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Suor Cristina Rocks, but Friar Gabriel Skates

November 14, 2014

After my post a few weeks ago about a Suor Cristina, the singing nun from Italy, I want to follow up with skateboarding friar.  Hat tip to Brandon Vogt, who posted a remarkable video about Friar Gabriel, an Australian Franciscan who is a serious skateboarder whose superiors asked him to use his skills to evangelize.   The post provides more details about the friar, but here is the video.  Friar Gabriel, besides skating, also provided the music.

This is not for everyone (and skateboarders are quick to detect posers) but I think this kind of evangelization is an excellent way to engage with modern culture.

  1. November 15, 2014 9:58 am

    Thanks for sharing this! While watching the video, I was struck by how skateboarding involves literal leaps of faith: taking risks that put you in vulnerable positions where you might get hurt. A pretty good metaphor!

    After I watched it, Youtube helpfully suggested a “Behind the Scenes” video of the making of this one. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it wasn’t full of chatter – in fact there is no dialogue at all. It’s another evocative video – it’s just that it also shows some of the filming, and the friar’s interactions with other people, while making the first one.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink
      November 15, 2014 1:22 pm

      You are right: that is a very evocative metaphor for faith and life. And thanks for the second link.

  2. November 15, 2014 8:39 pm

    Me and a couple of friends have put together a website that is mainly about skating and punk rock. If any body is interested please visit

  3. El Sledgo permalink
    November 17, 2014 2:39 am

    There’s more of an interview on Rome Reports –

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink
      November 17, 2014 8:30 am

      Excellent! Thanks for sharing. I particularly like the flaming skateboard towards the end.

  4. Agellius permalink
    November 19, 2014 6:23 pm

    I’m not sure I get it. What message is this sending? That you can be a Christian and still ride a skateboard? Who ever said otherwise?

    Or is it that you can be a Christian and still be cool in the eyes of the world?

    If it’s about vocations, it seems to me that what’s attractive about the priesthood and religious life is the ways in which they differ from secular life, not the ways in which they’re the same or allow you to be the same.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink
      November 19, 2014 7:29 pm

      Lots of people think that being religious or pious means being a crashing bore whose life is devoid of fun. This is not something specific to Catholicism; I remember a fascinating discussion years ago on USENET (I am dating myself) amongst evangelical Christians on this topic and how it impacted evangelization. Franciscans are called to be in but not of the world, and I think a skateboarding friar is a great example of this. Also, from the original post I got the film from, I got the sense that he uses the fact the skateboarders regard themselves as counter-cultural as an opening to talk about how being religious is a counter-cultural statement.

      • Agellius permalink
        November 20, 2014 12:05 pm

        In that case, should friars become businessmen and make videos about business, to appeal to young people who are business-oriented? Should they be fashion models and make fashion videos to appeal to those who are young and fashion-conscious?

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink
          November 20, 2014 2:35 pm

          Well, there are boundaries, but I am not convinced that these examples cross them. Secular Franciscans are called to do these very things, so why shouldn’t friars and religious sisters (cf. Suor Cristina) so long as they do not violate Church teaching or are contrary to the charism of their communities, and are done with the support of the community?

    • November 20, 2014 9:50 pm

      I found the video very meditative and prayerful: the skateboarding images as well as the rosary images, all interspersed with images of following a path. The dedication required to excel at skateboarding is not unlike the dedication required to excel in the spiritual life. I thought it was very effective evangelization because it highlighted the areas of commonality between the evangelist and the evangelized.

      Re your later comment, it’s not that this friar “became” a skateboard to go be cool: this young man *was* a skateboarder, and gave it up when he entered religious life. But we take our whole selves with us when we enter religious life: Brother Gabriel clearly has a gift for skateboarding which God gave him, just as God gives us all our gifts and talents. He laid it down for a time, then took it up again, to use it to glorify God.

      • Agellius permalink
        November 21, 2014 12:14 pm

        Yes, I think I understand his thinking. I just question how effective it is in reality. I have never been impressed by “hip” priests, even when I was young and liberal. There used to be one in my parish who wore his hair in a ponytail, rode a skateboard, and would do a yearly blessing of cars in the local car show. None of this caused me to be impressed with his holiness.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink
          November 21, 2014 3:15 pm

          In the (approximate) slang of skateboarders, there is a big difference between “posers” and the “real deal.” I too have met priests like the one you describe: their attempts to be relevant were so painful that they really came across as posers. Thankfully, they have been very few and far between. On the other hand, if skaters find Brother Gabriel to be the real deal, I think he will be effective.

      • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink
        November 21, 2014 3:23 pm

        The movie Sister Act also played with this idea of using popular culture and relevance as a means of evangelization. The mother superior argues with Whoopie Goldberg’s character about this at one point. Now the movie ends with the usual Hollywood wrap-up that avoids these hard questions, but I think they were there. The director made it clear which side he lands on: watch the reaction of the various women “on the streets” in this scene. (I admit, I am using this as an excuse to post a link to one of my favorite scenes from the movie!)

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