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!

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Eight hundred years ago, a little man from Assisi, a man without tremendous wealth, power, stature, or societal influence, set a movement in motion that would leave the Church and world forever changed. That man was St. Francis of Assisi.

Within just a short decade, there were already more than 5,000 friars in countries all across Europe, the Poor Clares had spread to multiple monasteries and established itself as a new way of monastic living, and the penitent movements had received their rule and amassed a larger number even than the rest.

It’s difficult to underestimate the effect that the Franciscan movement had on history. With its great size and diversity came the ability to spread its culture and values, including a number of innovations, in a way that had never been seen before. Constantly on the move, they could respond to the signs of the times, enflaming a people with passion before moving on to the next place. The way they served the poorest of the poor, living humbly themselves, preaching in new and popular ways, and not asking for much in return challenged the secular priests of their day to serve in a different way. The nativity scene and stations of the cross, while not invented by the Franciscans, are popular devotions today because of their insistence on an incarnational way of prayer. And the breviary, the shortened and compacted way of praying the psalms found in every religious house in the world today, was first employed by these traveling preachers.

At every level of the Church, in every country in the world, the Franciscans have not only been present, but have left their mark in irreconcilable ways.

But why? Why didn’t the Dominicans, who were formed around the same time, not grow as quickly? Why did it take the Jesuits, who were founded to do similar forms of ministry, so long to get its first pope (who took the name Francis!) Why haven’t the Benedictines, who have existed for much longer, had such a lasting effect on the imagination of the Church? And why haven’t the countless other religious orders that were founded throughout the history of the Church been able to match what the Franciscans have done in 800 years?

I ask these questions not to put down other Orders or even to shamelessly promote the Franciscans (okay, a little bit of the latter), but simply to marvel at what seems inconceivable: a religious movement started by a simple man like Francis should have never worked at all, let alone have changed the Church and world as it did.

Why is that? And maybe more importantly, what might we learn from the success of this movement 800 years ago in what our Church and world are facing today? That is what I was employed to talk about last weekend at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Arizona. While I can’t repeat all 5 hours of talks, I wanted to share the central points here in this week’s vlog.

I hope it inspires you to join in the movement, in however you can in your situation, and happy Feast of St. Francis to you all!

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.

Better late than never, right? With all of the chaos of starting the mission tour this week, I completely forgot to post this video to the blog. My apologies to all, hopefully you haven’t been waiting around to hear the decision!

Anyway, the vote passed among the six OFM provinces of the United States, and we’re looking forward to our future together. More details certainly to come, but thank you for your prayers and be sure to continue to pray for us!

As the world changes, so too does religious life. 150 years ago, there were thousands of women and men religious in the United States running schools, hospitals, orphanages, and centers for the poor. The significance of women religious in particular was so great in founding this country that Congress actually thanked them some years back.

Now, they represent but a remnant of their past glory. Even more than men’s religious groups, women’s religious groups have diminished almost out of existence. It would be very easy to say that there is no future for such groups.

At least, “no future” for the way that they operate today. That was the theme of this weekend’s talk by Sr. Carol Zinn, SSJ at the gathering of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus motherhouse. Honoring the Poor Handmaids on their 150th anniversary in the United States, she recounted their past and their great accomplishments, how they were among the tremendous labor force of the Catholic Church to build institutions and evangelize the new world. Their thousands were necessary to do the work of God. But not so much now, she said. Looking to the future, she turned their sorrow of diminishment into something for the future: “When the Church needed a labor force, we provided it. We served as teachers and nurses and founders when there was no one else to do it. But now, the world and Church have those things and does not need that from us. Rather, what it needs us to be is the leaven, the agent that inspires and lifts the already-working institutions. That is our role for the future.”

Sr. Carol went on to remind the sisters that religious institutions have often gone through cycles of growth, death, and rebirth over their histories. Every three hundred years, she said, a movement needs to either transform or die. We are at that point now. What will we do?

Her response spoke very true to my own experience of religious life. She told us that gone are the days when we could define ourselves narrowly by what we do and people would be attracted to that. Among other reasons, one of the greatest reasons for decline in religious life came at the Second Vatican Council (and no, not because Vatican II is a bad council… ugh) when it insisted on the primacy of baptism and the universal call to holiness. Now, one did not need to be a brother or sister to be holy; now, one did not need to take final vows to teach, care for the poor, help the sick, or do extraordinary work. In the case of women, it was also at this time that women across the world began to break the barriers of the workplace, able to do incredible work and be taken seriously even without the backing of a religious order. The greatest decline in religious life came not because of some theological reason or because of lack of faith, but because people began to realize that they could do almost anything a brother or sister could do… and still have a family. If a religious order is simply a workforce, why would someone go through all of the troubles and sacrifices when they could do the work anyway?

This is the shift that religious life needs to make if it wants to survive: rather than defining itself by the work that it does, it needs to focus on the life that it lives. No matter how robust its ministry may be, a religious community is first and foremost a brotherhood/sisterhood of people wanting to live the Gospel in prayer and humility. What defines religious life is the life together. It is only from that life with God and each other that any ministry makes sense; it is only from that life with God and each other than anyone will want to join us.

For me, this is what we need to (re)claim if we want to have a future. As important as ministry is—and it is critical to this life—it must always be seen as the fruit of our life rather than the substance. People join us not because of what we do but because they are seeking an intentional community to live the Gospel. They join us for intimacy and support, for inspiration and foundation.

And we need to give it to them. Too often, in my experience, our houses are not houses of prayer—they are domiciles for workers, barracks for priests. This is not enough. We need to make sharing meals with one another a priority. Common prayer a necessity. Routine faith sharing, recreation, spiritual nourishment, and times to just be together are not luxuries, they are the very things on which our life rests.

For me, that is where the future of religious life lies: in communities that are so filled with love and support of one another and the Gospel that they cannot help but go out and spread it to the whole world. If that is our focus, religious life will absolutely have a future.