FORMED

REVIEW #26: HNOJ VBS!

Vbs LogoI’m coloring outside the lines during this review. Instead of reviewing a video or talk on FORMED.org, I will be reviewing HNOJ’s very own Virtual VBS! Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we weren’t able to host VBS in person this year. Normally 400+ children, teens and adults pack HNOJ for five fun-filled days of music, crafts and Bible stories. 

This year our Elementary Faith Formation Coordinator, Therese Reichert, along with an assist from the rest of the Faith Formation Team, has put together a Virtual VBS for our families at HNOJ. To participate (or just check out the theme, stories and crafts) visit the link below and register (for free) and you’ll receive a password to check out the Virtual VBS. 

Title

HNOJ Virtual VBS 2020

https://www.hnoj.org/vbs

Presenter

Theresa Reichert, the Coordinator of Elementary Faith Formation at HNOJ, is the primary presenter and craft demonstrator. She gets an assist on music and storytelling from the Faith Formation Team of Chris Kostelc, Elliut Fonseca, Kelly Schumacher and Ashley Cermak. 

Length 

Five Sessions of VBS, each about 20-25 minutes long. 

Style of Content

  • Video quality is pretty good for in-house. They are well edited and move along pretty well. The sound quality on the music portions is solid. 
  • TBH. About the only knock on these video style-wise is that the sound isn’t always the greatest. All of these were filmed at home or in the office which makes for difficult sound challenges. 

Content

Each session of HNOJ’s Virtual VBS includes an introduction explaining that session’s content and connection to the theme, VBS Praise and Worship Music time, a Bible Story as told by a member of the Faith Formation Team, journal time with Q&A and scripture connection, and a craft demonstration. 

Scripture

Bible Stories - Tower of Babel, Nehemiah, Zacchaeus, St. Paul, Jesus’ teaching about God’s House with many rooms.  Many other scriptures are used to connect the stories to the Gospel. 

Why You Should Participate in Virtual VBS

If you have elementary or preschool kiddos at home and you want to share God’s love with them, then your family should participate. If you have someone at home who likes building things or construction trucks or Bob the Builder, you should check this out. 

Why Skip It

If you are looking for something serious or don’t have kiddos at home who would participate in VBS, then this video series might not be for you. 

The Ratings

I am rating each resource in terms of how Informative, Transformative, and Engaging I find that resource. Information refers to how much information and how well the video presents that faith knowledge. Transformative refers to how well the resource invites participants to conform their life to follow Jesus Christ. Engaging (-ative) refers to how entertaining, gripping, or interesting I find the resource. 

Informative (1-5 Books)

📘📘📘📕

Transformative (1-5 Hearts)

💙💙💙💜

Engaging-ative (1-5 Wows)

😮😮😮😮

REVIEW #25: The Healing Power of Confession

ScotthahnformedPublication review date June 26, 2020

During the recent lockdown not only were public Masses suspended, but many people stayed away from the confessional as well. If you haven’t heard, many parishes, including HNOJ, has resumed hearing confessions during our normal confessional times (Saturday mornings beginning at 8:30 a.m.) And as always, you can set up a time to come in by appointment. 

If you need a little motivation to return to Confession, then read my review of Dr. Scott Hahn’s talk The Healing Power of Confession. You may just need to hear what he has to say about this beautiful Sacrament. Also, Dr. Hahn is pretty entertaining if you’ve never heard him speak. 

Title

The Healing Power of Confession

https://watch.formed.org/the-healing-power-of-confession-by-dr-scott-hahn

Presenter

Dr. Scott Hahn is an international Catholic speaker and scripture scholar. He is one of the most sought after Catholic evangelist. 

Length 

One hour and fifteen minutes

Style of Content

  • Audio recording of Dr. Hahn giving a talk to a live studio audience. At the end of the talk Dr. Hahn answers questions from the live audience. 
  • TBH - The recording a great. The sound is clear. To Be Honest, there is nothing to dislike about the style of the content. 

Content

Dr. Hahn is known for taking classic Catholic teaching and explaining it in a way that makes the audience think this is the first time they’ve ever been taught these truths. It is no different in this talk. Whether we regularly go to Confession or it’s been years, Dr. Hahn explains the beauty and the power of the Sacrament, why we need it, and how it helps us be happy in a way that you won’t hear anywhere else. If I hadn’t just gone the morning I listened to this talk, I might have jumped in my car and headed to confession myself! 

Dr. Hahn is a consummate storyteller. The talk, in fact, feels like one story after another, but Dr. Hahn adeptly intersperses plenty of teaching and truth in the midst of the story-based explanations. 

Scripture

Matthew 9:1-8, among others. 

Why you should listen to these talks

If you haven’t been to confession in a while (COVID-19 reason or otherwise) and are looking for some good motivation, then listen to this talk today. If you have always questioned things like, “Why do I have to go to a priest?” then you should check this talk out for the answers. If you hate going to confession, check this out. 

Why skip it

If you don’t want to hear an audio talk and rather watch a video, then check out something else on formed.org. But seriously this talk is amazing and I can’t think of a real reason to skip it. 

The Ratings

I am rating each resource in terms of how Informative, Transformative, and Engaging I find that resource. Information refers to how much information and how well the video presents that faith knowledge. Transformative refers to how well the resource invites participants to conform their life to follow Jesus Christ. Engaging (-ative) refers to how entertaining, gripping, or interesting I find the resource. 

Informative (1-5 Books)

📘📘📘📘📕

Transformative (1-5 Hearts)

💙💙💙💙💚

Engaging-ative (1-5 Wows)

😮😮😮😮

REVIEW #24: Sacraments in Scripture

Sacramentsformed

Review date June 23, 2020

Have you ever been asked, “Where is that in the Bible?” I have and at the time I bubbled through an answer. I wish I had read this book at that time because my answers would have been a great deal more convincing.

In Sacraments in Scripture Dr. Tim Gray shows his reader the Biblical roots for the Sacraments of the Catholic Church. Not only does this book help us to answer questions about the Bible and Church, it will help us to understand the role of Sacraments in our faith life too. Check it out. 

Title

Sacraments in Scripture

https://watch.formed.org/sacraments-in-scripture-by-dr-tim-gray

Writer

Dr. Tim Gray is the President of the Augustin Institute and a professor of Sacred Scripture. 

Length 

171 pages 

Style of Content

  • The chapters of this book are centered around each of the Seven Sacraments. Each chapter ends with a set of study questions to help the reader think about the contents of the chapter and focus on what the author thinks is most important. 
  • Dr. Gray is a clear and straightforward writer. I think this book gets to the point and delivers on the title. Some might find it a bit dry as it is doesn’t have a lot of extra stories. 

Content

  • In this book Dr. Tim Gray explores the biblical sources and support for the Seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church.

Scripture

Too many to list here. The reader will find New and Old Testament scriptures within the pages of this book. 

Why you should read this book

If you’ve ever wondered or been asked “where is that in the Bible,” then this book is for you. If you are curious as to why the Church has Seven Sacraments, this would be a helpful read. 

Why skip it

If you are looking for a fun beach book this summer, well this might not be it. 

The Ratings

I am rating each resource in terms of how Informative, Transformative, and Engaging I find that resource. Information refers to how much information and how well the video presents that faith knowledge. Transformative refers to how well the resource invites participants to conform their life to follow Jesus Christ. Engaging (-ative) refers to how entertaining, gripping, or interesting I find the resource. 

Informative (1-5 Books)

📗📗📗📗📕

Transformative (1-5 Hearts)

💛💛💛💚

Engaging-ative (1-5 Wows)

😮😮😮

REVIEW #23: Miracles

MiraclesformedPublication review date June 19, 2020

A number of years ago I was asked, “Why doesn’t God perform miracles like he used to?” Maybe you have the same question. Maybe you have experienced a miracle. Maybe you don’t believe in miracles at all. No matter what your experience of miracles has been, how we think about miracles and faith helps to show us how we understand God and ourselves. 

Today I review a short video all about miracles. While no short video could answer all the questions we may hold about miracles, this video is a good starting point to understanding how God works through miracles. 

Title

Miracles

https://watch.formed.org/miracles-1/videos/miracles

Presenters

Fr. Marcus Holden and Fr. Andrew Pinsent with special guests Jamie and Joanna Bogle. 

Length 

About 36 minutes. 

Style of Content

  • Headshots of seated speakers with no in-studio audience is supported by images and video that help to demonstrate the concepts being described. 
  • Video is well done and meets all current standards for this style of video. It’s not extraordinary, but it’s solid. 

Content

This video begins by defining what a miracle is and what a miracle is not. This portion is very helpful for the viewer to understand what the speakers mean by a miracle. They go on to describe and explore various kinds of miracles. Incorrupt bodies of great saints, Eucharistic miracles, healings, apparitions, and personal experiences of God’s miraculous work are some of the miracles examined. The video ends by placing miracles within the full experience of God and one’s faith journey. 

Scripture

Various miracle stories from the Old and New Testament. 

Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, 19-14, Luke 24:1-44, John 20:1-29

Why you should watch this video

If you are interested in miracles and want to better understand how they influence faith, then you should check this out. If you are skeptical of miracles, then watching this may be helpful to understanding how the Church views miracles and verifies their authenticity. 

Why skip it

If your aren’t interested in the mashup of science and religion, you may want to skip watching this video. If you are looking for a scripture study, then this isn’t for you. 

The Ratings

I am rating each resource in terms of how Informative, Transformative, and Engaging I find that resource. Information refers to how much information and how well the video presents that faith knowledge. Transformative refers to how well the resource invites participants to conform their life to follow Jesus Christ. Engaging (-ative) refers to how entertaining, gripping, or interesting I find the resource. 

Informative (1-5 Books)

📕📕📕📘

Transformative (1-5 Hearts)

💚💚💚💜

Engaging-ative (1-5 Wows)

😮😮😮😮

REVIEW #22: What’s so great about being Catholic?

FormedgreatcatholicReview publish date June 16, 2020

During this time when our regular routines have vastly changed, we may be asking ourselves why we do what we do? Maybe the question of “Why?” has even crept into your faith life. Seriously seeking an answer to the question of “Why am I Catholic?” can be a profound experience. 

In this talk, Jason Evert examines this very question and explains to his audience, and to us, why he is and remains Catholic. In fact, he goes a step beyond this and beautifully witnesses to the joy of our faith through engaging storytelling. 

 

Title

What’s so great about being Catholic?

https://watch.formed.org/talks-share-your-faith/videos/what-s-so-great-about-being-catholic-by-jason-evert

Presenter

Jason Evert is an internationally recognized speaker on faith and chastity for teens and adults. He is not your average Catholic speaker. Jason uses storytelling, humor and clear explanation of the genius and joy of the Catholic faith to share the good news of our faith.

Length 

About 45 minutes. Plus a 15 minutes bonus talk from Patrick Madrid. 

Style of Content

  • An audio recording of a talk given before a live audience. 
  • The recording is clear and well done. The audience is kind of loud in their laughter and response, which isn’t terrible, but could be distracting. 

Content

The core of Jason Evert’s talk is his seeking to answer the question, “Why am I Catholic?” Jason tells his personal journey from a mediocre practice of his faith into a more profound and beautiful Catholicism. Jason engages his audience by telling stories of the great Saints and Martyrs including St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. John Vianney, and particularly Pope St. John Paul II. 

Jason specifically addresses the idea of doubt and unbelief and how we as Catholics respond. What is the reason to be Catholic? It’s True. 

Scripture

Luke 15:7 and many many more. 

Why You Should Listen to this Talk

If you are looking for an engaging, entertaining explanation of why Catholicism is true, you should check out this talk. If you like good storytelling and Catholic things, you should give this talk a try.

Why Skip It

If you have trouble with fast-talking, you might want to check out something else. If you are looking for an analytical, catechetical teaching, you should look up something else on formed.org.  

The Ratings

I am rating each resource in terms of how Informative, Transformative, and Engaging I find that resource. Information refers to how much information and how well the video presents that faith knowledge. Transformative refers to how well the resource invites participants to conform their life to follow Jesus Christ. Engaging (-ative) refers to how entertaining, gripping, or interesting I find the resource. 

Informative (1-5 Books)

📙📙📙📘

Transformative (1-5 Hearts)

💜💜💜💜💛

Engaging-ative (1-5 Wows)

😮😮😮😮😮

REVIEW #21: FORMED Live: The Feast of Corpus Christi

FormedcorpuschristiThis weekend we will be celebrating a very important feast - The Feast of Corpus Christi. Maybe you're asking - What exactly are we celebrating? Find out by watching this quick FORMED Live video. Here is my review of this video realized yesterday by FORMED.

Title

FORMED Live: The Feast of Corpus Christi

https://watch.formed.org/formed-live/season:1/videos/formed-live-the-feast-of-corpus-christi

Presenter

Dr. Time Gray and Dr. Ben Akers are both professors at The Augustine Institute. 

Length 

30 minutes

Style of Content

  • Conversation style presentation where Dr. Gray and Dr. Akers discuss together. Dr. Tim Gray introduces topics and then asks Dr. Akers questions. This is a recorded “live” conversation where the presenters are seated on a set and hold a back and forth discussion.
  • TBH - The style of the conversation is fine, but not much more than fine. The lighting is a little strange, but overall the video is good enough. Some may not enjoy or easily follow the conversation format. 

Content

This Sunday we will celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi.  This discussion explains this feast and Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist. Dr. Gray and Dr. Akers teach by sharing the story of the Eucharistic miracle from the 13th century. 

This video is full of engaging stories about Eucharist miracles, the history of this great feast, and teachings on the Eucharist. While other versions of these FORMED live can be a little dry, this one is engaging and interesting. 

In addition, Dr. Gray and Dr. Akers give some great suggestions on how to grow in our understanding and our faith in the Eucharist. 

Traditional Prayer for Corpus Christi

https://catholicexchange.com/corpus-christi-our-debt-to-st-thomas-aquinas

Why You Should Watch this Video

Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist is such an important truth of our faith, learning more and celebrating well is a way to grow closer to Jesus. If you want to celebrate well and grown in understanding, watch this video. 

Why Skip It

The discussion/interview format isn’t for everyone, if that bothers you, you may want to skip it. 

The Ratings

I am rating each resource in terms of how Informative, Transformative, and Engaging I find that resource. Information refers to how much information and how well the video presents that faith knowledge. Transformative refers to how well the resource invites participants to conform their life to follow Jesus Christ. Engaging (-ative) refers to how entertaining, gripping, or interesting I find the resource. 

Informative (1-5 Books)

📕📘📕📘

Transformative (1-5 Hearts)

💙💙💙

Engaging-ative (1-5 Wows)

😮😮😮😮

REVIEW #20: True Worship

TrueworshipformedIf you’ve been back to Mass at HNOJ recently, you know it is a different experience than it was before COVID-19. We aren’t singing. We’re spread out strangely. Our voices are muffled by masks. These are all important and good temporary changes for our times. I’ve heard some people say without singing it just doesn’t feel like Mass. I can understand and my heart is with that thought. 

At the core of Mass isn’t singing or the homily. At the heart of Mass is Jesus in the Word and the Eucharist. This Tuesday I am reviewing at talk given by Fr. Mike Schmitz called “True Worship.” He gave a similar talk at HNOJ back in 2012 when he did a parish mission with our community. 

Title

True Worship

https://watch.formed.org/true-worship-by-fr-mike-schmitz/videos/true-worship-by-fr-mike-schmitz

Presenter

Fr. Mike Schmitz is a nationally recognized Catholic speaker and works with Catholic young people in college and high school in the Duluth, MN area. 

Length 

1 hour and 15 minutes

Style of Content

  • Audio recording of Fr. Mike Schmitz giving a series of homilies at the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
  • TBH - The recording is a little rough. With a fair amount of echo and a tinny sound. Also, Fr. Mike is a fast talker. Those could be deterrents for some people. The content is so good you’ll probably be able to listen past the poor recording. 

Content

Fr. Mike Schmitz gives a series of homilies about the Eucharist and the Mass. The first talk centers on the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and how when we believe that, we attend Mass differently. The second homily is about our role in every Mass we attend. The third homily is the challenge of overcoming complacency in our attitude towards the Eucharist and God. The series ends very practically in suggesting four ways we can come to Mass hungry for Jesus in the Eucharist.

Scripture

John 6 - The Bread of Life Discourse 

Why You Should Listen to These Talks

If you are looking to understand why we need to attend Mass and receive the Eucharist, you might find some answers. If you want to be inspired by God’s real presence in the Eucharist, then you should take a listen. If you want to figure out how to come hungry to the Eucharist, then check out this homily series. 

Why Skip It

If a tinny, echoy recording will be so annoying that you won’t be able to listen, then you might want to listen to something else. If you struggle with a fast talker, Fr. Mike Schmitz is a fast talk and so you may want to skip it. 

The Ratings

I am rating each resource in terms of how Informative, Transformative, and Engaging I find that resource. Information refers to how much information and how well the video presents that faith knowledge. Transformative refers to how well the resource invites participants to conform their life to follow Jesus Christ. Engaging (-ative) refers to how entertaining, gripping, or interesting I find the resource. 

Informative (1-5 Books)

📕📕📕📕📘

Transformative (1-5 Hearts)

💛💛💛💛💚

Engaging-ative (1-5 Wows)

😮😮😮😮

REVIEW #19: Finding Purpose

FindingpurposeformedEarlier this week I recommended a 14-episode series with almost seven hours of content. Today I am reviewing a six-minute video. If you are looking for some inspiration you can watch while a steamer bag of vegetables cooks in the microwave, this video is for you.  

In Finding Purpose, the narrator sets out to show that life is better when lived with purpose. Sometimes we mistake activity with purpose. Sometimes we wake up with purpose and sometimes we don’t. By the end of the video, we are presented with a simple two-step process to discovering purpose. Here is what I thought of the video. 

Title

Finding Purpose

https://watch.formed.org/finding-purpose/videos/finding-purpose

Presenter

Unnamed narrator

Length 

Six minutes

Style of Content

  • This video is in that internet video style that we’ve all seen but is nearly impossible to explain. It is a combination of narration and animated illustrations of content. Basically, someone is saying some stuff. Some of that stuff comes on the screen in words. Some of that stuff comes on the screen with simple stick figure illustrations. 
  • TBH - It looks and sounds like many of the short, punchy videos you may get caught watching online. 

Content

Finding Purpose paraphrases a Fulton Sheen talk from back in the day. The basic premise is that if we don’t have purpose, we are less happy, loose hope and become inward-focused. This video is challenging and gives us a game plan for finding purpose again. 

Scripture

No scripture is explicitly mentioned, but allusions to John 14:6 can be felt. 

Why You Should Watch This Video

If you need a good challenge or are looking for a way to regain your purpose, then this video will give you a simple game plan and may inspire you to live with purpose. If you want a quick video that might nudge you to move towards God, then check this one out. 

Why Skip It

Some might find this video a little challenging and if you aren’t open to that right now, then you may want to skip this one. If you are looking for an intense Bible study, then this isn’t your video. 

The Ratings

I am rating each resource in terms of how Informative, Transformative, and Engaging I find that resource. Information refers to how much information and how well the video presents that faith knowledge. Transformative refers to how well the resource invites participants to conform their life to follow Jesus Christ. Engaging (-ative) refers to how entertaining, gripping, or interesting I find the resource. 

Informative (1-5 Books)

📕📕📕

Transformative (1-5 Hearts)

💛💛💛💛💛

Engaging-ative (1-5 Wows)

😮😮😮😮

REVIEW #18: The Wild Goose

WildgooseformedThis past week we celebrated Pentecost, the birth of the Church. That beginning happened when the Holy Spirit came as tongues of fire and rested on the heads of the disciples and they were motivated to spread the good news of the gospel to the whole world. Awesome. 

Yet many of us don’t know much about the Holy Spirit and what the Church teaches about the third person of the Trinity. The series I review today is a crash course in the Holy Spirit from the perspective of the modern Catholic’s experience of the Holy Spirit. Why is it called “The Wild Goose”? You’ll have to watch to find out.

Note Bene: This is one of my absolute favorite video series. When I told my wife, Liz, that I was reviewing it for today, she said, “Ohhh, I really liked that one. So good. Tell people to at least try it.” 

Title

The Wild Goose

https://watch.formed.org/the-wild-goose-with-fr-dave-pivonka

Presenter

Fr. Dave Pivonka is a Franciscan priest with a humble but inspiring presentation style. 

Length 

14 Episodes each about 20-30  minutes long. This seems like a lot of content, but it goes quickly. 

  • Each episode contains a presentation of the main topic by Fr. Dave with both instruction and personal witness from his life. We will also see interviews by many others both regular Catholics and religious sisters and priests. 
  • TBH - Okay. This series is gorgeous and almost poetic in its use of imagery and video to convey meaning. 

Content

The Wild Goose series is all about the Holy Spirit. Expect to hear about the Catholic understanding of the third person of the Trinity. You will also hear a great deal of personal witness from some really impressive people about their varied and inspiring experiences of the Holy Spirit. Some of these stories might even be called miraculous. 

Scripture

Acts 2 as well as other scriptures. 

BONUS

A great, simple study guide that helps the view hone in on the most important information from each episode. 

Why You Should Watch this Video

If you’ve always wanted to know more about the Holy Spirit or improve your prayer life in the spirit, then this series is what you are looking for. If you like instruction in the faith that is beautiful and maybe a little different than what you’ve experienced, then you should check this out. 

Why Skip It

Hearing other people’s powerful experiences of the Holy Spirit may elicit strong emotions in you. If this is your first exposure to how powerful the Holy Spirit can and does work in the lives of Catholics and you’re aren’t looking for that kind of religious education, you may want to try something else on formed first.

I think this series is so good, I think everyone should try at least one episode. If you do try it and have some questions don’t hesitate to reach out and ask me your questions about the series or the Holy Spirit. Chris’s Email.

 

The Ratings

I am rating each resource in terms of how Informative, Transformative, and Engaging I find that resource. Information refers to how much information and how well the video presents that faith knowledge. Transformative refers to how well the resource invites participants to conform their life to follow Jesus Christ. Engaging (-ative) refers to how entertaining, gripping, or interesting I find the resource. 

Informative (1-5 Books)

📗📗📗📗📗

Transformative (1-5 Hearts)

💜💜💜💜💜

Engaging-ative  (1-5 Wows)

😮😮😮😮

REVIEW #17: The Bible Collection - Esther

EstherformedReview publish date May 29, 2020

The Kostelc family sat down to watch another FORMED family film and review it. We chose “The Bible Collection - Esther” because my high schooler had just read the book of Esther with her HNOJ small group and the rest of us didn’t know much about Esther. What we found was an engaging story of a strong female character who used every ounce of her wit and charm to save the Jewish people from destruction. What we didn’t find was a “family” movie (If you define “family” movie as a film with appropriate content for all ages).

Check out our review to see if this would be a good film for you and your family. 

Title

The Bible Collection - Esther

https://watch.formed.org/the-bible-collection-esther/videos/the-bible-collection-esther

Presenter

Feature film length dramatic representation of the book of Esther found in the Old Testament. (you know, a movie about Esther). 

Length 

About an hour and a half. 

Style of Content

  • This movie, depicting the Book of Esther, is part of a larger series of movies about books or characters from Scripture. The movie is not a word-for-word recounting of the Scripture, though it contains snippets of Scripture, instead it tells the story found in the book of Esther with some artistic license. 
  • TBH - The movie actually looks great. The sets and costumes are pretty incredible for something like this. The acting was mostly really well done and believable. I had that wonderful experience of forgetting that I was watching a movie and instead was just able to get into the story. 

Content

The Book of Esther can be found in the Old Testament and tells the story of a young Jewish woman who becomes Queen of Persia. In about 586 King Nebuchadnezzar conquers Jerusalem and exiles the Jewish people to Babylon. In 539, King Cyrus of Persia conquers the Babylonians and sets the Jews free to return to Jerusalem. Many do return, but not all. 

Esther stays in Susa with her adoptive Uncle Mordecai. This is where our movie begins to tell us how Esther became Queen to King Ahasuerus (Xerxes maybe?), grandson of Cyrus, and using her wit, intelligence and grace influenced him to save the Jewish people from Haman, a top court official. 

Haman was offended by Mordecai’s refusal to bow to him and had schemed to have all the Jews of the Persian Empire killed. Instead, Esther, through an act of incredible courage, convinced the King to allow the Jews to defend themselves and eradicate their enemies. This Scripture is the basis of the Jewish feast of Purim. 

Scripture

The Book of Esther

BONUS

I asked my family to review this film too. Here is what they said:

Wife “The girls were uncomfortable because it was a little bit racy as you can imagine a Biblical story with a King and Harem would be, but never inappropriate or explicit. I was super entertained and impressed with the quality. I’m not an Esther expert, so I’m not sure how closely it stuck to the story, but in more than one scene I could pick out scripture that I recognized.”

14 yo “I liked it. But some of the acting was a little, not great. It told the story of Esther well.” (She’s the only one of us who has actually read the entire book of Esther.)

10 yo “I thought that the cameras were good and the acting was good. There were a couple scenes that were a little iffy for a 10 yo.” 

2 yo “zzzzz” (We watched it after he had gone to bed.)

Why You Should Watch This Video

If you are looking for a movie with a strong and intelligent female protagonist who saves the day, then you should check this movie out. If you don’t know anything about the Book of Esther, you watching this will give you a good starting point for learning about Esther and her story. If you have older middle school or high school-aged kids, this might be better suited for a movie night with them. 

Why Skip It

If you have little kiddos, the content of this story is pretty PG-13 even if the film doesn’t show anything explicit, and so you may want to skip it. If historical movies set in the ancient world aren’t your thing, you may want to skip this one. 

The Ratings

For movies on Formed, I am using a different rating system. I think reviewing them with the same standard as a theological study or talk isn’t helpful. Instead, I am reviewing them in terms of All the Feels, Cringy, and Engaging. Engaging - Was the movie engaging or entertaining? Did I want to watch it? Cringy - Was the movie well made? Was the acting good? Did anything make me cringe and not on purpose? Cringe isn’t a good thing.  All the Feels - Did this movie make me feel something? Did this movie transport me to another place and experience the story?

Engaging(1-5 Wows)

 😮😮😮😮😮

Cringy (1-5 Cringe)

 😬

All the Feels (1-5 Hearts)

💛💛💛💛💛

REVIEW #16: From Atheism to Catholicism: My Conversion Diary

ConversionformedReview publication date May 26, 2020

At some point in a person’s life, we encounter an inconsistency in our understanding of the world that spurs us to search for truth. Jennifer Fulwiler was perfectly content in the materialistic, scientific worldview she inherited from her family of origin. That was until she held her first child and realized that what she believed about the world wasn’t the whole truth. 

In this talk, “From Atheism to Catholicism: My Conversion Diary,” Fulwiler shares her story of a passionate search for the truth, that was inspired by her non-believing parents, helped her to discover God and the Catholic Church. If you are looking for some inspiration, this brief talk by the bright Fulwiler, might just be the thing you are looking for. 

Title

From Atheism to Catholicism: My Conversion Diary

https://watch.formed.org/talks-being-catholic/videos/from-atheism-to-catholicism-my-conversion-diary-by-jennifer-fulwiler

Presenter

Jennifer Fulwiler is a writer, blogger, nationally recognized speaker, and, most importantly, wife and mother. Fulwiler is a smart, clear, and engaging presenter and storyteller. 

Length 

About 40 minutes. (The description says 1 hour, but that includes a preview of a separate talk).

Style of Content

  • Audio recording of a talk Fulwiler gives to a live audience. Well recorded and easy to listen to. 
  • TBH - Nothing to report besides the fact that it is an audio recording.

Content

Jennifer Fulwiler gives the account of her conversion from staunch and convinced atheist to a believer in God and later to Catholicism. This talk is Fulwiler’s personal witness, her transformation into a person of faith. Fulwiler’s conversion came as an adult and she really only started learning about Christianity as an adult. Hearing a story from this perspective was intriguing. The storytelling is engaging and moves quickly. I found myself pulled into the story and wanted to keep listening. 

Why You Should Listen to This Talk. 

If you want to hear the story of someone how actively searched for truth and found the Catholic faith, then you should listen. If you need some inspiration, this might be a good talk to listen to. If someone in your life has left the faith or lost faith entirely, this might be a good talk to listen to. 

Why Skip It

If you are looking for an in-depth scripture or catechetical study, then this isn’t the talk for you. If you want to watch a video, this is a talk, so yeah, watch a video. Honestly there really isn’t a good reason to skip this one entirely - it is relatively brief and really good. 

The Ratings

I am rating each resource in terms of how Informative, Transformative and Engaging I find that resource. Information refers to how much information and how well the video presents that faith knowledge. Transformative refers to how well the resource invites participants to conform their life to follow Jesus Christ. Engaging (-ative) refers to how entertaining, gripping, or interesting I find the resource. 

Informative (1-5 Books)

 📗📗📗

Transformative (1-5 Hearts)

💙💙💙💙

Engaging-ative (1-5 Wows)

😮😮😮😮

REVIEW #15: Our Story: A Basic Introduction to the Bible for Catholics

Formed StoryPublication review date May 22, 2020

If you’ve ever tried to start reading the Bible for the first time, it can be intimidating. “Where do I start?” I’ve heard many people ask. In addition, we may have some ideas about reading Scripture that do not really line up with how Catholics read the Bible. 

If you are looking for a succinct overview of the entire Bible and short but punchy introductions to how Catholics read Scripture, then you may want to check out “Our Story: A Basic Introduction to the Bible for Catholics.” With clear, fast-paced, five minute episodes, this may just be the thing you are looking for to jump-start reading your Bible. 

Title
Our Story: A Basic Introduction to the Bible for Catholics
https://watch.formed.org/our-story-a-basic-introduction-to-the-bible-for...

Presenters
Mark Hart is a dynamic presenter who uses humor and knowledge to help the audience grow in understanding and appreciation of Scripture.


Kevin Saunder is a Scripture expert who uses his vast knowledge of Scripture and measured presentation style to walk the audience through the scriptural support for all things Catholic. 

Length 
Nine five- minute long episodes. About 45 minutes of total content. 

BONUS
A simply awesome, free study guide that I would highly recommend downloading. So much more information in the study guide. 

Style of Content

  • Each short video is simply the presenter speaking to the camera with a list of topics being discussed on the left-hand side and a bar at the bottom highlighting points in the talk. The video is of good quality and on a simple white background.
  • TBH - Honestly the videos are so short and fast-paced you probably couldn’t do anything more with them. The style of the videos is good enough for what they are trying to accomplish.


Content
This series really is an introduction to the Bible. In the first six episodes Mark Hart walks through the entire Old and New Testament and gives a summary of the important parts of the story. At times, Mark hart tells the audience a singular long story weaving different books together. 


In the last three episodes Kevin Saunders demonstrates scriptural support or scriptural sources for the significant areas of Catholicism like the Mass, the way Catholics read Scripture, and what we believe (doctrine). 

Scripture
As an introduction to Scripture this series contains many particular pieces of scripture. 

Why You Should Watch this Video
If you have always wanted to hear a straightforward overview of the entire Bible, this series would be helpful. If you feel like you know little or nothing about the Bible, then you will get a decent introduction to the entire Bible. If you are looking for a short video to watch about your faith, these are short and punchy and may work for you. 

Why Skip It
Mark Hart speaks very fast. If that bothers you, you may not like this series. The content is a very high level summary of the entire story of Scripture. If you have done a lot of study you may not hear anything new and want to skip this series. If you are looking for more depth about particular books, this series won’t meet that desire. 


The Ratings
I am rating each resource in terms of how Informative, Transformative, and Engaging I find that resource. Information refers to how much information and how well the video presents that faith knowledge. Transformative refers to how well the resource invites participants to conform their life to follow Jesus Christ. Engaging (-ative) refers to how entertaining, gripping, or interesting I find the resource. 

Informative (1-5 Books)

📕📕📕

Transformative (1-5 Hearts)

 🧡🧡🧡

Engaging-ative (1-5 Wows)

😮😮😮

REVIEW #14: From Nothing to Cosmos: God and Science with Fr. Robert Spitzer

Cosmos FormedReview date May 19, 2020

One of the nagging questions for us in the 21st century is how science and religion exist alongside each other. Since the Enlightenment, we have been told that science and religion are enemies. Some would say that if one is rational and scientific that they can’t be religious and believe in God. As Catholics, we don’t believe that. 

Fr. Robert Spitzer makes a case in From Nothing to Cosmos that not only does science fail to prove God doesn’t exist, but in fact, scientific evidence may exist that leads us to believe in God. If you think this is a far fetched claim, then I encourage you to check out this series. Even the first 15 minutes of the first episode will likely shed new light on the question of and science and religion. 

Title

From Nothing to Cosmos: God and Science with Fr. Robert Spitzer

https://watch.formed.org/from-nothing-to-cosmos-with-fr-robert-spitzer

Presenter

Fr. Robert Spitzer is an intelligent and enthusiastic presenter. Fr. Spitzer clearly knows his stuff and cares deeply that he gets his audience to understand this complicated topic. Some may find his presentation style to be overly zealous. In addition to Fr. Spitzer other experts speak on their area of study. 

Length 

Four episodes, each about an hour in length. 

Style of Content

  • This series looks like a multi-episode series on a cable science channel. It is highly produced with lots of images, movies and animations. The main presenter is shot on a green screen and the background changes often to illustrate what he is speaking about. The main points of the presentation are displayed and summarized well and not just spoken by the presenter. 
  • TBH - Okay. Some of the illustrations and videos are a little silly or hokey. You may be put off by some of these. Also, Fr. Spitzer is pretty excited about this material and some people may not appreciate his style. 

Content

The center stage in this series is the relationship between religion/God and science. Not only does this series set out to show that there is little to no conflict, but in fact that science may at times be further proof for the existence of God. It is a challenging thesis which Fr. Spitzer seems to support at every turn. By examining the origin of existence, near-death experiences, and even the question of alien life forms and multiple universes, Fr. Spitzer seeks to show (not just tell) us just how well religious belief in God and science can work together. 

Honestly, there is a TON of content in this short four-episode series. I learned more about cosmology, physics and mathematics than I was anticipating. The good news is that Fr. Spitzer repeats the material in a way that helps us review it throughout the series. 

Scripture

Genesis 1 and others.

Why You Should Watch this Video

If you have ever had questions about the relationship between science and religion, then this video is for you. If you are curious about the beginning of existence and speculative science in relationship to God, then you should check this out. 

Why Skip It

If scientific language and knowledge isn’t your thing, then maybe this video isn’t for you. If you are too distracted by Fr. Spitzer’s presentation style, then then you might want to skip it. 

The Ratings

I am rating each resource in terms of how Informative, Transformative, and Engaging I find that resource. Information refers to how much information and how well the video presents that faith knowledge. Transformative refers to how well the resource invites participants to conform their life to follow Jesus Christ. Engaging (-ative) refers to how entertaining, gripping, or interesting I find the resource. 

Informative (1-5 Books)

📕📕📕📕📕

Transformative (1-5 Hearts)

💙💙💙💙

Engaging-ative (1-5 Wows)

😮😮😮

REVIEW #13: Prayer for Beginners by Peter Kreeft

Prayerforbeginnersformed(Review Publication Date May 14, 2020)

The last review of FORMED content was for a six-part talk on prayer. Today I am reviewing a MUCH shorter treatment of the same subject namely the short but insightful book on prayer called Prayer for Beginners written by Dr. Peter Kreeft, renowned philosopher and writer. 

In the introduction, Kreeft explains that while there are thousands of books on how to pray, there are very few for those who are busy, distracted and, frankly, not very good at praying. That what this book is. It is a book for those who want to pray, but struggle. I believe this short-in-stature little gem would aid just about anyone in their prayer life. 

Title

Prayer for Beginners 

https://watch.formed.org/prayer-for-beginners-by-peter-kreeft

Author

Peter Kreeft is a Professor of Philosophy at Boston College, convert to Catholicism and the author of over 80 books on Theology, Philosophy and Apologetics. He is a tremendous teacher of an authentic and beautiful Catholic faith. 

Length 

167 pages (This is book small in size - the pages are not large pages.)

Style of Content

  • This is a brief but powerful little book. The chapters are short and punchy. Kreeft gets to the point quickly and doesn’t mince words. Kreeft’s writing style is practical and conversational. 
  • TBH - Honestly, Kreeft’s style is very readable and accessible. It’s important to know that Kreeft doesn’t pull any punches. If you read this, you will be challenged. 

Content

Peter Kreeft addresses both the basics of prayer, (why, who, what, where, when) but also some of the difficult aspects to a healthy prayer life, like distractions or the impact of sin on the person praying. Kreeft writes this book for people who are beginners in prayer and he considers himself a beginner! While Kreeft writes on topics that would be helpful to those just starting to pray, he absolutely challenges those who have been practicing prayer for a while too. Often in this short book, Kreeft gives a new and helpful way of thinking about prayer that will only make sense if you’ve tried and failed to pray at times. 

Scripture

Matthew 7:7

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

among many others

Why You Should Read This Book

If you want to improve your prayer life or need a little nudge to make prayer a priority, then Prayer for Beginners would be a good read for you. If you would enjoy a thought-out, rational approach to faith, you will likely appreciate and find value in this title. 

Why Skip It

If you are looking for a warm and comforting book on prayer, you might want to start somewhere else.

BONUS

Audiobook - You can listen to this book on formed at https://watch.formed.org/prayer-for-beginners-by-peter-kreeft-1/videos/prayer-for-beginners-by-peter-kreeft

The Ratings

I am rating each resource in terms of how Informative, Transformative and Engaging I find that resource. Information refers to how much information and how well the video presents that faith knowledge. Transformative refers to how well the resource invites participants to conform their life to follow Jesus Christ. Engaging (-ative) refers to how entertaining, gripping or interesting I find the resource. 

Informative (1-5 Books)

📗📗📗📗

Transformative (1-5 Hearts)

💙💙💙💙💙

Engaging-ative (1-5 Wows)

😮😮😮😮

Previous Recommendations

Lectio FormedReview publish date May 12, 2020)

If you were to ask 100 random people on the street what does it mean to have faith, almost all would probably name prayer as the most important action of a faithful person. Yet, when I talk to people about their prayer lives, almost all of them wish they had a richer, more meaningful, more consistent prayer life. How can something so central to our faith, be so difficult for us?

No matter what the answer is to that question, we all know that if we can get prayer right, we will grower closer and closer to God. The Lectio Teaching Series and Dr. Tim Gray have tackled this important topic. I thought I knew a lot about this subject, but this series opened my eyes to many ways to improve my prayer life. You might want to check it out. 

Title

Lectio Series: Unveiling Scripture and Tradition - Prayer

https://watch.formed.org/lectio-prayer-with-dr-tim-gray/season:1

Presenter

Dr. Tim Gray is a knowledgable and straight forward presenter. He is more animated in this series than I’ve seen him in other talks. 

Length 

Six Sessions all about 30 minutes in length. 

Style of Content

A series of six talks given before a live audience by Dr. Tim Gray. The talk is augmented by sacred art, video and images of holy sites, and written scripture and quotes. 

TBH - The video is well done and easy to follow. The cut-ins of images or video of art, scripture, and sites is engaging and keeps the viewer's attention. Honestly, as videos of talks go, this is well done. 

Content

Prayer is the core of a life of faith in God. This video series thoroughly examines the basic movements of prayer. By unpacking a single prayer form, Lectio Divina, Dr. Gray examines the basic building blocks of all forms of prayer. This series purposefully repeats the stages of prayer and explains how entering into prayer through the first step is vital for meaningful, powerful, joyful prayer. Dr. Gray makes connections between a wide range of scripture and traditional teachings of the Church that are helpful in growing one’s prayer life. The content would be helpful for a beginner in prayer and rich enough for someone who has a developed prayer life. 

Scripture and Tradition

John 4:4-42 Women at the well. 

Duet 6:4-5 “Hear, O Israel…”

Psalm 1:1-2 

Genesis 28:11

John 1:50, 51

John 14:6

CCC 2560 Prayer

CCC 2654 Guigo’s Ladder 

Why You Should Watch this Video

If you desire deep, rich, meaningful prayer, you should watch this video. If you have struggled in your prayer life and wonder how you can have authentic prayer, then you should check this out. If you think of prayer the same way you think of flossing, you may want to watch this video. If you feel like you have a good handle on pray and understand Lectio Divina, this series will deepen your understanding and enrich your practice of this prayer form. 

Why Skip It

If a talk style format doesn’t sound engaging to you, you may want to skip this. If you are looking for a light watch, then maybe check out something in the movie section of FORMED. 

The Ratings

I am rating each resource in terms of how Informative, Transformative, and Engaging I find that resource. Information refers to how much information and how well the video presents that faith knowledge. Transformative refers to how well the resource invites participants to conform their life to follow Jesus Christ. Engaging (-ative) refers to how entertaining, gripping, or interesting I find the resource. 

Informative (1-5 Books)

 📘📘📘📘

Transformative (1-5 Hearts)

💜💜💜💜

Engaging-ative (1-5 Wows)

😮😮😮

ThesearchformedReview date May 8, 2020

I don’t know about you, but pressing pause on what had been my normal life has led to more introspection and questioning than I would have ever done in a normal month. Sometimes that thinking as been difficult. 

By no coincidence, formed.org has released the first episode of a new series called The Search. This series is all about our search for meaning and happiness. It seems to me to be a good time to consider the big questions of life. 

Note Bene: The series is being released one episode at a time. Only the first episode is out right now and that is what I reviewed. When the entire series is complete I will do a brand spanking new review. 

Title

The Search: Episode 1 What do you seek?

https://watch.formed.org/the-search-may-2020/videos/the-search-episode-1

Presenter

Chris Stefanick is an engaging presenter who gets to the heart of things with his presenting style which seems natural and authentic. 

Length 

25 minutes

Style of Content

While presented and narrated by Chris Stefanick, video and images are cut with intelligent and insightful commentary of experts in fields of psychology and faith. The story of a former NBA player is also highlighted. 

TBH - The video is gorgeous and the presentation is very professional and current. If it wasn’t on formed.org you’d think it was put together by a secular studio. 

Content

The content of Episode 1 of  The Search is an invitation for the viewer to ask the question, “What do I seek?” In other words, we are asked to think about what we want out of life and what we are going to do with our time on this earth. While many potential options are explored, we are asked to examine whether anything really satisfies us completely and forever. The content is fast-paced and engaging and you almost can’t believe when the episode is over how fast it went. 

Scripture

John 1:38

Why You Should Watch This Video

If you want to think more deeply about why we exist or how we can be truly happy, then this video is for you. If you like powerfully gripping videos and deep thinking, then you will likely enjoy this series. 

Why Skip It

If you want something light and distracting, you should try something else. If you don’t like the modern style of fast-changing, high energy video collages, then you may not enjoy the style of this series

The Ratings

I am rating each resource in terms of how Informative, Transformative and Engaging I find that resource. Information refers to how much information and how well the video presents that faith knowledge. Transformative refers to how well the resource invites participants to conform their life to follow Jesus Christ. Engaging (-ative) refers to how entertaining, gripping, or interesting I find the resource. 

Informative (1-5 Books)

 📕📕📕

Transformative (1-5 Hearts)

 💚💚💚💚💚

Engaging-ative (1-5 Wows)

😮😮😮😮😮

What Is Spiritual Communion FormedReview release date May 5, 2020

For weeks we have all worshiped as best we can from home. We’ve been lucky at HNOJ because the parish has done such a great job with filming our weekly Mass. And it’s just not the same as being at our parish, in person. 

Mostly that is because we don’t get to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. We are invited to make a Spiritual Communion, but what is that? What does it mean? FORMED Live is here to answer these questions and further put Spiritual Communion in context with whole of the spiritual life. 

Title

FORMED Live: What is Spiritual Communion

https://watch.formed.org/formed-live-1/videos/formed-live-what-is-spirit...

Presenter

Dr. Tim Gray and Dr. Ben Akers.

Length 

30 minutes

Style of Content

Conversation between Dr. Gray and Dr. Akers about the role of Spiritual Communion in our faith life. This is a recorded “live” conversation where the presenters are seated on a set and hold a back and forth discussion.

TBH - The style of the conversation is fine, but not much more than fine. The lighting is a little strange, but overall the video is good enough. Some may not enjoy or easily follow the conversation format. 

Content

The conversation between Dr. Gray and Dr. Akers deftly places the act of Spiritual Communion within the whole context of the spiritual life. What is the purpose of faith and religion? Further, what is the purpose of Spiritual Communion? Answers to these questions and much more are the basis of this conversation about Spiritual Communion. 

Scripture

1 Corinthians 11 & 13, John 14, as well as many quotes from Saints and Church documents. 

Why you should watch this video

If during this time of virtually attending Mass and Spiritual Communion you have been wondering about Spiritual Communion, you can find out more about it through watching this conversation. If you are missing Mass in person and looking forward to receiving the Eucharist again, this video may help you to grow in appreciation for Spiritual Communion. 

Why skip it

The conversation format won’t be for everyone and if you are looking for a linear argument and explanation, you may want to skip it. The presenters can get pretty deep pretty fast, so if you aren’t looking for a rich and deep conversation about the spiritual life, then you should watch something else on FORMED.

The Ratings

I am rating each resource in terms of how Informative, Transformative, and Engaging I find that resource. Information refers to how much information and how well the video presents that faith knowledge. Transformative refers to how well the resource invites participants to conform their life to follow Jesus Christ. Engaging (-ative) refers to how entertaining, gripping, or interesting I find the resource. 

Informative (1-5 Books)

 📕📕📕📕

Transformative (1-5 Hearts)

 💚💚💚

Engaging-ative (1-5 Wows)

😮😮

Ociee Nash FormedReview release date May 1, 2020

Family movie night! Today, I’ve reviewed the movie The Adventures of Ociee Nash. However, I didn’t want to trust my own instinct on what is billed as a heartwarming family-friendly movie (not usually my thing). So I enlisted the whole Kostelc family to watch and review this film. 

If you are looking for a bit of goodness wrapped in a simple plot, then you may just want to pop some popcorn and have a family movie night with this movie. 

Title

The Adventures of Ociee Nash

https://watch.formed.org/the-adventures-of-ociee-nash

Presenter

No presenter - feature length film.

Length 

One hour and forty minutes. 

Style of Content

Family movie with a heartwarming, family friendly adventure. 

TBH - Looks like a real movie. Seemed like the cinematography got better as it went along. “Didn’t look liked it was filmed on an iPhone 4.” High praise from my eldest. 

Content

The Adventures of Ociee Nash is the tale of a nine year old girl being raised on a farm in Mississippi by her father and brothers. When it is decided she is going to go live with her Aunt and learn the ways of a lady, hijinks ensue. It is heartwarming and not overly preachy. The movie is based on Milam McGraw Propst’s award-winning novel, A Flower Blooms on Charlotte Street.

BONUS

I asked my family to give their opinion of the film. Here is what they had to say. 

Wife - “I found this movie to be surprisingly engaging. Even my 2-year-old sat through the first half-hour without moving. The only cringe-worthy part for me was the depiction of a gypsy.” 

My 14-year-old - “Not the worse movie I’ve watched on Formed. Actually I kind of enjoyed it.” 

My 10-year-old - “I liked the movie. It had lots of adventure so it went fast. It was kind of funny. I can’t think of anything I didn’t like about it. I give it 3.5 stars. 4 is great, but it was just less than that.” 

My 2-year-old - “Doggie.” 

Why you should watch this video

If you enjoy family-friendly movies with a straightforward plot and likable characters, you will likely get a chuckle out of this film. If you are looking for something for your family to watch, especially younger elementary-aged children, you will probably enjoy this movie. Honestly, I kept my expectations in check and ended up really enjoying this film. When we had to pause it to put our youngest to bed, I was eager to restart it and watch the rest. Seriously. 

Why skip it

If you are looking for explicitly faith-based movies or typical Hollywood fair, then you may want to skip this. If you are looking for brooding, plot twist-filled, and sophisticated dialogue, why are you looking for a family friendly movie? Go watch a Terrence Malick film. 

The Ratings

For movies on Formed, I am using a different rating system. I think reviewing them with the same standard as a theological study or talk isn’t helpful. Instead, I am reviewing them in terms of All the Feels, Cringy, and Engaging. Engaging - Was the movie engaging or entertaining? Did I want to watch it? Cringy - Was the movie well made? Was the acting good? Did anything make me cringe and not on purpose? Cringe isn’t a good thing.  All the Feels - Did this movie make me feel something? Did this movie transport me to another place and experience the story?

Engaging(1-5 Wows)

 😮😮😮😮

Cringy (1-5 Cringe)

 😬

All the Feels (1-5 Hearts)

💛💛💛💛

MasterpiecesformedRelease review date April 28, 2020

And now for something completely different. So far we’ve listened to talks, watched stand-alone videos, multi-episode learning series, but now I’ve reviewed something completely different. 

Masterpieces is a short documentary on Art and Faith. While watching, you’ll hear about the process of creating art and how five artists found a calling in being artists. The documentary is beautiful and almost a meditation on the arts and faith. 

Title

Masterpieces

https://watch.formed.org/masterpieces

Presenter

No central presenter or host. Five artists are featured: Christopher Allen, Annabelle Moseley, Denis Demirer, Madison Mitchell and Br. Joseph Hoover. 

Length 

35 minutes

Style of Content

Documentary style interviews are spliced with video of the process of producing art and beautiful shots of their artwork. 

TBH - Well shot and beautifully constructed, this documentary wins high marks for style and pace. Seriously, Masterpieces is beautiful. 

Content

Five artists are interviewed about art and their experience of God within the artistic process. This short documentary is an exploration of the vocation of the artist. The central question of how art and faith is examined. 

Scripture

Psalm 19:1

Bonus

St. Pope John Paul II wrote a letter to artists in 1999. One of the subjects of this documentary mentioned it. Click below to read it yourself.

http://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/letters/1999/documents/hf_...

Why you should watch this video

If you find God in the arts or are curious about how an artist of faith finds inspiration, this documentary is for you. If you are looking for a short but beautiful exploration of what it means to be called by God to do something, then check this out. If you need a break from heavy theological learning, this video might just do the trick. 

Why skip it

If the arts or artists aren’t your thing, you may want to skip it. If you are looking for some serious Catechetical study, this isn’t your documentary and you should probably check out something else on formed.org. 

The Ratings

I am rating each resource in terms of how Informative, Transformative, and Engaging I find that resource. Information refers to how much information and how well the video presents that faith knowledge. Transformative refers to how well the resource invites participants to conform their life to follow Jesus Christ. Engaging (-ative) refers to how entertaining, gripping, or interesting I find the resource. 

Informative (1-5 Books)

 📙📙

Transformative (1-5 Hearts)

 💚💚💚

Engaging-ative (1-5 Wows)

😮😮😮😮😮

ckostelc@hnoj.org

Review publish date April 24, 2020

SufferingformedI once heard a priest say that no matter who we are, rich or poor, man or woman, old or young, we have to suffer. I acknowledged that he was probably right, but that he didn’t mean me or the people I loved. At a time when it feels like the whole world is suffering, it makes it harder to deny that priest’s statement. 

Why do we suffer? Dr. Scott Hahn tackles this important and difficult question in his audio talk “Making Sense out of Suffering.” And he nails it. If you have ever questioned why a loving God would have us suffer, then you should consider giving this talk a listen. 

Title

Making Sense Out of Suffering

https://watch.formed.org/making-sense-out-of-suffering-by-dr-scott-hahn/...

Presenter

Dr. Scott Hahn. Dr. Hahn is a gifted presenter with incredible presence, clear style, and well organized content. Honestly Dr. Hahn is one of the absolute best Catholic presenters out there. I’ve never listened to him speak without my faith and heart being changed. 

Length 

About 1 hour. 

Style of Content

Audio talk with an audience. 

TBH - As audio talks go, this one is great. Dr. Hahn has a pep in his voice that keeps one’s attention and there is an audience which adds to the experience. 

Content

Dr. Hahn seeks to answer the question, “Why do we suffer?” The talks purpose is to give meaning to what otherwise looks like meaningless pain. By using scripture and Church teaching Dr. Hahn clearly outlines the role of suffering in the spiritual life. 

Scripture

Colossians 1:24 and Hebrews 5:7-10 are featured. The story of Jesus’ Crucifixion is also described.

Why you should listen to this talk

If you want to change your experience of suffering and understand better why we suffer, then this talk is for you. If you are currently suffering in anyway, this talk can help you understand how God can use that suffering and help you become a saint. 

Also, if you want to hear one aspect of the secret genius of our Catholic faith, this talk will bring you up to speed. 

Why skip it

If audio talks aren’t your thing, then maybe figure out something else on formed.org. 

The Ratings

I am rating each resource in terms of how Informative, Transformative, and Engaging I find that resource. Information refers to how much information and how well the video presents that faith knowledge. Transformative refers to how well the resource invites participants to conform their life to follow Jesus Christ. Engaging (-ative) refers to how entertaining, gripping, or interesting I find the resource. 

Informative (1-5 Books)

 📙📙📙📙

Transformative (1-5 Hearts)

 💚💚💚💚💚

Engaging-ative (1-5 Wows)

😮😮😮😮

Review publish date April 21, 2020

HappinessformedWhat do you want out of life? A lot of people’s answer is the same - Happiness. Yet, we don’t often talk about happiness or the good life in the context of faith. This video series from The Magis Center and Fr. Robert Spitzer SJ, does address what happiness and faith have to do with each other. 

Note Bene: I promise I won’t make a habit of this, but I also reviewed this series on just the first handful of episodes. 

Title

Happiness

https://watch.formed.org/happiness-1/season:1

Presenter

Jenny and Eric (actors?) are the main co-presenters and are clearly heavily scripted. 

Also, we hear from Fr. Robert Spitzer SJ, the intelligent and enthusiastic priest behind the Magis Center, the organization that made this video. He has a love for this topic and has developed much of the content. As a presenter or teacher he can either draw people in or potentially turn them off.  There are also many other experts and interviews throughout the series. 

Length 

Seven episodes long series each ranging from 23-41 minutes long.

Style of Content

Co-presenters narrate and explain concepts which are illustrated with animations and further unpacked by experts. 

TBH - The production is a little dated. It’s not as beautiful or well made as some other series on Formed. 

Content

This series seeks to answer the question - What is happiness? They lean on some pretty significant research, modern studies of humanity, and classic philosophy to answer that question and present it in a way that most people can understand. The content is solid, thought-provoking, and helpful in reflecting on one’s own life. 

Bonus

You can download a free study guide for this series too! But be warned, it is big one! Loads of pages with content spread wide. 

Why you should watch this video

The topic of happiness is so central to establishing what we want out of life and why we live the way we do. It is important to be reflective of our beliefs, actions, and desires in light of seeking happiness. If you want to take some time to review how you might be happier, then you should watch this video. 

Why skip it

Jenny and Eric are presenters that will not resonate with everyone. Their examples sometimes seem even trite or silly. If you can’t get past somewhat stilted presenters and the occasional awkward production choice, you should probably try something else. 

The Ratings

I am rating each resource in terms of how Informative, Transformative, and Engaging I find that resource. Information refers to how much information and how well the video presents that faith knowledge. Transformative refers to how well the resource invites participants to conform their life to follow Jesus Christ. Engaging (-ative) refers to how entertaining, gripping, or interesting I find the resource. 

Informative (1-5 Books)

📘📘📘

Transformative (1-5 Hearts)

💚💚💚

Engaging-ative (1-5 Wows)

😮😮

Review publication date April 17, 2020

Divinemercy FormedThis coming Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday which means the entire Catholic Church will celebrate this beautiful and profound mystery of God’s mercy for us. The teaching of the Divine Mercy was an important one for St. Pope John Paul II and has often been cited by Pope Francis. Yet, such an important teaching of the Church is still a mystery to many of us. 

If the teaching on the Divine Mercy is new to you or you only know of the Divine Mercy chaplet and image, then watching this video will aid you understanding why the whole Church celebrates the Divine Mercy this Sunday. 

Note Bene - This review was conducted after having watched just the first 3 episodes of the series. I plan on watching rest over the weekend and if my review changes, I will update it. I finished the series and found my review remained true. Jesus, I trust in you!

Title

Divine Mercy with Fr. Michael Gaitley

In the Second Greatest Story Ever Told

https://watch.formed.org/divine-mercy-with-fr-michael-gaitley

Presenter

Fr. Michael Gaitley. Fr. Gaitley is a clear presenter who demonstrates his care for Divine Mercy and sharing its good news with the world. He is a joyful priest and his only knock as a presenter is that can talk a little fast for some viewers. 

Length 

10 Episodes of various lengths between 18 and 36 minutes long. 

Style of Content

A mix of presenter teaching, classic religious art, historical photographs, scripture, Church teaching, and reflections on our beliefs as Catholics.

TBH - Professionally produced with loads of great images and graphics to further illustrate the content. You won’t be bored. 

Content

This study accomplishes what it sets out to do. It clearly and with great depth explains the teaching of Divine Mercy. By placingDivine Mercy within the context of God’s plan for our salvation and by giving more modern revelations of God’s Divine Mercy in the lives of many Saints, this study helps the viewer to grow in understanding, appreciation and devotion to the Divine Mercy. 

Bonus

A Digital Study Guide is available for download with the study series.

Scripture

Genesis and the Old Testament is featured in the first episode, while John 15, Romans 6, the Resurrection appearances, and other New Testament scripture is unpacked in the second episode. Scripture is woven throughout the series. 

Why you should watch this study

If you want to understand the Divine Mercy, then this video is for you. If you need to see how God wants to pour mercy into your life, you should watch this study. If you want to know why the Sunday after Easter is Divine Mercy Sunday, you can find out in this study. 

Why skip it

This study is a heavy dose of Fr. Michael Gaitley. If you don’t like his style, you’ll have a lot of him to watch to get the content. With 11 episodes it is a great deal of material to get through. 

The Ratings

I am rating each resource in terms of how Informative, Transformative, and Engaging I find that resource. Information refers to how much information and how well the video presents that faith knowledge. Transformative refers to how well the resource invites participants to conform their life to follow Jesus Christ. Engaging (-ative) refers to how entertaining, gripping, or interesting I find the resource. 

Informative (1-5 Books)

 📘📘📘📘

Transformative (1-5 Hearts)

 💜💜💜

Engaging-ative  (1-5 Wows)

😮😮😮😮

Review publication date Tuesday, April 14

Presence FormedIn the midst of being socially isolated and with the absence of public Masses being said in our Archdiocese, we can feel pretty separated not only from each other, but from the Eucharist as well. This might just be the time to learn a little more about the Eucharist and Mass. 

Today I review Presence a study series on FORMED.org. Maybe learning about the Eucharist while being absent from it will be difficult. My hope is that learning about Jesus and Eucharist will bring us closer when we feel far from it. 

Title

Presence

https://watch.formed.org/presence/season:1

Presenter

An ensemble of theologian, catechists, and missionaries Chris Stefanick, Dr. Ed Sri, Deb Holiday, Dr. Time Gray, Jim Beckman, Luis Soto, Dr. Sean Innerst, Dr. Mark Giszczak, Dr. Scott Powell among others. 

Length 

Three Sessions, each last 35-40 minutes. Plus four bonus videos about the Eucharist including one design for Children to get an up close view of altar during Mass. 

Style of Content

A mix of narrated images, talking-head teaching and explanations of scriptures, works of art, reenactments of historical moments, scriptural scenes, and saint stories. 

TBH - One of the best produced and most professional looking things on FORMED. Honestly, the study is fast paced and full of rich and engaging images and content.

Content

Starting with examples of heroic devotion and the power of the Eucharist from the lives of Saints, the Presence study goes on to explain what the Eucharist is, why we believe what we believe, and why it should matter to us. There is a strong connection made between God’s plan for our salvation, Jesus Christ, Holy Scripture and the Church’s practice of the Mass. 

BONUS

Digital Study guide available for download!

Scripture

Exodus 3, Acts 2:42, Psalms, John 6, Last Supper accounts, Multiplication of Loaves, and many books of the New and Old Testament are discussed and explained in light of the Eucharist. 

Why you should watch this video

You should watch this video if you want your faith in and understanding of the Eucharist to deepen and grow. If you want to make your participation at Mass more meaningful, you should watch this study series. If you want to grow in your desire for God, understand better His plan for your Salvation, or Mass to be a powerful moment of faith no matter the distractions, this video is for you. 

Why skip it

If you are looking for an intellectually heavy scripture study or lighthearted romanic comedy with the unlikely coupling of a bumbling hero and uptight heroine, then maybe skip this video series. 

The Ratings

I am rating each resource in terms of how informative, transformative, and engaging I find that resource. Information refers to how much information and how well the video presents that faith knowledge. Transformative refers to how well the resource invites participants to conform their life to follow Jesus Christ. Engaging (-ative) refers to how entertaining, gripping, or interesting I find the resource. 

Informative (1-5 Books)

📘📘📘📘📘

Transformative (1-5 Hearts)

💚💚💚💚

Engaging-ative (1-5 Wows)

😮😮😮😮

TriduumAs we pray through Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday it can be easy to forget that these things really, truly happened. The people are real, the events are real, and the places are real. Seeing the actual physical locations of Jesus’ last days of earthly ministry can be helpful for our faith. In light of that we review a new video from FORMED.org - Triduum: A Spiritual Pilgrimage. 

Title

Triduum: A Spiritual Pilgrimage

https://watch.formed.org/triduum-a-spiritual-pilgrimage/videos/triduum

Presenter

Dr. Ben Akers narrates this video by mixing scripture and meditations to further reveal the true beauty of the images of the video. 

Length 

About 30 minutes.

Style of Content

Narrated tour of the Holy Land in the format of a guided meditation. 

TBH - Honestly, this video is beautifully shot with sweeping views of the Holy Land and the Churches associated with the scenes of the last three days of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The only detraction is sometimes the music associated is a little overwhelming. 

Content

This video is a 30 minute retreat using meditations and reflections narrated over stunning visuals from the Holy Land. You will see many of the most famous sites from the city of Jerusalem and the surrounding area. In addition classic paintings of Jesus and the disciples are used to illustrate the scriptures. Occasionally Dr. Akers pops up during the narration, but mostly just leads the meditations while we see scenes of the holy sites of Jerusalem. 

Scripture

Scripture from Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection from all four gospels are used for the meditations. 

Why you should watch this video

If a 30 minute visual retreat revealing the sights of the Holy Land and sacred art would help you enter into the Triduum more profoundly, then you should watch this video. If seeing the holy sites of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection would help you know your faith and deepen your prayer this Easter, then you should watch this video. 

Why skip it

If you are looking for a study of scripture or something a little light hearted, then go ahead and find another piece of content on FORMED.org. 

The Ratings

I am rating each resource in terms of how informative, transformative, and engaging I find that resource. Information refers to how much information and how well the video presents that faith knowledge. Transformative refers to how well the resource invites participants to conform their life to follow Jesus Christ. Engaging (-ative) refers to how entertaining, gripping, or interesting I find the resource. 

Informative (1-5 Books)

📘📘📘

Transformative (1-5 Hearts)

 💚💚💚💚

Engaging-ative (1-5 Wows)

😮😮😮😮😮

Review Publication Date April 7, 2020

Intro

Holy Week is full of traditions and prayers that help us to remember the scriptural accounts of the week leading up to Jesus death and resurrection. By taking a deeper look at what Jesus does and says during this week, we can grow in our practice of preparing for and celebrating Easter. In turn, we will grow closer to Jesus Christ. 

Dr. Brant Pitre explains the scriptural roots of Holy Week in an hour-long talk that will help unpack the meaning of what we do now and what Jesus did in the very first Holy Week. 

Title

The Jewish Roots of Holy Week

https://watch.formed.org/holy-week-triduum/videos/the-jewish-roots-of-ho...

Presenter

Dr. Brant Pitre is a dynamic presenter who clearly loves his material and is thrilled to share it with us. His material is full of “ah-ha” moments that he clearly presents with a direct and enthusiastic presenting style. 

Length 

About 1 hour

Style of Content

Audio Talk - no video. 

TBH - Dr. Petrie is an insightful Biblical Scholar who genuinely is excited to shares what he knows about the topic, which is evident in the talk. He has unbridled enthusiasm for his topic. if you like unbridled enthusiasm, then he is your cup of tea.

Content

Dr. Pitre walks through each day - Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday - and explains the scriptural description of the first Holy Week, how Jesus fulfills the Old Testament prophesy and historical context of our gospel accounts of Jesus’ road to the Cross and Resurrection. Dr. Pitre enjoys asking “Why?” about things we take for granted in scripture and then blows us away with an insightful answer that helps us know Jesus and the Gospel better. 

Scripture

Select readings from the passion, death and resurrection accounts from Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John. In addition, many Old Testament scriptures are referenced. 

The Ratings

I am rating each resource in terms of how Informative, Transformative, and Engaging I find that resource. Information refers to how much information and how well the video presents that faith knowledge. Transformative refers to how well the resource invites participants to conform their life to follow Jesus Christ. Engaging (-ative) refers to how entertaining, gripping, or interesting I find the resource. 

Informative (1-5 Books)  

📗📗📗📗📗

Transformative (1-5 Hearts)

💙💙💙

Engaging-ative (1-5 Wows)

😮😮😮😮

Why you should watch this video

If you enjoy having the scriptures explained in such a way where you say “Oh wow, I didn’t know that” or “Ahhhh, Now I understand” then this talk is for you. You will encounter Ah-Ha after Ah-Ha listening to Dr. Pitre make connections and fully reveal hidden gem after hidden gem in the scripture relating to Holy Week. If you want to know the reason why we celebrate Holy Week as Catholics, you should watch this video. 

Why skip it

If you would rather see a video or don’t like to nerd out over scripture, you should probably skip it. 

Review publication date April 2, 2020

If your family is anything like mine, adjusting to this new normal of staying home has taken some getting used to. Last week the Church celebrated an important feast - The Annunciation -  on March 25. In the midst of our new normal that celebration fell through the cracks. 

Luckily, FORMED.org has a short little Bible Study all about the Annunciation presented by Dr. Ben Akers. If you want to know why this feast is so important, then you may want to check out this short, single session Bible Study of Luke 1:26-38. 

Here is my review of the video study available free online at FORMED.org. 

Title

A Bible Study on the Annunciation 

https://watch.formed.org/faith-at-home/videos/a-bible-study-on-the-annun...

Presenter

Dr. Ben Akers is a clear communicator and good presenter who mostly gets down to business interpreting scripture. Good energy and enthusiasm. Not a lot of stories or examples.

Length 

About 30 minutes.

Style of Video

Recorded talk with one camera and no illustrations or other video or images.

TBH - High Quality and Clear, but pretty much just a 30-minute talk, walking through the scripture Luke 1:26-38. Dr. Ben Akers is a quality presenter, but this is a recorded talk as basic as it gets.

Content

An explanation of the Annunciation found in Luke 1:26-38. Dr. Ben Akers often explains the Greek text and possible translations and explores the theological implications of the text. Dr. Akers also applies these theological outcomes to our daily life.

Scripture

Luke 1:26-38

Various Old Testament references that relate to the primary text. 

The Ratings

I am rating each resource in terms of how Informative, Transformative, and Engaging I find that resource. Informative refers to how much information and how well the video presents that faith knowledge. Transformative refers to how well the resource invites participants to conform their life to follow Jesus Christ. Engaging (-ative) refers to how entertaining, gripping, or interesting I find the resource. 

Informative (1-5 Books)

 📕📕📕📕

Transformative (1-5 Hearts)

 💛💛💛

Engaging-ative (1-5 Wows)

😮😮

Why you should watch this video

If you are looking for a deeper understanding of the Annunciation, why it is a big deal, and why Mary is a powerful example of faith, then you should watch this video. If you like taking a deep dive into a piece of scripture and applying what it means to your daily life, this video is for you. 

Why skip it

If you are looking for sweeping videos of the Holy Land or an entertaining story with quips and jokes, then maybe skip this one.