The Diaconate of St. Francis

A number of years ago I came across a picture of St. Francis of Assisi wearing a deacon’s stole. The caption explained that St. Francis was not a priest (which I knew) but was actually a deacon. I thought that was really cool! So I mentioned that to a Franciscan Friar and he told me, “No, he wasn’t.”

Since then I’ve asked people who have an expertise in St. Francis what they think about it, and I get varying opinions from a hard “yes,” to a maybe “yes,” to a probably “no.” Most seem to be in the “maybe yes” category, though. So I was excited to hear what Dr. Alan Schreck, who has his doctorate in Church history and has studied a lot about St. Francis had to say about that in this podcast.

Even if St. Francis of Assisi was a deacon, the diaconate in his time was very different than the diaconate we have now (for example, they didn’t even have seminaries in his time—that would be established a few hundred years later at the Council of Trent). However, there are still many “diaconal” aspects of St. Francis’s ministry that are very applicable to us today.

I’m grateful for Alan taking the time to share some of those things with us. I had Alan as a professor in the nineties when studying for my master’s degree, and I’ve always looked up to him. He’s written some incredible books, my favorite being Catholic and Christian. One of his more recent books is St. Francis and Pope Francis: Prayer, Poverty, and Joy in Jesus. Click on either link to purchase at Amazon. I’d recommend anything Alan has written!

I hope you enjoy this podcast. It was recorded under less than ideal circumstances. If you listen to my other podcast, They That Hope, you know that three of my family members have COVID and the other four of us have been living in quarantine. So I was stuck in my 8 year old’s bedroom. (Lucky kid, he got the basement. BTW, everyone is feeling better so no serious complications.) Because we couldn’t meet in person, Alan tried to use his computer at work and, well, the audio and video quality isn’t what I hoped it would be.

However, the content was everything I hoped for and more. Gave me a lot to think about, especially as my own ordination date draws ever closer. I hope you enjoy it. St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us.

Also, this weekend I got my official letter from the Bishop of Steubenville inviting me to be ordained as a permanent deacon at Franciscan University on November 20th, 2021. Praise God! Just 61 days away!

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Same Show, Different Day

When I recorded this on Monday, my wife and my son were both in quarantine because they had COVID, and the fear of infection for the rest of my family as well as the challenge of trying to do my job and run the house… well, it got to me. It wasn’t more than a half an hour before we started that I had a fight with one of my kids and was freaking out about life in general. And I thought, “O great, I have to record a podcast about hope now.”

Two days later, I’m doing both better and worse. The home situation is worse since another kid tested positive and now we are all in quarantine. But I’m a bit more peaceful about it (mostly), in part thanks to some of Fr. Dave’s encouragement that he gave me in this episode. I hope you are encouraged by it, too.

So please pray for my family. Pray nobody else gets it and we can ride out our quarantine. And while it isn’t fun, I’m certainly grateful that it isn’t worse. No need for hospitalizations or extreme treatments, thank God. Some of you have been in that situation, are in that situation, or (sadly) will be. We are offering our suffering and prayers for all of you.

Last week we talked about how important it is that we are honest before the Lord, and I get pretty honest in this episode. I love how this podcast has become more of a community of friends than a “show”. It can feel like we are dealing with the same stuff that we were a year ago (and my apologies to the kids listening for using the word “crap” a couple times in this episode). But the Lord has done great things since then and will continue to do so. It is important to remind ourselves of that. I pray you are blessed by our conversation.

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For the first time ever on They That Hope, we had a guest on the podcast: Rosie, my new puppy. She is awfully cute and extremely chill for a puppy. For those who care, she is a soft coated Wheaton terrier. I talk a bit about how we got her on the show.

And I didn’t think we’d talk much football since the NFL doesn’t kick off until Thursday, but forgot that college football had already started, so I had to listen to Fr. Dave drone on and on about Notre Dame. Is this how he feels when I talk about the Buccaneers? Nah, the Bucs are way more exciting!

We discussed some of the tragic things that have been occurring, like the floods in the Northeast and the death of one of my former students, Matt Hair (he was also an RD on campus). Please pray for Matt’s soul and keep his family in your prayers as well. It led us to talking about how important it is that we are honest before God, even when we are confused or angry, and how the Psalms model that for us.

Today we celebrate Mary’s birthday! Fr. Dave sang her happy birthday and we discussed what we love about her. One of the main points was how important it is to remember she was human, and being “perfect” doesn’t mean not feeling anxiety, pain, etc.

BTW, brace yourself for next week’s episode. I’m sure something will be mentioned about the Bucs. Enjoy!

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9/11, Conversion, and Prayer

This past Father’s Day, I got a few copies of Deacon Kandra’s book, A Deacon Prays. Though not yet a deacon, I was blessed by many of its beautiful reflections, especially the “deacon’s rosary” of the Luminous Mysteries. So without knowing anything else about Dcn. Kandra, I reached out to him for an interview. To my surprise, he had heard of the show!

It was only as I was preparing to interview him that I realized his amazing story of how he heard the call to the diaconate. He was working at CBS news when 9/11 occurred, and one of his proudest accomplishments was working on one of the best documentaries of that moment. He had some really amazing things to share.

It was only mid-way through the interview (you can see the moment when the lights go on in my head) that I realized that I was planning to release this podcast in early September… the same week as the 20th anniversary of 9/11. God has a plan for things, doesn’t he?

So as we all recall the lives lost and the “war on terror” that began 20 years ago, let us also reflect on how God worked through that in the lives of many people, and brought them to deeper holiness because of it. Just like Dcn. Greg. Kandra.

You can purchase a copy of his new book at

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Franciscan Multiversity

I was in Florida when I recorded this on Monday. My mom finally decided to sell her house, and with this market it went quick! Unfortunately, the highest bid also wanted her out the door quickly, so it was more of a last minute trip to pack things up. Though I didn’t grow up in that house, my mom (and dad) lived there for over twenty years, so there are a lot of memories.

Fr. Dave knew it was a bit tough for me, so we talked about our homes and how hard it can be to let things go. I asked him what it was like for him to give up everything for a vow of poverty, and his answer surprised me! We live different lives 🙂 Speaking of different lives, how has he not seen the Spider-Man trailer?

When we recorded the podcast, the news was all about the hurricane in Louisiana and leaving Afghanistan (not much has changed). We talked about how to have hope in the midst of helplessness and accepting God’s will in difficult circumstances.

Some good friends of ours are getting married this weekend, and Fr. Dave actually is celebrating two weddings: one on Saturday and one on Monday! I am celebrating the 25th anniversary of my proposal on Friday. Fr. Dave shared some funny wedding stories and invited you all to share a funny story with us, if you have one. As always, email us at

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Back to School!

I always enjoy this time of year, when my kids go back to school and classes start at Franciscan. Probably because I work at a college, but the end of August feels more like “New Year’s Day” than January 1st does.

We had an incredible weekend welcoming new students to Franciscan last weekend, and my son Bobby was one of them! Fr. Dave and I share some fun stories of what happened and the people we met.

I must admit I was behind on emails, so I tried to catch up a the beginning of the episode. Apparently, we have a lot of teenagers who listen to the podcast! I give them a shout out, with a promise that any teenager who emails us will get their name said on the pod.

A lot of this episode is a conversation about the saints we celebrate this week: St. Louis (who is a patron saint of the Franciscan TORs), St. Monica, and St. Augustine. We close with a famous prayer from Augustine.

We also talk about the Scriptural theme for Franciscan this year, which is Psalm 127:1. “Unless the Lord builds the house, in vain do the laborers build.” I wondered why we picked the “Yoda” translation of that verse, and I think I did a pretty good impersonation. Especially for that time in the morning.

Praying for all of you who are returning to school or having your kids go back to school!

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Preaching for Conversion

I’ve always been impressed by how Fr. Dave preaches. To this day, I can remember specific things he said in his homilies, even from over a decade ago. And as I think about how I will get the chance to preach homilies (in just a few months!), I would love to do it as effectively as Fr. Dave.

So I was super grateful, not just that he would share with me some great advice on how to give a homily, but that he was willing to do it on my podcast so that you could get to hear it, too!

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Season Two

I really missed doing this podcast for the past two weeks, and it was great to be back with Fr. Dave! A good amount of our conversation was catching up with each other. Dave went to the beach, but I was on retreat!

The retreat was amazing and I share a bit about it in the pod. The focus was on healing and it was lead by people who had a great blend of spiritual wisdom and counseling training. It was a great example of how grace builds on nature, and I learned a lot about how my brain works! More importantly, the Spirit powerfully moved into some painful memories from my childhood and brought about healing. Praise God!

Of course, we talked about sports because deep down we want to be like the Tony Kornheiser Show. Fr. Dave was excited about something that happened in baseball, I made my obligatory Tampa Bay Buccaneers reference. But the conversation moved to some great witnesses of faith at the Olympics.

School is starting next week, both for college and for kids, and that is always an exciting/crazy time. I’m sure we will talk even more about that in the following episode!

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The Importance of the Spiritual Life

Deacon James Keating is one of my favorite authors and his book The Heart of the Diaconate has had a profound impact my formation and the way I have approached being a deacon. He was one of the first people I wanted to interview for the podcast… but I also didn’t want to interview him until I thought I had a good grasp on what the podcast was about. So he gets to be lucky 13th!

The spiritual life of the deacon is a common theme in his writings so I wasn’t surprised it became the focus of the interview. He has some strong opinions and isn’t afraid to share them! At one point he said he thought we should postpone all deacon ordinations until we have a synod to figure out just what a deacon is supposed to be. I think that is a great idea… after November 🙂 He also made a distinction between a man who wants to grow in his faith and a man who is called to the diaconate. The difference is the man who is called to be a deacon should have no concerns living a celibate life should his wife die before him. I thought that was a fascinating insight.

I’ll be honest, this conversation gave me a lot to think about! I hope it does the same for you.

You can get his newest book, Remain in Me, at Amazon.

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Die Hard

I’m not exactly sure how “Die Hard” became a recurring theme of this podcast, but there are just some things we will never know this side of heaven. I’m sure it probably had to do with us recording this podcast in the evening (we usually record in the morning).

Fr. Dave thought it would be good if I threw in a lot of sound effects and, as you will see, that didn’t always go exactly as planned. Last week we asked if there were any teenagers listening, and we got some responses! One of them was particularly savage. But hey, at least they are listening. Thanks to all of you who take the time to send a message to us! We had a lot of fun discussing some of those emails.

Fr. Dave was in the West Coast and had breakfast with Jonathan Roumie who plays Jesus in The Chosen. We talked sports (as usual) and I learned that Fr. Dave really loves the Olympics. We also discussed two big upcoming feasts: St. Martha (who is a favorite of mine) and the Portinucla (which is favorite of Fr. Dave’s).

Next week, I will be on a week long retreat for my diaconate formation, and the following week Fr. Dave will be on vacation with his family. So we will be taking the next two weeks off. They That Hope will return on Wednesday, August 18th!

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