Before evangelization and discipleship can happen, we have to recognize our own brokenness so Jesus can bring healing and love into our hearts, Fr. Mike Schmitz told a crowd of several thousand Dec. 30 at the Student Leadership Summit at the Phoenix Convention Center.
“It’s easy to feel unloved,” Fr. Schmitz said at the national summit, sponsored by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. “My prayer to you is that you are seen, known and loved.”
Fr. Schmitz has become one of the most well-known priests in the country due to his many videos that have been published on “Ascension Presents’” YouTube channel since 2015. His videos range from “Captain America: Superhero Analysis” to “What You Should Know About Purgatory.”
Fr. Schmitz is the director of the Office of Youth Ministry for the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota and is the chaplain for the University of Minnesota-Duluth’s Newman Center. Thousands listen to his weekly homilies on the podcast “UMD Newman Catholic Campus Ministry.” He has authored of “Made for Love: Same-Sex Attraction and the Catholic Church” and “How to Make Great Decisions” and co-authored “Pray, Decide, and Don’t Worry: Five Steps to Discerning God’s Will” with Bobby and Jackie Angel.
Fr. Schmitz shared his thoughts with The Catholic Sun Jan. 2 about his YouTube ministry, favorite saints and tips for discernment.
The YouTube channel, “Ascension Presents,” posts a video from you every week and has been for the last four years. Why did you choose to evangelize on YouTube?
I was asked. There’s a woman named Maria Mitchell hired by Ascension to create an online platform to reach out to young people. She was like, “People live on YouTube. “Why don’t we start a channel where we bring snippets of Catholic content?” She reached out to me and asked if I’d be willing to do this. They came over and set up a camera in my living room.
Do you think of your own topics for your videos?
It’s a mix. People write to me, or sometimes in conversations with people or in spiritual direction something will keep coming up, or a concern, or a question people have or, even, sometimes out of prayer. Sometimes I have a roadblock, and I have no idea what to talk about, and then people will help me by saying, “What about this?”
If you could have lunch with any saint, who would it be?
My first thought would be that it’s really intimidating. I have this sense that I would be embarrassed to also not be a saint at the moment. But then I think about the people that I know who genuinely are holy and they never make me feel that way.
I’d say St. Joseph and St. Francis de Sales. St. Joseph has just been placed in my life recently. I read Fr. Don Calloway’s book on consecration to St. Joseph and it was just incredible. I’ve always liked St. Francis de Sales. I have this book on his life called “Saintmaker” and even that title just captivates me just in that if you’re around this person, you just want to become and end up becoming the holy person that God calls you to be. Also “Introduction to the Devout Life” is great.
How did you pick your topics for your talks?
When it came to the keynote [FOCUS] said, “Talk about the need.” Which is the need to evangelize beyond mission. What kept coming back to me was our need. I’ve been convicted of the fact that the Good News of the Gospel isn’t actually Good News until we fully embrace the bad news of our situation of the fall. We live in such a culture that denies the reality of original sin. It seems like Jesus is a nice option, but we don’t necessarily have that deep and profoundly felt urgent need that He actually saved me from eternal death, that He saved me from isolation, He saved me from helplessness. That’s been burning on my heart for a long time.
What tips would you give to someone who’s in the process of discerning?
The number one thing that every human being has to do is to become a person of prayer. The mark of spiritual maturity is a willingness to take responsibility for one’s own spiritual life. Regardless if I have a great parish or not, a great community or not, if I have great Catholic friends who support me or not, I show up to pray on a regular basis, and I take responsibility for that, because if that’s the case, I’ll be able to weather whatever storm. You might not know what God wants you to do next week, next year, next decade, but you do know what He wants you to do now. He wants you to pray, He wants you to obey the commandments, and He wants you to love your neighbor. I can’t let what I don’t know what God wants me to do to become the excuse of not doing what I do know what He wants me to do.
What has Jesus done for you during this conference?
The Lord has revealed a lot of things. I have a tendency to beat myself up and think, “I didn’t do that right,” or, “I should have done that better.” One of the things that He’s reminded me is, “You can beat yourself up about this and make it all about you, or you can just let it be and let it be about Me.” That’s a moment of grace that He’s revealed. I have a tendency to make it too much about myself. My mom always says when I go into something, “Remember who the real star is. It isn’t you. It’s Jesus.”