Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Brother Francis: Following in His Footsteps, He is Risen, and JoyToons (Herald Entertainment)

It's been a while since I've had a chance to review some DVDs from my favorite Catholic cartoon Brother Francis. When we last left Brother Francis, he was at eight episodes, but three more have been added since then. They are as follows: 9. Following in His Footsteps, 10. He is Risen, and 11. JoyToons (The Brother Francis Song Collection Volume 1). Allow me to tell you about them.

Most children know the right answers when called on in Religious Education, but few children turn those words into actions. With Volume 9 of Brother Francis, Following in His Footsteps, your children will learn what it really means to be followers/disciples of Jesus by turning their words into actions. The first example they are given is "The Parable of the Sheep and Goats." In this Scripture passage, we see Jesus talking to a flock of sheep and goats and separating them. The sheep receive the eternal reward, because they helped their fellow man who was hungry or thirsty. The goats receive eternal punishment, because they did not help their fellow man. This really is one of the most haunting passages in the Gospels, because I always question whether I am doing enough to help others. The other story talks about the man who built his house on the sand and the one who built his on the rock, and teaches your children about living with faith in God as opposed to living without him. If you build your house on the rock (faith in God), then you will be able to withstand any storm, but if you do not and opt for sand (faith in yourself or possessions), then with the slightest storm, you'll get overwhelmed. This was a great episode and a perfect follow-up to Born into the Kingdom.

He is Risen is clearly an Easter episode of Brother Francis. The video begins by talking about Jesus' Resurrection. This leads Brother Francis to give us a brief summary of Jesus' life. If your children are well-versed in the life of Jesus, this will be a repeat of knowledge they already know, but it can also be a good crash course for those who new to the faith or young children. Brother Francis covers Jesus' birth, ministry, teachings, healings, etc. This leads us to Palm Sunday and Brother Francis' lesson on Holy Week. Using the events that occurred during Jesus' final week on earth, Brother Francis relates to us how and why the Church celebrates Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday. He talks specifically about the importance of Palms, washing of the feet, institution of the Eucharist, and the Stations of the Cross. The episode concludes with a catchy song also called, "He is Risen," like the title of the episode. This episode is great to watch during Lent and pairs perfectly with the Christmas episode titled O Holy Night. Highly recommended.

JoyToons is the most recent Brother Francis DVD and a strictly musical "episode." The DVD begins with Brother Francis singing "The Bread of Life," and leads into him talking about the importance of music, a quote from St. Augustine, and different reasons we sing. He also makes reference to how much music is in the Bible, including the Psalms; Paul singing in prison; and music in the book of Revelation. The rest of the episode is composed of a dozen songs, previously featured in the first nine episodes of the Brother Francis series. Before each song is a quote from a saint, like St. Josemaria Escriva or St. John Vianney, that relates to the song. Unfortunately, this was my least favorite Brother Francis DVD, and I feel it would have been better just to be a CD. What could have improved this episode is having the words of each song at the bottom of the screen so kids could see and hear the words at the same time to reinforce memory. The DVD does have some merit though, as it could be used for very young children to fill time and reinforce the faith without stories.

I am always pleased with the quality of the Brother Francis DVDs, and these three were no different. The message is consistently orthodox, and the level of understanding is simple but profound. However, I am now left wondering where the series will go from here. Will we get episodes on Advent and Lent? Will the rest of the Sacraments be covered in more detail? Or will they just devote time to the papacy or specific saints? Only time will tell, and I look forward to seeing what they have in store next. Be sure to check out their other products like coloring books that correspond with the DVDs; kid-friendly Holy Cards; and a matching game that your young kids will both enjoy and learn a lot from!

These DVDs were provided to me for free by Herald Entertainment in exchange for an honest review! If you found any of the reviews helpful, please click here, here, and/or here and hit Yes!