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Most popular priest on social media reacts to viral TikToks about God, interpretations of the Bible

Duluth's director of youth adult ministries and social media sensation, Father Mike Schmitz, spoke to Fox News Digital about the power of social media as Lent kicks off.

Though he all but gave up social media for Lent – or, at least, made a valiant effort to limit his usage by deleting the app on his phone – social media sensation Father Mike Schmitz wants people to know he sees tremendous value in it.

"How incredible is it that we live in an age where we have this this tool… in that sense of just being able to say, ‘oh my gosh, I can help people that never would meet me [in person]," the Catholic priest and Ascension Press’ ‘Bible in a Year’ podcast host, who got his start in the digital space back in 2007 recording homilies, told Fox News Digital.

"That's a big piece of the impetus behind this. There's something to be said, and there's good news to be shared," he added, Thursday, following the beginning of this Lenten season.

The priest, who serves as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries in the Diocese of Duluth, Minnesota, went on to tell the story of a young woman who, as a high-schooler in the height of the pandemic, rediscovered the Bible.

No, not in church; on TikTok of all places.

"What came across her TikTok's For You Page was scripture, and people praying, and she just… started praying and started reading the Bible, because it came up on her TikTok. And [her faith] just got strengthened and deepened," he explained. "She was raised Catholic and kind of sort of prayed, kind of sort of did the thing, sure… But it was when TikTok started saying, 'okay, you can pray like this, you can read the Bible like this, here's a message for you from the Lord in this TikTok…it gave her this strength, and it gave her this faith that she never had in the midst of COVID."

"I started praying, because TikTok told me to," was the young woman's message to Father Mike Schmitz. 

WHAT'S THE WEIRDEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED THAT MADE YOU THINK GOD WAS REAL?

As faith-driven content continues to flood "For You" pages everywhere, she certainly isn't the only person to be inspired by social media.

‘Gen Z Bible Stories,’ for example, has been going viral for its unique interpretations of sacred scripture that many would say "slaps."

The TikTok page, which cleverly uses popular Gen Z phrases to make age-old text more palatable for the youth, is turning the heads of people everywhere with its viral videos - and even its favorable reaction videos. 

In explaining "The Annunciation," for instance - a momentous occasion that Christians universally recognize as being the announcement that Mary would be conceiving and birthing the son of God - Gen Z Bible Stories' most viewed TikTok video describes it by saying, "Mary was a pick-me girl for God and was ‘simping’ for him in prayer when the angel Gabriel appeared to her and said, ‘you’ve passed God's vibe check, and he wants you to be the mother of the main character, the son of the top G.'"

The video garnered 4.4 million views and over half a million "likes" as many commenters praised the creator's take, which continues to interpret Luke 1:26-38 by saying, "She [Mary] said, ‘how can this be when I promised him my body count will always be 0?’ He said, ‘this ain’t about cuffing season, for the Holy Spirit will live rent-free in you. So, she said ‘bet,' and Gabriel left her to read. And she let the Holy Spirit cook."

TIKTOK BIBLE STORIES MAKEOVER SPARKS GENERATIONAL DEBATE: 'YOU'VE PASSED GOD'S VIBE CHECK'

"This has made me return to church," one comment read.

And there are many more like it.

In speaking with Fox News Digital, Father Mike Schmitz acknowledged how validating social media can be for many – and though, equally, it can be destructive, it has the potential to send a unifying message. "[For someone] to be able to hear that I'm not alone… there's something about that, about having the opportunity to hear from people who maybe are like you - but maybe very, very different from you, too - and yet, they're saying ‘I think this is true as well.’"

"You don't want to have an echo chamber, but at the same time, it's good to know you're not the only one," the priest said of social media.

His own social media presence knows no bounds, as his "Bible in a Year" podcast has topped Apple Podcasts charts since its 2021 debut. And with millions of views - and thousands sharing and re-sharing his words on social media platforms of all kinds - the pervasiveness of the priest's influence seems limitless.

The popular podcast host even offered his comment on a page like "Gen Z Bible Stories," referring to the videos as "hilarious."

"I have come across it a number of times and laughed every time I shared it," he said. "There's something about being able to laugh. I mean, we've always had Bible translations. We've always had translations that are accurate, and translations that are inaccurate. I don't think anyone takes the translation of the Gen Z Bible Stories seriously, in the sense of listening to that as sole authority for the Bible, as opposed to saying, ‘this is an interesting retelling of a Bible story.’ And I think that's great."

"I don't think that it's blasphemous at its heart, or even in its actions. Because it knows what it's doing in the sense that it's not trying to pull itself off," he added.

CATHOLIC PRIEST WHO TURNED FROM DRUGS TO GOD TAKES TO TIKTOK TO SHARE VITAL MESSAGE WITH GROWING FOLLOWING

Father Mike Schmitz further spoke to Fox News Digital about Lent, including his own Lenten sacrifice:

"Lent, historically, is a season of purification and enlightenment. That's the technical term. So it's for those who are preparing to be baptized, preparing to be received in the church. And we get to go on that journey… to a purification, enlightenment. [It's asking] God, where in my heart, in my life, do I need to be changed? And also, where do I need to be enlightened? Where do I need to get closer to you?" he began explaining.

"And so then prayer, fasting, almsgiving, are all about that. It should be about ‘okay, what in my life is keeping me from you, God? What needs to be changed, and how can I grow in my relationship with you? How can I have that enlightenment and know you more closely?’" the priest posited.

He went on to explain that a Lenten sacrifice should ultimately help minimize or even weed out a daily distraction in an effort to give ourselves the time and space to get closer to God.

And for Father Mike Schmitz this Lenten season, that distraction seems to be social media.

"A lot of times, in Lent, I will try to choose something that needs to be pruned from my life because it's become an obstacle. For example, the distraction of social media on my phone… If that's become an obstacle, then I want to prune that, because it's keeping me distracted. If I know that this is going to help me grow closer to the Lord, I want to start doing that. So it's not extrinsic, but I see it as like an intrinsic thing coming from inside."

FATHER MIKE SCHMITZ ON DECLINE OF FAITH IN THE US

It isn't just about offering ourselves more time for God, though; according to the priest, it's just as much about offering God a piece of ourselves.

"I might be doing it because I realized that… there's a sense that I need that myself. But I'm also saying with this action, 'I'm hoping that you see this God, and I trust that this actually matters to you,' which is a huge act of faith." 

He continued, explaining that the elusive "mystery of faith" is perhaps found in the realization that God cares about all of our nuances, equally and wholly:

"That's why it's an act of faith to say, 'this small little silly thing I'm doing. I hope that God sees it and I have faith that it matters to him.' And, ultimately, love is there, too. Because it's like, I'm only doing this because I've been asked to. I've been doing some prayer, fasting, almsgiving, during Lent, because I've been asked to. And so it's an act of love. So you have all three [faith, hope, and love] there. And I think that if it's just like that self-improvement stuff, hey, I hope we improve – that's awesome – but it also could be more. And I think that it's not one or the other. I think it's both."

Father Mike Schmitz has teamed up with actors Mark Wahlberg and Jonathan Roumie for "Pray 40," a daily Lenten challenge that invites all Hallow app users to participate. His inspiring homilies will be released each Sunday throughout Lent.

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