Br. Anthony Freeman, LC, just published the book you are looking for. That assumes, of course, that you are a millennial, know a millennial, want to understand millennials, hope to evangelize millennials – or could simply use a spiritual kick in the pants.
One Step Closer: 40 Doses of Motivation, Hacks, and Experiences to Share with Millennial Catholics is Br. Anthony’s new book. You can get it at Amazon, and if you move quickly you will have it to keep or give as a gift before lent.
You can also check out what Br. Anthony is doing at his website: www.branthonyfreeman.com
But before we proceed, there are a couple important definitions – just in case:
Millennial: This is the generation of people born between the 1980s and early 2000s. Some call it “Generation Y.” On the one hand this generation is well-educated, tech-savvy and in thought. On the other hand, this generation has been marked by times of economic recession and had a good chance of being worse off in a material sense than the baby boomers. Of course, this is all generalization and says nothing about the individual millennial.
Hack: This is a word that has been subject to linguistic evolution. It started with the meaning of a “short chop” about a thousand years ago. Today (and in the context of Br. Anthony’s book) it has a meaning of a shortcut, connection or effective way to improve your work of life. (Read the book and you will understand.)
Br. Anthony is studying in Rome for the priesthood. He describes his heritage as Louisiana/Texas hybrid. He loves mango gelato, swimming, and football, and even though a seminarian, listening to really loud music. And he says this is what you’ll find inside him:
– I believe God has created me from all eternity with a specific mission in mind.
– I love meeting and engaging people where they are at in their life.
– I want to inspire others through my personal testimony.
– I am passionate about helping others find their calling to leadership and evangelization.
– I rely on God’s grace, value innovation, hard work, and generosity.
Despite having scrounged the time to write his book, Br. Anthony (like all Legion seminarians) doesn’t have a lot of spare time. But he did respond to a few questions about the book, how it came to be and his path in life.
What inspired you to write this book?
For about two years I have been honing in on a call to develop Catholic motivational material and present the richness of the spiritual life in a modern language. There are a lot of great Catholic formation programs out there but what about daily inspiration and motivation? Ninety-nine percent of the motivation material millennials get is about getting rich or fit. But what about the motivation and encouragement we all need to live out our faith?
Initially, I would just scribble thoughts that kept me motivated and inspired when I was having difficulty in prayer or you name it. I wrote it for myself to use but wasn’t planning on sharing it. Eventually, I did begin sharing these thoughts through some videos and phrases on Instagram, which is coined as @Catholic_life_coach. Then, last year a week before Lent a friend asked me to explain more of my thoughts or experiences that would be behind the phrases I came up with. A few days later during a break in between classes a brother handed me a business book that has a phrase on one page and the explanation of that phrase on the next. During class I started flipping through it and I literally saw in my hands what the friend was asking me to do even if they never said “write a book”. In that moment I decided I was going to write one reflection every day for Lent. That’s what inspired me to write the book and that’s why their are 40 reflections. Last year at this time I never thought I would have written a book in my life, so yeah it also came as a surprise to me. (Editor’s note: Br. Anthony affirms that this is the only time during his entire Legionary formation that he was not paying explicit attention during class.)
Why something for millennials?
It is who I am and what inspired me personally first of all. Secondarily, I feel we do a good job as a Church telling people what they have to do and what they should do yet maybe the part of sharing the fullness and beauty of the spiritual life isn’t presented to millennials. Really its not just for millennials though. Many adults have told me it has helped them. In the end, its for anyone who takes their faith seriously yet feels like a baby in the spiritual life.
How did you determine the format?
From the book of business slogans I was given.
How did you work this project into your seminary studies?
It wasn’t easy. I made a lot of sacrifices but because I broke it down into small achievable steps I was able to chip away at it with the free time I could find. It only took me 47 days to write it though it took me about 9 months to do everything else from editing, permissions, publication proposals, formatting etc. until it was ready.
What do you like most about being a seminarian?
The fraternity with my brothers. No offense to my superiors who do a great job but I probably learn more from my brothers than anyone else. My brothers especially help to keep me grounded because if not I would be lost in a multitude of projects and dreams.
What are your biggest challenges?
Good question, I mention that in the book in the section: ‘my biggest temptation as a seminarian’. Let’s just say it has to do with fear of failure.
What are your hopes for the book?
My hopes are that one who reads it sees that holiness is possible, that they are called to holiness and desire and want this. Then that have a few of the mean to know what holiness specifically is for them and how to grow in it.
Br. Anthony Tells the Story of His Vocation
As a kid, I was adventurous, big-hearted, and entrepreneurial. I wanted to be a professional football player, or maybe a politician or businessman. No matter what I ended up doing, I had a firm conviction that I was going to do a lot of good in the world. I imagined myself traveling on my own, being independent, or even living in the wild for months at a time. I never would have guessed that I would be where I am today.
I grew up Catholic, but I wasn’t very spiritual or even interested in the faith. I cannot tell you what my opinion of the priesthood was because it hadn’t even crossed my mind as a possibility. Priests were guys that weren’t able to convince a woman to marry them, I thought…
In junior high, all of the ‘important stuff’ (popularity, football, and girls) was going well for me. For some reason, though, I felt that my life was not heading in the right direction, mainly because of my group of friends at the time.
This wasn’t a thought from the spiritual perspective; even in the worldly sense, I just had a feeling we were going to end up losers: addicted, narcissistic, dependent, in prison, or dead… an insight that proved to be true much sooner than I thought. I really didn’t know where to go or what to do.
When I was fourteen and trying to juggle football practices and band camp one summer, I agreed to participate in a Catholic sports tournament in Baltimore. During the tournament, a priest gave a talk to the six thousand people that were there. But I felt like the only one in the room. He said something that struck me like nothing ever had before:
“You are only happy in life if you do what God wants of you, what God created you for.”
Immediately, I felt very strongly that God wanted me to attend a Catholic boarding school for boys in New Hampshire and that I would be happy there. I still don’t know why I wanted to go to this particular school, but I saw it as an adventure and a chance to find a new group of friends.
When I presented this to my parents, they initially said no. In their minds, it had all happened so quickly and I had worked too hard in preparing to go to my high school to just change my mind. In a few days, however, they agreed to let me go.
Years later, my parents told me that this was the first time I had ever told them I wanted to do something because God wanted me to do it. Even though this was new and surprising to them, they had the faith to cooperate with what God had placed in my heart. They knew it was genuine because I wasn’t smart enough to manipulate my parents by saying, “God wants me to do this…”
Even arriving at the school, I felt very at home. Through the most curious of circumstances, and by God’s providence (or should I say, humor), I found out it was a high school seminary for young men discerning a call to the priesthood. At the time, I was not even open to considering the priesthood, yet since I felt at home, I decided to hang around. What this school gave me was a richer and deeper spiritual life that eventually enabled me to see that God might be calling me to serve him, and I began to see that as something beautiful and worthwhile!
Thus, upon completing high school, I joined the seminary, and God has gradually and beautifully revealed his plan for me. I have lived and worked in six different countries, studying, working at Catholic schools, and giving business ethics presentations or Vatican tours. Through it all, and after many years of discernment, I feel affirmed that God is calling me to the priesthood with the Legion of Christ.