The Olympic Games inspired Fr. John Paul Zeller to return to skateboarding after more than 25 years.
A skateboarding priest—and his skateboard with Eucharistic symbols printed on it, such as a chalice and the Lamb of God—has drawn attention on social media as the sport enjoys renewed popularity, thanks to its inclusion in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
In fact, it was the Olympic Games that inspired Fr. John Paul Zeller, 45, to return to skateboarding after more than 25 years.
The Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word have posted on their YouTube channel a video in which Fr. John talks about why he’s doing this:
As a child, I skateboarded. Five years! Five years of my life were spent skateboarding, from seventh grade the whole way to really the end of high school. And I spent three, four hours a day or more skateboarding. Lots of time skateboarding!
He says the Friars watched a lot of the Olympics, and that the inclusion of professional skateboarding was particularly eye-catching—and inspiring.
I’ve just been inspired. I wanted to start skateboarding again … I’m too old; you know, I’m 45 now, not in the shape that I was, but you know, I don’t have to be like I was when I was a kid. I can still skateboard and have fun …
Fr. Zeller turned to Motherboards, a company that specializes in skateboards with a Catholic design, and ended up getting one as a gift. The video includes the unboxing of the skateboard, which came with several decals and holy cards, a tee-shirt, and other goodies.
The design of the skateboard is noteworthy on its own.
The skateboarding priest and his skateboard with “holy graphics”
When he was a teenager, his skateboards had a different kind of look:
“When I skateboarded, my boards had snakes, skulls … Demonic stuff. Not good. My mom hated it. Hated, with a capital H!
But the new skateboard, with the image of the Lamb of God and of the Eucharist—a consecrated Host floating over a chalice—would certainly make her proud, he says, looking at his new board with a smile.
And it is precisely the “Catholic look” of the skateboard that turns Fr. John Paul’s natural ability into an unusual means of apostolate and evangelization.
People’s curiosity about a skateboarding friar and the meaning of those graphics creates opportunities to talk to them about Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and about the perfect harmony between a life dedicated to God and a healthy enjoyment of life, which is a gift from Him.
The friar told ACI Prensa news agency (in Spanish), “Skateboarding can also be used to show young people that the Gospel can be lived in sports, in rest, in leisure.”
Fr. John Paul has been part of the Missionaries of the Eternal Word since 2013, and one of his apostolates is evangelization through the media. He works at EWTN, the largest Catholic television network in the world, founded by the pioneering Mother Angelica.