I’m one of three millennials in my office and the only one in marketing. So it shouldn’t have surprised me a couple of weeks ago when my boss handed me two thick young adult magazines and asked me to review them. But it did.
I’m not really a magazine person. I love the idea of them, but I haven’t found any that I deemed worth my time. They’re either gossipy and fake or they’re cringe-worthy. During my first month on the job, my boss handed me a copy of Cosmo so I could cover a FABM (fertility awareness based methods) article they ran. You would have thought by my reaction that she’d handed me a decomposing snake. (Which, in a way, she did….But I digress.)
This time, the magazines were Radiant and Valiant, both owned by Our Sunday Visitor. They’re written to inspire and cultivate faith in young people. Radiant, a quarterly publication, reaches out to young women and semi-annual Valiant is intended to empower young men.
I was very pleasantly surprised when I read Radiant. The magazine doesn’t feel preachy or forced and — for the first time in a long time for me — I was glad to see Catholic media putting out high-quality content for young people. Radiant struck me as confident and self-aware, infused with the passion of genuine, God-loving contributors who have worked to eliminate the stereotype of second-rate, cringe-inducing, faith-based products.
The authors express the idea of authentic femininity in a simple, down-to-earth manner. There’s something for everyone — from devotionals to doctrines and from fashion to the outdoors — making its pages an excellent meeting ground for Catholic women of all kinds to celebrate, develop and express their feminine genius.
Perhaps more than anything else, the design caught my attention and kept me turning the pages. The aesthetic is sophisticated yet elegant, referred to by my friend as “hipster,” but perhaps best described as modern. The whole magazine has an approachable and inspiring feel to it: clearly professional, yet not uptight. Radiant reverses the clutter-prone tendencies of modern magazines with a streamlined layout that makes it easy to read.
The less-is-more approach is immediately obvious: the cover features only an eye-catching photo with a minimalist title. It occurred to me that Radiant could be initially mistaken as a book or catalog, but if it causes readers to pick it up, is that such a bad thing?
Inside, the pages are filled with devotionals, scripture, self-care tips, first-hand accounts of adventures, features of young Catholic entrepreneurs, vocation stories and much more. My favorite parts, however, were traditional “boring” texts such as long scripture passages or excerpts from the writings of Church Doctors, presented in ways that made them look more like modern poetry and prose than wise, ancient writings. (Embarrassing admission: I was three paragraphs into one of them before I realized I was reading scripture verbatim.)
As a faith magazine for young women, Radiant isn’t the first of its kind. But it’s certainly the first I have seen to…well, nail it. It’s simultaneously informative, reflective, and fun; it’s a magazine college students and twentysomethings will find hard not to love.
Radiant’s male counterpart, Valiant, came after its predecessor’s success in response to demand for a men-oriented magazine of the same caliber. This made me nervous in the same way that Disney sequels make me nervous: trying too hard to replicate a good thing makes the good thing into a joke.
But not so with Valiant.
My concern that Valiant would be a try-hard parody of its sister magazine was quickly put to rest. Valiant easily holds its own.
Contrary to expectations, this publication isn’t machismo or in-your-face with its masculinity. The essence of Radiant’s design — refreshing, accessible and trendy — translates smoothly to Valiant. The graphics are sleek and simple. The flow is intuitive. The layouts are minimalist.
The content is reminiscent of the online blog, “The Catholic Gentleman.” Captivating photos really pull in the reader and deliver a final punch of inspiration that only print can provide. To my delight, Valiant offers thought-provoking articles without sacrificing aesthetic or trendiness. This is probably because it’s largely peer-written, adding a valuable sense of fraternity.
At its core, Valiant makes courageous virtue trendy again. Without falling prey to cliched religious tripe, the content invokes in the reader a desire for self-growth, self-discipline and self-sacrifice.
Not for everyone
I only have one big warning for the moms and grandmas thinking of mass-ordering these magazines for the millennials in their lives: they’re not for everyone.
Radiant and Valiant are not introductory magazines. They are very specifically directed at young men and women already familiar with their faith and seeking to go deeper. By the same token, some particularly devout Catholics may find this content a little basic and simplistic, but certainly entertaining and inspiring nonetheless.
As a woman my opinion on Valiant is only worth so much, but both magazines get five stars from me. They could and should easily replace Cosmo or Men’s Health in the Catholic millennial’s home and our world would be better off for it. Each offers something truly unique to their target audience while including valuable content from the other sex. These magazines stand head and shoulders above the competition with all of the relevance, none of the vice, and executed a thousand times better. Our Sunday Visitor has identified a starving need for quality support and inspiration among young faithful Catholics, and Radiant and Valiant deliver.
— Forest Hempen
Former Marketing and Communications Associate
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