Letter #20, 2022, Monday, January 31: Top Ten 2021 #3
We have chosen Fr. Mike Schmitz among our Top Ten People of 2021 because of the marvelous way he has taught the faith to millions of young people. Fr. Schmitz is arguably the most popular and influential priest in the United States speaking regularly to young people on the internet. For this example of fidelity and evangelization in a difficult time, we honor this faithful and eloquent priest.
Also, we have reposted at this link, the controversial transcript of the three-hour Joe Rogan-Dr. Robert Malone interview from a podcast broadcast at the end of December. The link will take you to a transcription of the text. Here is a link to listen to the podcast on Spotify.
The world can be a dark place,
yet these are people who refuse
to let the darkness prevail
It’s been two years since Covid first came to international attention, and countless aspects of life have never been the same since. Yet, one thing that has remained constant is the determination of individuals to follow the Spirit’s call to transcend their own comfort, their own desires, their own interests, and brave sometimes severe difficulties in service to their brothers and sisters in the human family.
It is the call echoed by Pope Francis: “The gift of the Holy Spirit has been bestowed in abundance so that we may live lives of genuine faith and active charity.”
“Go out,” he says, “…become the Word in body as well as in spirit.”
And so we highlight here 10 people — admittedly, just a tiny few among the many, many faithful and selfless souls around the world — to underscore not only the need and the challenge of following the Gospel command to “love your neighbor,” but also to hold them up as a beacon of encouragement. We are all called to live lives of service and we all find it daunting at times; but the Lord sustains us and gives us hope.
These are men and women who bring us some of that hope. The world can be a dark place, yet these are people who refuse to let the darkness prevail. They are Inside the Vatican’s Top Ten of 2021.
Fr. Mike Schmitz
Hearts and minds shaped by something eternal
A Catholic priest’s 2021 Bible podcast debuts at #1
Even before it was launched in January 2021, Fr. Mike Schmitz’s “The Bible in a Year (with Fr. Mike Schmitz)” became the #1-ranked podcast overall on Apple Podcasts. That’s quite a feat for anyone, let alone a Catholic priest whose message is the traditional, orthodox Christianity of two millennia.
Fr. Mike, 47, is a youthful, handsome, athletic, all-American guy. His primary position is as chaplain to the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota at Duluth, and he knows how to connect naturally and sincerely with young people. Thence comes his incredible appeal to the “YouTube generation” of podcast watchers who are flocking to his 365 daily episodes of Bible passages and commentary.
But Fr. Mike was not always consumed with zeal for the Faith. As a youth, he was in fact indifferent to it; “I would do whatever I could to avoid going to Mass,” he says. But he had “an encounter with Christ through confession” that changed him. He began to realize that he needed Jesus, and it led him down the road of asking what God wanted of him.
Though he made a detour through the movie business (he made the final round of auditions for the part of Robin in the 1995 movie Batman Forever), the road eventually took him to ordination in 2003 for the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, where he later became the director of youth ministry for the diocese. In fact, his unique talent for reaching youth — conveying the unvarnished truths of the Catholic faith while “speaking their language” — was so effective that Ascension Press’s video arm, Ascension Presents, asked him in 2015 to start making brief, youth-oriented YouTube video talks on Catholic topics.
His videos, always based on traditional Catholic teaching, have covered topics ranging from “The Secret about Sex and Holiness” and “Why Watching MMA [Mixed Martial Arts] Strips Human Dignity” to “Why St. Thérèse and her ‘Little Way’ Will Change Your Life” and “Can Someone Be Denied Holy Communion?”
And viewers responded. His enduring popularity on YouTube, and as a speaker at Catholic events, led Ascension to propose a new idea: “The Bible in a Year (with Fr. Mike Schmitz).” The series of 365 daily Bible readings, reflections and prayer last 20-25 minutes, and when completed, daily viewers will have read the entire Bible along with Fr. Mike in one year. The podcast debuted on January 1, 2021 in the number one spot on Apple Podcasts, Apple’s popular streaming service and video hosting platform, and even in December, as the series neared the end of its year-long run, it remained in the top 25.
Fr. Mike explains why he took on the project: “One of the primary reasons why I wanted to create this podcast was because my own mind was being filled with a lot of chaotic voices. Some were wise, many were merely distracting. I think that a lot of people are tired of those same distracting and temporary voices. And they want what I want: to allow our hearts and minds to be shaped by something eternal — God’s eternal Word.”
In October, Fr. Mike was voted one of the “Top Five Podcast Influencers of the Year” in the People’s Choice Podcast Awards. And this is his most basic message: “The number one thing that every human being has to do is to become a person of prayer,” he explains.
“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 that God wants me to do become the excuse for not doing what I do know that He wants me to do.”