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Catholic Voice
CURRENT ISSUE:  October 3, 2011
VOL. 49, NO. 17   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page story
39 sisters honored for decades of service
PBS series ‘Catholicism’
begins this month

The Sea of Galilee is a backdrop for Father Robert Barron in the PBS series, “Catholicism.”

“Catholicism,” a multi-part documentary series, has begun airing in more than 80 public television markets across the country.

When to watch

KCSM, Channel 60; on most cable/ satellite services, Channel 17 PBS is airing four episodes of the 10-part series: Sundays at 10 p.m. beginning Oct. 2; Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. beginning Oct. 13. Check schedule for exact times and dates.

EWTN: The Catholic network is carried on Comcast Channel 229, AT&T Channel 562, Astound Channel 116, DISH Satellite Channel 261 and Direct TV Channel 370. In Alameda, Comcast airs EWTN on Channel 30. EWTN will show the entire 10-part series beginning at 8 p.m. Nov. 16. Check schedule for exact times and dates.

More information:
The series, hosted by Father Robert Barron, illustrates the history and treasures of a global religion shared by more than 1 billion people. It is filmed in high-definition and spans more than 50 locations in 15 countries.

Father Barron’s ‘Catholicism’ spreads the word

By George Weigel

In fall 1972, a group of us, philosophy majors all, approached our dean of studies, Father Bob Evers, with a request: Under the supervision of a faculty member, could we build a two-credit senior seminar in our last college semester around Kenneth Clark’s BBC series, “Civilization,” which had been shown on American public television. Father Evers agreed, and we had a ball. “Civilization” was the perfect way to finish a serious undergraduate liberal arts education; it brought together ideas, art, architecture and history in a visually compelling synthesis of the history of western culture that respected Catholicism’s role in shaping the West.

Over the next four decades, I wondered whether someone, somewhere, at some point, would do a “Civilization”-like series on Catholicism itself: a Grand Tour of the Catholic world that explored the Church as a culture through its teaching, its art, its music, its architecture — and above all, through the lives it shaped. That has now happened. The result is the most important media initiative in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States.

The man responsible for this feat is Father Robert Barron, a priest of the archdiocese of Chicago and a faculty member at Mundelein Seminary. Father Barron is an old friend (and a colleague on NBC’s Vatican coverage), but I’ll risk the charge of special pleading by stating unequivocally that Father Barron’s “Catholicism,” a 10-part series premiering on public television stations around the country this fall, is a master work by a master teacher. In 10 episodes that take the viewer around the Catholic world, from Chartres to the slums of Calcutta and dozens of points in-between, Father Barron lays out the Catholic proposal in a visually stunning and engaging series of presentations that invites everyone into the heart of the faith, which is friendship with Jesus Christ.

Having talked with Father Barron and his colleagues at Word on Fire, his media ministry, throughout the production of “Catholicism,” I can testify that this was a great labor of love: love for the Lord, love for the Church and love for the truths the Church teaches. Yet there is nothing saccharine here, nothing cheesy, nothing pop-trendy. It’s Catholic Classic, not Catholic Lite, but John Cummings’ cinematography is so beautiful, Steve Mullen’s original score is so fetching (drawing on ancient chants in a thoroughly contemporary way) and Father Barron’s narration is so deft — the man has a genius for the telling example or analogy — that even the most difficult facets of Catholic belief and practice come alive in a completely accessible way.

At the center of it all is Jesus of Nazareth, posing that unavoidable and disturbing question: “Who do you say that I am?” Viewers of “Catholicism” will get to know many of the great minds and spirits who wrestled with that question over two millennia — Peter and Paul; Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and Dante; Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross; Edith Stein and Katherine Drexel. But throughout the series, the focus keeps coming back to the Lord Jesus. “Catholicism” is built on the firm convictions that it is his Church and that it is His truth that measures all truth. Father Barron understands that post-modern culture poses special challenges for the proclamation of the Gospel. That’s why this committed believer, who is also a fine theologian, can sympathetically but forcefully invite his viewers into a thorough exploration of the Creed (an exploration deepened in the series’ companion book, Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith [Doubleday]).

There is no dithering about the bad news, either: Father Barron knows that the Catholic Church is a community of sinners whose infidelities have often marred the face of the Lord. At the same time, Father Barron’s series displays the innumerable ways that the Catholic Church has been and remains a force for truth, decency, compassion and sanity in an often-cruel world.

Watch it. Politely lobby your local public television station to show the series in its entirety. Spread the word.

(George Weigel is distinguished senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.)
Father Barron is the creator and host of the series. He is the Francis Cardinal George Professor of Faith and Culture at Mundelein Seminary and a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago. His columns appear occasionally in The Catholic Voice.

In the sweeping documentary, Father Barron tells the story of Catholicism around the world using art, architecture, literature, music and all the riches of the Catholic tradition. The production crew traveled to some of the world’s most magnificent and sacred sites.

Executive Producer Mike Leonard, a veteran correspondent for NBC‘s Today show, spent two years with Father Barron traveling the world with a crew of network television producers.

“‘Catholicism’ is fascinating television. This series will be of great interest to viewers who want a better understanding of the impact and meaning this faith continues to have throughout the World,” said Dan Soles, senior vice president and chief television content officer at Chicago PBS affiliate WTTW.

“Whatever your belief or background, there is much to gain from this deep and profound excursion into spirituality, logic and the human experience,” Leonard said.

Father Barron said, “Our team traveled the globe to capture some of the beauty, truth and texture of Catholicism. I am thrilled that people across the country will have the opportunity to share in the series, and I hope to engage the imaginations of both Catholics and non-Catholics.”

Catholic network EWTN will air all 10 episodes, while PBS stations are showing four. EWTN plans to rerun the series in December. The full series is available for purchase at CatholicismSeries.com.

Father Barron has written a 300-page book, “Catholicism,” published by Image Books/Doubleday (Random House). There is also a study program available with a comprehensive workbook written by Carl Olson. These are all now available for RCIA, adult education, schools and parishes.

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