‘Papal Ninja’ Sean Bryan Brings Faith, Not Flips, to YouTube

‘Papal Ninja’ Sean Bryan Brings Faith, Not Flips, to YouTube December 29, 2020

Priest and the Papal Ninja looking at a sunrise
Courtesy: Sean Bryan

The title of this post is not entirely accurate. On his new YouTube Channel, aSecularAge, Sean Bryan, the Papal Ninja of NBC’s American Ninja Warrior, does do a flip into Lake Tahoe. But that’s not the point of the video or the channel.

When he’s not challenging obstacle courses on ANW, in his signature white, yellow and black Papal Ninja gear, Bryan works for the Lay Mission Project, a collaborative endeavor of the Western Dominican Province and the Diocese of Sacramento.

As its website says, the Project’s goal is “to animate the lay apostolate in the Church by preparing laypeople for the sake of their fundamental calling: to transform persons and society through living the faith in all aspects of life – in the family, socially, in one’s occupation, etc.”

Bryan is the Operations Director and a member of the curriculum team.

“We’ve been having pretty amazing conversations at our meals. Then, also, whenver we go out to drive anywhere, we’d have really great conversations. I decided other people needed to see what these conversations are like and figured YouTube would be the best way that could happen.” — Sean Bryan

Like most of us, Bryan’s life is different during the pandemic. To continue his work for the Lay Mission Project, he needed to regularly interact with Father Michael Sweeney, OP, the executive director of the curriculum team. So, Father Sweeney moved into Bryan’s Bay Area Airbnb.

“He got permission from the prior,” says Bryan, “and from the provincial to live outside the community during the lockdown, so that he could continue to work with me and do videos and visit other places around the country that we’re trying to expand to.”

The arrangement also led to new possiblities — and the creation of the YouTube channel.

“I’ve had a lot more access to him,” says Bryan. “We’ve been having pretty amazing conversations at our meals. Then, also, whenever we go out to drive anywhere, we’d have really great conversations. I decided other people needed to see what these conversations are like and figured YouTube would be the best way that could happen.”

Having done submission videos for American Ninja Warrior, managed his own @papalninja Instagram and helped other people with video projects, Bryan figured it was time for a YouTube channel.

But why not a more Ninja-focused one?

Bryan says, “There’s already a lot of other channels of Ninja stuff out there. From the beginning, I’ve always wanted to do something more evangelical, but I couldn’t really figure out the exact target. I’m still trying to work through, but I figured it’s better to start in and find it, rather than to not start at all.”

“We’re not trying to beat people over the head with the Gospel, but we’re trying to show that it has a relevance to everyday life.” — Sean Bryan

So, Bryan thought about his long conversations with Father Sweeney and how those might help other people understand the Gospel and work through issues. He enlisted the help of his other housemate, fellow Ninja Adam Rayl, and began. Here’s the first episode, which includes a COVID-safe visit to famed Napa Valley winery Chateau Montelena.

“Father Michael was at the winery,” explains Bryan, “because of reading the signs of the times.”

In a talk with winemaker Matt Crafton, Bryan and Father Sweeney discover how having to interpret events and signals in the winemaking process and wine business is analogous to learning how to read the signs we see around us every day, so we can figure out the best way to move forward.

Explains Bryan, “We’re not trying to beat people over the head with the Gospel, but we’re trying to show that it has a relevance to everyday life. … Instead of starting from the Gospel and working backward, we’re going to start from a place of interest and work the Gospel into that. It would be a little more natural that way.”

Bryan already had a full schedule, with his job,  his gym and Ninja training/competitions, and he’s working to carve out the time for aSecularAge.  The channel launched about a month ago, and now has four videos up.

“I want to squeeze out as many as I can,” Bryan says, “because I know the need, and the topics come up all the time in my regular conversations. … It’s just a matter of finding the time to do it and the resources to pump out more.”

And if people have requests for topics, can they send them along?

Bryan says, “Of course.”

To find aSecularAge on YouTube, click HERE.

Image: Courtesy Sean Bryan

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About Kate O'Hare
Based in Los Angeles, Kate O'Hare is a veteran entertainment journalist, Social Media Manager for Family Theater Productions and a rookie screenwriter. You can read more about the author here.

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