Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Finally, my own review of the Catholicism series

Sorry about the formatting problem! You can find the review in its original form at Amazon where you can also "like" the review. Thanks.

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, awe-inspiring!, October 18, 2011
By Paul Adams (Ave Maria, FL)
This review is from: Catholicism DVD Box Set (DVD)
I have watched the whole series several times and cannot recommend it too highly. Beautifully produced (on a shoestring), intelligent, lucid, engaging, the series (like Catholicism itself) works on several levels. The Church has gone through a dark period, 40 years in the wilderness of self-inflicted wounds - scandal and a kind of beige accommodation to the times that produced some of the worst liturgical excesses, music, art, and architecture in the Church's history.

Father Barron does not dodge the issues that have preoccupied critics of the Church from within and without, but he does not let them set his agenda. Instead the series tells the Church's own story, restoring the color and beauty of the faith as an incarnational and sacramental religion like no other. Barron explores the relation of faith to reason, of Christian religion to science, of sensuous art and mystical experience to theology and philosophy.

Drawing on some of the greatest analytic minds of the past two millennia as well as the Church's mystics, artists, architects, and poets, Barron offers us a rich tapestry of the faith and its adherents throughout the world. Some of the images of piety and devotion of masses of ordinary people in Uganda and at Fatima, as well of the living patrimony of great art and architecture, are unforgettable.

I recommend watching (and buying if possible) the whole series. It is organized thematically rather than as historical narrative. Every theme reinforces and speaks to all the others. All are expounded through engaging and clarifying stories, similes, and images. Barron draws us in from the start with an arresting challenge to the mushy view that reduces Jesus to a great teacher, like other religious founders, even a kind of Deepak Chopra of his day. But his followers were "amazed and afraid" in the presence of the God-Man, who asked his disciples, not what people thought of his teachings, but who they said he was. The challenge is that Christianity confronts us with a stark choice - either Jesus was who he said he was (in which case we owe him everything) or he was a bad man who deluded himself and others. This challenge is at the heart of Rabbi Jacob Neusner's imagined dialogue with Jesus (A Rabbi Talks With Jesus) and Pope Benedict's engagement with Neusner (Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration).

The series is an extraordinary contribution the "New Evangelization" proclaimed by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. As such it will appeal to those Catholics, especially the young, who yearn for an orthodox, confident, holy Catholicism. It will inform and challenge others whose only knowledge of the faith derives from its critics and enemies. For those who, with a few knock-down arguments, condemn unheard the Church and its profound contribution to (especially but not only) Western civilization, science, ethics, and culture, this is a unique opportunity to hear the other side. Audi alteram partem! 

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