As most Insight Scoop readers know, Fr. Robert Barron and the folks of the Word on Fire apostolate have been working for some time on the ambitious "Catholicism Project", a ten-part video series about the history, beliefs, practices, and nature of the Catholic Church.
Each of the ten episodes is an hour long and focuses on essential topics, including the Incarnation, the teachings of Jesus, the mystery of God, the Mother of God, the Apostles Peter and Paul, the Church, the Sacraments and liturgy, the Communion of Saints, prayer, and the Last Things. As the descriptive copy states, "this engaging and interesting formational program uses the art, architecture, literature, music and all the treasures of the Catholic tradition to illuminate the timeless teachings of the Church."
Over the past year or so, I've had the privilege of working with Fr. Barron and Fr. Stephen Grunow, assistant director of Word on Fire, on writing the Study Guide/Workbook for the "Catholicism Project". This involved a careful reading of Fr. Barron's scripts for the videos (which were still being shot as I worked on the guide), and then using those as the basis for a detailed study drawing upon Scripture, Church documents—especially conciliar documents and the Catechism of the Catholic Church—and the writings of Fathers, Doctors, Saints, Popes, and others. From the descriptive copy on the Word on Fire site:
Each study guide lesson provides an extensive commentary on the theological content of each episode, plus “Questions for Understanding” and “Questions for Application.” The “Questions for Understanding” incorporate references from Scripture and from the Catechism of the Catholic Church to build on topics featured in the series. The “Questions for Application” help you reflect on how Father Barron’s message is relevant to your own life and experiences.
I'm not sure how long the final Study Guide will be, but it will likely be more of a book than a booklet (I put down over a 100,000 words total).
It has been a tremendous honor to be involved in what I believe is a really remarkable project. There are many reasons for saying the "Catholicism Project" is remarkable, and I'll mention just a couple. First, the series is a unique and seamless marriage of catechesis, theology, history, culture, devotion, art, apologetics, and philosophy, adroitly presenting the great breadth and depth of Catholicism. This is a testament to Fr. Barron's impressive gifts as a pastor, theologian, philosopher, communicator, author, historian, and speaker. He challenges viewers to grapple with the mysteries of Faith while always avoiding two great temptations: to dumb things down or to be needlessly obscure or pedantic.
Secondly, having now seen a couple of episodes, I can say that the "Catholicism Project" captures, often in breathtaking fashion, the tremendous beauty of Catholicism. The cinematography is of the highest order, and the range of visual material is tremendous, including footage from all over the globe, in cathedrals and churches, at liturgies and in monasteries, of priests and laity, nuns and monks. Each episode highlights certain works of art, literature or architecture, and the Study Guide discusses these as well. In short, this is not only a most worthy introduction to Catholicism, but a vibrant and personal tour, if you will, of the Faith established by Christ and alive and well today, despite desperate rumors to the contrary.
Finally, I can't say enough about how enjoyable it was to work with Fr. Barron and Fr. Grunow. The latter, especially, deserves some sort of medal for putting up with unexpected hiccups in my schedule, and always putting me into a much better frame of mind when I found the going tough on a couple of occasions. His good humor and patient encouragement were a real blessing. Thank you, Fr. Steve!
If you've not seen it already, here is one of the introductory videos for the "Catholicism Project":
And here is a recent video from Fr. Barron, featuring remarks made by Cardinal Timothy Dolan and George Weigel, announcing that some episodes of the "Catholicism Project" will air on WTTW, Chicago’s premier public television station: