Fr Robert Barron, YouTube evangelist

Charged by Cardinal Francis George with the vague task of “jump-starting evangelism” in Chicago’s archdiocese nearly a decade ago, the Rev. Robert Barron accepted the mantle with gusto — and in the process, became one of the country’s best-known priests.

This year, his Word on Fire ministry plans to complete the first six episodes of a follow-up series to his acclaimed 2011 documentary “Catholicism,” which aired on 250 PBS stations nationwide.

He has also posted 416 cultural commentaries onYouTube, and this past fall, he surpassed 10 million online viewers.

The seven- to 13-minute clips range in subject matter from disquisitions on original sin and hell to commentaries on the Stephen Hawking biopic “The Theory of Everything” and Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed.”

And in September, Barron, 55, will be the opening speaker at the World Meeting of Families, a Philadelphia mega-event that will culminate with Pope Francis celebrating Mass to conclude his first visit to the United States.

For Catholics tired of the highly politicized public image of their faith, Barron provides easily digestible, no-nonsense eloquence.

Skirting hot-button issues such as gay marriage, women’s ordination, the sexual abuse scandal, and abortion, he takes a broad view of the Church as many Catholics experience it and still toes a traditional line.

The Church, he said in an interview, “is extreme in its demands. At the same time, it’s extreme in its mercy. We shouldn’t dial down the expectations. Love has to dominate every aspect of your life.”

Beauty — be it of artwork, literature, music, architecture, or ideas — dominates Barron’s. His mandate, he said, is to preach “the good, the true, and the beautiful,” and he believes that if people first encounter what’s beautiful in the Church, they will later discover what’s good and true. Continue reading


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