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!

Advertisements

Click to listen

Where is the line between good humor and offensive content? How do we measure whether or not something has gone “too far”? Are there things that simply can’t be joked about, or does joking about horrible things help to heal and reconcile what has been broken? Does it matter if someone doesn’t intend to be offensive?

These are the questions that Br. Tito and I looked at this week on our podcast, Everyday Liminality, as we try to come to a coherent definition of “offensive content” in entertainment. What we found was that it is easier said than done, as there are both objective and subjective characteristics to each situation meaning that what is totally normal to one person may be absolutely repugnant to another.

But as I reflected on our conversation, thinking about what we said (and what we should have said) I realized that there is even a more interesting issue beyond simply defining the issue: “Should a Christian ever be offended?”

What I mean by this is that we are a follower of a man who laid down his life, who didn’t defend himself, who taught peace at all costs, and yet remained completely confident in what he did because he could see the whole picture. Someone attacking him with a sword was not threatening to him because he was the King of the Universe and the judge of the living and the dead; the words of a fellow human had no power over him or his emotions because he knew the truth. And it makes me wonder, as his followers today, if there could be anything to truly offend us, to make us feel threatened in such a way that we would need to attack back.

Because, really, isn’t that what the issue of being offended is about? Someone has done something to make us personally uncomfortable—our ego, reputation, comfort, or sensibilities are challenged—and we want to call them out for being a bad person, to stop. Being offended is not about issues of safety or justice, it is not about sticking up for people who are actually hurt or put in danger; these are separate issues. Being offended is about an attack on the sensibilities of our self or culture.

And so, again, I wonder: is there ever any reason for us as Christians to ever get offended, or should we always be a people who accepts abuse with grace, returns anger with love, and lets negativity roll off our back because we know that others cannot have control over us? An interesting question that we might have to discuss another time.

Ever wonder why some people say that they are “Roman Catholic” as opposed to just “Catholic”? For some, this added word is just a formal addition that adds nothing to their identity of Church. And that’s actually true… for most Catholics. But not all.

Much to the surprise, I would imagine, of the everyday Catholic, there are actually separate “particular churches” within the umbrella of the Catholic Church, churches with a different history, liturgy, system of governance, and even rules. In other words, there are people who today are called “Catholic” who are not Roman, have no history of Latin at mass, allow married priests as the norm, and worship in places that look nothing like any Catholic Church we’ve ever seen who are just as much Catholic as the pope.

Confused? Interested? Well get ready for a technical and factually rich episode of Catholicism In Focus that will try to make sense of it all!

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!

Click to listen

The internet can be an amazing tool for communication. When I was in Mexico for the summer, without a phone plan or special equipment, I was able to speak with my parents over Wifi, for free, 1500 miles away. On a regular basis, I can receive and respond to messages in realtime from people in the Philippines, Germany, and Kenya. I have even been able to connect with other Catholic Youtubers, people that I have never met in real life, and been able to share about our experiences in this ministry. What an amazing tool for our age!

At the same time, the internet can also be a great tool for escapism. Rather than engaging with the world as it is, seeing the troubles, fears, boredom, discomfort, or stress around us, we are able to enter a world that knows nothing of that and leave everything behind. Whether it’s fantasy football, chatroom debates about movie theories, or something as in-depth as Second Life, a platform whose name alone encourages a retreat from reality for the sake of an artificial one, the internet can be used to disconnect from our surroundings and devote our time to something that isn’t all that “real.”

Naturally, this leads to a growing issue of what many would describe as our “digital identity.” As kids growing up in the 90s, we were taught that we needed to be careful with who we interacted with online; because internet allowed anonymity, embellishment, and outright lies, we couldn’t ever be sure who we were talking with, and someone claiming to be a 12-year-old girl might actually be a 45-year-old man. Today, that caution still remains, but so does its opposite: we need to be careful who we are portraying ourselves to be and what affect inaccurate depictions might have on our sense of self. With the ability to curate how the world sees us, we run the risk of inadvertently representing a false self to others and even confusing ourselves.

These are the topics that Br. Tito and I discuss this week on our podcast, Everyday Liminality. Using the the virtual world of the movie Ready Player One as a starting point, we discuss the difference between who we portray to be online and who we actually are in our everyday life, look at the effect such a divide might have on our sense of self, and wonder whether it’s all bad.