Monday, February 4, 2013

On Father Barron's "Catholicism" Series

I wanted to note here that I finally capitulated and started watching Father Robert Barron's "Catholicism" video series.

My knee-jerk reaction to all the hype and hoopla when it first came out was to avoid it. That's a very "Char" thing to do, and I'm OK with that. Also, I especially didn't want to watch it with certain groups of people that I knew were going to annoy me and gush and gush and gush. I had actually entertained the idea that I would one day end up watching it alone.

Now I'm here to gush.

I know, I'm hilarious.

Turns out that Alan's school has been showing it on Fridays once or twice a month after mass. It's a group of moms watching, and they are women I'm comfortable with.

What I like most about the series so far - I've seen only 3 or 4 episodes? - is the very obvious, though simultaneously NOT obvious emphasis on how varied and diverse Catholicism is, yet all of it IS Catholic. So many people do not get that or refuse to see it or don't want to admit it.

During one episode, Father Barron was discussing something - I wish I could remember what - and I turned to one woman (who knows how I feel about certain issues) and said to her, "This is why the Traditional Catholics are wrong." (Disclaimer: I was not saying they are wrong in a total sense. It had more to do with the nuances of how Traditional Catholicism is often presented and sold by its adherents, being an isolated thing that is the only truly true thing.)

Whatever it was that made me speak up like that, I got the sense that Christ's arms and love (and therefore the Church) are big and strong and wide open. Much bigger than many loudmouth Catholics want to accept, believe, or attest to.

Last week we saw the episode about the saints. Though I started crying during the St. Therese part (wimp alert), what really fascinated me more was the story about St. Katherine Drexel. It just blew me away! All that money, all that status, all that cultured elitism and she chucked it out to serve blacks and Indians at a time when that would have been considered insane. Talk about social justice!

Which is the point. Here was social justice in play by a holy, orthodox woman who became a saint. Social justice??!?!!! Heresy alert! Liberal alert! Sirens! Alarms!


Everything about the "Catholicism" series - what I've seen of it so far - is renewing my faith in the Catholic Church. It is giving me hope that I am not a weirdo or a heretic for my personal brand of faith. It is reminding me that Christ is bigger than the petty arguments between the liturgy police and the uber-orthodox, etc. It is confirming my sense that logic and common sense have a place in faith. (Just listening to Father Barron talk is like having "head-screwed-on-straight balm" applied to my whole being.)

I've missed an episode or two, which upset me at first, but I see now that every episode is stand alone.

If you know a Protestant that is questioning the Catholic faith/interested in it or a lukewarm Catholic, the first episode will blow their mind! It did for me. All I could think as I was watching it was so-and-so and so-and-so needs to see this. And for the precise reason that it wasn't all in-your-face or propaganda-ish or pushy or anything. It was just so sensible in its presentation of truth and mystery and majesty that my jaw was on the ground.

The sad thing is, I'll bet many Traditional Catholics have refused to watch the "Catholicism" series. I've had thoughts like this through every episode I've literally sat riveted to. I hope I'm wrong, because there is a big, beautiful wide world of Catholic faith out there, and I get the sense that some dedicated Catholics are missing it. I share these thoughts because they are just that, my thoughts and impressions, and not to enflame a liturgy/rite war.


  1. It is a wonderful series. I own it, but I need to finish the last two episodes. Or maybe I will just rewatch it from the beginning. I could use it right about now.


  2. I use his word on fire sermons to prepare myself for mass. That saint episode is my favorite.

    1. Sherry, I said to the women watching we me afterwards, wouldn't it be awesome if Father Barron could do like a hundred or more saints stories just like he did in that episode? I would LOVE that!

    2. I would love that! The only one I thought was weak, was the hardest one, the answer to Evil. Because I felt (unlike all the others in the series), it was rushed.

  3. We were given the set for Christmas. I've only watched one episode so far. You've got me fired up to watch the rest.

  4. I saw one episode with some of the Anglicans coming into the Church in the ordinariate and liked it very much. Why would you think that "traditionalists" would not like it?

    I certainly think of 'tradition' as a good thing. I attend the Extraordinary Form of the mass when I don't attend the Eastern Rite or the Anglican use. I think that puts me somewhat on the traddy side (although not really up there with the serious traddies, especially since the tendency in the Eastern Rite is to disagree strongly with some "traddy" positions) and I found nothing to criticize about the one episode I saw.

    So what specific things were there about this series-or even general things- that you thought "traddies" would not like?
    How do you define "traditionalist" by the way?

    Susan Peterson

    1. Hi Susan,

      On my old blog, any number of debates as to what the definition of "Traditional Catholic" is took place. As far as I'm concerned, it's a black hole debate, even with avowed Traditional Catholics taking issue with being called Traditional Catholics. If you think that through to it's logical end, you should arrive at the same conclusion I do.

      For me, a Traditional Catholic equals the Latin Mass crowd.

      I have no problems with the Latin Mass; the prayers in it are beautiful, it's a beautiful rite. Though I do believe very strongly that the whole it "must" be in Latin argument is hollow. So anyway, those who prefer the Latin mass? Great!

      Rather, I have issues with the Latin Mass/Traditional Catholic Community that comes WITH the Latin Mass. For the most part, I see them as rigid, judgmental, and unforgiving, and always, always "right." No, this isn't EVERYONE in that community, of course not. But overall, yes.

      If you missed it, my old blog also hosted endless debates as to whether or not these negative qualities only come with loud-mouth internet TRADS, as opposed to real-life TRADS. However, I maintain that every internet TRAD I ever dealt with claimed a real-life affiliation with a church that offered the Tridentine mass, so I'm not buying that one either.

      Anyway, I can't specifically identify exactly what it was about the handful of "Catholicism" episodes that I believe the Traditionalists would dislike. I wasn't taking notes. It was just a sense and feeling I got, at times overwhelming. Perhaps it was the presentation of the Church as broad, open, living, and loving. That shouldn't be at odds with any form/rite of Catholicism, but I am convinced that it is. I am convinced that for a typical Traditionalist, "broad" and "open" equates with "ripe for liturgical abuse, too much pastoral leeway, and too much post-Vatican II nonsense that ends up being ecumenical." Certainly Father Barron didn't present any of that. But Traditionalists have a very clever and well-honed skill in turning things around to suit their needs, and more often than not, their primary need seems to be making sure everyone knows how wrong they (the non-TRADS) are.

      When you say that you "think of Tradition as a good thing," I believe we are talking about two different things. I agree with your statement, as I don't think that statement tells me that you exclusively attend the Tridentine mass. When I talk about Traditionalists, that's who I'm speaking of. The people who have followed me here from the old blog know that. If you didn't, I apologize.

      Tradition IS good. Except when it becomes its own separate religion that is used as a weapon against good, well-meaning Catholics who are legitimately living out their faith according to current Church teachings.

  5. Susan:

    Char may correct me if I am wrong in any way, but I believe she is referring to the "rad trad" tendencies in the Traditionalist movement, with these tendencies:

    1) A summary rejection of anything from Vatican II and after, even (and especially) things like the Divine Mercy devotion and the Luminous Mysteries. This also can extend to anything perceived as "modernist", such as any modern religious art, or even Gothic-style chasubles. There is an especial disdain for "modernists" and "heretics" who do things like the Ordinary Form in Latin, or the Anglican Use. They are even worse than the folk music-felt banner-female server-clown Mass-dancing crowd, because it's modernism under a traditional veneer.

    2) A lack of distinction between "big T" Tradition (paradosis and "little t" traditions (customs). The view of either is usually limited to the period between 1850 and 1960.

    3) A equalizing of private apparitions and revelations with the public revelation of the Church, especially Fatima, LaSalette (much of which is disputed), and Maria de Agreda's Mystical City of God. For example, Gruner's Fatima group considers the apparitions to be the fulfillment of Revelation 12.

    4) A Puritanical/Pharisaic/Jansenist attitude towards attire (for both sexes), sex, and popular culture.

    5) A small but vocal faction who hold to Fr. Feeney's definition of extra ecclesiam nulla salus.

    6) a bunker mentality, much like the Dwarves in C. S. Lewis' The Last Battle

    7) Breathtaking obstinacy when contradicted and/or corrected.

    8) Their way or the highway. No room for latitude or flexibility.

    9) Big time antisemitism.

    Again, I do not claim to answer for Our Esteemed Hostess, but those are the chief tendencies of what I've come across myself. I am also someone who likes the EF, is sympathetic towards the Traditional Movement, and I realize that not every Catholic who attends the EF and/or adheres to traditional practices is like this - far from it.

    If you want a concrete example of all the tendencies I've listed (and then some), I invite you to visit . And then get out of it as soon as you can.

    1. Dave P writes : "There is an especial disdain for "modernists" and "heretics" who do things like the Ordinary Form in Latin"

      No there isn't. I've been to over to over a 1,000 of them. Mostly daily Mass of course and at my alma mater. I spent years locally trying to get priests to say the novus ordo in latin with very little success.

    2. Dave,
      You crack me up.

      But seriously, good job! I would love for Love the Girls to address these, but that would be a digression.

      Like I said, it's not everyone who believes like this or acts like this in the Traditionalist communities, but I have yet to meet someone who doesn't adhere to at least a few of what you have listed above, which is a few too many for me.

    3. Actually, if there is disdain for the Novus Ordo in Latin, then I would think St. John Cantius in Chicago is a divided community.

      I went to my one and only Latin Novus Ordo there. Not impressed. Well, except for the part where Jesus is really there and present in the Eucharist. Like he is at every mass.

    4. I would consider St. John Cantius to be a balanced community, as anyone who attends there is aware that both forms are celebrated. There are trads who would refuse to attend Mass there in either form,as they consider Fr. Phillips and company to be wishy-washy compromisers.

    5. Fair enough. What that says to me is that St. John Cantius may be better than I thought. However, I'm not too sure I'm willing to find out.

      The "wishy-washy compromisers" part - that is the part that makes me want to scream.

    6. LTG:

      Like I said before, I'm not painting every Trad with that brush. And I do like going to the EF when I can. But there is a very vocal and prominent faction who consider the Latin OF to be the equivalent of putting lipstick, expensive jewelry, and a Christian Dior evening gown on a pig.

    7. My only issue with St. John Cantius is their use of orchestra Masses in the OF. It just doesn't work well within that framework. As it is, I'm not a fan of using "Coronation Mass" or similar settings in either form (I can handle good polyphany Masses for the EF). Were I a music director for an EF community, the Kyriale and the eighteen chant Masses within would have top priority. I also acknowledge that this is a personal and subjective preference.

    8. And I acknowledge that I have absolutely no clue as to what you are talking about here. I have much to learn! Can I learn in a vacuum without attending these masses? Ha!

    9. I'd agree that St. John Cantius is balanced. Hardcore trads won't go there since they say the new Mass. Now that the Society of Christ the King is in Chicago there is an option for people who don't want anything to do with the new rites.

      I don't get the Latin Mass OF. What's the point? It seems to me that if you're going to have latin you should go all the way and do the TLM. But I've never been to a Latin OF so probably shouldn't comment.

      What I find strange about St. John Cantius is that their main sunday Mass is the latin OF. Why not the TLM? It's later in the day at an inconvenient time (12:30 if I recall correctly).

    10. Anna:

      Have you ever visited the Monastery of the Holy Cross in the Bridgeport neighborhood? Their liturgy (both Mass and Office) is beautifully done, with both Latin and English.

  6. Charlotte writes : "My knee-jerk reaction to all the hype and hoopla when it first came out was to avoid it."

    Mine too, if it's popular among the common Catholics odds are it's likewise very annoying and well worth avoiding.

    Charlotte writes : "Traditionalists have a very clever and well-honed skill in turning things around to suit their needs, and more often than not, their primary need seems to be making sure everyone knows how wrong they (the non-TRADS) are."

    A good portion of those who go to the Latin Mass are clueless Jansenists who want to be Catholic. But of those who have been around awhile, what they are skilled at is seeing through the crap to see what they are actually being fed.

    A good example is the new orthodoxy which is little more than the cult of JPII. They sound good, as long as one doesn't dig to deep, or cross them.

    1. LTG, I'll agree with you on the Jansenists part.

    2. Me too!
      Angela M.

  7. I would just like to point out here that this post wasn't supposed to be a discussion on the TRAD thing. Far from it. I simply mentioned it because it was a personal thought, just a thing floating through my head as I watched.

    LTG, I daresay you are missing out if you don't ever get around to watching it. There is a brainy part of it that may surprise you.

  8. Well, I certainly don't know all the people who attend the TLM I have just started attending. Some of them are families with lots of kids, towards whom I always feel positive. Some of them are old old ladies, and I love to think that they now have a chance to worship as they did when they were young, as I know there is a deep longing for that sort of thing when one gets really old. One of the little old ladies yesterday chanted the whole creed in her quakey voice, but right on pitch. Some of them look silly and rather disreputable; the little Italian looking guy with the ridiculous toupee, the fat guy in in baggy clothes who is just a smidgen above looking like a street person, but who knows every word of all the responses, and the creed, in Latin. Most of them look perfectly ordinary. A surprising number of them go to confession (there are confessions before and during the mass as the friars come there with several priests). Some women wear chapel veils, and some don't, and there doesn't seem to be any judgment on those who don't. The only people I have really gotten to know are the choir director and the mostly young women in the choir. I have to say that they are amazing young people, and I wish my daughters could have been like them. They have put and are putting, an amazing amount of effort into learning Gregorian chant, which I am not sure I am going to be able to equal.
    So I don't know anyone's private beliefs. The priests encourage the whole rosary and I have been told to learn the Divine Mercy devotion. Since they are "Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate" they are very Marian in their devotion, and one of them did preach "Mediatrix of all Graces" as if it were defined doctrine, which it isn't. I understand how one can use that title for Our Lady, but I admit that I don't think we need to define any more Marian doctrines right now. They have the same tendency I noticed in my Eastern European Byzantine priest, to present pious legends from the pulpit right along with defined doctrine. I don't think these are harmful, exactly, but it seems, well, lacking in intellectual rigor. They show little interest in my comments about the Eastern rite, or about the Anglican Use, as if they have trouble grasping Catholicism of a different devotional flavor than their own. I think the one who is the head of the community is something of an exception to that though. But then, they are not an order with a primarily intellectual charism and it really isn't to be expected of them that they be familiar with other traditions, even other Catholic traditions. Within their own tradition they are immensely devoted and serious about holiness, expecting it of themselves and of us, which is one of the main reasons I am drawn there.
    Oh, and at their community they celebrate both the OF and the EF.
    The choir director tells me that many people who attend the EF, attend daily mass in the OF and interact with the rest of the parish in that way.
    So I don't think they really match your description.


  9. Susan,
    Like I said, it's not everyone who matches my description. I did say that.

    Again, unless there is some internet-only Tridentine community that I don't know about, nearly every Latin mass devotee on the internet I've ever come into contact with or read a blog post by (and that's A LOT) claims to go to a real life parish. So these people I describe, they do exist.

    Maybe they're good guys in person, and then when they get on the internet, they think out loud and air out all their rage and anger.

    Again, like I said, it's not everyone. If you haven't experienced these people, count yourself lucky. Although I would think with all the blogs you comment on, Susan, that you have likely experienced what I have.

    You are far more intellectual and schooled in theology than I could ever hope to be. I think there are certain common personality types that tend toward the various traditional rites that you are familiar with - and I don't mean that in a bad way. Overall, I believe intellectuals and extreme aesthetes are interested in the Latin Mass. I don't tend that way, and I doubt I ever will.

  10. REALLY wish this discussion hadn't veered in this direction. My thoughts in the original blog post were, again, as if I were just airing out a few stray thoughts in my happy, warm lovey-dovey feelings for Father Barron's video series.

    Just goes to show that if you mention "Traditional Catholic," there is ALWAYS a price to pay for it. One of the primary reasons I quit blogging for so long.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. I asked my good friend Patrick, a Feeneyite and occasional writer for Tradition in Action about the Fr. Barron series.

    And his reply fits with what I would have expected. Fr. Barron is a creature of the new orthodoxy who toes the company line very well.

    In other words, the series sounds very good for you, whereas I would find myself critiquing the program, which what I typically find myself doing in similar circumstance.

    1. LTG, you realize I'm going to have to a separate blog post revolving around this comment.

  12. If you could believe it, I have come across a sedevacantist website which had some grudging praise for the Catholicism series...strange but true...

    And I want to apologize for my part into dragging this discussion into Traddieland...

    I think a series on saints would be an excellent idea. Everyone from emperors (St. Henry) to street bums (St. Benedict Joseph Labre). The Church has room for everyone...

    1. No problem, Dave. I've sort of tried to make a commitment to be more responsive to comments on the new blog, and perhaps some I shouldn't, since it will just drag the discussion deeper into the pit.

  13. I'm impressed with what Fr. Barron is doing with Youtube from a Catholic social media perspective. He is reaching people where they are...especially the young Youtube crowd who would never actively engage a priest in conversation but they stumble upon him and seeds are planted....discussions start.

    He's got a great delivery and I've posted some of this videos on FB and Pinterest. Perhaps most interesting to this conversation is that my Latin Mass pastor is hosting his Catholicism series videos weekly and having discussions afterwards. Not all who love the Latin Mass are what you have experienced...not my community

    1. Allison, that's what I want to hear: Latin mass crowd being open to the universality of the Church. Not being afraid. Not throwing something out without trying it first. Not pre-supposing that because it's something new that it's total trash. Good for your pastor and good for you. (Although I would never expect you to be so closed-minded.)

  14. When I went to the Ordinariate Church in Baltimore the Sunday after the March, one of Fr. Barron's videos was playing down in the basement I entered through. I don't know who had been watching it; perhaps some people before mass in their adult ed class and they didn't get through the whole thing? It seems to be one of the tools the Ordinariate is using for catechesis or inculturation of the incoming Anglicans.

    And yet the priest of this parish says the old mass one weekday a week. (Currently he and his daily mass people travel to a nonordinariate parish to do it because the Ordinariate has forbidden the EF presumably not to put off, either people who feel as you do, or bishops who feel as you do, or so as not to attract the type of traddies you describe, or all three. )The ordinariate mass, by the way, is part Book of Common Prayer, with the Canon from the old mass, but in English. Elizabethan English yet, translated back in that era to match the language of the old Book of Common prayer. So the main part of the Ordinariate mass IS the old mass, just translated. But of course the cultural associations are all different, and the style of celebration is different. It is ad orientem, but out loud, with people making all the responses. When it is chanted, the people chant the responses. When there are hymns, (they use the 1940 Episcopal hymnal) they all sing, none of this standing there as if you don't know you are supposed to be singing which drives me crazy about Catholics. Ten Anglicans make more sound than 100 Catholics!

    I love Pope Benedict for acknowledging that there are many ways to be Catholic, and inviting Anglicans to come in and make another one, perhaps something like the one England would have had were it not for Henry VII.