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!

 

After nine months of pitching a proposal, agreeing on a concept, writing, editing, and planning, I’m finally able to share something that has consumed much of my energy of the last year: I wrote a book!

Man it feels good to finally say that.

Naturally, more will be revealed in the coming weeks and months, but for now, the essential information: the title is Called: What Happens After Saying Yes to God, it will be published by Franciscan Media, and it is set to release at the end of February (just in time to be a great resource during Lent…)

If you want to find out more, be sure to watch this week’s vlog by clicking here, and if you haven’t already followed me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, you’re going to want to do that now! Lots of pictures, behind the scenes, interview, and even giveaways to come that you don’t want to miss!

 

Since it’s a holy day of the Church… how about an unexpected blog post?! This past weekend I was privileged to be invited to speak at the Michigan State University Catholic Student Center’s fall retreat. I gave two talks, one of which was entitled, “What is the Good News?”

It was a great for sure, maybe more to come on Friday… For now, click here to watch the talk!

Today marks the six year anniversary of entering the friars as a postulant.

Wow. Six years ago my parents and I drove up from North Carolina to Wilmington, DE to drop me off at the friary. There are moments of that year, now so long ago, that I can remember as if they were yesterday.

I remember the joy and freedom I felt once it finally began, arriving where I had wanted to be for over a year, starting my new life. The first night I sat in my room—a room left barren with so few possession to fill the big empty space—and smiled with excitement. I was really doing it. No more thoughts. No more discernment. No more “in the future.” I was on my way to becoming a friar.

I remember the awkwardness of meeting my new classmates, working through the social dynamics to figure each other out. For the two weeks, I don’t think anyone talked with each other outside of our meetings and meal times. People did what they were supposed to then shyly retreated to their rooms.

I remember the frustration of dealing with housemates with different values than my own, of having a director place rules on me for the first time since I was probably 12. I felt trapped at times, stuck in a world that was completely foreign to me and bore little resemblance to the life I wanted to join.

I remember the almost daily occurrence of new insights, moments of growth, and challenges that would shape me for the rest of my life. In some ways, it is so difficult to think back six years and remember who I was, what I thought about, what I didn’t know, what I failed to do, and what I still needed to learn. If only postulant me could see almost-solemnly-professed me…

I’ve said multiple times before that I decided to become a friar in July of 2010, a year before I actually entered the Order. I knew at that moment that I was in it for life, and could very well have taken solemn vows right then and there. Even looking back, I believe I could have. My conviction for this life has not changed, and there has never been a moment in these seven years that I have legitimately considered anything else.

And yet, as grueling and frustrating as this preparation has been, knowing the whole time that I didn’t actually need time to make the decision, I can’t even begin to think about what type of friar I would be right now without it. These six years of memories—

  • Almost burning down the postulant house when someone put a pizza box in the oven
  • Going through three rounds of evaluations in novitiate in which I had to present all of my strengths and weaknesses to a panel of four team members
  • Staying up late at night to discuss religion, politics, philosophy, and the need in the world today, “Making plans to change the world, While the world is changing us,” (to quote the great pot-smoking mystic Dave Matthews)
  • Mourning as classmates decided to leave the Order for another life
  • The amazingly supportive people I have interacted with, at ministry sights, within religious life, and even here online
  • Fighting with the brothers over things that can only be fought over when people are under-stimulated and see each other too much
  • Nervously stepping into the role of Church leader for the first time, struggling to do things that I can do without a moment of preparation today

—yes, this six years of friar life could fill a book with all I’ve reflected on and learned along the way, how I have maintained the same conviction with the same values, and yet become a person I would have never imagined. What a ride it’s been.

Come Saturday—yes, this Saturday, no longer any needed a qualifier or explanation because it was so far in the future, but the very Saturday that is next on the calendar—I will make my solemn profession before my Provincial Minister, the friars gathered, my friends, my family, and anyone else who wants to join, to live as a Franciscan for as long as I live.

Walking with my classmates, six years ago, to the solemn profession of two brothers. Quite surreal to know that I will be on the other side of this picture soon.

And I find myself at the crossroads I imagined from the beginning.

Five years ago, I wondered about the future of Breaking In The Habit. As a name, it fit perfectly for what I was doing; “Reflections of a friar in training” was the original tagline. Once I was solemnly professed, would I continue with the blog? Would I keep the name? Now, crossing the proverbial bridge we knew we would come to, the answer is obvious to me: of course I will keep going. Besides the practical business side of maintaining a brand, the fact of the matter is that I’m not done breaking in this habit. Despite the fact that I am done with formation and am ready to live the rest of my life as a Franciscan Friar, my life is not over! Come Sunday, friar life will not all of the sudden become magically easy; the challenges to Gospel living I face Friday will not disappear by Sunday; my flaws today will still be my flaws next week! No, “breaking in the habit,” learning to live this life, is not something that one can complete and move on from. It is a life-long process.

And I can’t wait.

I want to thank all of you who have followed me from the beginning, those who have supported me along the way, and those who will support me in the future I continue to break in the habit of a very strange life. My last six years has not been lived in a vacuum, and what I said in the original “why blog” tab that was on the old site: I wanted to blog not just to share my life with others, but so that others could take part in my reflections, forming and challenging me along the way. So many of you have done just that, and so I want to thank you, but also exhort you: just as my work of breaking in this way of life is not done, neither is your effort in doing it with me. If I am going to be anything close to what God wants me to be for the people of God, you all are going to have to keep it up as well. And I’m sure you will.

Peace and good to all.