These twin friars are taking it to the streets - and your TV - to save souls

By Mary Rezac

New York City, N.Y., May 19, 2015 / 04:01 am (CNA/EWTN News) - It’s a good thing Brother Angelus wears glasses, otherwise it would be really hard to tell him apart from Brother Innocent.

It’s tricky enough as it is, given that they’re brother-Brothers: siblings and consecrated Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (or CFRs). They’re also twins – or rather, two-thirds of a triplet. Their triplet sister Katie is (no, not a nun) back home in Nebraska with her husband and family.

Besides their looks and matching grey habits, Brothers Angelus and Innocent share an infectious zeal and joy for the Gospel that they’re taking to the streets – and to TV – come fall 2015 with a new documentary-style show called “Icons”.

“The traditional concept of icons, especially in the theology of the East, is that icons are really a sacramental, there’s a real presence of Christ there,” Brother Angelus told CNA. “So the fact is that young people are icons in the world. They reveal Christ in their relationships, in their work, in their vocations, in their family, whatever they do.”

For their show, the Brothers are seeking out young people who are icons in the real world – those who are living and working for the Lord and inspiring others to do so as well. And rather than inviting them into the same studio for a talk show every week, the Brothers are hitting the road to film them in action.

“It was kind of inspired by CNN heroes, where they honor heroes throughout the year and do documentaries on them,” Brother Angelus said, “so we were like yeah, that is exactly the kind of model we want, we want to go out and tell people’s stories.”

The first season of “Icons” will have 13 episodes, and the Brothers are hoping that young people will send in their nominations through the website for people who are icons in their life who should be featured on the show.

"We want people from every walk of life who have met the Lord who have really become a disciple of him, and now they go out in the world and reveal him to all those they meet,” Brother Angelus said. "Those are the kinds of people that the world needs right now, because people are hungry for the Lord."

ICONS: Why Real People. Real Presence? from On My Mind Productions on Vimeo.

Even though the Brothers spend much of their days studying to be priests and serving in their apostolates in New York, they are no strangers to television. Starting a few years ago, they helped host EWTN’s Sunday Night Prime after Father Benedict Groeschel, the late founder of the CFR brothers, retired from the position. They loved being able to share people’s inspiring stories of faith, but they wanted and were encouraged to develop a show that would reach a younger audience.

“Catholic media is really irrelevant right now to a lot of young people,” Brother Angelus said. “That’s a dramatic statement, but it’s true. So we wanted to wrestle with that question and wrestle with that reality that Catholic media is irrelevant to a lot of young people today.”

Brother Angelus said they realized that in order to make a compelling show, they had to tell real stories about real people, and they had to make it as high-quality as possible.

“If it’s not high quality young people aren’t going to be interested,” he said. “They’re used to secular media, they’re used to secular TV shows, they’re used to the internet. So we want to tell people’s stories, but we also wanted it to be the highest quality we could so that people couldn’t write the show off.”

Keeping that in mind, the brothers teamed up with media professionals in the Catholic world and started fundraising. The show is owned and being produced by the Live Greater Foundation, a non-profit that was the fruit of many years of the Live Greater movement established by the Brothers even before they were both in the friary.

“There was always this movement to really take our faith and live passionately, like in John 10:10, ‘I came that you might have life and have it abundantly,’” said Brother Innocent. “And that’s the whole concept behind the Live Greater Foundation, as it’s grown to be.”

The Live Greater Foundation is also a family business: the Brothers’ parents, sister Katie and brother Bob are all a part of the foundation’s work, which has three main outreaches: media, charity, and family life.

Working with family, and especially as brother-Brothers, has been one of the greatest blessings of this endeavor so far, Brother Innocent added.

ICONS: So, who are the brothers? from On My Mind Productions on Vimeo.

“It’s just such a gift to do this together, we’ve been best friends our whole life, and then having this opportunity to do this together as brothers, that’s definitely a unique gift and I find myself grateful just to do that with him,” he said.

With their new show, the Brothers feel they are answering their call as Franciscans and the call of Pope Francis to reach out to the peripheries and to spread the Gospel.

“We were really inspired by Fr. Benedict, our founder and hero,” Brother Innocent said. “He was a father to the poor but also he had this kind of amazing gift to use evangelization and media.”

“The world sees the bad news of the Catholic Church, the scandals, and young people are really formed by that,” said Brother Angelus. “We want to tell the good news of young people who are living the faith, and then also, we want to create a community around ‘Icons’ so young people know that they belong to something, because there are other people who are living for the Lord, I’m not alone in this.”

Part of that relatability and community is going to come from telling real stories which show that the Church is not a “place for the perfect” but for those who fall but get back up, Brother Angelus explained.  

They are also hoping to dispel the myth that having a relationship with Christ means begrudgingly following a list of cumbersome rules, he added.

“Sometimes young people say if they live for the Lord then they’re going to have to follow all these rules and life’s going to be miserable,” he said. “But people who live for the Lord, especially young people, are some of the most joyful people we know, so they’ll see that being Christian and being joyful and authentic and real is possible.”

The “Icons” show is hoping to air its first episode on EWTN in autumn, 2015. To learn more about the show, to nominate an icon, or to pledge support, visit their website at: http://iconstv.org/