When I chose to convert to the Catholic Church in 2012, my very first RCIA class gathered to watch an episode of Catholicism by Father Robert Barron. It was a fabulous night and I was hooked on the content from Word on Fire from then on.
I had a chance to watch the new series from Word on Fire, Catholicism: The Pivotal Players and it is absolutely stunning. If you liked the first Catholicism series by Fr. Barron, you’re going to LOVE this new series by Bishop Barron.
I’m still getting used to calling him “Bishop Barron” but our priest is still as familiar as ever in this new series. I absolutely love the direct that Word of Fire went with this production. This series is focussed on highlighting a magnificent composition of five Catholic personalities that enable viewers to gain an appreciation for the development of Catholic thought, art, history, rhetoric, culture, and the literature.
You’ll discover the places where St. Thomas Aquinas lived, learned, and wrote. Visit the countryside where St. Francis gathered a group of friars and revived the Church. See the places where St. Catherine of Siena ministered and prayed. Trek through England to where Bl. John Henry Newman and G.K. Chesterton left their mark and sparked an English Catholic revival. And through unprecedented HD footage, marvel at the extraordinary art of Michelangelo, from his David statue in Florence, to the Pietà at St. Peter’s, to the Sistine Chapel.
To me, this series moved beyond the catechesis of the first Catholicism series, to a horizon focused on the subtleties that set the Catholic culture apart from that of history and the world at large. These five “pivotal players” are just that, game changers, and through each episode you’ll learn how each of them contributed the the way we see and know the Church today.
Here’s some items you can look forward to in this awesome new series.
A variety of topics, times, and personalities
Each episode covers a different topic and study (and person, of course) while maintaining continuity of the central message: how this “pivotal player” contributes to Catholicism as we know it. I suppose at first I though to myself that the list of “players” was quite irregular. But after one episode I realized that Bishop Barron and Word on Fire did not just want to make a cursory study of the saints with the most accomplishments or the most popularity. In fact, some of the personalities are not even saints, which is an extraordinary reality that they had such an effect on Catholicism Instead, the series discusses the players in Catholic history who exerted such an influence on Catholicism that they forever altered the direction of Catholic thought, art, literature, rhetoric, and more. It goes to show that, sometimes, the pivotal players are not just the saints. You won’t find a more robust and diverse study of Catholic personalities.
Check this out:
Bishop Barron’s commentary is illuminating
No surprise here, right? But it’s worth mentioning because he draws out SO MUCH from the topics we all feel we’re already familiar with. For example, we’re all familiar with the Sistine Chapel but few of us truly understand the brilliant intent of Michelangelo. Bishop Barron takes you there and shows you piece by piece, what the paintings in the Sistine represent. Likewise, I’m a Third Order member of the Dominican Order, but I learned so much about Thomas Aquinas and the context of his studies. Bravo to our bishop for bringing so much joy to learning new things about familiar topics.
The insight is stunning
The episode on Michelangelo was one of my favorites. It actually caught me off guard and highly exceeded my expectation. Without a doubt it the most visually pleasing of all the episodes, but along with that it was spiritually satisfying. What I would see on the DVD, or in online images, or even if I traveled to Florence and Rome myself, I would simply be amazed at the detail in the work of Michelangelo. But his work is far more than detailed and beautiful, and this is where Fr. Barron really moved me. When Bishop Barron brought out the intricacies and interpretations, for example, of the Pieta (pictured below), I got chills. He explains how the sculpture was originally intended to be an altar piece, with Mary posing an offering in one hand, and supporting Christ in her other with a garment is a representation of a Eucharistic offering, much like a monstrance. I would probably have never learned that. I actually became a bit teary eyed and emotional as this segment closed.
Bishop Barron makes this sculpture come to life!
The vistas are beautiful
One thing I’m glad the series producers and creators retained – and perhaps expanded on – from the original Catholicism series is the stunning vistas. The graphic detail, in believe, really does justice to the art and, for lack of better words, hugeness of the cities, sculptures, facades, volumes of books, and on and on. Each episode draws the viewer into a world of tradition, beauty, and history.
There’s so much to discover in this new series, I urge you to get a copy especially if you work for a parish, your diocese, or host a small group or study. You will be very happy with your decision.