Easter Day sees the broadcast of a new 12-part series on American network NBC called A.D. The Bible Continues. For Catholics the title could just as well be, “A.D.- The Church is Founded. Based in the New Testament book, The Acts of the Apostles, the new television series is the brainchild of Catholic actress and producer Roma Downey and her husband Mark Burnett.
Roma, who was born in Northern Ireland and educated by the Sisters of Mercy, got her big break playing the kindly angel Monica in the hit TV series Touched by an Angel. Wanting to broadcast the faith to as many as possible, Downey developed The Bible series for the History channel. It was a huge hit. The Bible has been viewed by over 100 million people in the US alone. It is the number one downloaded TV show in iTunes and number two in Amazon’s movie and TV downloads.
A.D.-The Bible Continues picks up the gospel story at the point of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus and moves on through the Acts of the Apostles to show the exciting story of the first Christians and the establishment of the Church. The power of Pentecost is shown as the Holy Spirit transforms the frightened disciples into powerful men of the Spirit.
Roma Downey explained to me, “We consulted with clergy and Bible scholars to get it right.”
Archbishop Donald Wuerl was a key consultant and in this YouTube video one of the priests of the Archdiocese of Washington, Fr Bill Byrne, explains how the series communicates the Catholic faith.
The Archbishop of Los Angeles, José Gomez has said, “A.D. is a rich and faithful retelling of the Acts of the Apostles and the birth and beginnings of the Church on earth. It’s an amazing story — filled with drama and danger, holiness and heroism. In showing us where we came from, A.D. gives us new insights and inspiration to face the challenges of the new evangelization and the continental mission today.”
I asked Roma Downey what her ambitions were for the project. “This TV series has every possibility of going global.”
Because the series focuses on the Bible it appeals not only to American Christians, but to followers of Jesus Christ around the world. Spurred by her Catholic faith, Downey knows that the Christian gospel is global and that the faith and hope of Easter is desperately needed in a world torn apart by violence and sickened by despair.
“Is this a Bible story version only for Protestants?” I asked Downey.
“This production is for all Christians” she explained, “but we have worked with Catholic publisher, Sophia Institute Press to produce excellent Catholic study guides.”
We discussed how the series presents Mary, the mother of the Lord. Protestant film portrayals often neglect the important role of the Blessed Virgin. Downey assured me that Mary is portrayed at the foot of the cross as the Mother of Sorrows and is present at the center of the apostolic Church at the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Catholic doctrines are not explicit in the film, but they are portrayed accurately and visually as the kernel of the later doctrinal development.
Downey spoke with great enthusiasm about the success of The Bible and the hoped for success of A.D.-The Bible Continues.
“We can see millions of Christians sitting down on Easter Sunday evening as a family to watch this exciting and inspiring television series…there is great emotion in this story and it is as we touch people’s hearts that their minds open and they begin to understand the reality and relevance of the gospel story today.”
That story is the heart of the gospel and it is the foundation of the Church. It is only as individuals meet the risen Christ and experience his work alive in the world today that they come to experience the true power and glory of the Catholic faith.
Join Fr Dwight Longenecker and EWTN television personality Johnette Benkovic for a special Divine Mercy Weekend. Go here for more information.
Fr. Dwight LongeneckerWebsite: www.dwightlongenecker.comBlog: Standing on My Head
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