In case you hadn’t heard, Bishop Robert Barron is about to release a big follow-up to his 2011 blockbuster miniseries “Catholicism,” which showcased the Faith in its global beauty, diversity, grandeur, humility, power, mysticism and works of charity.
In the new series, “Catholicism: The Pivotal Players,” coming out next month, he focuses the story through a group of people who each had a huge individual effect on the Faith worldwide. They’re not exactly Jesus or even the Apostles, but they’re pretty big.
Volume 1 looks at Saint Francis of Assisi (my personal fave), Saint Thomas Aquinas, Blessed John Henry Newman, Saint Catherine of Siena, G.K. Chesterton and the artist Michelangelo. Click here to see a bunch of trailer videos, and here’s a sample:
More on the series later, but earlier today, I saw something that reminded me of just why these people are so important. Not only were they giants of the Faith, but Chesterton and Michelangelo were not only influential in a religious sense, but they were also working artists. Chesterton was a journalist, poet, essayist and novelist; Michelangelo was a painter and sculptor.
But, what they created only continues to influence the world if there are human witnesses to it (as much as the Faith only lives on through its believers).
In today’s (Aug. 17) New York Times is a beautiful piece that is at once a warning bell about the future of Michelangelo’s sublime, colossal David — apparently time has taken a serious toll on the statue’s ankles — and a lyrical remembrance of how it changed one man’s life.
Here’s a taste:
When I first saw the David in person, the only word that came to mind was “perfect.” Why hadn’t anyone ever told me he was perfect? I was 20 years old, exhausted, unwashed, traveling for the first time ever, ignorant of almost everything worth knowing. “Perfect,” I know now, is not a terribly original response to the statue, nor a very precise one, but in that moment it filled my mind. It felt like a revolution — urgent, deep, vital, true.
I stood there in my filthy Birkenstocks feeling a sense of religious transcendental soaring: the promise that my true self was not bound by the constraints of my childhood — by freeway exits, office parks, afterschool programs, coinoperated laundry rooms at dingy apartment complexes, vineyards plowed under and converted into Walmarts, instability, change, dead dogs, divorce. David suggested that my true self existed most fully in some interstellar superhistorical realm in which all the ideal things of the universe commingled in a perpetual ecstasy of harmonizing trumpet blasts. If such perfection could exist in the world, I felt, then so many other things were suddenly possible: to live a perfect life creating perfect things, to find an ideal way to be. What was the point of anything less?
Here’s a video preview of what we can expect from Bishop Barron’s treatment of Michelangelo’s David:
And a bit more:
Lastly, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s new version of “Ben-Hur” comes out on Friday, Aug. 19. Our own Senior producer Anthony Sands is writing a review, but in the meantime, here’s a bit of what Bishop Barron had to say on the subject (WARNING: IF YOU READ THE WHOLE PIECE, IT HAS SPOILERS ABOUT THE ENDING):
Lew Wallace’s nineteenth century novel, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, inspired two silent movies in the early decades of the twentieth century and the magnificent 1959 film starring Charlton Heston in the lead role. Almost everyone agrees that Heston was born to play the part, and who can forget the drama and excitement of the chariot race with which the movie comes to its climax? Roma Downey and Mark Burnett have produced a new instantiation of the story, a streamlined version of the 1959 film. Like its predecessor, this one features a charismatic actor (Jack Huston) as Ben-Hur, plenty of visual grandeur, and yes, a stunning chariot race, depicted this time with the most up to date camera technology and CGI virtuosity. But what principally differentiates it from the Heston Ben-Hur is its greater stress on the strange power of Christ to bring about forgiveness—an emphasis, I must say, much needed in the cultural context of the present moment.
Image: Wikimedia Commons