Father Ryan Mann on University and Faith 

Image Courtesy of Campus Ministry

By Trinity Ruiz

On Thursday, September 15th, resident ministers hosted Father Ryan Mann for their first “CUA on Tap” event of the school year. Fr. Mann came to speak about the importance of keeping one’s faith in the midst of tumultuous university life. Currently serving for the Diocese of Cleveland, Fr. Mann was born in Chicago and, before seminary, was a professional jazz musician and comedian. He lived in DC for a year near the Franciscan Monastery. 

Fr. Mann expressed his gratitude for being able to see the faces of CUA students as opposed to less than a year ago when everyone was masked due to the pandemic. He acknowledged the loss that everyone faced in the midst of it and as a result, points out some of us have become the “playing it cool” type of people. Fr. Mann says “to want, to care, to desire is really hard,” so we resort to this. He says that this derives from a fear of loss and describes how this “level of fear is very powerful; when it gets to that level, it becomes destructive.” 

Fr. Mann goes on to explain the three kinds of human life according to the Ancient Greeks: Bios (referring to the body), Psuche (referring to the soul-life), and Zoe (referring to the spiritual life). People weren’t doing well during isolation and because of this we were “longing for a kind of life we couldn’t experience.” Fr. Mann stated that there is “more to a person than biological health” since, during the pandemic, there was a “hyperfocus” on the bios; so much so that we lost the meaning of the human experience. 

He connotes spiritual life with the “deepest desires of the heart” and acknowledges that it is okay to let ourselves desire these things without the fear of loss because “the life we can’t describe that we know we’re looking for, the life we desire in our hearts makes us human.” These desires of the heart, he says, are not faultless, but absolutely necessary. Fr. Mann quotes St. Augustine by saying that all we want as humans is “to be seen, known, and loved.” Fr. Mann encourages students to seek life to the full, though this act makes one vulnerable to hurt. 

Fr. Mann then spoke about his friend who is Puerto Rican and a priest serving at the John Paul II Shrine and how this priest was friends with John Paul II. He said his friend emulated certain freedom in his candor and confidence in himself that he admired. He was free; he knew what he wanted and knew that he wouldn’t be shamed for his openness in his faith.

 During college life, Fr. Mann spoke about how there are people who peer pressure friends into settings they may not feel comfortable with, and there are people who stay home and condemn those who enjoy certain settings. He encourages students to “step out of the categories of liberal and conservative and be saints instead. ”He encourages students to refrain from soliciting judgment upon each other as everyone is on their own faith journey because “what He doesn’t do is shame us.”

During the question-and-answer portion of the event, Fr. Mann had the opportunity to answer questions posed by the audience such as: Who is God to you? Fr. Mann replied, “He is the kindness that disarms my heart.” From pursuing a degree in jazz, to live swing dancing, improv comedy, and acting, Fr. Mann wanted “to give people a place where their hearts could rest;” he feels that he has been given the gift to do so. 

Sophomore resident minister Dylan Brett said what stood out to him most from Fr. Mann were the words “‘you were born for this.’ That was his big overarching theme about being prepared for life and college in general.” While looking at the crowd, Fr. Mann told students that they are meant to be there, sitting where they were. He quotes Pope Benedict XVI in saying one is “not a coincidence, each one is a result of an intentional thought and choice by God.”

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