After a month off from social media (but not a month off… just so we’re clear), I’m happy to say that I’m back in the swing of things with YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and the podcast (whew… that’s a mouthful). While I’ve received many messages over the past few weeks wondering where I was, questioning whether I was stepping away from this ministry, the question was never in doubt; as with past Christmases, I take some time away, not just to rejuvenate, but to plan the next semester.

And yet, there was something a bit different about this break, I’ll admit. I didn’t have the same enthusiasm about the next semester’s lineup of videos. I wasn’t completely invested as I was in years past. A part of me was a bit frustrated with the work, a bit burnt out from the constant pressure to produce, and frankly, a bit disillusioned by the whole thing. Maybe I was discerning what the future would hold for Breaking In The Habit.

As I share in this week’s reflection, I found myself asking more and more last semester, “Am I even making a difference?” Sure, I was getting “likes” and nice comments. Sure, I have amazed at how many “followers” I have. But really, in the mission of Christ, was I really making progress in a way that reflected the work I was putting in and what I hoped to accomplish?

I share this, not because I’m still discerning this ministry or because I’m looking for compliments, but because I think that what I’m experiencing is very common in this life as a Christian. I think that we all hit walls, struggle to see the fruit of our labors, and have to fight the urge to give up. This is not the first time I have struggled in this way, and it will most certainly not be the last.

So, how do we respond. In this video, I want to suggest two things: 1) live with personal integrity, and 2) trust in God. At the end of the day, we cannot let our perception of success dictate how we act; besides the fact that our definition of success is different from God’s, we don’t always see the whole picture. It is important to remember, sometimes, that just because we don’t see progress, doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.

And so, I leave you with one of my favorite prayers, one related to this issue. Often attributed to St. Oscar Romero, it was written by then-Fr. Ken Untener (later, Bishop Untener) for the use in a homily delivered by Cardinal Dearden in 1979. I hope that it gives you the hope that it does for me, and that the wisdom of this prayer may guide us as we continue on.

Prophets of a Future Not Our Own

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession brings perfection.

No pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.

No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.

Today we conclude the annual National Vocations Awareness Week with prayers and education for vocations to priesthood, diaconate, and consecrated life, and I want to do so with a story and a promotion.

The story is about two people who had a tremendous influence on my own vocation, what they did for me, and how everyone (yes you!) can be a proponent of vocations in young people. Discernment is never an individual process, and those in the community have a significant influence on the process whether they know it or not. I encourage everyone to take this task seriously, and to join me in saying, “Not on my watch.” There might be a crisis of vocations, but this thing ain’t ending with me.

Secondly, I want to offer a promotion. As many of you know, my book Called: What Happens After Saying Yes to God is about discernment and discipleship. And while it speaks of vocation more broadly than just ordained and religious life, it can still serve as an excellent resource for those discerning these vocations. To make sure that it gets into the hands of those who could use it, I’m once again giving away 50 free copies. All you need to do is click here and follow the instructions. You can also purchase a copy (or copies) for yourself or others by clicking here (there appears to be a 25% discount until the end of the day!)

 

A little over three years ago, I had an idea one morning: why don’t I answer the most common questions I get asked and put them together in one video? That afternoon, I threw it together. In what was probably the quickest turnaround of any video I have ever made—from idea to posting in under 24 hours—came the most successful video of them all. Not only did it produce a response from people that would take more than two years to match in another video, it has consistently been top five in new views each month since.

Just last week, that cumulated in quite a feat: 100,000 total views.

In honor of that occasion, I decided to recreate one of my earliest videos with an updated script. Now three years later, interacting with people in different settings on a different scale, what questions do I find myself answering on a regular basis? As with the original video, I made a list of questions, got people to ask them on camera, and I just answered them on the spot. There was no script, no extensive preparation, just me in front of the camera answering (sort of) in the way I would respond as if I were really right there on the street being asked a question. It was not meant to be super refined, just quick answers to normal questions.

Which… is why I have a few caveats and additions.

  1. Since it’s still warm out, I don’t get this question often, but in about a month the number one question I’ll get is “aren’t your feet cold??” The answer is always no. My body runs very hot and wearing sandals in the winter serves as a necessary exhaust system to keep me cool with all the layers on.
  2. In question 2, I slightly “misspoke.” In answering a question about sexual activity, I said that Christians cannot engage in sexual activity unless it is unitive and “for the purpose of” procreation. What I meant to say was “open to procreation.” Not every sexual act has to have this as its intention, but it must be open to the possibility if that is what God wills.
  3. I get a lot of questions about traditional Catholicism, e.g. the Latin Mass, placement of the tabernacle, design of the Church, particular prayers, or liturgical theology. It might be the number one thing I respond to on YouTube. Given the tone and scope of this video, I didn’t think responding to any of those questions in 30 seconds would be appropriate or adequately address the issues, and so I have planned to answer many of them through Catholicism In Focus.
  4. I still get asked all of the time, “What’s the difference between a monk and friar?” “Are you a Jedi?” and “What’s the difference between a priest and brothers?” but since I have answered them pretty regularly elsewhere, I decided to leave them out.

Other than that, these ten question are legitimately the top ten questions I get asked on a regular basis. If you have questions you’d like me to answer, head over to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube and let me know!

This summer, I did something a little strange. Rather than being assigned to a specific parish or ministry site, I traveled the country on a preaching mission, stopping one week at ten different parishes. It was amazing.

By the numbers, here’s what the summer looked like:

  • 9500 miles (roughly) traveled
  • 85 days on the road
  • 48 Sunday homilies preached
  • 25 hour-long talks given
  • 20 YouTube videos produced
  • 15 beds slept in
  • 3200 miles traveled in a single day flying (Santa Ana to Newark to Chicago)
  • 787 miles traveled in a single day driving (New York to Chicago)

That… is something else. A summer unlike any I have lived before, and one that I probably won’t live again for a while. But I will live it again, I’m sure. That’s just one of the many things that I learned this summer, found in this week’s YouTube video.

From the start, back when Breaking In The Habit was just a little blog no one knew about, my goal was to share the real life of a Franciscan in the 21st century. Over my first two years, I did almost no teaching or preaching, just sharing stories about my journey as a Franciscan, recounting events, and informing the public on important information. More than evangelization in any specific sense, much more than catechesis, I just wanted people to know what our life was like. Even as the mission has grown and expanded to other forms of media, the essential focus remains at the fore of everything I do.

On the one hand, I am able to share more than ever before. Beyond just a few written posts a week as in the beginning, I can literally show people what our life is like. Through videos and pictures, I can invite people into our lives like never before, allowing for one to make their own interpretation rather than reading my own. Why read my words when you can use your own eyes and ears?

And while this is a major step forward and truly a good thing, it also has a danger to it: people might begin to believe that what I am sharing is the complete and unbiased picture of Franciscan life. This, quite obviously, can hardly be the truth. Simply from a philosophical sense, pure unbiased presentations do not exist; because it is impossible to share every experience of every day, there is always a decision of what to share and what to leave private, which introduces a level of subjectivity. In doing so, we are not necessarily being manipulative, but we must be conscious that the persona we present is far from the whole truth.

Such is the case with Breaking In The Habit: what I show is nowhere close to my full life, but rather snippets of what I find interesting, pieces put together to tell a story I want you to hear. And while I think it is probably well-known to everyone, it something that is worth reminding people about. As much as I make it my mission to share a lot about our life, much of what makes this life significant simply can’t be shared. Truly, what I show is nowhere close to the totality of my life. If it was, I don’t think I could do what I do or be as enthusiastic about it. Behind the camera and beyond the public’s eye is a life that is by no means secretive or scandalous, but nonetheless private in a way that no camera could capture. What we live, day in and day out, can be shared in a simple sense, but can only be truly understood by those who live it.

I hope that makes sense, and I hope you enjoy this video, as well as the others.