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Interview with Father Josh Johnson about his NEW Book: Broken & Blessed

Father Josh Johnson has a new book out! It's called Broken & Blessed: An Invitation to My Generation. I recently interviewed Father Josh about his book - watch it below.

While the book is aimed at millennials, Father Josh says the book is really for everybody. In particular, Father Josh wants to reach "Catholics who are struggling with their faith or have already left the Catholic Church because I want to invite them to hear the story of Jesus again and hear about the story of His Church maybe for the first time."

You'll want to hear Father Josh's conversion story. You'll love the story of the guy who tried starting something with a priest in a bar! You'll want to hear about the "game changer" moment when he decided to become a Catholic priest - also the moment he realized that Catholic priests could be black! 

We cover a lot of great topics in this interview, but you'll definitely want to get your own copy of Broken & Blessed NOW! Here's the link to buy your copy 

Also, I recently sat down with Father Josh at his church, Our Lady of the Rosary in St. Amant, Louisiana. We talked about all the best bits from Broken & Blessed, plus some *exclusive* follow-ups about his life and conversion story. Truly, an amazing priest!

Watch my interview with Father Josh Johnson about Broken and Blessed by clicking below: 

Here's the full transcript from my interview with Father Josh Johnson about his new book, Broken & Blessed.

Who is Father Josh's book for? More than just Millennials 

Scott: Okay, so first question I wanted to ask you your new book Broken & Blessed. Why now? Why did you want to write this and why is it addressed specifically to millennials?

Yeah, so, it's for anybody really. As I was writing the book, I realized that sometimes I give talks to middle school students, high school students, college-age students, and the elderly. I can give the same talk to each group and it have the same effect, so I specifically geared it towards two people who are Catholic and are struggling with the faith right now or have already left the Catholic Church. 

I wanted to invite them to hear about the story of Jesus again and to hear about the story of his church maybe for the first time. 

Authentically Proposing Christ 

I knew whenever I grew up the way Jesus Christ was proposed to me wasn't an authentic expression of the Savior and certainly not the church. As well, the Church was proposed to me in a way that I was just totally turned off.

For many of us in our generation, that's the way it was for all of us we were given a bunch of rules, but we were never taught that having a relationship with Jesus Christ was essential. And we were never taught how to pray; we were never taught how to go deep into the scriptures and encounter Jesus as he revealed himself to us. 

So for many of us, I think, when we come across rules that don't make sense to us because of our imperfections or whatnot or because the way they're proposed to us we resist them and we think the church is not necessary. 

How the Breakdown Happens

We stop going to church, and we're no longer in relationship with the sacraments, and it's hard to really pray well. We're not in a relationship with Jesus Christ through the sacraments. Then, all of a sudden if we’re not in relationship with Christ in the sacraments, we're not going to know him. And if we don't know him, we can't know ourselves. And if we don't know ourselves, how can we be in relationship with each other?

Scott: It all falls apart. 

So, what it all comes back to, we need to re-propose Jesus as he desires to be presented in this generation and with Jesus, comes the Church.

Rules, then Relationship Doesn't Work

Scott: Do you find that Millennials specifically have an issue rules the rulesy-ness?

Yeah, well, I think we’re very relationship-oriented and if we’re given rules not relationship we’re going to rebel. 

But if we get relationship first, then we care about the rules for the person we're in a relationship with. 

Relationship Then Rules

If you and I are in a relationship together, you might say Father Josh, I really enjoy our friendship, but I need you to reverence Tuesday evenings because that's my time for my family, so please don't call me on Tuesday evening. If I'm in a relationship with you, I'm going to reverence that rule. I'm going to care about that rule. I'm going to want to know more about that rule; how it helps you be a better person for your family; how it helps you grow in holiness. 

But if the very first thing you tell me whenever I call you for a meeting or something like that at the Church is I don’t want to talk to you now, you're not important to me, then all of a sudden there's a disconnect.

We can help people to encounter Jesus. Then, what flows from our relationship with Jesus is we’re going to want to care about what Jesus cares about, which is, of course, the Church which He founded 2,000 years ago. 

Father Josh Johnson's Faith Journey

Scott: You talk about some of your background in your book. When you came to Christ, it was through your mom. Your mom was strongly Catholic.

Right, my mom is a very strong Catholic. my dad is a strong Methodist. My mom is a strong Catholic. they decide to raise my brothers and I Catholic.

Scott:  It was in high school that you started hanging out with a group of friends that were more Evangelical.

Yeah, so my girlfriend dumped me. She broke my heart. And my best friend moved away. 

I remember I definitely prayed in that season in my life and - superficial prayer, of course -  and I asked God give me new friends. 

Prayed for New Friends

The guys I play basketball with or hung out in the neighborhood with were superficial friendships and I wanted to go beyond the surface.  I asked the Lord is send me some new friends, also a new girlfriend as well.  

The following year and high school he did. These guys I had known since middle school. We just hit it off the next year. Met a girl that same year that was awesome, really, really awesome. She and they were all very much rooted in something of a relationship with Jesus. 

I didn't know Jesus at all. I had heard about him and CCD class or PSR, but I didn't know him yet.  that was a struggle for me a little bit, but  I didn't want to be rejected by my new friends because I like them so much, so  I began to go to different events with them, their church services,  and over time I encountered Jesus myself.

Scott: So for the full story, read the book!

Guy walks up to Father Josh in a bar ...

Scott: So one of the first stories that really struck me and it was an awesome way to begin the book. Fast forward, you're already a priest … 

Yeah, this happened maybe a year ago. I was hanging out with my buddy Michael. Shout out to Michael, he's a professor at St Joseph's Seminary College in Covington Louisiana.  I had spiritual direction that day with Father Vic Messina, an awesome priest of the Diocese of Baton Rouge. He's a hermit. 

After Spiritual Direction, I took Michael out for a drink because it was his birthday. His wife was going to throw him a surprise party that night, but I couldn't go, so I wanted to make sure I got some time with him.

So we go to this restaurant and we're sitting at the bar. This old man came up to me and he said excuse me “Are you a priest? Are you a real Catholic priest?" I get that question a lot, because people assume I'm in a frat or something because I'm so young. I told him, "Yeah." 

He said, "I just want you to know, I think the Catholic church is the most corrupt institution, and I think every man that is a priest, you are the most corrupt people." 

Scott: Okay, so just your normal friendly encounter. 

And, so I put my drink down and I punched him, and then Michael kicked him while he was down. 

No, I'm joking. I knew to pray. I asked the Holy Spirit to give me the words to say.

Sometimes, I asked for the gift of tongues speak what God wants me to say. I also ask that the person I'm speaking with will get the gift of interpretation of tongues, so that they will hear with the Holy Spirit wants them to hear. 

So immediately I pray ...

The Point of Broken & Blessed 

I say to the man: "Sir, I just want you to know that you're right. I agree with everything you said. I do think the Catholic Church is the most corrupt institution, and I think that you're looking at the most corrupt priest in the world right now, the most broken sinful creature you're ever going to meet."

Now, I say this, but in light of all the scandals that have happened, I'm not that corrupt. 

No, I was like, oh my God, it was way before the the scandals and stuff, I was like maybe I should hurry up and ask for one more round of edits, like because I don't want people thinking I'm like that. It ain't that bad.

But uh, yeah, so I said that to him. The reality is that Jesus Christ chose to dwell with a lot of broken, corrupt, imperfect individuals. 

St. Peter was called by Jesus to be our first pope. He was a sinner and a corrupt man before Jesus; he was corrupt with Jesus; and even after Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, he was still corrupt. Because when he was with the church in Galatia, he was a hypocrite, and Saint Paul had to call him out.

So I know people have said, how can father Josh say that? Peter was only corrupt before Jesus. Oh, no no no. He was corrupt before, during, and after, because our purification is ongoing, right? 

When the Lord reforms us, it's not a once-in-a-lifetime thing, it's ongoing. So, Peter remained in relationship with Jesus and chose to go with him. 

Jesus knew that all the apostles were going to abandon him, told them you all abandon me, and he knew that. Thomas is going to doubt him, and he knew Paul was going to be the reason why Steven died I'm a he was going to hurt so many Christians. He chose all these people to be the foundation of his church, and because they chose to go with Jesus in the midst of their Brokenness, they became Saints.

So I told the guy, "Look sir, I can become a saint, too, if I choose to follow Jesus, so will you please pray for me? Pray that I'll imitate Peter and James and John, and I'll become a saint one day and dwell Jesus who comes to dwell with me." 

And the guy was shocked,  and so he was like, "Yeah, I will."

Did Father Josh ever see that man again? What happened to him?

And cool follow-up of that story is that I actually ran into him months later. I ran into him at a place one day …

Scott: Was it at a bar again?

No, it was not a bar again. It was somewhere else. He came back to the church, back to the sacraments.

Scott: I was really hoping that was how the story would end.

So when I first wrote this book, they asked me to put that in the first draft, but I like to keep some things …

Scott: So this is an exclusive! That is awesome.

 The guy is back in the sacraments!

Scott: Well, that is a great story. way you described it was just a mic drop moment when you first responded to him, but the relationship that builds ...

Yeah, the Church is Holy. too. I don't want people thinking I'm not saying the church is Holy, too. 

How can the Church be called "Holy"?

At every single Mass, we say "I believe in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church", and we're not liars when we say that. The Church is Holy, but she's holy because she's the bride of Christ. She's holy because Jesus Christ has espoused himself to the Church,  and so there's no way we can think about the Church without thinking about Jesus. 

But she's also broken and sinful and corrupt because of the members of the church, because of you and I. The Church is still one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, and at the same time we are all very much sinful, broken, imperfect, corrupt human beings, who are struggling to become holy in our walk with Jesus.

How to conquer our vices?

Scott:  Amen.  And on that note, you give these awesome insights in your book on how you have tackled vices in your life.  I think in the book you talk about pride and envy and lust. You had some great practical ways to combat these vices, to sort of flank them. some of which I've even used already.

Praise God. So for all the vices, there's always a virtue we cultivate. And there are ways we can pray and fast and do other things to grow in the virtue that goes with those dominant bad habits we all have. 

Another bad habit many people have is sloth. So a lot of people are really lazy in the spiritual life. They resist going deeper with Jesus. They resist holiness. One practical thing, we see this in the life of David. You know David at one point was a radical follower of the Lord. He was a leader for God. And then his vice of lust and his vice of - He killed a man and he got drunk - so gluttony and alcohol. And he lied. Pride. All these vices of King David, they flow from sloth, and so sloth is why he stopped fighting in the battles. He stopped fighting with his men. He got comfortable, and he stopped ... 

Father Josh talks a lot more about this in his book, Broken and Blessed. Unfortunately, the video for the rest of this portion of the interview was lost. 

Game-Changer Moment in Father Josh's Conversion and Vocation: Father Stan Fortuna

Scott: Okay so you said in the book you had an experience, father Stan Fortuna, a Franciscan, was saying Mass. You describe this as a "game changer" for your life and vocation. 

Yeah, so prior to going to mass with Father Stan Fortuna, I had  received an invitation from Jesus to discern the priesthood, and I struggled with it for a number of reasons, because I didn't want to become a celibate priest, I wasn't going to the Catholic Church. I was like, Jesus, you want me to come back to the Catholic Church now?  

And also because I don't remember seeing a priest who wasn't white, so I didn't even think black people could be priests. All the priests  in my life up to that point had been white. I just had never seen a black priest. 

... I did. I had seen an Indian priest, yeah, never a black priest. I just didn't think we could be priests. 

And so when I saw father Stan Fortuna who was Italian, very dark complected Italian, he had braids and he was rapping and I thought he was biracial like me. My dad's black my mom's White. I assumed he was mixed. I said oh my gosh, a mixed priest. I can be a priest.

The whole time, the conference, I was very much engaged and then for the sacrifice of the mass, he walked out of the sanctuary at the sign of peace and he went right past the bishop and all the priests who are concelebrating with him and he came straight to me. I was like in the front row of the auditorium somewhere, and he dapped me down with the sign of peace. And he didn’t give any other priest or Bishop the sign of peace, and I was blown away.  I was like oh my gosh I'm definitely going to become a priest. 

and I went to talk to him afterwards, and I found out he wasn't black. oh, wait a minute, you're white?  I guess I can still be a priest. So it all worked out.

Scott: So have you talked to Father Stan since then?

 no, I've seen him before, but no, I've not talked to him about that

Scott:  so if you're watching father stan …  I don't know what you did, but you did it

 yeah, so you're the reason. we blame you for me.

Scott:  there's a lot of stuff I want to ask you from the book. I guess you're just going to have to read the book.

broken and blessed, 

Scott: something that has affected me from reading the book you talk about the face of Christ I'm contemplating the face of Christ and I brought that, I think by your recommendation in the book, into my recitation of the Rosary. So if you could…

 yeah, so, the rosary is the most powerful prayer to the Mass. Every time the Blessed Mother appears, she doesn't say try this new yoga stretch …  he says pray the rosary. She's pretty specific. we always try to get all fancy with our prayer, we buy new stuff, we buy new books - You should buy my book! 

 we buy a new things to try to grow in the spiritual life  but Mary keeps telling us the same thing, over and over again, every single year,  pray the rosary! 

She even, in her Apparition at Lourdes, was praying the rosary herself. she says in heaven she's praying the rosary so the rosary is a Heavenly prayer,  like the Sanctus is. 

So, anyways, one thing I do when I'm praying the Rosary to help me focus deeper on Jesus, and not get into distractions and things like that, I specifically focus on one decade a day.  some people say, well, that's not what she asked for,  I'm sorry,  well I'm giving you the Abridged version. 

I do one decade today, and in those decades, when I get to the name of Jesus, I will then speak about something based on scripture about his life based on that particular mystery, so it goes like this. The agony in the garden. I would say, Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with thee blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus, who took with him Peter James and John to go and pray while he was in agony In The Garden of Gethsemane, holy Mary Mother of God pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death amen.

Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with thee blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus, who told Peter if you do not pray you will give into temptation, and Peter did not pray, and he ended up giving into temptation of Wrath, and he cut someone's ear off, and he gave in to the temptation of pride, he became concerned of the opinions of others and he ran away, and he denied the Lord, holy Mary Mother of God pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death amen.

So when we do that, I find it helps us to go deeper into Jesus and really focus and not just say a bunch of Hail Marys to say Hail Marys

Scott: it becomes more intentional

 yeah, we're really praying that she would help us go deeper and penetrate the mysteries  of her son Jesus, and then what would flow from that, the rest of the day, if you do in the morning,  it seriously helps me, if you do it slowly, and with lectio Divina  actually do it,  drink your coffee and when you finish your coffee, you’re done praying.  then, the rest of your day now, what I find for me is that Rosary comes alive and I begin to recognize people I’m talking to, like, that struggle with certain sins, I'm like did you pray today?  well no. I say well, you know, Jesus said to Peter,  you don't pray, you're going to fall into temptation. 

and it will be different ones, as well, it all comes back down to that time in prayer. 

Pope Paul the sixth actually came up with that form of praying the Rosary.  Saint Paul to 6, will be soon. So I recommend that always after the name of Jesus convey something of the reality of the scripture. 

Scott: So, you will get to the next decade of the Sorrowful Mysteries, for example …

If it's Tuesday, I won't get to the next mystery until Friday. And next Tuesday will be the crowning of thorns, and next Friday I'll get to the carrying of the cross,  so it's a very slow, intentional way of praying.

And sometimes what are so stuck on I have to finish my whole rosary, that we don't actually enter into the mystery, because we're trying to be legalistic about it, and I don't think that's the point of the Rosary.

The point of the Rosary is to contemplate the face of Christ,  so we can be the face of Christ. 

Scott: So, you also reference some of the writings of Saint Pope John Paul the Great, I’ll provide the titles … 

Right, they're both sin, what, Latin, so Nova milenio …  in that letter, he mentions the face of Christ like 45 or 50 something times. it's really important that we can encounter the face of Christ, because that's how we learn how to live with Christ, from his face. 

Scott: So is there anything else, stuff you wanted to add to the book …

The goal is … If the book is helpful for people to better encounter Jesus and And remain rooted in the church. The church is a gift. my prayer is that we as the church will lean into each other and lean into the members of the body of Christ, especially in this time of Scandal.

I hopefully give some tools to help people to do that in the book, because, I mean, if I'm not leaning into you, like you are an essential member of the body of Christ. God placed you as a member of the body of Christ, and if I choose to walk away from you, because of your mess, there may come a time in my walk toward eternity where I really need you  and the gifts God has given you, but because I've rejected you, I'm not going to have those gifts. I'm going to really struggle,  I'll say I necessarily so, even more to become a saint.  whereas if I just remain in relationship with you, in the midst your imperfection, I think I'll find Freedom in Christ, sooner rather than later. the same thing for you and me. You might not like me, but I have gifts that are necessary for the body of Christ that you need, and so whenever we disassociate yourself from this church, because of the church's mess, we are disassociating ourselves from Christ, in the ways with which he is trying to draw us to worship the father for all eternity. so we need to church.

So I hope the book will help people follow, not only Jesus, but really love this messy Churchthat we are all members of. 

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