Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

January 2, 2008

Hard as Nails/Life Is Worth Living Juxtaposition

The current HBO special has brought nationwide attention to the unique ministry of Justin Fatica. He and his staff offer workshops and presentations at Catholic high schools, parishes, and youth retreats.

Fatica's ministry style, if you haven't seen the special or experienced his approach, is dramatic, intense, and often in the face of the teen participants. Newsweek magazine compared him to a "drill sargent." Fatica defended his style in a recent interview:

Okay, yeah, I do get in the face and challenge people in intense ways, but my premise for doing that is that I care. 'Cause you know what? These kids are ripping on each other. These kids are having sex every weekend with maybe a different guy, like a lot of my kids. People don't know this, but these kids are abusing their parents. Their parents are abusing them. It's not right! Somebody's got to take a stand. And if it's gotta me be, and I'm looked at as a moron, great! Great. 'Cause then, fine, then maybe somebody will do it in a better way than I do it, 'cause I don't do it the best way. But they'll be passionate about it. And maybe I won't get the glory for it. But somebody else will. Because maybe there was one person who took a stand. 'Cause it's not right.

If you watched the HBO special or have personal experience at your high school with the Hard of Nails ministry, we'd be interested in hearing your impressions.

As an aside, it's interesting that playing late at night, perhaps opposite to the HBO special, is Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen's original popular television show from the 1950s. Recalled by the Museum of Broadcast Television, Life Is Worth Living followed a simple format. Sheen would choose a topic and, with only a blackboard for a prop and his church robes for costuming, would discuss the topic for his allotted 27 minutes. He spoke in a popular style, without notes but with a sprinkling of stories and jokes, having spent up to 30 hours preparing his presentation. Because the program was sponsored by the Admiral Corporation rather than the Catholic Church, Sheen avoided polemics and presented a kind of Christian humanism. In his autobiography he noted that the show was not "a direct presentation of Christian doctrine but rather a reasoned approach to it beginning with something that was common to the audience."

Watching Fatica and Sheen on television separated only by a couple of hours on the same night . . . the juxtaposition was interesting, maybe startling. What do you think?

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