CV NEWS FEED // This month, CatholicVote announced the launch of EDIFY, an exciting new video series that will help American Catholics come to grips with the most challenging questions of our time.
To learn more about the project, we sat down with EDIFY’s executive director, Scot Landry, for one of our customary 5 Questions interviews.
Find that conversation below.
CatholicVote: At the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, you showed a two minute video about EDIFY to 1000 people, and it seemed like they responded very positively. What do you make of the response?
Scot Landry: So about 50 people came up to me afterwards and told me they’re really excited for EDIFY. I think, first of all, it signifies that everybody understands there’s a need to communicate better about Church teaching on the issues that affect the way that we live our faith in public. So there is a big market need, and they’re happy somebody is doing it.
A second thing that people communicated: This is a great extension of all the work that CatholicVote already does to educate people, which is half of our mission at CatholicVote, to educate Catholics to fully live the faith in public. So we’re doing that with EDIFY.
And then third, I think there’s a sense of eager anticipation. They’re hopeful it will work. But they know when you say that we want to be like Prager University, for Catholics, that those Prager videos take a lot of work. And people are pulling for us, and they want to see it succeed.
But it’s going to be one of these things where we’re going to have to earn the respect of everybody to say, our execution of the idea matches the need. And that’s what I’m really hoping people will say at next year’s Prayer Breakfast: “Last year, you announced it. Now we’ve seen so many of these episodes. Thank you for what you’re doing for the Church!” If we can earn their respect a year from now, then I know the first year will have been successful.
CatholicVote: Now, some people prefer to read articles or essays. But most people respond better to video. Why do you think that’s the case?
Scot Landry: Part of it is it’s a shorter time commitment. And we’re all having shorter attention spans — anybody that watches any sort of televised media or videos, there are short clips now.
So a five minute video or less allows people to process important content, which we’ll put in EDIFY in bite size. And then the most important reason videos work is because of the power of social media.
If you watch a video, you can easily share it. And that’s how a lot of us get our content. It’s not that we go and we search for it, but people who we respect that we follow on social media, or we subscribe to emails like The LOOP that we all like, somebody else is curating or putting that content in front of us.
That’s why we watch it. So that’s why five-minute videos work. It’s easy to view, easy to make a quick decision on whether this is content they want to share with all of the people that follow them, or just particular people.
And then it allows those other people … to say: “Because so and so was sharing this with me, it’s worth a few minutes of my time, let me check it out.” And that’s how conversions will happen.
One of the principal goals of EDIFY is to help Catholics think like the Church, when we’re in public, and then to have the courage to live out our faith in public, in a time of increased secularism and hostility to people of all faiths. So we’re hoping that the EDIFY videos will do that, as people who like them initially share those with everybody they know.
CatholicVote: You said that politics is actually an “opportunity” to help reach people about the truth of the faith. What are you getting at with that?
Scot Landry: So one of the reasons I took this role is because Brian Burch, the president of CatholicVote, explained his vision for EDIFY to me. He said: “OK, God has created so many different ways we can access the truth about Him, particularly how much He loves each and every one of us and that He died for each and every one of us so that we could be with Him eternally in Heaven.”
You know, that’s why we call it “the good news.” But “good” doesn’t approximate how good it actually is. It’s phenomenal. It’s uh, you know, think of the biggest and best adjectives you could use for this type of news, right?
So there’s many different methods of teaching the faith and Brian said: “Look, young people today, particularly if they’ve been persuaded by some of the secular arguments that maybe they’ve heard in their public schools, or maybe they’ve heard in their universities — they’re thinking about political issues.”
Because to me on those issues, it involves things like service – you know, the good corporal works of mercy we talk about all the time in the Church. If you haven’t been exposed to them in that language, and you think about politics as a way to serve others and to advance the common good, then if that’s where they are … we can meet them on an issue they’re already talking about that is already an important issue of public debate, and then present some of the Catholic truth to them.
And as much as we can in five minutes in a persuasive way, we can get them to take the next step to learn a little bit more. And maybe they’ve assumed wrong things about what the Catholic Church teaches, or especially why the Catholic Church teaches something, and then you start winning them a little bit.
We believe if you win a young person on one issue, that you know “it surprises me, but the Catholic Church is right on this issue,” and then they follow, they look at some of our other videos, and you win on a second issue, and then perhaps a third, then you’re well on your way to inspiring and sparking that person to just keep studying to just keep learning.
Then, you know, with the power of the Holy Spirit, that person could turn out to be one of the best teachers in America in the next 50 years. And that’s our hope, we have no idea really who all the EDIFY videos will reach. But through the power of the Holy Spirit, we just pray they reach the right people so that they become a tool to help people grow closer to God themselves, but then to edify them in a way that our whole Catholic community can edify America when we start living our faith, more strongly, more courageously in public.
CatholicVote: Pope Francis says, you’ve got to meet people where they are… and politics is certainly an area for engagement.
Scot Landry: And nobody is attempting to do what we’re doing already. CatholicVote and EDIFY is just another way for us to do it; in video format. So I ask everybody reading this to pray for our success. There are going to be some things that we learned that work well, that we’ll double down on and will continue. And there’s going to be a lot of things that we learn we can just do better as we get these videos out. So please pray that these videos accomplish what we hope they accomplish, and reach their full potential for the Catholic Church in America.
CatholicVote: You live in Boston, an area that was once very heavily influenced by Catholicism, but now is in many ways dominated by secularism. And Boston isn’t alone in that respect. There are many areas in this country where ex-Catholics outnumber Catholics. And this has to be one of the biggest challenges of the Church today: How do you get people back into the pews?
Scot Landry: So two things: Boston for all of my time, growing up, was a very Catholic place. I went to a public high school, but I felt like almost all my teachers were Catholic and Catholic values were part of the way that they taught the class. That is, I feel like I’m getting old now as my kids are going off to college. But that isn’t so long ago that that was true. That was part of our culture.
And on the other hand, we have some of the world’s best universities here. So we’ve always had elite thinkers, we’ve always had secularists and people who advocate for all different types of ideas. So both were true of Boston growing up, but clearly where I live and, as you mentioned, across many parts of the country, over the last 10 or 15 years the Church has lost its influence not only on the culture, but on the way individual Catholics live their faith. The secularists have been able to advance a lot of these things that don’t make people happier, they don’t make the culture better.
So you’re right. It’s tougher to evangelize in this moment. All the old tactics won’t work. We need new tactics. So for example, just assuming because somebody has been baptized, they received the Sacrament of first Confession and first Eucharist, they’ve been confirmed — maybe they’ll leave the Church a little bit in college, but they’ll always come back when they have kids. Those assumptions haven’t been true in a long time.
So what we need to do as an entire Church is to just know that the context everybody is living in today is totally different. We need to be more apostolic in our zeal, and the easiest way to do it, and it takes courage, is to just present the truth clearly to people — give people a choice.
Let them know how much God really loves them, that because of lots of factors, you know, sin entered the world, sin enters all of our lives, we see it every day, we see it in ourselves, we see it in the way other people treat us, we see it when we look at the news and the conflicts of the globe, that that’s true, but that for us individually, Jesus died to save us from our sin, but we need to accept His mercy, we need to accept His love.
And then part of being a good follower, a good disciple of Jesus, a good Catholic in America today is that we try to do what Jesus would do to speak the truth in an entirety of love to let people know Catholics aren’t just people who believe certain things. We’re the people that love others the most. That’s what I would like them to know. And part of loving somebody is giving them the truth, straight, like we want to do for our own kids.
CatholicVote: Among Catholics, on the one hand, you have people who are afraid to give the truth and they kind of want to soften the message. And then you have others who want to use the truth like it’s a hammer on somebody. Is there a better approach?
Scot Landry: I think it’s both. And it’s truth with an enormous amount of love, compassion, empathy for the person.
So we should never keep a scorecard personally, when we’re evangelizing. If somebody converts to the faith, it’s mostly because of the Holy Spirit. And maybe it’s because we corresponded to grace from the Holy Spirit to actually plant the seed for somebody, but our action was gifted to us.
And it’s a tremendous honor, it’s a gift from God, when He gives us the opportunity to be a vessel that changes somebody else’s life. And then all the ripple effects generation after generation for that one light chain. What an honor, that God would involve us in that.
So it’s the compassion, truly meeting somebody where they’re at. One of my favorite lines from Pope Francis’ writings over the last eight years is from his encyclical the Joy of the Gospel, when he talked about that it’s really important when we meet somebody who hasn’t been presented with the truth of the faith, that we walk with them, we first heal their wounds. He used the metaphor of a field hospital after battle; we heal people’s wounds first.
Sometimes people aren’t practicing the faith because somebody in the name of the Church has hurt them. So first, we need to listen. And we can apologize on behalf of the entire Church, I view that I have that right – as a Catholic. If the Church, my family of faith, has hurt another individual I’m going to apologize on behalf of my family of faith.
So we heal those wounds, many of which are spiritual wounds. And then we walk with somebody not three steps ahead, not impatiently, you know “what’s taking them so long to come back to Mass with me,” etc. But walk with them step by step, asking the Holy Spirit’s grace to know the moment to share the fullness of the faith.
But at every moment, we show that we live the fullness of the faith, the love that Jesus had, for us the truly unconditional love, we try to reflect that in the way we treat other people. And it’s in that relationship first, that creates the context where somebody says: “You have cared for me unconditionally. What is it that you have, because you have a certain peace, you have a certain purpose in your life, and I need a little bit more of that in my life. I want a little bit more of that in my life.”
And then the soil has been tilled in a way where we can just give it to them straight from our heart to their heart. And then watch in joy as the Holy Spirit moves them to their next step.
Readers can find out more about EDIFY by going to the website: EDIFY.US.