young people for the Sacrament Confirmation is a challenging task.
Before embarking on an all too familiar litany of those many challenges,
it’s imperative to recognize the need for understanding both the
sacrament itself and how to help young people embrace it. Confirmation
as a sacrament of initiation must be presented clearly and effectively
if the Church is to continue with vitality in its evangelizing mission.
Youth ministers, DRE’s, catechists, and volunteers sometimes struggle with how best to engage and reach the hearts of the youth in
their preparation for this sacrament. Fortunately, Ascension Press now offers a 24-week-long DVD program entitled Chosen: Your Journey Toward Confirmation
that is orthodox, thorough, and engaging. This program is meant to help in
the formation of young people to receive with joy and vigor the
Sacrament of Confirmation.
The first thing that stands out in the Chosen series
is the amount of thought and research that has gone into it. As
mentioned recently in CNA/EWTN News, “the program is the result of five
years of planning and consultation.” The team at Ascension Press has
done a remarkable job of creating a program that takes into account the
authentic needs of young people preparing for the Sacrament of
Confirmation. The aim, clearly, is to put youth in communion with the
person of Jesus Christ. The Ascension Press team understand that the
definitive purpose of catechesis is to teach toward conversion, which
begins in an encounter with Christ and results in a transformation of
one’s life in Christ.
Having said this, what also strikes me from
the outset is that those involved in its production have truly listened
to and understand the heart of the youth in our modern culture. The
folks at Ascension Press are producing highly engaging and thoughtful
material will change lives and make an impact in the era of the New
Evangelization. Their consultation with those in the Lord’s vineyard
(catechists and parents, especially) has resulted in a presentation of
the faith that is deliberately memorable and impactful. They understand
the challenges and issues catechists face today.
This may seem rather superficial, but it is something one immediately
notices about the DVDs. One question I ask when looking at catechetical
material is: does the quality detract in any way from the messages and
truths that are conveyed? The answer with Chosen is an
emphatic, “No!” On the contrary, the producers of this series have made
sure that it is of high quality. From its choice of filming locations to
the directing style, from its youth-appealing music to its graphics and
presentation quality (all of which is intentional for its appeal to
youth) Chosen grabs and keeps our attention in order to deliver the faith in a thoughtful and attractive way.
Taking Young People Seriously:
“Let no one”, wrote St. Paul to the young Timothy, “despise your youth”
(1 Tim. 4:12).Valuing young people for where they are in their lives
and seeing their youthfulness as more than just a mere stage to pass
through, Chosen is respectful to the sensibilities and concerns
of young people. Once youth are taken seriously, they can they fully
engage and seek the truth in freedom. Chosen offers a
companionship of sorts (though limited; more on that below) to the youth
it seeks to evangelize and catechize. Adolescence is a time when we can
develop passionate interests about some of life’s biggest questions and
most difficult challenges; it’s a time when we begin to take a position
about reality in one way or another. Chosen poses the
fundamental questions of life in an attention grabbing way. In the first
segment, Chris Stefanick, the program’s co-author and host, presents
Christ’s earth-shattering question to the first disciples, “What are you
looking for?” (cf. Jn. 1:38). This question sets the tone and
encourages the youth to be open to the truth and challenges them to seek
Dynamic Presenters: Chosen features some of the best and most dynamic presenters of
the faith to young people today. What is palpable from each of these
men and women is their passion for souls and their infectious love of
the faith; they offer real life experience in relation to the topic at
hand. These witnesses convince us by their personal witness and their
zeal that they truly believe, that their lives and struggles are not
that different from mine. If the production quality alone doesn’t grab
your attention these witnesses of the faith certainly will.
A Clear and To-The-Point Catechesis: Finally, any program will fall flat on its face if the content is not the Catholic faith, whole and entire. Chosen
offers the meat of the faith (see the segment, “Why Be Catholic?”), yet
another reason for its effectiveness. The presenters cut to the chase
when it comes to handing the truths of our Catholic faith. Their
catechesis is done in a to-the-point manner, taking on and explaning
complex doctrines without watering down the essential teaching. In
conformity not only with the four pillars of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the program also adheres to the systematic way the faith is presented in the Catechism.
One teaching builds upon the other, and is presented in relation to a
preceding teaching. The result is a compressive presentation of the
faith that opens hearts to the mystery of Christ in a simple and clear
fashion. Topics include “Why am I here?”, “Who is Jesus?”, “Why be
Catholic”, “The Healing Power of Confession”, and “Getting to know God
Through Prayer”, among others.
program or DVD series is complete in and of itself. What the Church
needs today are authentic witnesses, as Pope Paul VI reminded us: “Above
all the Gospel must be proclaimed by witness” (Evangelii nuntiandi, 21). Although Chosen
has pooled together some of the most dynamic and gifted presenters in
catechesis for youth, a sacramental prep DVD programno matter how
exceptionalshould not be the whole program, to the exclusion of a
catechist or team. A mere click of a button cannot substitute for an
authentic witness in a catechist.
While I embrace the use of media
in the realm of evangelization and catechesis, I must admit I was
skeptical at the outset as to how effective Chosen could really
be. No relationship with the program’s presenters is possible in real
time, in a fully human way, which is an essential aspect of any
catechetical ministry. Being a proponent of the visible, tangible
witness in the person of the living, breathing catechist, I don't think
any program can replace a dedicated team of catechists with a mission to
passionately reach out to the youth. We must not, whether out of
laziness or something else, expect Chosen to carry the weight
of preparing young hearts for Confirmation on its own. To do so, I would
suspect, goes against the wishes of its creators.
is balanced, positive, structured and compelling in its approach to
transmitting the Catholic faith through a modern method of catechesis.
With the supplemental materials, workbooks, and leaders guide, and with
an authentic witness in the catechist to execute and lead, this makes
for a winning combination. I highly recommend the Chosen program, and I am looking forward to seeing its fruits!