.- Podcasts are arguably the greatest comeback-kids of the internet. Once thought to be slowing fading into oblivion, the boom of smartphones and Bluetooth technology, and hits like “Serial,” brought the medium back with a force.
There are podcasts about every subject under the sun, from sports to mystery stories to in-depth explanations of how things work (think Mr. Rogers’ picture-picture, but for adults), and often the listener has to commit 20 or more minutes to get the full story. While these can be perfect for long road-trips or time-sucking commutes, sometimes listeners don’t have much time to devote to a podcast.
And that’s where Catholic Bytes wants to step in. It’s a new podcast started by three young American men – two priests and one deacon – studying in Rome who want to tell everyone about the beauty of Catholic faith and culture in, well, byte-sized pieces.
“Each episode is under 10 minutes, and therefore it can be easily listened to while traveling to and from school or work, during a break, or whenever you have a few minutes to spare,” Catholic Bytes co-creator Deacon Greg Gerhard told CNA.
Just because the podcast is brief, does not mean it will lack depth. Rome is a great place to access all kinds of Catholic experts in various vocations and fields, co-founder Fr. Andrew Mattingly said, allowing Catholics and those curious about Catholicism from around the world to learn from them without having to travel all the way to the Vatican.
“(There is a) vast number of English-speaking priests, deacons, seminarians, religious, and lay people that live, work, and study in Rome – and many of these people are here working on advanced degrees, such as in dogma, morality, biblical studies, liturgy, or church history, to name a few,” he said.
The three founders also sat down and strategically planned out over 400 episodes that, once finished, will cover several years and a wide range of topics. The podcast is set to release an episode every Monday, Wednesday, and first Friday.
“Our goal for the entire project is to convey a systematic presentation of the faith,” Gerhart said, “with topics ranging from scripture, ethics, spirituality, the sacraments and also personal witness to living the faith, as well as apologetics.”
Although Gerhard has some previous media and technology training, the three founders have also been learning a lot from trial and error. They listened to other podcasts – “Catholic Stuff You Should Know,”
“This American Life,” and “The Moth” to name a few – to get a feel for the platform and how an episode should flow.
The third co-founder, Fr. George Elliot, said the project has given him a lot of hope and confidence in the ability of Catholics to use their gifts to evangelize.
“I’ve become more aware that the future of the Church is bright, talented, and capable. From writing code for the website, to making graphics, to speaking on a variety of topics – I’ve seen that the future leaders of the Church have something worthy to say and know how to communicate it to the world today,” he said.
It’s also been a humbling process, Fr. Mattingly admitted, and a challenging task to make so many people’s ideas mesh.
“As we’ve met and discussed over the past eight months or so and have made decisions on everything from how long the podcasts should be, to what kind of music there should be at the beginning and end of each episode, to what the role of the host in each episode should be, to hundreds of other little things, it has become abundantly clear to me of the importance of that humility to let go of my own ideas or opinions when I’m shown that in fact there’s a better way of going about (it),” he said.
The founders are hoping to draw everyone to Christ through their podcast, whether they are an already-engaged Catholic looking to know more, or someone who knows next to nothing about the Church but
is curious and wants to learn.
“In themselves, the truths of our faith are astoundingly beautiful and profound, yet more often than not they are portrayed as boring and stale,” Fr. Mattingly observed. “We want to change that perception, and we hope that this podcast will be a small contribution towards that goal.”
By Jan Bentz and Mary Rezac