Dominic de Souza, founder of smartcatholics.com shares his faith journey that spans 4 countries and 3 continents. He also discusses how his quest to shift from knowing about Jesus to actually knowing Jesus and his discovery of the need to bring Catholics together in an authentic and dynamic way brought him to create the Smart Catholics community.
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Robert: Welcome to the prince and pews podcast. I’m Robert. And normally we’re just a couple of guys talking the Catholic faith over a pint or two of our favorite beer. So why don’t you pour yourself a pint and listen in for the next little while? As we take the faith seriously, but not necessarily ourselves.
And as always, if you want to take part in the conversation, leave us a comment or swing by our Facebook page and drop us a message. Like I said, and I seem to have been saying over and over with each episode is normally, we’re just a couple of guys talking in the Catholic faith over a pint or two of our favorite beer.
But unfortunately Dennis is still not able to join us again. On this episode, he is still home recuperating from some health issues. I can happily say that I spoke to Dennis earlier this week and he sounded the best. I had heard him in quite some time. Please keep praying for Dennis. And it would be great if you will, after quick prayer comment or message via the Facebook page.
And I always make sure that he gets those. And I know for a fact that everyone’s parents have been sustaining him through this. Now just before I introduce you to this episodes guest, I do want to give a quick shout out to the folks over at feedspot.com. It came to my attention just this week that at feed spot.com, they’ve listed the pints and pews podcast as one of the best 80 Catholic podcasts to listen to in 2021.
Now that puts us in some quite illustrious company with the likes of father Mike Schmitz and Word on Fire, Catholic Stuff You Should Know, and Catholic Answers, and we are way, way down that list, but we are on the best 80 Catholic podcast list for this year. So I encourage you. If you want to check out the pints and pews podcast listing there, or to learn about some other fantastic Catholic podcasts that are out there, go over and visit them at blog dot feed spot.com/catholic_podcasts.
So I want to introduce our listeners now to this episodes, guest Dominic de Souza, Dominic was born in New Zealand, raised in Australia and is now living in the USA along the way. And he’s had some pit stops to study in Fiji and France. Dominic De Souza is a cradle Catholic who is passionate about faith, history and science and how they all come together in today’s world is a self-professed geek when it comes to the epic, the human, the mystic, and the.
A conversion moment back in 2012, launched him on a personal pilgrimage to rediscover and fall in love with his Catholic faith in the space age, Dominic has come to the wisdom that all Catholics through renewal of their faith must rediscover the inner life that we are baptized into so that we can let that faith filled life back out into the world.
He does this through the smart Catholics, a apostolate at smartcatholics.com as well as a couple of other apostolates that he has on the go. Dominic is a branding strategist, a web and graphic designer, author, photographer, and recipe follower, all the while fulfilling the most important vocations that the Lord has called him to that is of husband and father to Maria and Maria.
And today he has carved out some time to be a guest here on the pints and pews podcast. Dominic , welcome.
Dominic: Thanks for having me, Robert. Good to be here.
Robert: It’s amazing to have you. As we were talking a little bit off air before we started recording, it’s been awhile. We got to know each other a few years ago, quickly through your Saintnook apostolate. And another good friend of ours, Monica McConkey. We went to high school together. Gotcha. But, but Monica, over at equippingcatholicfamilies.com and the, the Arma Dei apostulate that she has. And then again, through SmartCatholics in the last year and a half or so we got to know each other again, through Europe postulate and the different conferences that you were organizing the renewed hope conference that started it all off and then a mortal Kombat for the gentlemen.
God has mercy with another good friend of ours and DeSantis at the sewing hope network and modern saints as well. So, I don’t know about you, but I’m just getting tired, reading your bio here and going through everything. Talk
Dominic: about what’s, let’s talk about what we’re drinking, you know, those parts.
Robert: Well, that’s just it. I get, I get through all that bio on it, say, oh, okay. My mouth is getting dry. So what are you drinking with us?
Dominic: Here this evening? Yeah, I couldn’t make it with a beer. So I’m interested to hear with what’s your imbibing. On my end, I picked most interesting thing. I think of I have a dandelion coffee, so it’s like ground up dandelion roots and it ends up being a nice hot drink, you prepare it, just like coffee, bit of sugar, some milk and it doesn’t have caffeine, but it’s got a little bit of that bitter kind of edge that coffee does.
Robert: So in the springtime I’ll have to start digging up my front lawn. And then…
Dominic: No, you just, you just buy a big bag of the dried stuff from Amazon.
Robert: Can you get it in the espresso, a flavor of that as well?
Dominic: I have no idea given that it’s caffeine free. It’s just kind of like, I don’t know. Nature’s decaf or something, I guess.
Robert: Yeah. See my morning go to as a big bowl of espresso. So I just need that kick and then it keeps me going through the rest of the day. Yeah. It’s starting to Peter out though. So actually today I’m having one of Dennis’s. Favorites breweries from the Brock street brewery, which is in a town of Whit beam, which is actually where Dennis and I both work.
I’d say it’s about a half hour drive south of where I am and I’m having the Brock street, loggers, Amber ale. I always hold it up so that the guests can read the label. But I know on the podcast that it’s, you know, kind of a bit of a mute point for our listeners. So we’re going to crack this open.
We’ll give it a poor, I’m a really big fan of the Brock street, traditional Irish red now. And I normally would have had that this evening, except I didn’t get an into the fridge in time, so it wasn’t cold enough, but the logger Amber is a nice, beautiful. Deep Amber
Dominic: That’s a lovely looking thing.
Robert: Thena nice bit of foam at the top. So we will say our grace before beer, our grace, before dandelion coffee. And then that way we can get into our first sip and the first step is always the best. Well, it began as always in our faith, in
the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit.
Amen. Bless the Lord, these creatures, dandelion coffee and beer, which thou has deigned to produce from the fat of grain and from the roots of plants, that they may be a solitary remedy to the human race and grant through the invocation of thy holy name, that whoever shall drink of them may gain health and body and peace and soul through Christ.
Our Lord. Amen. In the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit. so I need to ask, even though you’re not having that near today, actually here, before we get going. Cheers. Cheers.
Always nice. The first sip. And then you send the dandy coffee has that bitter edge. This has a nice little bit of a bitterness to it. Cool. And crisp, nicely thirst quenching. And it still has that robust flavor that you would expect from an Angeles here. So I’m not, not to rub it in or anything, is there a craft beer movement in your neck of the woods?
Dominic: You know, there may well be, unfortunately, I don’t know too much about it. We moved here almost right before the pandemic hit and then apart from that, I also work from home. So. Yeah. Unfortunately, don’t get out too much yet. But where I do live is Charleston. So there is, there’s a lot of good food, a lot of good beer, and we’ll see plenty of local breweries, you know, advertised around the place.
I just haven’t a chance to get into them yet.
Robert: again, I’m guessing that just the timing of everything and your move, getting to know Catholic men’s fellowship or Catholic fellowship in the area.
Dominic: That’s been tough too. I mean, I’ve seen the groups like, you know, That Man Is You and Knights of Columbus and so on, but just not been able to actually join them.
I guess one response I’ve had to that is to actually create a men’s group online with, I think our mutual friend, mark Ruddock through the smart Catholic community and partner up with heroicmen.com. And that would be the men’s group where I spend most of my time. So online, I would, I would love to do something in person though.
I, I thrive with, you know, getting back to the face-to-face and human contact.
Robert: Oh, for sure. And that’s, I have found been one of the biggest challenges as well. I helped facilitate a men’s group in our local parish and we get together once a month and we do a little bit of faith formation and we start with the decade of the rosary, some faith formation between watching videos and then interacting on that.
And then we ended off with some fellowships. So, you know, every month somebody else takes a turn bringing some snacks and we have a couple of beers on the go and just having that opportunity to do. Around as a group of Catholic men, it’s really, really important. Now we started off in February of 2020. So we didn’t really last all that long before we had to shut it down as well to the in-person.
And so that was really tough. That was really tough. In the summer months, we were able to get together. We don’t do a formal session in July and August. We get together at a local pub and the guys really liked just having that opportunity to get together and talk about the faith. Yeah. Yeah. And then again, now we are able to get together once again in the church hall, but it’s the same, you know, the social distancing and the mass, but that personal interaction.
Dominic: Yeah, no. And I mean, it’s, it’s important, I think for well, for men and women for different reasons, but there was an article I read, a couple of articles, I think it was on Art of Manliness. They were talking about the role of honor in men’s lives. And it just, I never considered before, but the idea that honor is something that, you know, we laterally earn from each other. It has to be given, it has to be received. It has to be kind of worked out within a community.
And I think we’ve been struggle when we don’t have a sense of honor. Now we’re not talking about honor in terms of personal pride, or honor in terms of I dunno, maybe like the samurai or medieval Knights, but this is the sense of, I get like my self esteem as a man, there’s a point where it sort of gets crowdsourced from other guys.
And then we sort of do that and, and we learn that and we see it modeled so that we can then internalize and then start to detach from needing it so much from other people. But if you never have it again, have a really hard time establishing a sense of self identity and where you fit in the community.
And so I think guys and girls do it differently, but it is either way. It’s absolutely critical for that. The Convivium, the communion together of people that, that,
Robert: that notion of brotherhood. And like you say getting that front from one another and growing into being. The men and the woman that God is calling us to be.
And I know in one of the conferences the mortal combat conference, when I spoke about how our Catholic faith helps strengthen our marriage. And I always talk about that notion of being complimentary, that, you know, men and women equal side by side, but to be complimentary to each other’s strengths or are there to help us with our weaknesses.
And I think it’s by being in fellowship with other men that we can come to discern how God is calling us to develop that. And that’s very important too, to have those fellowship outlets and finding those, like you say, recently, very difficult. So kudos to you for starting the online one and doing that online as well.
And you mentioned our friend Marek, you guys aren’t exactly next door.
Dominic: No, he’s all the way in Texas. I’m in South Carolina. So, but we meet, you know, several times a month over video chat, just privately. And then, you know, he’s got his group chats with the people and, and in a way being online, it does dissolve distance.
It, it does make connection a bit different. But different is, you know, well, it’s, it’s just different. You’re still dealing with other people. You can still, you know, iron sharpens iron, and, and you can argue and, you know, discuss, and you can still see how somebody else lives and expresses the life of Christ in them.
And I think that is critical is to have lots of exposure, to lots of different lived experiences. I remember reading this one line as a kid. And it was like, learn from the mistakes of others. You’ll never live long enough to make them all yourself.
Robert: True. True. I’m working on it though. I’m trying hard to make all the mistakes on my own forward, but that is the beauty of the technology that we are blessed with in our day and age, because has, when you think about it, you know, back over the past pandemics, especially everyone keeps referring to the
Spanish flu a hundred years ago.
It’s almost been, been a complete century or a little bit more than a hundred years. They didn’t have the same possibilities that we have. Yeah. And you’re talking about getting to share those lived experiences and the lived experience here in Southern Ontario, although similar to South Carolina, There’s also vastly different and even more different from Texas.
I can imagine. I mean, I only know Texas from what I’ve seen on television, so I’m sure it’s not as different as it’s portrayed, but having that, that access to those shared experiences, but also different experiences again, to help us constantly grow in our faith and, and develop to become the men that were we’re called to be.
And so I’m, we’re at the point now. Where I would say, this is where Dennis is in his element and he likes to unleash his inner Marcus Grodi. And he’ll say, we’re going to get out of the way and it’s time for Dominic to, to share his story and share your faith foundation and your journey in the bio, which I pinched off of your website.
You spoke about a conversion moment back in 2012, but also as I was reading that bio, you know, it’s the lonely traveler or the globe Trotter in New Zealand to Australia, to the United States, but through Fiji and France, and I’m sure a couple other places Canada ever been on that list,
Dominic: I haven’t made it there yet.
Robert: we’ll have to work on that. Absolutely. One things open up and it’s a little bit easier to travel. You’re here in the Toronto area, you know, you have at least two good friends that you can come crash on a sofa.
Dominic: And likewise, my friend, no, that would be, that would be great. No, I call myself an accidental world traveler because my dad was the one who was job hunting and and traveling around.
He was gosh, what was he doing? I was born in New Zealand and at that time he was primarily a linguist. He’s a bit of a polyglot, so he speaks like seven languages and stuff. And he then kept applying for and taking different
positions primarily within the Catholic world as a teacher. And he kept trying to set up his own ministry and doing radio shows and such, and, and it was for that reason that we ended up doing all kinds of travelling
kind of like a military, you know, you have, you’ve got military brats, we got like faith breaths, you know? So yeah, our family sort of followed him around. So I first time I ever went to school was in Fiji and they were all Hindu Indians and local, you know, Fijians, maybe some were Christian and, you know, we’re all in, in, in school together.
That was my first experience. My parents had homeschooled us before then. And then we mostly grew up in Australia and then spent a year in a, a boarding school in France and then. Right around then the visa situation fell through and it didn’t work and we’d sold everything in Australia to move to Europe and that didn’t work.
And so we decided let’s all just come back to America. My mom’s from America. And so we all
Robert: made it easier to come
Dominic: back then. Exactly. She had family here. And so, and then I ended up taking a stint right out of high school, going back to Australia, to Sydney to work with a Catholic ministry there.
And then over a Catholic match.com. I met my now wife, Maria, and then I flew back to, to meet her in Maryland United States. And it was a match made in heaven and it just clicked. And we got married almost instantly. Just started our lives together.
Robert: So it, so it is possible for God to bring the souls he wants together together, online.
Dominic: I mean, long distance relationships are tough. That was before people had stuff like Facebook. I mean, now it’s actually, the other problem is you can’t disconnect from people if you ever do want to. So it goes the other way.
Robert: Yeah. You’re a little too connected and you can’t hide sometimes. I
have an unwritten rule that when I leave the school, I also leave my school, email and messaging behind.
I don’t look at anything. Once I leave the building, there’s been the odd time. If I’m really absolutely needed, they have my phone number and they will call. And that’s happened maybe three times that that need to disconnect. And you say to that, you got married almost immediately. I remember. With my own wife we’d only gone on a couple of dates and it’s like, yeah, this is what God wants.
Yeah, this is right. We still waited two years to get married. My dad was like, yeah, no, this is, this is what we’re called. This is who we’re called to be with. We alluded to, and you mentioned in your bio this conversion moment in 2012. So why don’t you walk us through that and how that’s really set a foundation and set you on the path that you’re on today.
Dominic: Gotcha. Yes. Good, good, good question. Well, first I like to joke it was the Mayan calendar and 2012 was when everything was well supposed to fall apart. The amazing thing was that Our Lady’s birthday for Our lady of Guadalupe’s feast day was exactly on that same date and it was supposed to fall apart.
So I’d like to credit her with not only my conversion, which is absolutely sure, but from saving the whole world and saving it from falling apart. But I was, , what I do is graphic design, branding, marketing, that sort of thing. And at the time there was this distinct moment. I remember it was a late evening in Pennsylvania.
And I was sitting in the little office house that we were renting and it was dark and it was quiet and I’m playing my, I think I had a CD of Vivaldi or something at the time. And I was cutting out pictures of Christ our Lord to go on the cover of some DVD or some CD or something. And I remember this moment of just like silence that struck me when I looked into the eyes of the face.
Cutting out and then just realized, I don’t know who you are as in, I have no actual experience of you. You’re an actual real person, and I’m basically handling your, your, your icons as someone handles cards, you know, in a game. And I’m just moving things around and thinking of everything else. And there was no actual sense of reverence about, you know, what I was, you know, the work I was on.
Cause I didn’t, I did not have that. Just a sense of who he is, not just who he was. And his eyes really seem to be looking out at me from the computer screen. And no, it was not like, you know, St. Paul on the road to Damascus and so on. It was just a seed and it just went to. In me. And that’s how he’s our Lord has continued to work with me throughout my life is he’ll just keep dropping these seeds in and then they will sometimes take months, take years, but they’ll – thanks be to God -they’ll, they’ll take root and then they’ll just start breaking me apart from the inside and growing into, into something new. And 10 years later, I look back at my life and I don’t recognize who I am now versus to who I was then. And very, very grateful to be constantly, you know, growing. So that was that conversion moment to begin to realize I was stuck in a whole lot of head knowledge.
And that’s on the one hand, the temptation of, of apologetics. Apologetics without mysticism is a problem. And mysticism without apologetics is also be its own problem. But if you can marry the two, then, then you can have a healthy relationship to it all because mysticism is the individual undeniable lived experience of life in Christ and it’s everybody, every single person is called to that.
And if you don’t ever slow down and actually put a little bit of love and effort into a relationship with Christ, then you’re basically what I was. And there’s always the temptation to go back to just being a card-carrying Catholic. And you’re just, you’re just basically pushing things around in your life.
And it’s not actually ever moving down from the head down into your heart, because when things enter into your heart, then they become, then it becomes true belief because belief isn’t just something you think belief is something you live out and we ended up living out. A lot of things and we can, we can say one thing, but then we go and we act another.
So if someone is to ask you, what do you believe? And you can then say all these beautiful things, but then if you go and you live out all of this other stuff, then you’re actually demonstrating, this is what I actually believe. Here’s what I think I should be believing until those two sides are fully integrated, fully merged.
Then you’re not actually living what you believe. And I think there’s a lot of temptation to kind of keep basically your head and your heart separated, because it is very, very hard to be open to change. But that’s what we have the
sacrament. And do
Robert: And just kind of what you’re saying. And especially for those who are really involved in the world of apologetics or myself, teaching religion classes is that temptation to simply know about Jesus, but not necessarily know him.
And I really liked what you were saying there about, he was gazing at you from his picture, like his eyes locked with your eyes. And that’s really one way to get to know someone, not just know about them, but when we get to know them is making that eye contact and seeing into the depths of who they are and developing that relationship.
And so then those, those seeds that you’re saying are planted in moving from your head to the heart. That’s something I struggle with all the time.
Dominic: I mean, that’s ultimately, that will probably be the forever problem with SmartCatholics because just from the name is it’s going to attract a certain kind of person.
And, but the temptation that we all have to be regularly aware of is the, the difference between doing the right thing and doing the easy thing. And the easy thing is to always run away into your head. So that’s, that’s me on a stick right there.
Robert: Did you find, or what strategies did you find, or what ways did you use to move from between your ears and into your heart?
Dominic: That, that’s a good question. And that question,
Robert: that question wasn’t on the list. It’s just coming out of the conversation.
Dominic: Will, I think I’ll credit my wife for helping me do that because when I married her, I was a jackass and she loved the jackass, but purely the act of being married to her and you know, it, it starts with the kind of the honeymoon phase of, wow, we’re going to be married together.
It’s going to be wonderful. And then after two years you’re like, wow. I didn’t actually know what I was getting into. And that’s, that’s probably a good thing. I’m not sure what I’m doing here. And and so I’m scrapping around and I’m
flailing and I’m arguing with myself and you know, and getting mad… and then give it another two years.
Like, oh, now I’m being to get a sense. I’m beginning to get a sense of who I am being called to be. And then we have our little girl also, uh, Maria, we call her Peanut, she’s now eight years old.
Being being married to, to my wife, but even taking a step back, having to live for somebody else or two other people, and even taking a step back from that, having to learn how to love somebody else, unconditionally, that’s a path I’m going to be walking for the entire rest of my life because I keep getting my own way.
But that is the number one thing that has contributed the fastest, I think, to to, to my sense of growth. And I’ll admit I keep running away from it constantly because it isn’t easy. THe sacrament of marriage is the clearest expression of the inner life of the Trinity constant unconditional love, constant unconditional self gift.
And the average human being struggles with that. That is not how we evolved. That is not how we developed. That is not how our survival mechanisms are put together. So we are fighting a lot of instinct. To, to get married and to stay married and then to accept the growing pains that come from from being married and, and then having a child, and then recognizing my role in the cosmos now changes because I have a child.
And what ends up happening is learning to love somebody in conditioning, learning to raise a child, dredges up all of your inner wounds. If, if you’re in it for the right reasons, if you want to do it because you recognize my wife and my child, they are Christ to me forever. And now that I’ve made this commitment to them, I am not getting into heaven or able to start experiencing or living it now without a relationship with them without supporting them and understanding them and living for them.
Because if I run away from them, I’m running away from Christ. And that’s just, that’s not possible. There’s no happiness to be found in that.
Robert: And I think that’s just a beautiful imagery that you put out there that notion of marriage being an earthly, I don’t want to use the word symbol, but a an earthly manifestation of the Trinity and that learning to love unconditionally,
because that is who God is.
God is love, but God is that unconditional love that our human nature has such a difficult time grappling with. Yeah. And so, like you say, learning to love your wife, unconditionally learning to live your child unconditionally. Is a way of drawing ourselves closer to heaven. And I’ve always said, that’s our primary, primary vocation as husbands and fathers is to help our wives and our children get to heaven and vice versa.
Dominic: And so, yeah, and that’s actually what the pandemic has really. So here, going back to that point about belief, you know, head knowledge versus heart life, you know, belief versus thinking. I was trying to act out things that I was believing and it took the pandemic and kind of losing access to the, the habitual sacraments of confession and the blessed Eucharist, losing access to those to make me realize, what do I got now?
What am I, what am I left with? Oh, I have three other sacraments that I am in daily contact with that are. Outward signs of inward graces, where I don’t need a priest to be mediating them. I’m not sure if I’m using the right terminology here, but I have access to, to effect them daily. And that’s baptism and confirmation.
And, and in marriage, baptism, you’re set apart. Your life is not your own. You can’t do whatever you want. You can’t just be whoever you want to be. You have a point to your life. Now go figure it out. And every single day that, I mean, it’s going to be pricking your conscience and sort of inspiring and driving you not to want to set yourself apart from everybody in, in a sense of superiority, but setting yourself apart in a sense of servanthood.
Because when we live the best lives, that when we’re the best versions of ourselves, then we’re providing the greatest service to everybody else. And then that’s where confirmation comes in and bolsters that who are you as you reach out to, and react to, and respond to other people. How are your engagements with your community at large?
Confirmation helps prompt and inspire and guide that. You can’t just run away and back off, or you can’t overwhelm or be unthinking, how you live out your, your baptismal promises within the community is what confirmation inspires.
And then marriage is the you’re going to chain yourself to another person for the rest of your life.
And if she’s a good woman or a good husband, they won’t let you be less than you can be. And I will regularly try to run away to that. And I thank her for helping me, you know, hold me to a higher standard and then it works the other way as well. All three of these things are sacraments. Each of us. Well, if you’re married, then you’ve got maybe two or at the least one with baptism.
They do not let you stay as you are, because God loves you too much to leave you the way you are, even though he absolutely loves you. And that’s the whole point is sometimes we have to work out learning how to love others so that we can learn to get a sense of what it means to love ourselves or to be kind to ourselves.
And then we can begin to understand what it means to have God love us. And I think all three of those kind of have to be worked on granddad, being worked on at exactly the same time. You can’t just sort of go and figure out only one, all three, support each other. And that’s the golden rule. Love your neighbor as yourself as God loves you. But I think we forget a lot about that
Robert: because we’re so constantly in looking inward that we forget to look out.
Dominic: Yeah. And also we’re, we’re often not modeled the right kind of behavior. Our, our parents are flawed human beings, people in our community parish and so on, everybody’s working out their own inner journeys.
They’ve got their own troubles and pains and so on and not everybody’s living their hundred percent life in Christ. So we’re constantly looking at how other people are living their lives in Christ. And we either mimic it or, or we reject it, but a lot of the time we spend just mimicking, we copy a lot because that’s what we do as human beings.
We, we pay attention and if we’re not modeled the right kind of behavior from parents or siblings or people we trust to people in the parish, then we end up blindly modeling the poor behavior, the bad responses, whether we want it or not. And we end up sort of internalize it. That ends up leading to of course, a lot of pain and misery and slow movement in the life of Christ.
But that’s, if we’re running around blindly, if we’re taking that moment and that’s actually what, for example, this month is the prayer of the rosary. If you’re taking the prayer of the rosary as an inner pilgrimage, to become more aware of who should I reflect on a meditate on a ruminate on for the best live.
Well, we have Christ through the heart of Mary, through the eyes of Mary, through their, you know, their lived experience of expressing God to the world.
Robert: I wanted to ask you then, so you, you talk about your, your childhood and moving around within the Catholic faith communities, but from New Zealand to Australia, to France and Fiji, and eventually to the United States, and then your own personal conversion and the pilgrimage that know your wife and your daughter have, have helped bring you along, has brought you to a point.
And it was really, I want to say March, April, 2020 has that, that whole month and a half is a little bit hazy for everybody. Right? But you started the smart catholics at that time. And so how did all of this end up as the SmartCatholics community?
Dominic: There was a point about a year, maybe, maybe about a year beforehand.
My wife and I were standing in an airport. I think it was Reagan International out of DC. We were flying to Arizona to get her some medical treatment. She’s been grappling with Lyme’s disease for about eight years now. So we were heading out there and up on the wall above the check-in line was this great big screen.
And it was playing some silent advertisements. It showed this amazing montage of the latest scientific developments and cell research and gene therapy and spinning helixes and, and, you know, it all looks so very, very cool and it made science look extremely amazing. And I remember looking at that thinking, “gosh, I mean, well, that kind of reminds me of what Bishop Barron is doing and word and fire.
“Why don’t we have some kind of glossy Institute for philosophy, you know, the, the love of wisdom, the love of discovering the secrets of God, that kind of thing. Why don’t we look like that? You just don’t ever see any of that at all.
Robert: That’s because Catholics have traditionally done their media in the
church basement with their grandmothers camcorder. Catholic media up until the last five, maybe 10 years up until Bishop Barron and the Word on Fire has been cheesy.
Dominic: I think that on the one hand we can have the discussion about being late to the table and so on, but I think there’s another sort of discussion in the sense of the, the pressure on humans.
History within this past century has been absolutely catastrophic in terms of the two world wars and then the impact of the cold war. And I don’t know if any of your listeners or yourself have heard of Dan Carlin and his series called Hardcore Histories, but , he’s, he’s been working on a series of the second world war more recently, extremely detailed.
And he goes into everything. Very difficult sometimes to listen to, but he makes the one point that with the advent of nuclear weapons, modern man has kind of felt like he’s been walking around this whole time with a gun taped to his head that could go off at any point. And the stress that that creates within the human person? Well, it’s unbelievable. And we can understand why.
People regularly panicked about what was going to happen in the future over and over again for 60 years, you know? And so that has spurred and prompted scientific development, you know, with the desperation of a dying person. So I can understand why we’re late to the table because we’ve been desperately focused maybe on how do we preserve where we are.
And then of course, the Holy Mother Church and Vatican II, is just, you know, trying to catch up and read the signs of the times and then reprogram us to better fit how quickly everything is changing and so on. So I think we’re now at a phenomenal point in history to adopt and then, and celebrate and, and take from what all of this technology is doing.
I remember seeing Bishop Barron’s trailer for his Catholicism series. And as soon as I saw it, I remember thinking, this is exactly why we’ve developed technology or why the Holy Spirit has prompted it.
I think Jordan Peterson describes modern science as not only the outgrowth of Catholicism or Christianity. He actually calls it the new form of Christianity. It sort of grew from sort of one version and to another, and we dropped some things and we added a whole bunch of new other things, but that sense of you
know, just exploring and discovering all of the wonders of the universe and then finding out what can be done with it.
Now it’s, it’s become unmoored from all kinds of things, but there’s a lot of phenomenal, good. Now for the first time ever, we can reach people. At scale, as they say, one video can reach a million people. St. Paul could never have done that. He didn’t have a megaphone. I mean, well, amphitheaters.
So that was kind of like rattling in my brain after seeing that trailer and you’re sitting on the plane and then right as the pandemic hit, a couple of friends approached me and said, Hey, everybody wants to do online conferences now, you know, speakers are out of work. What can we do? And I thought, well, we need something to help us get smarter.
We need smart Catholics. It’s a smart age, smartphones, smart devices, smart homes. What does a smart Catholic look like? I have no idea. But if St. Francis lived in the space age or saying Hildegard of Bingen, if they lived in the space age, what would, how would they live? I don’t know. So let’s, let’s start figuring this out.
And so we ended up, as you’ve mentioned, running a couple of conferences, renewed hope, and then several others. And then very quickly, it just became clear to me. We need a community for all the people coming together with these conferences. So we launched the community made it very quickly free for everybody to come in and join.
And, and it just continued to grow in the last, well, it’s been one year now, our first anniversary. So we’ve now become the fastest growing community to support our holy father and, and you know, his guidance for where the church needs to be going and addressing the situation of the modern world.
And I think that’s the core thing is how do we create a culture of kindness around a culture of learning. That’s wrestling with how to live as modern Catholics, not running away from the modern world and everything that’s awful about it, but actually engaging with it because we can love what’s underneath it.
What’s actually happening around it. I think Bishop Barron says you can’t love a dead thing. So if we think the modern world is dead, well, we’re never going to do anything with it, but that’s one of the reasons why I love Sodom and
Gomorrah as a metaphor, you know, God was saying, I will save this city if there were 10 good people in it.
And one commentator pointed out, well, if you do the math, that means two angels, Lot, his wife. His two girls, their husbands – seven, eight.. Maybe there’s somebody else in there. That leaves two people. So for lack of two good people, Sodom didn’t make the cut. So that’s now become my creed. Instead of decrying Sodom, how hard are we trying to be the 10 that keeps the wrath averted, that is actually being the fertile soil that allows the seeds to grow so that we can impact.
Cause every person can impact a hundred people. And that impact impacts, you know, other people, every life lived is living in communion.
Robert: So often we don’t know, realize or understand the impact that we are having. We like you say a search to be one of those 10 good people. That are a living witness. And again, you’ve alluded to it time and again, this evening that, you know, people will watch us before they will listen to us. They want this, they want to see our faith to decide whether they want to listen to our faith.
I don’t know how often it has rippled back to me. Someone has said, you know, because you do this or because you do that, this is how I’ve changed my life. It’s painful. And something as simple as a family, when we go out to the restaurant, we’ll say grace before meals and having people come up afterwards, there was one that was just my son.
And we were at the Lone Star. I don’t know if you have Lone Star, it’s supposed to be Texas TexMex food, but yeah, as only Canada can do TexMex food, I guess. It was just my son and I, and he was maybe eight or nine years old at the time. And so what we said, grace before meals, and then we’d had our tacos and he had his orange pop and I had my beer and towards the end of the meal and this lady came over and she was on her way out of the restaurant.
She sat and she just said, you know, we were so impressed to see you and your son pray like that. And hopefully then it’s given her the courage to do the same. And so the, the whole smart Catholics community is like, you’re saying, trying to bring those people together.
Dominic: You know, I really think that our culture is fast reaching a point as it relates to Christianity, where when you see a couple of Buddhist monks, for
example, having a meal somewhere, I’m not exactly sure where they would eat. I’m not that familiar with Buddhism, but let’s say you were to see them. And I don’t know if they were to do some kind of prayer, you know, you would look at them in their, their beautiful robes and maybe their shaved heads and their sense of centeredness and whatever.
And you look at that and you think, wow, that I don’t have that. Let me watch that for a little while. That fascinates me and maybe you’ll strike up conversation to find out what is the reason for your joy. I think that Catholics and Christians are reaching that. We’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past, in terms of maybe our culture and how we live that out.
But if we start becoming more intentional about it again, and we start being more aware of how we live again, that, that culture of kindness, I mean, this is the reason why the early Christians just exploded in the ancient world because nobody understood, had ever experienced the idea of a culture built around kindness.
The Roman culture was built around this, this autocracy. Very severe patriarchy because they had an incredibly difficult mission to keep the world running and under control. And that impacted their families and that impacted how they treated their slaves and their servants and, and other people and other cultures and so on.
And then Christianity shows up. And exemplifies this other way of human living and it just takes off and they can’t stop it. And because it’s so beautiful and because it’s so fully human… well, we’ve kind of lost that for a variety of reasons. And that’s a very big discussion, but I think we’ve lost that.
And I can’t remember who it was, but somebody made the point that right now we’re at this funny point in history where the west is looking with all at the mysteries of the east and we’re running over there because we see that as, as real and rooted and, you know, a greater expression of, our human existence.
And then funnily enough, there all the east is fascinated by the freedom and the individualism and the materialism and the comfort of the west. And so they’re abandoning one thing and running towards us.
Catholics in a way are called to model today: how are we faithful in peace time? Because for most of us in the first world, we’re not living in warfare. There are
some terrible, terrible wartime places in the world right now, where people are going through utterly horrific human rights situations. But in the, first world west, we’re not in during any of that.
So we have to learn how to model being faithful without the threat of death, because as we continue to inspire and impact and, and, and spread that,we want to reach a point where every human being is able to have all of their basic needs met and not be under threat for their life or their livelihood or their belief. We want to bring everybody to enjoy a better quality of life so that we can communicate with them.
But if we can’t figure that out, and if we can’t model that for our kids, our kids aren’t going to be able to pass that on. And then, I mean, they’re not just the future. They are the present right now. So I see that as the paramount charism of the west, and then our mission as modern Catholics, how do we live it out?
How are we the face and the hands and the expression and the words and the voice of Christ to the world. Because if they’re not getting it from us, who are they going to get it from? You know, who’s going to be able to lead them to kind of the, the fast track to living the abundant life. Now we’ll find plenty of other people in other religions who are living beautiful in integrated, you know, good lives.
There’s going to be other issues that they are not going to be able to resolve. We’ve been gifted the sacraments, but it’s in earthen vessels and we are cracked and we are spilling stuff everywhere. But that just speaks to the profligacy of God’s goodness to just keep giving and giving and giving.
Robert: And thanks be to God, there’s folks like yourself and everyone else over at smart Catholics that are providing these avenues to bring people together, but also to get the word out and to make the word available and to make our dynamic faith available so that even if we do lose our. And a lot of us do lose our way.
I always say from, you know, myself, you know, as a teenager, the wheels fell off and I wasn’t able to get them back on the vehicle again until I was in my mid twenties and met my wife and was able to started living faithfully again and there wasn’t, at that time places like smart Catholics to go to, to feed my faith and kind of again, roaming around in the dark.
And I’ve watched smart Catholics having been there from the beginning. And I can’t tell you the number of times I heard the joke or the number of times I was. What are you doing at Smart Catholics? Don’t you realize the name of it? Thanks. That was usually my son, right? Like that’s “Dad, it’s called smart Catholics. What are you doing?”
And have been able to watch it evolve from that first conference, be refined, kind of, I think kind of baptism by fire, as you said, everybody was doing these online conferences back in April, may of 2020 and really not knowing what direction we were all going in.
And we were just kind of flying by the seat of our pants and watching it evolve through those conferences now into the online courses. And most recently I’ve been seeing the mastermind videos. Maybe if you want to share a little bit about where smart Catholics is that.
Dominic: Yeah. So what we are now is we are a membership community for Catholic creators.
People like yourself to collaborate together, to build the kingdom, because a lot of, of wonderful Catholic speakers were kind of off on their own different websites, doing their own different things. And it’s very difficult to grow your ministry that way. But when we can come together and collaborate, we can serve the Catholic community.
And we can be far faster, far more efficient. For Catholics at large, everywhere in the world, we have Catholics from, we have Catholics from Africa, a huge number from, well, the, the United States and England and the Philippines and so on. And we, we come together like, you know, some people checking daily and some are weekly, maybe a couple of times a month because we’re constantly working with this, this core idea, a culture, which is a lived experience of kindness.
So it’s not about the, the, the division, the toxicity and the, the, the entrenchment along our, our ideologies and so on, but recognizing there’s a human face and a human heart to be engaging with. So culture of kindness, and then learning, because we always have to be open at least to learning, and then always trying to find some way to grow so that we’re not, self-referential, it’s something the Holy Father is constantly, you know calling us to be aware of always be open, open to the Holy Spirit, open to learning, open to what the
average person on the street could have to teach you.
Because if you have the sense that somebody has nothing to teach you, then you’ve lost and you’re already starting off on the wrong foot with that person. But we should always assume that the person that we’re talking to, whoever they might be, or the thing that we’re reading or learning about has something that we can learn.
That will deepen who we are and how we interact with other people. Then we have a much better chance of surviving this world and of seeing what Christ is doing in somebody else’s life. So that’s, that’s the idea for the community. And obviously if people can come in and see there’s this we call it joy scrolling.
Instead of doom scrolling, you, you, you pick the groups that you want to join and, and, you know, people have left these wonderful comments and reviews that they love to come here because it, it bolsters their faith. It makes them feel happy, again, as opposed to so many other networks where it seems to favor and prioritize bad attitudes and, and, you know, depressing posts.
So people can come at least joy scroll with us, which is just a beautiful thing. Then if they want to start going a little more deeply than that, there are particular groups they can join to spend more time with Catholic creators and hosts. And that’s what the Mastermind interview series is all about: introducing the Catholic communities to people like yourself for bear and others who have ministries.
So we’re creating an interview series to meet people who support Smart Catholics, who are on the same wavelength, and find out what they’re doing so that people can again continue learning. And then that’s where we realized our future is for or at least is making a whole lot of sense right now.
And so we’re building it out and it’s really working well. Online courses, we’re trying to build the home for free online Catholic courses for the world, if we can swing it, but we’ll see how far we can get. We have started out, we’ve got like what, four to six kind of free courses right now that anybody can start and they get they’re all online.
They’re they’re beautiful. They’re they’re on-demand and we have plenty more coming down the pipeline. So again, it’s creating that, that space for attention for learning and that space for kindness so that you can trust that you’re with
the right kind of people. So
Robert: What are a couple, well, the examples of the courses that you have on offer right now, just to let people have an idea of what to expect when they get there?
Dominic: We have a variety and we’re going to continue to have a variety. So let’s see. We have a course on Teri Modica on the Mysteries of the Rosary especially because this is the month of October. We have a course on Freedom, for inner growth in the spirit and moving away from shame and perfectionism and fear. We have a course on how to be a Catholic author. It’s like helping Catholic authors write fiction. Also Servant leadership, how to be the kind of leader that people want to follow.
There’s a course on evangelization taken out of the homilies from Pope Francis that he’s given over the years, put together into one little course. There’s a variety of things and that’s kind of the, it’s going to be the fun part of it. The beauty of it being the home for Catholic courses, free Catholic courses all kinds of different things are going to be added each month.
Robert: So there’s a little bit of something for everybody. Well, exactly. Which is amazing. Where can people go to find this? Obviously they’re smart Catholics. I was gonna say smart catholics.com.
Dominic: Yep. They can visit that. You’ll, you’ll see the red buttons that say join, enter the free community. And then up along the top, you’ll see some other buttons that like, for example, free courses they can learn more about us if they want to, they can send us a gift to support the idea, support the mission. Most importantly, just come on and join.
Robert: Yeah. And you were talking about joy scrolling, usually when I’m swinging by smart Catholics to, to Joyce role. It’s through the app. So the, I think it’s the mighty networks app.
Dominic: The Mighty Networks platform. Yeah. So you’ll download the app where you can browse it, and also on your desktop browser, just log in.
Robert: Just so people know that they’re not necessarily tied to their desktop or their laptop, but kind of just any smart device, you can find smart Catholics.
Right. And I know it’s been a blessing in my life. And again, you talk about that joy scrolling on other social media platforms. I hate to say it, but sometimes Catholics can be nasty with one another and sad, isn’t it. Right. And like you said, that’s. What we’re about. That’s not what the faith is about.
That’s not living out the faith the way it’s intended to be lived out. So again, the smart Catholics community is just such a blessing to go and discover the faith. And it’s a safe place to also express your faith as well. So it’s absolutely beautiful. I want to thank you Dominic for taking the time this evening.
Cause you said you have another conference that’s on tomorrow. I mean, by the time I get this put together note there, the conference you have tomorrow will be three or four days ago. So what’s the other apostle that you’re, you’re working on because again, very busy gentlemen. Oh yeah, yeah,
Dominic: no, it’s the I support Paola Ciskanik with the Catholic homeschool.
So right around the same time that SmartCatholics launched she was working on this, this vision to re-imagine the future of Catholic homeschooling because 20 years ago, we didn’t have things like YouTube and the internet and all of these blogs and the pandemic has forced a lot of families to reevaluate how to create the right kind of freedom and the right kind of community and connectivity for their families.
And so she’s continued to run multiple conferences each year and she’s now got her own community. And so I work with her behind the scenes to, to make that.
Robert: You’re making me tired, just listening to everything that you have on the go I’m feeling like a bit of a schlep. I have my, my one job and then a little apostle it on the side.
You’re working 26 hours a day. It seems
Dominic: Well, we try,
Robert: I’m taking a look. My, my glasses just about empty. I don’t know how your dandelion coffee is going. Probably a nice coffee by now. So again, thank you so very much for joining us here on the pipes and pews podcast. It was a pleasure catching up again with you.
Dominic: Likewise, my friend, thanks for having me.
Robert: It’s been way too long. The time seems to have flown by both the pint and the coffee and the conversation have been been wonderful. The conversation definitely much nicer than the pint, but the Brock street lager, Amber L Y. Quite nice and, and what was needed after a long day.
But the greatest pleasure is always is talking about our Catholic faith. And so just before we wrap up here this evening I want to ask everyone to our listeners, if they could do a quick favor and take a moment and a couple of clicks to follow the pints and pews podcast on your favorite platform and give us a review so that you know, other like-minded Catholics can find us a little bit more easily, right?
Take the time also to in the show notes, we’ll have a smart catholics.com and swing by there and check out the community that Dominic has so lovingly created and nurtured over this time. Hopefully we’ll be able to chat again soon, Dominic and I know hopefully Dennis will be able to be back here as well within the next couple of episodes.
And until we meet again on the podcast airwaves, I want to remind our listeners of the wise words of GK Chesterton. We should thank God for beer and burgundy by not drinking too much of them. So again, enjoy your beverage as God intended. God bless. .