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An Arkansas Catholic school celebrated Catholic Schools Week in style with a special guest who helped spur the faith of students with a demonstration of skateboarding. While the means of the message may sound unusual, so too was the fact that the skater was a Franciscan Friar of the Immaculate.
Brother Gabriel Cortez travels the country with skateboard in tow, mesmerizing watchers with intricate tricks, skating on whatever surfaces are available. However, the skateboard is just a vehicle, both literal and symbolic, for the message of Christ. Once he has onlookers’ attention he can begin evangelizing them with skating themed metaphors.
Brother Cortez told local outlet Fox 16:
“[It’s] making use of all the analogies that go along with skateboarding of falling down and getting back up,” Br. Gabriel explained, sometimes even using the students themselves in his demonstrations – lining kids up and jumping over them after a quick bible verse as a sort of “leap of faith.”
At St. Theresa’s Catholic School, the video footage shows the friar pumping up the crowd, doing kickflips as he nonchalantly rolls around the school gymnasium, pausing only briefly to ask the kids faith questions.
“We go where we’re sent,” Br. Gabriel explained. “And we bring the gospel to whatever land we find ourselves in.”
At one point he has a volunteer from the crowd and one of the school’s Catholic priests lay down so that he can perform a “leap of faith,” jumping the pair on his skateboard with ease. Brother Gabriel says that this trust building exercise is meant to teach about trusting one’s faith.
St. Theresa’s principal, Kristy Dunn, noted that the demonstration was an excellent way to engage the students as they celebrated Catholic Schools Week. She said that “teaching is based on relationship and learning is based on engagement;” two areas in which Brother Gabriel’s ministry thrives.
Brother Gabriel admitted that his methods are unique, but he noted that the students tend to pay more attention because of the novelty of the event. He said “it’s an avenue that not many people have,” but he can tell the kids appreciate it from their responses.
This unusual and engaging ministry has been run by Brother Gabriel for nearly 20 years. Every bit of this friar’s performances is geared to keeping the focus on the Lord. Not only does he achieve this with flashy tricks and faithful witness, but even his skateboard features magnificent Catholic art, thanks to a partnership between Brother Gabriel and Motherboards. Read more about this phenomenal line of Catholic skateboards at Aleteia.