On Fridays, I typically feature a short video that illustrates the faith, usually in some unintentional ways. Today, I’d like to call to your attention to a new series of videos by Bishop Robert Barron, which intentionally set forth the faith: Catholicism: The Pivotal Players. The first volume of the series has been released and covers St. Francis of Assisi, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catherine of Siena, Michelangelo, Blessed John Henry Newman, and G.K. Chesterton. One or more future volumes will be forthcoming.
There are various ways of relating Church history. One can emphasize themes, take a strict chronological approach, or focus on key historical figures and the times in which they lived. It is this last approach that Bishop Barron takes.
As we have come to expect with Bishop Barron’s projects, “The Pivotal Players” is wonderfully done. The visuals are stunning. Beauty, goodness, and truth belong together, and Bishop Barron gets the balance right. Words and images support each other and summon us to goodness. For those who cannot afford pilgrimages to distant lands, Bishop Barron’s series provides a way to almost be there!
The biographical material presented is richly informative without being overwhelming. Word and image together paint a full picture. The material is broken up into manageable 12-15 minute segments, allowing a parish group or family to stop and discuss along the way.
There are the wonderful cutaways in which Bishop Barron speaks informally to a man off-camera, decoding the material and framing it well. He applies the material to modern times and helps us to understand the original context as well as its historical significance. These interludes are some of the best moments in the videos; he makes very memorable observations. As a small example, Bishop Barron likens St. Francis of Assisi to a bomb or a clanging bell that God used to wake up the Church. What a memorable, cogent remark!
I highly recommend that you watch the series. I am currently viewing it with a small group of parishioners. As we watch, a great deal comes alive for us: hagiography, to be sure, but also history, liturgy, ecclesiology, spirituality, and new perspective. It is a rich meal provided by the good Bishop—a feast for both the eyes and the soul. I’m glad to know this is just the first volume!