It’s amazing what a month can do. Per usual, I took some time over Christmas and the New Year to step back from making videos, to relax and plan ahead. By this time of year, I’m usually a bit burned out and need a break. Come January, I’m back with big ideas and new videos.
This year is no different. I’m happy to share with you some news that I think could quite exciting, not just for me, but also for many of you.
Unfortunately, I’m also quite saddened by recent events in my life (and the life of the friars) to share something very sad.
Because I know that some people like their good news first while others like the bad news first, I’ve decided to create two videos, released them at the same time, and let you decide when you want to watch them. I’ve posted them both below, and they will both go live on Wednesday at 5:00pm.
So I recorded the audiobook version for Let Go: Seven Stumbling Blocks to Christian Discipleship. Woo. It’s a thing, and obviously we want to promote it. It’s good to get the word out about the book, create buzz, and so a quick, free sample is great.
It’s also kind of boring. For those with little interest in the book, there’s nothing to watch. How could we spice it up, I wondered? How could we add a little entertainment and have a little fun?
The answer, as you’ll see in this video, is a fake infomercial for audiobooks. Enjoy…
Back in June of 2017, I signed a contract for my first book, Called: What Happens After Saying Yes to God (although it didn’t have a title at that point.) In a conversation with my editor, discussing the plan for the book and how we might market it, she said something that stuck with me: “I’m not trying to put the cart before the horse, but there will come a day when we come back to you and ask you about your second book, so be thinking about that while you’re writing. What do you want to put in this one, and what do you want to save for another topic?”
A second book? I haven’t even written this one!
But a seed was planted. Even two years ago I began thinking what I might do in the future. After Called was published and the book tour over, I began to think a bit more intently on it. Not trying to rush anything, not wanting to force it, I felt no need to publish so quickly… but I was thinking. What would I write?
At the start of the year, I had an idea. I let it sit for a little while without telling anyone. If it’s a good idea, it’ll stand the test of time, right? So I sat on it for two months. When the idea didn’t go away, I began to explore it a bit more. I made a video based on the topic in March to see how others would react to it. I loved it. Putting the concept to words, saying it out loud… it clicked.
I spend a few more weeks sketching an outline. It was great to have this general idea, but I needed to see categories, chapters. How would this idea flesh itself out into an entire book. For a few weeks I jotted down notes. Any time an idea would come to me I wrote it down and put it in a category. By April, I knew I had something worth pitching. I sent it to Franciscan Media, and they accepted it.
And since then, I’ve been writing, planning, and waiting to tell you about it. Last month the marketing team met and we decided on a title (Let Go: Seven Stumbling Blocks to Christian Discipleship) and came up with a cover concept:
I loved it. And I can’t wait for your to read it. It’s set to hit stores January 30, just in time for Lent, I might add. The book is broken into seven chapters, meaning that you could start reading it the Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday before the first Sunday of Lent, read one chapter a week, and be done by Easter. Talk about a great way to prepare for the feast!
More information is sure to come, but for now, you can watch the video I made last week, and if you feel so inclined, preorder the book on Franciscan Media or Amazon.
Ever since I finished the final episode of A Friar Life two years ago, I’ve been thinking about how I would reboot the series. Last summer I even started tinkering with a different introduction. I thought about friars I wanted to include, what I would do with them, and so on. I couldn’t wait to start again.
There was just one problem. Okay, two problems: time and money.
Living in Chicago and being a full-time student made the prospect of filming friars very difficult. Not only did I have little time to travel, but being from the East Coast province, there weren’t many guys in the Midwest that I actually knew. Even if I had the time, there weren’t many friars within driving distance to film.
Well enough is enough, I say. Excuses excuses. I clearly have the time to travel (as I have been on and off of an airplane multiple times a month for the past year), and since these travels often include speaking and selling my book—two things that I have been given permission to funnel back into the ministry—the money wasn’t really an issue anymore either. With my first priestly assignment on the horizon, I felt that it was sort of now or never.
And so… for the past two months I have been traveling around the country to show the life that we live. I’ve been to a center for the poor, a university, retirement home, and high school, and over the next I plan to visit the friars in foreign missions and urban ministry.
My hope is to have an official trailer of the places I’ve been so far in about 2 weeks, and to release a new episode each Friday this Easter season. Talk about something to rejoice over!
I received my letter of obedience from my provincial this week and I am extremely excited for what’s about to come. Besides the fact that I will be finishing school and devoting myself full-time to ministry (which is a gift unto itself no matter where I live), I have been assigned to live and work at the Catholic Center on the campus of the University of Georgia. Far from the tiny liberal arts college I attended for undergrad, a place that had around 25 people at a weekly Catholic meeting and 50 or so students at mass on Sunday (in a chapel we shared with the other organizations and could only use at a reserved time), this behemoth, 38,000-student state school has its own building just for Catholics, own church with multiple masses, and enough of a budget to have two full-time friars and a staff!
Yeah, this will be a slightly more involved experienced than I had as an undergrad.
Besides that, the province has supported my desire to evangelize and catechize online as well as to further my work in the ministry of the word, meaning that I have been given permission to include that in my ordinary work each week (rather than a “hobby” I do in my free time and on vacation). The friary and Catholic center have some extra rooms available, and I’ve been told already that I can have one for a dedicated studio (which will be soooo nice to have a bedroom that’s actually a bedroom again and not filled with lighting equipment everywhere!)
Fraternally, the guy I’ll be living with is a great friar, one who has always made me laugh and been a joy to be around. He also just so happens to be an accomplished chef… so that doesn’t hurt either. While some friars would be hesitant to be a part of a community with only two people, I’m actually looking forward to it. I’ve mentioned before that I prefer smaller, more intimate houses, and with just the two of us, it has the feeling like I’m a part of something new. Rather than joining a house of 8 in which I’m the only new person and so would simply adopt the preexisting culture of the house, we have the opportunity (and responsibility) to build a fraternal life plan from scratch. That is an intriguing concept.
So, yeah. Obedience. What a horrible thing, right? In this process, I did not request UGA. I didn’t really request anything. The province asked if I had any top choices, which I didn’t, but I was able to share some values I had for ministerial and fraternal life. They thought about it, weighed the needs of the Church and Order, and handed me an assignment. This was not a democratic process. It was not one in which I could have the final say. It was a conversation in which my provincial listened, thought, and then directed.
Which, for many people, sounds absolutely terrifying and horrible. While poverty and chastity are strange concepts to most, oddly enough, I get the most confused and interesting questions around the vow of obedience. The idea of giving up one’s will and doing what someone else wants is just unacceptable to most. There is this sense that we are blind followers of an autocrat, lemmings running off a cliff with no reflection. Who would ever give up their will and accept the commands of another outright? So ridiculous! So un-American! You must fight to be in control and only do what you want!
And yet, I have to say, it was actually a pretty encouraging experience. There is something genuinely great about a vow of obedience, even a sense of tremendous freedom in it. Forced to come up with my own path, to choose what was best for me at this time, I don’t know what I would have chosen. I don’t know if I would have made a good decision, to be honest. In letting go of my need to be in charge and to make every decision, I was forced into a position of trust, to recognize that someone else cares about my well being and might actually have a better sense of what’s good for me and the world than I do. My duty in this was not to waste time making big decisions or worrying about the overall picture; all I was asked to do was to go out and faithfully do my job, loving those I encounter and building up the kingdom of God.
I think we place too much emphasis on the big questions of our life (what am I going to do, where am I going to live) and we let it get in the way of the experience itself. Too focused on worrying if we’re making the right decision, we never fully invest in what we’re actually doing. That… is never a problem for someone with a vow of obedience, and, as ironically as it may sound, I find this to be such a liberating experience.