Attempting to deal with the perennial problem of passing the Faith on to the next generation engages many of us and taxes our own creativity to the utmost.  It has been said that it is much harder to bring the new evangelization to a Christian nation than to those people who have never heard of Christianity. What about our country? The deeply held belief that Ireland is still fervently Catholic can be reinforced when we see the crowds at pilgrim sites such as Knock and Croagh Patrick or when there is an occasion to be blessed with a saint’s relic. 

We thank the Lord for that and yet the acid test remains: how many of our young men and women do we see at Mass on Sunday?

It is stating the obvious to say that they are not like us.  Many are deficient in catechesis and do not know the fundamental truths of the Faith. Trying to teach them usually falls on deaf ears; they believe they learned all that at school.  Still, for the most part, Faith fails to resonate with most young adults today. So how do we reach them?

The cliché “we have to meet them where they are at” points in the direction of getting the attention of our youth. There is little doubt this is in the realm of technology. Is it going too far to assert that learning anything on screen is preferable to learning in the real world?

Programmes such as “Superbook” are showing young children how the Gospel is alive and interesting and above all, relevant to them.  But for older children, teenagers and young adults, the programme that is having a resounding effectthroughout the world is “The Chosen.”

This television series depicts the life of Jesus Christ while he ministered on earth, as seen largely through the eyes of his contemporaries. It is unique in being the top film project to be crowd-funded, not by multi-nationals or Hollywood giants.The plan was to make the series free so that everyone could access it.

“The Chosen” was created, directed and co-written by Dallas Jenkins and has been viewed by 400 million people around the world.   It has mostly appealed to the young whose recorded responses have varied from tears to absolute delight at the unfolding of the story of the Gospel. The Gospel has come alive! Many have since bought Bibles to read the original story, since watching has created a desire to find out what really happened at the time.

Several of the actors have shared their own feelings abouttheir individual journeys to becoming a part of “The Chosen,” including the role their Faith played in their career before and during the filming of the show.

Jonathan Roumie, a Catholic, who plays Jesus, explained that before he was assigned the role, he was struggling in his acting career and attributes this to his leaving God out of the picture. “I didn’t quite invite Him into my career choices, my career planning, into every part where He desperately wanted to be, until I finally got to this point of utter and absolute desperation,” Roumie said. “I had to look at everything that I had achieved and not achieved at this point in my life and realize that unless I invited God into my career, no matter what I did or how hard I tried, my career wasn’t going to move forward because He did not want that to happen without Him.”  Elizabeth Tabish who plays Mary Magdalene, declared that her role was a breath of fresh air enabling her to see the love and goodness in life “I’ve experienced that in my life from this show, experiencing working with these wonderful people.”

Dallas Jenkins who created the concept for “The Chosen” emphasized he is someone who believes absolutely in the Word of God.  “Once people see the show, they tend to become evangelists for it. The response has been incredible; lives are being changed, and even kids as young as five wantto watch it repeatedly, which shocked me because I didn’t think kids would enjoy the show.”

The Covid-19 pandemic proved a blessing in disguise for “The Chosen” because it had an audience at home. When Dallas Jenkins announced that the first eight sessions would be available free of charge, he was astounded at the response. Since then, mass donations have come in to help fund a second season of the series which is now available and the third series is currently being filmed.

In an interview with Crosstalk, the director said “I have no interest in changing anything from Scripture. We are adding cultural and historical context, we are adding some artistic imagination to these stories” The series, he said, was created to help viewers love the Bible more. “This show was designed to enhance our love for Scripture, to draw us more to Scripture, and to bring to life some of the stories that we’ve heard many times.”

“The Chosen” includes scenes and dialogue directly from Scripture, but it also includes scenes and dialogue not in the Bible. Viewers learn on the opening scroll it is “based on the true stories of the Gospels of Jesus Christ.” Some locations and timelines “have been combined or condensed” and “backstories and some characters or dialogue have been added.” Most of the investors are passionate about getting the message out to the world.

So who are the Chosen?  From watching the story unfold it is easy to see that those the Lord wanted to follow him and be part of his ministry are the chosen. But chosen also refers back to the people of Israel, who are the chosen people of God.  That belief made their time under Roman occupation possible to bear while they awaited the Messiah.  Now we are in New Testament times.

Through the Paschal mystery, we have been redeemed by Jesus Christ and we are Christians – the new Chosen people of God.

A recent survey among secondary school students has shown how lacking their education is in the doctrine and disciplines of the Catholic Church. If we are serious about handing on the Faith, there are several ways open to us. Obviously the first one is catechesis. The trouble with this method is that those who have been through the educational system have “done” religion. They have had instruction in the Eucharist; they know what the Sacrament of Reconciliation is; they have taken part in many school liturgies and attended funerals and the occasional wedding. They assume they know what the Catholic Faith is all about, and it does very little for them.However although they may have studied Religion as a subject, it is not the same thing as Faith formation.

We should be glad to avail of any means that will draw our young people to God. The world has moved on so fast that we often find ourselves in unchartered territory.   

Nevertheless, those experienced in matters of religion will understand that often things are not up to us. The Lord will open unexpected doors and if young men and women are introduced to the Faith and come in a different door than we would have planned for them, it should not cause us to worry. 

For catechesis and liturgical formation: