In light of the coming holiday, I decided to take a break from my usual, heavy apologetics stuff to provide a review for a Catholic kids cartoon series that I ran across, entitled Brother Francis, one of which I purchased for my two year old daughter. She is already hooked, and being that she is one who soaks up what she sees on her favorite cartoons like a sponge (she can count thanks to Mickey Mouse and knows her exotic animals thanks to Dora), I thought that Brother Francis would be a perfect way to help her memorize the prayers and Teachings of the Church, things that I have already begun to teach her on my own.
The biggest Christian cartoon series out there right now is Veggie Tales. My daughter loves Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato, just as I did as a kid and still do today. Veggie Tales is a Protestant produced cartoon, but the message is simple and ecumenical, free of denominational specific messages; I have yet to come across anything that the Catholic Church would disagree with in any episode. In fact, in their Christmas special on Saint Nicholas, they indeed depicted him as a bishop and incorporated aspects of the Mass into the episode telling of Saint Nicholas’ life. So Veggie Tales is a hit in this house—but sometimes you really want to drive home those deep, 2,000 year old Truths that the Church has received from the Apostles. Brother Francis delivers in that department.
The main character is young monk wearing a brown robe (hence the “Brother” in his title), sporting blue jeans underneath his robe, sneakers, and a basketball in tow: in other words, a very friendly, down-to-earth guy. But as the theme song says “he ain’t no fuddy-duddy, his faith is strong in every way”. Brother Francis addresses the invisible audience that is the children viewers, explaining classic Catholic prayers and theology in a very simple, childlike way. The DVD I purchased was “The Rosary” and the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, and Apostles Creed are recited, broken down line by line, and the purpose of each is explained. Brother Francis then throws his basketball to the sky to make it draw a Rosary in the air, and the order of the Rosary is then explained, along with each mystery. There is also an animated portrayal of the Annunciation, showing Mary’s joyful submission to God’s Will.
Other episodes available on DVD include “Let’s Pray!: A Lesson on Prayer”, “The Bread of Life: Celebrating he Eucharist”, “Forgiven: The Blessings of Confession”, “Born into the Kingdom: the Miracle of Baptism”, and coming in Spring 2013, “The Mass”. The graphics in each are bright, colorful, and three-dimensional, which easily grabs toddler and young children’s attention.
I should be clear that I am not advocating for leaving your toddler’s religious education in the hands of a cartoon DVD series, or that you should ignore you children while they watch television. But for those of us less-than-perfect parents who occasionally use television as a means to catch a mental health break or breathe for a few minutes, then I say you can’t go wrong with a program that teaches them the Faith of the Apostles.