APPLETON, Wis. — A Wisconsin pastor has created a 10-part series of short videos related to a special Christmas episode released in theaters by the creators of the show “The Chosen,” a wildly popular streaming series on the life of Jesus and the Gospel stories.
Father Edward Looney’s three- to five-minute videos give the Catholic perspective on the special episode about the birth of Christ through the eyes of Mary and Joseph.
The videos are self-released and were posted on his YouTube channel Dec. 1, the same day “Christmas with The Chosen: The Messengers” premiered in theaters around the country.
Originally the film was scheduled to run in 1,079 theaters Dec. 1 and 2 only, but another 450-plus locations were added and the episode will now run until Dec. 10. The website of the film’s distributor, Fathom Events, has information on where it is being shown: www.fathomevents.com.
As for Father Looney’s video lessons, the topics he covers are music as catechesis, miracles, St. Joseph, the tradition of Luke and Mary, the prayer life of Mary and the early Christians,. He also addresses questions such as: “Did Mary experience pain in childbirth?” “What are relics?’ “What do we know about the end of Mary’s life?” “How can we be messengers?”
As a fan of the show and someone who’s been involved in Catholic media, Father Looney said he was more than happy to contribute to the project.
“The Chosen” series “is really very well done,” Father Looney told The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin. “It takes artistic license, of course, in how they interpret certain things, but it gives the Scriptures a greater meaning to people. It gives them a new way to think about and imagine sacred Scripture.”
“So many of my parishioners are engaged in ‘The Chosen,'” he noted. “One of my religious education teachers shows clips of the show in class. It’s great fun for me to be involved with it because so many people are into it.”
Father Looney is pastor of St. Francis and St. Mary Parish in Brussels, Wisconsin, and St. Peter and St. Hubert Parish, which has locations in Lincoln and Rosiere, Wisconsin.
“The Chosen,” which premiered in 2020 and is now in its second season, has become a Christian movement.
The drama was created, co-written and directed by filmmaker Dallas Jenkins and was designed to portray Jesus through the eyes of those who met him, particularly his apostles and disciples. Season one was the top crowd-funded series or film project of all time.
All episodes of “The Chosen” are available for free on the website of Angel Studios, which produces the program: watch.angelstudios.com/thechosen. It also can be viewed using the thechosen.tv/app or search “The Chosen” in the Apple or Android app store. From the app, it also can be streamed to a TV using a Roku or other similar device.
Father Looney had the opportunity to see an advanced screening of “Christmas with The Chosen: The Messengers.”
“It opens with Dallas Jenkins sharing the vision and the mission of ‘The Chosen.’ Then it features a contemporary Christmas music concert for about an hour and 10 minutes,” the priest said.
In the Christmas episode on the birth of Christ focuses “on the message, ‘Be not afraid,’ received by the Holy Family from the angels,” he added.
“You flash forward to Mary as an older woman retelling the story. It’s a very unique perspective,” he explained. “They did a great job portraying the relationship of Joseph and Mary. It really showed Joseph as a protector. He wanted to watch out for the Blessed Mother and he took Jesus as his own.”
“This may cause Christians to think more deeply about the role of Mary and Joseph in the life of Christ, more than just the image in the Christmas Nativity,” he said.
Father Looney said one of the show’s producers told him that her goal was to use the Christmas story to lead viewers to the worship of Christ.
“I hope ‘Christmas with The Chosen’ helps us recover the true meaning of Christmas. I think any opportunity we have to see and to hear the telling of the Christmas story can only deepen our faith and trust in God and to lead us into worship,” he said.
“The greatest way we can worship as Catholics is with the celebration of the holy Mass. As we gather for Christmas Mass, we talk about Jesus being the Word made flesh,” Father Looney said. “The Word made flesh comes to us in the holy Eucharist as we celebrate Christmas. Bethlehem means ‘the house of bread.’ It’s all about Christ becoming the food for us as he’s placed in the manger trough.”
Father Looney said that “there’s a great hunger for God and people didn’t realize it,” and then came “The Chosen.”
It’s “filling a need that people have to come to know the Lord Jesus more — that’s really what it’s doing,” he added.