium, very ornate tabernacle—are sort of like traditional clerical bling to me. (Before anybody picks me apart for nitpicking, video is part of my business, so I’m going to look at it from that standpoint.) Plus, you nailed it best, no joy. The NY video has joy, but also humanity—you can also tell these are real guys.

  • Daniel

    I want to say this with as much respect as I can… I liked the video from New York that was posted very well and its very well made. However, I noticed the two videos are on two different topics. One is focusing on a single event and the other is promoting priesthood in general. One statement you made that doesn’t quite make sense to me that it would be a “disservice to the church” if it were to be posted. I find it hard to imagine the church opposing it or even someone turning away from the idea of becoming a priest by watching that video. I personally find the Catholic priesthood video overall empowering and uplifting in regards to the church.

  • Jim R.

    I rather enjoyed watching the Catholic Priesthood video. I found the entire tone of the video to be exciting, inspiring, and spiritual. They were both excellently made!

  • Alfred Browning

    You guys do realize you’re speaking out against a freshman college student who had the guts to sink his own money into creating this video, right?

  • George @ Convert Journal

    Elizabeth, the older one you posted is a classic vocational video. I loved it from the first time I saw it. That said, while different in focus and approach, I don’t see anything wrong with the new one. I think that it is a positive video not only for vocation advancement, but also for the Church in general.

  • Ann

    I wonder if this video might have more appeal to males than to females in it’s tone. It’s reminiscent of army recruiting videos and perhaps that speaks men.

  • The Ranter

    Check out Spirit Juice Studios for awesomely amazing Catholic stuff.

  • Jo-Ann

    I like it for the fact they there are real priests talking about the priesthood. So many people need to hear what our priests do and what they are here for, and to hear from priests who really like what they do. The music as it climaxes at the end is a bit much for my liking…and they stole the Notre Dame football commercial ending (We are, we are, we are, the Fighting Irish).
    But I do find the first one very inspiring. Especially since my friend is in it.

  • Kay

    I found both videos to be inspiring. The older one (as other commentors have put it) gives a broader view of the role of a priest and of the priesthood. With the first, while quite good, you are given only a view of one event, within the walls of physical church. With the newer – you see the priest (and the Church) in the world.

  • Kay

    I have misspoke! I got my old and new mixed up! I should have said, “The newer one (as other commentors have put it) gives a broader view of the role of a priest and of the priesthood. With the first (older), while quite good, you are given only a view of one event, within the walls of physical church. With the newer – you see the priest (and the Church) in the world.” Sorry!

  • Tom B

    With a couple of knits to pick, I don’t see the problem. The opening shots weren’t good and I was prepared to agree with the negative assessment at that point. (ie silhouette slo-mo thru door, aerial spin over St Pat’s; they are derivative of Action Movies, specifically “Armageddon” came to mind) The music may-be, but otherwise it was good, it IS a recruitment commercial. And it is aimed at men. So I give it a B (if it’s correct that it’s by a college freshman then: A+)

  • Russ

    I am not a Catholic. However, I am a writer and photographer. What I observe is the difference in point of view in the two videos. The older video is narrated off-camera and separates the men being ordained from the audience. This creates a mystical aura (spiritual enlightenment) that would disappear if the young priests were to speak for themslves in the video. The newer video completely erases that mystery and shows the men as neighbors, brothers or friends, like anyone else except for their vocation. Just my thoughts.

  • Deacon Steve

    I think one of the points Elizabeth was making is that people take these videos or other things and pass them around online and expect everyone else to do the same. They become some sort of litum test of your faith, if you pass them them on you are a good Catholic and if you don’t you are a bad Catholic, or lack faith. Just because someone finds value in it doesn’t mean that another has to find teh same value, and should not be attacked for not passing it on, as was the case with some of the emails that Elizabeth apparently received. Passing on videos, or pictures, or clever sayings or emails is a personal choice. Passing on every one that is sent to you doesn’t make you a better Catholic than someone who doesn’t. I rarely pass on these types of things, and many of my friends and parishioners have commented that when I do pass them on they look at them, because I don’t flood their email or FB or twitter with things. I pass on those things that touch me ina personal way, and share how it did touch me. Passing on only a small percentage of what is thrown out into cyberspace can be more effective than overloading people with everything.

    [Thanks, Deacon, you said it better than I could. Some emails were badgering me -- essentially challenging me to like the video and post it or it would be evidence of something suspect within my Catholicism. I never respond well to that. :-) -admin]

  • Max Lindenman

    Whoever made the video set himself the impossible task of making the priesthood as glamorous as a special-ops unit. For the most part, it isn’t. Anyone who enters a seminary expecting adventure or prestige is going to end up frustrated and miserable.

    A friend of mine, who was ordained just two years ago, has what has always impressed me as a winning attitude. When I asked him how he saw his career unfolding — whether he had any ambitions of becoming a diocesan adminstrator, a canon lawyer, or a bureaucrat in a Vatican dicastery — he told me, “Hell, I don’t care. I’d be happy spending my life talking to old ladies after Mass.”

    And, you know, I don’t think he’s alone. If I remember correctly, Fr. Andrew Greeley found that rates of job satisfaction are higher among priests than among members of nearly any other occupational group. Ratherthan trying to fluff up the sacerdotal life with dramatic music and whatnot, the filmmaker should have found exactly what it is about being a priest that makes priests happy, and broadcast the crap out of it.

  • David F

    Honestly, I didn’t find either one strikingly good or bad; they’re both just alright to me. Love Cardinal Dolan, but found the film too NY, weak, and poorly shot with distracting lighting. The other was overlong, oddly cropped and not as articulate, but it was more on point IMO. For my taste, and this is obviously a question of personal preference, the highly evident joy and peace in Father Barron’s videos are much more inspiring, even though he doesn’t deal with vocation directly. Ultimately God’s offer will be presented to those He chooses; I wouldn’t expect something so important would hang on the quality of the vocation video.