I’m in the midst of my summer vacation at my parents so I’ll keep this quick, but I have a great announcement that I would like to share with everyone about my ordination: it’s going to happen! Well, that’s not exactly news, but the date and location are set. On June 22, 2019, I will be ordained a priest at Immaculate Conception Church in Durham, NC by Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama.

At this point, that’s all I know, but I will certainly keep everyone updated as the process progresses.  For now, I’m enjoying a lazy and quite rainy Monday afternoon watching the Office on Netflix, so… I’m going to get back to that! I’ll be up and running again by the weekend where I’m headed to Raleigh, NC for stop number 8 on the Called Mission Tour! Catch you soon!

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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!

Three years ago last week, I posted my very first video on YouTube. It was dreadful. But it was also so cool. With just a camera and a computer, I was able to tell my story in a quasi-entertaining way and reach people all around the world. Sure, it was rough, but after only ten videos, I knew that I had tapped into something special.

In today’s world, nearly anyone can produce high-quality and entertainment works. Technology has become so accessible and easy to use that full-length documentaries and award-winning movies have been shot on iPhones. Right there in nearly everyone’s pocket is all that one needs to reach the world in a breath-taking way.

And so many are taking advantage of this incredible time in history. YouTube is absolutely exploding with new content and creators, standing as the second largest search engine in the world. People with no film background, no media training, and some with as little technology as their smartphones have mesmerized the world with their creativity. They have a story to tell, and they’re doing it. They don’t need a movie studio. They don’t need a production company. They don’t need expensive equipment or big budgets or powerful friends. In today’s world, all you need to get your story heard is a phone and enough ingenuity to tell it right.

For three years, I have operated under that assumption for the sake of growing the kingdom of God. I have a story to tell. We have a story to tell. Even more than from the pulpit or soapbox, our story can be effectively told from our living rooms in front of a camera, reaching people where they are rather than expecting them to come to us. This is not a hobby or a fun activity but a ministry as important to the life of the Church as the early missionaries going to foreign lands. Pope Benedict XVI himself said it a few years ago, encouraging those missionaries who evangelize on the “digital continent” to see what they do as critical to the life of the Church.

But do we? Do we invest enough time, talent, and treasure into our digital media? Do we take seriously our parish websites, Facebook pages, videos, and digital identity? Too often, the Church finds itself in a category of its own: watchable only because it has a good message but otherwise dull and out-of-date. Recognizing of course that there are some out there that do this very well, I think that we could do much better. The stakes are just too high and the opportunity too profitable not to.

As I look to the future of Breaking in the Habit, I find myself called to a two-fold mission. First, I want to encourage the Church to take up this incredible opportunity we have in our age and begin to take seriously the digital world as a realm for evangelization. I want to support new creators to think boldly, offering them what I have learned so that they don’t have to make the same mistakes that I have. I want to remove any excuse in people’s minds that they do not have a story to tell or that they are unable to tell it. The world needs to hear their voice. Your voice.

On the other hand, I want to create an environment of collaboration for the “best of the best” in both the Catholic world and the media world. I know that anything that talks about God will have an obvious disadvantage in our world today, but I honestly don’t think that the bar we have set for ourselves is high enough. Even the best creators in the Catholic world—men and women far more talented than I am—weigh in as below average in the grand scheme of YouTube creators. Maybe we won’t ever be able to amass 25 million followers like some secular channels, but the fact that there are only a small handful of Christian-based channels above 500,000 subscribers and not a single Catholic channel over 150,000 frustrates me. Jesus said to go to all nations… not a population roughly the size of Bridgeport, CT. We can do better.

If either of those goals inspires you, let me know. I do not have a magic potion or a secret plan to accomplish either, but I have three years of experience, a lot of passion, and a few good ideas rolling around in my brain waiting to be put into action. Maybe you’re the person the Church needs to get that done.

Two weeks ago, I learned of the deaths of two extraordinary men: Saul Rodriguez and Albert Hendel. In many ways, they had very little in common. Saul was a seminarian with the Capuchin Franciscans, was 31 years old, and died suddenly; Albert was my grandfather, the father of ten, nearly 98 years old, and died after a number of weeks of preparation. One represents what we would call a tragedy, while the other is the ideal situation we can all hope for.

And yet, there is a sense that even in the case of Albert, something is still tragic. Death, it would seem, is always tragic.

Why, even though we believe in the resurrection, is there still the sting of death? Why, even when someone dies after a long life with little pain, are we still upset about it? Why, in a world where death is inevitable and a faith built upon it, are we so bad at accepting death? This week’s video is my attempt to make sense of it all from a Christian perspective. I hope that you will join me in praying for the families of the deceased and for all of the deceased that go unnoticed. May we all find ourselves, one day, in the heart of God with the saints.

At long last, I am happy to announce that Called: What Happens After Saying Yes to God is available for purchase “wherever books are sold” (I’m still not entirely sure what that means…) Until the end of today, you can get a kindle version for only $.99 on Amazon.com (returning to $9.99 tomorrow) or you can order a paperback version from Franciscanmedia.org.

But let’s say you don’t want to buy the book, you just want to read the book. And let’s say, on top of that, you want your copy signed, not just some random one off the rack. Well, besides being really demanding (just kidding!) you’re also in luck! I’m giving FIFTY free copies away this week. All you have to do is enter the contest by clicking here. The website will randomly select fifty people Saturday evening, and I plan to have them shipped out by Monday or Tuesday of next week. Unfortunately, because of the high cost of international shipping, I have had to limit the contest to residents of the United States (sorry Canadians… the video says you’re included but I had to change that after filming!)

Best of luck to everyone!

Also, if you get a book yourself and want to share, use the hashtag #CalledtheBook with a picture of your self holding the book or a favorite quote to connect with other readers! I’d love to see where the book ends up and what people think!