Thursday, August 25, 2011

Heads Up: Fr. Robert Barron's Catholicism Sounds Incredible

Brandon Vogt is the latest in a long series of Catholic bloggers to give unbelievably good reviews to Fr. Robert Barron's upcoming Catholicism series.  Brandon reviewed the book, Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith, but there's also a ten-part DVD series, which will be airing on PBS this fall.

I've not read (or seen) Catholicism yet, but what strikes me is that it isn't getting good reviews... it's getting incredible reviews.   Brandon says things like,
To be blunt, this is simply the best book on Catholicism I've ever read. And I've read a lot of them. Without hyperbole, I can say that this will now be the first book I'll recommend to anyone exploring the Catholic faith.
And Brandon hasn't just read a lot of good books lately: he's written one, a book garnering a lot of positive buzz in its own right.  So he knows a good book when he sees one.  And he's not putting this in the realm of good, but in a category of its own:
Ultimately, Catholicism stands as Barron's magnum opus, the culmination of his life's work so far. Which means it's the best work from one of the world's best theologians, a monumental gift to the Church. RCIA programs across the country should adopt the book as a foundational text, and through Word on Fire's own study program, parishes should use the film series and book to reignite the passion of their flock.


One reviewer described the book and film series as “the most vivid catechism ever created.” And I think he's right. This will go down as the greatest catechetical tool of our generation, the premier, single-volume book on Catholicism.
Brandon concludes, “Whoever you are, and for whoever you know, buy this book. I simply can't give it a higher recommendation.”  Calling that review “good” is like calling hell “warm.”

So what's the book all about, anyhow?
Barron is not just concerned with what's good and true about the Catholic tradition but also what's beautiful. The Catholic faith is not just a matter of the mind and the soul but of the body and the senses. Therefore if we want to fully understand "the Catholic thing", we need to gaze on art, history, culture, music, literature, and architecture: 
“In order to grasp (Catholicism) more fully, we have to read the Gospels, the Epistles of Paul, the Confessions of St. Augustine, the Summa Theologiae of Thomas Aquinas, The Divine Comedy of Dante, Saint John of the Cross' Ascent of Mount Carmel, The Story of a Soul of Therese of Lisieux, among many other texts. But we also have to look and listen.We must consult the Cathedral of Chartres, the Sainte-Chapelle, the Arena Chapel, the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Bernini's Ecstasy of Saint Teresa; the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Grunewald's Crucifixion in the Isenheim Altarpiece, the soaring melodies of Gregorian chant, the Masses of Mozart, and the motets of Palestrina.”
Like I said, I haven't read or seen Catholicism yet, and so I can't give a review of my own.  But given how incredibly positive every single review I've read has been of both the book and DVD series, I wanted to give a quick  “heads up” for anyone looking for a good great new resource about Catholicism.

10 comments:

  1. Thanks for highlighting my review, Joe! But if you think it was glowing, you should have seen the parts I edited out. For example:

    "It's difficult to review this book without sounding like a teenage girl after a Justin Bieber concert."

    PS. Can you send me your email address? (bvogt1@gmail.com)

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  2. Sure: it's Joseph[dot]Heschmeyer[at]gmail[dot]com. I'll shoot you an e-mail right now.

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  3. I'm making sure we run the DVD series at our parish :)

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  4. Hi Joe, question for you. As a Christian(non-Catholic), aren't great Chritians like St Thomas or St John of the Cross worthy of my attention, not to make me Catholic, but for me to understand the early church. I think it's a travesty that I'm only told about John Wesley and know nothing about Therese of Lisieux. Conversely, and correct me if I'm wrong, great non-Catholic Christians are hardly mentioned in Catholic circles in positive light.
    There were no non-CAtholics until the 1500's (in the west) so anyone I would read about would be Catholic. That doesn't mean I shouldn't read it.

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  5. WRA,

    Amen! I wish more people had your level of interest. There's two millenia worth of brilliant, beautiful Christian theology, meditations, prayers, and the like which all too often gets discarded because the Christian was either Catholic (in Protestants' cases), or non-Catholic (in Catholics' cases).

    Certainly, as a Catholic, I'm enriched by the writings of C.S. Lewis, the hymns of Charles Wesley (John's brother) and John Newton, etc. Just because I think that they got certain things wrong doesn't mean that they didn't get other things fantastically right.

    Hopefully, you'll find the same thing in the other direction, and even more so, since there's an extra 1500 years worth of material to choose from.

    God bless,

    Joe

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  6. WRA,

    I second what Joe said. As a Catholic, I routinely use and refer to great works by CS Lewis and others when I feel that they may more readily move someone towards Christ.

    In Christ
    Cary

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  7. Yep, yep...Lewis, Wesley and many others.

    I also enjoy a lot of contemporary non-Catholic writers. John Stott was instrumental in my own journey (http://restlesspilgrim.net/blog/2011/08/07/john-stott-rip/). Philip Yancey is another of my favourites. There isn't a single book of his that I haven't thought was brilliant, especially "Where is God when it hurts?" and "The Jesus I never knew".

    Having said that, I remember when I discovered the Early Church Fathers...woah...

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  8. Word on Fire posted a link to this post on FB!! Congrats!

    I am really looking forward to this series. Hoping we can get a copy for the convent!

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  9. Sister Lynn,

    Thanks! I can't wait to read it myself -- I'll post a review of my own in due time, once I get to read it. A convent copy would be great: I think my parish is getting the DVDs.

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