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Chapter One

THE BARRON STORY

One charming aspect of Bishop Robert Barron’s person­ality, though it is frustrating for an interviewer, is that he doesn’t really much like talking about himself. I’ve come to think the reason is not only genuine humility but also impatience to get on to what he thinks is the far more impor­tant element of any conversation—namely, the Catholic faith, and why it’s the best answer to the questions that well up from every human heart.

Yet it’s important to begin with some basics about Barron’s life and background, not only because doing so helps us get a read on where he’s coming from but also because it provides fodder for one of the towering questions about the ministry of evangeliza­tion: Are great evangelizers born, or made? That is to say, can the kind of missionary talent Barron possesses be taught, or do you just have to be gifted with it?

As we’ll see, Barron’s own answer to that question is the clas­sic Catholic “both/and”—natural talent helps, he concedes, but he also firmly believes that certain techniques can be taught that will make anyone seriously interested in evangelizing better at doing it.

Also as we’ll see, the basic “technique” Barron proposes is doing one’s homework. He’s convinced that one can’t defend and extol the nearly two-thousand-year intellectual history of the Catholic Church without mastering it oneself. Understanding how he went about that, and what drove him to do it, may help others find their own path. Today, an equally important component of Barron’s life and self-understanding is his role as a bishop. Precisely because it’s so fundamental, we’ll cover his thoughts on that front in a separate chapter, Chapter 9).