Accompanying Young People in a Digital Age | Franciscans, Youth and Faith

One of the most significant traits of the Franciscan charism is the mission to be popular preachers in the ordinary gatherings of people’s lives. And while friars may no longer go to the city square to preach peace, in our digital age, a new “city square” has emerged: the internet. Recognizing how much time many people spend on social media, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once called the internet a “digital continent,” needing the same missionary zeal the Church had always produced.

Two Franciscans in the United States—Br. Dan Horan, OFM and Br. Casey Cole, OFM—have accepted this call to mission.

“I think we should not be afraid to go out to this ‘digital continent,’” says Br. Dan. “It’s how people communicate, study, seek entertainment, meet one another, share common interests, and even explore their faith.” In his time with the friars, Br. Dan has written a blog engaging social and political topics with a Franciscan spirituality for the 21st century and has engaged questions and comments on Facebook and Twitter.

“I think it’s important to have our finger on the pulse of how young people are communicating today, adapting and updating as the world changes,” says Br. Casey. As the founder of Breaking In The Habit Media, Br. Casey has works to create content for as many platforms as he can, producing videos on YouTube and Instagram, writing articles on his blog, and answering questions on Twitter and Facebook. “Young people no longer gather in physical locations like they used to, but they are gathering. It’s our responsibility as ministers and evangelizers to go where they are.”

But as both Br. Dan and Br. Casey have expressed, this does not mean fully adopting the values that come with living on a digital continent. Because there can be a tendency to present an alternative persona online or to diminish the human person to nothing more than their thoughts, friars engaged in this ministry must recognize the limitations it presents: it is unrivaled in its ability to create new connections, but it does not offer the fullness of the Christian experience that young people need. For this reason, both Br. Dan and Br. Casey spend as much time engaging young people in person as they do online, offering retreats, giving talks, teaching classes, and simply being present to the needs of young people today.

For more information on their digital outreach or to contact Br. Dan and Br. Casey, please check out their media sites:

Br. Dan Horan, OFM:

Br. Casey Cole, OFM at Breaking In The Habit Media:

This article is part of a series profiling the work that friars are doing throughout the world to accompany young people in faith. These stories are only a sample of the ways countless friars walk with young people today.  As we Franciscans prepare for the 2018 Synod of Bishops Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment. May these stories inspire all who read them to an ever-deeper commitment to sharing the Joy of the Gospel with our young sisters and brothers.