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Educator Amy J. Cattapan shares how parents might use the new documentary Jonathan & Jesus to discuss faith and fame with their teens. 

Over the years, countless students have told me how they are going to become rich and famous, usually by becoming a professional athlete. To date, only one of my former students (a WNBA player) has actually done so.  

As I watched the recent documentary series Jonathan and Jesus, I wished I could show this to the teens and tweens who think their greatest goal is to be rich and famous. This new four-part series (available exclusively on Amazon Prime) follows Catholic actor Jonathan Roumie, known for playing Jesus in The Chosen and Lonnie Frisbee in Jesus Revolution. Over the course of a year, a camera crew captures moments with Jonathan as he speaks with other Christian celebrities, visits pilgrimage sites in Rome, and tries to balance his faith life with the demands of being an actor.  

While some of the discussions are too deep for younger children, if I were still teaching middle-school religion, I’d show segments of this docuseries in my classroom because the lessons on faith and humility are just too good to pass up. 



For example, during this year of Eucharistic revival, I’d show young people Jonathan’s frank discussion about the importance of the sacramental life from Episode 2. The episode begins with Jonathan meeting Pope Francis, something he’d dreamed of doing for many years. Afterward, he discusses the importance of the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist. When he states, “It’s an opportunity for me to literally have communion with God himself . . . and I don’t deserve it, but I get it anyway,” his emotion is palpable. He’s clearly moved by the grace we receive through the Holy Eucharist.  

A common theme throughout the series is the challenge of being an actor. Episode 1 shows how Jonathan spent years struggling to get consistent work. He took on multiple jobs, including being an apartment manager—a job he was still doing even after the first two seasons of The Chosen. One day, the cameras follow him to a dentist appointment, and he shares that he had no health insurance for ten years. It wasn’t until The Chosen came along that he had enough income from acting to qualify for insurance through SAG-AFTA. 




In episodes 2-4, we start to see the price of fame. Sure, at the end of episode 2, we see him getting out of a fancy car for the premier of The Chosen in France, complete with adoring fans, flashing lights, and paparazzi. However, we also see the after-effect of such a long day, which leads right into a full day of back-to-back interviews where he’s peppered with the same questions over and over again.  

Sprinkled throughout the series are conversations Jonathan has with famous musicians, such as Brandon Flowers from The Killers, Alice Cooper, and Sheila E. Each of them shares their struggles with fame and faith. Alice Cooper notes how celebrities can feel like prisoners of their own fame who can’t leave their homes and do normal activities. When it comes to fame, Jonathan states, “No one hands you a manual on how to do it. You have to figure how to do it on your own unless you have some kind of mentor.” Watching this documentary, one gets the sense that seeking out these celebrities is Jonathan’s way of getting some mentorship.  

Also included in this series are segments with historians and scientists who provide context for Jonathan’s experiences. In episode 3, neuroscientist and psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett describes how our bodies have a “budget.” There is only so much emotional toll we can take before fatigue, discomfort, and suffering set in. We see this in clips where Jonathan does a full day of press work and starts repeating that he’s so tired. In one scene, he is overwhelmed by the responsibility of playing Jesus and of people reacting to him as if he is actually Jesus by stating that things are feeling a bit claustrophobic for him, like “there’s no escape.” He even wonders if there’s a way to “turn it off.”  

Teens could learn a lot from how Jonathan relies on his faith to see him through. At the end of the series, Jonathan shares his “surrender story,” which is very familiar to his fans. However, what he had not shared previously is that he had actually turned on his phone to record this moment. In case you haven’t heard his surrender story, I won’t spoil it for you here, but make sure you watch the last ten minutes of the final episode. Sharing this raw footage required great humility and vulnerability from Jonathan, and it will touch all who watch it. Our young adults and teens will learn a lot from Jonathan’s faith and humility, which is on full display in this captivating docuseries. 



Copyright 2024 Amy J. Cattapan
Images: copyright 2024 Amazon Prime, all rights reserved.