The following comes from an Oct. 26 posting by Fr. Robert Barron on the Catholic World Report website.

Just last month, my media ministry Word on Fire marked a milestone: 10,000,000 views on our YouTube channel. This achievement fills me with gratitude both to God and to the many people who have taken the time to watch one or more of the videos that I’ve produced over the past several years. It also provides the occasion for me to reflect a bit on both the pitfalls and advantages of evangelizing through the new media.

When we commenced our outreach through YouTube seven years ago, we did so in the manner of an experiment. YouTube had just come into being at that time, and it largely featured crude, homemade videos of cats jumping off the roof and babies gurgling for their mother’s camcorder. I thought that we should try to invade this space with the Gospel and so I resolved to make short video commentaries on movies, music, current affairs, cultural happenings, etc. We had absolutely no idea whether anyone would watch, and at first, our offerings garnered just a small audience. I distinctly remember being thrilled when one of our videos managed to pass the 500 views mark for the first time.

But over the months and years, word spread, and we began to build an audience. The first video of ours to go viral was my response to Bill Maher’s awful movie Religulous. In the course of a few weeks, it had been seen by 100,000 people, and it continues to perform well, even to the present. In fact, the atheists have been my most active friends on the Internet. Whenever I do a video on Maher or Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins or Stephen Hawking, I get a strong reaction and lots of views.

One of the features of YouTube that I appreciate the most is its interactivity. At first, I didn’t realize that people could comment on videos—but I quickly found out. Most of the responses, I have to admit, are negative. There are an awful lot of people in the virtual world who hate God, religion, the Catholic Church, priests, etc., and they come after me with some energy. But after getting over the initial shock of reading such vitriol, I have actually come to enjoy the give-and-take with my detractors. In fact, on a number of my forums, quite lengthy and sometimes quite sophisticated arguments have unfolded, somewhat in the manner of Platonic dialogues.

YouTube provides pretty thorough demographics of one’s viewership, and so we have been able to determine that the vast majority of our viewers are young men in their twenties and thirties—the very group that the Church has a notoriously hard time reaching. That the Internet allows me to engage young men who would never darken the doors of a Catholic church or come to a church-sponsored event is a source of great encouragement to me.

The format that I have chosen is the short video commentary (8-10 minutes), based usually on a column that I have prepared for publication in the print media. Early on, some communications “experts” advised me to lose the Roman collar and appear in civilian clothes, so as to attract the more secular audience. I never took that advice, thank God. I always want it to be clear that I am a Catholic priest speaking on behalf of the Catholic Church—and I don’t think young people are the least bamboozled by awkward attempts at “relevance,” just the contrary….

As to my general approach, I have tended toward what Cardinal Dolan of New York calls “affirmative orthodoxy,” which is to say, emphasizing what the Church is for rather than what it is against. I have also adopted the patristic method of seeking out semina verbi (seeds of the Word), hints and echoes of the Gospel that can be found, often in distorted form, in the high and low contemporary culture. Accordingly I have argued that Spiderman, Superman, True Grit’s Rooster Cogburn, Gran Torino’s cranky Walt Kowalski, The Shawshank Redemption’s Andy Dufresne, and Frodo the Hobbit all convey some dimension of Jesus Christ; and I have maintained that both Christopher Hitchens’s essays and the Twilight films speak inchoately but surely of the longing of the human heart for God….

Visit Father Barron’s YouTube channel.

To read the original posting, click here.