Casey Cole graduated in 2011, the same year he joined the Franciscan Order. This young American has been preaching through the Internet for years. His work reaches thousands of people on the Internet alone. YouTube your channel Breaking in the Habit already has 270,000 subscribers.
The goal, as he describes it, is to offer personal reflections and explanations from a Catholic and Franciscan perspective for those Christians who wish to become better disciples of Christ and discern their vocation. Father Casey has given an interview to Omnes in which he talks about his online preaching.
How did you come up with the idea of starting a YouTube channel? Did your superiors put any obstacles in your way?
-I started posting videos on YouTube in the summer of 2015, when another Franciscan friar and I traveled from California to Washington D.C.. We wanted to show what Franciscan life is like and give visibility to the Franciscan brothers we met along the way. After that, I began recording reflections, explanations and short documentaries about the life of the friars.
My superiors have always supported my work.
You talk about some controversial topics. You made a video about the porn industry, then you talk about what Protestants get right, what they get wrong... And you use very provocative video titles: "Don't be a priest", "Jesus had a great body", "The martyrs had it easy", and so on. Why do you do that? Have you ever thought that might lead to confusion?
-We live in an age where we are all on media overload. Between YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and all the other streaming, there is more content to consume than there is time to watch it. Therefore, attracting users becomes very competitive. If you don't use titles and video covers that get people into the content immediately, projects fall into obscurity.
It is important to point out something regarding the idea of clickbait. There are those who use offensive titles or video covers in order to provoke people, but their content then never talks about what they've purposely put out; then, there are others who use creative and modern tactics that are effective in drawing people to issues to delve into. I never do the former. I like to take the controversial and respond with in-depth, logic-based answers.
What can we expect from your channel Breaking in the Habit in the future?
-It is difficult to know. Breaking in the Habit has evolved several times over the past seven years and I suspect it will continue to change. What I hope is to offer good quality content that makes people think and draw them closer to Christ and his Church. As what is carried in digital media changes, so will the way I present things.
You did a very peculiar tour this summer, one related to baseball. How did this come about? What was the result?
-The tour was a resounding success. Another friar and I traveled around the country evangelizing in Major League Baseball stadiums. The idea was to meet people where they are, to be a public witness in the middle of the street.
Catholics are not a religious majority in the United States, how is the relationship between the Church and other religions? And between Catholics and other Christian denominations?
-Anywhere you have people of different religions there is going to be tension. The United States is no exception. My experience, however, has been both positive and negative, and I believe that Protestants help Catholics grow stronger in their faith. Where Catholics are a minority, there is a greater need to understand one's faith and come together more as a community.
Are you going to participate in WYD 2023? If you are going to attend, how are you preparing for it?
-At this time I have no plans to attend. I pray that it will be a very enriching experience for those who attend.
What do you think is the most important thing you do as a priest?
-As best I know how, I listen. Given the natural essence of the sacraments of the Christian life and the scarcity of priests, it is very easy for Christians to overestimate a priest and his merits, assuming that he knows everything and can do it all on his own. The best priests are those who spend most of their time listening to and learning from others.
What is the best thing about being a Franciscan friar?
-The best (and worst) thing about Franciscan life is the fraternity. Living with men of different ages and cultures, with different perspectives on Church and leisure, is a blessing, but it is seldom easy.
What is the common misconception people have about friars?
-We are not monks. The friars are members of a mendicant order, which means that we travel and beg, rather than live within the confines of the monastery. Our life is in the world.
Recently the U.S. Bishops' Plenary Assembly was held and the Apostolic Nuncio asked about the current situation of the Church and the direction it is taking. How would you respond to that from your point of view?
-Right now we are a very divided Church that has lost sight of its foundation. Too often we see members of the Church adhering to political parties rather than to the mission of the Gospel. There are some who are witnesses to reconciliation and hope, but too many are involved in the values of this world.