Catholic Herald staff
A Lenten resolution has developed into a ministry for Brent Craine, a Cumberland man whose daily reflections on Scriptures reach more than 1,600 friends on Facebook.
After repeated requests, the parishioner at St. Anthony Abbot, Cumberland, has now gathered all his 2015 postings into a self-published book, “You Have a New Friend Request: Do you accept?”
The 361-page book offers a paragraph-long reflection for each day of the year. Many of Craine’s comments lead off with questions: “How easy is it for you to have preconceived ideas of what someone believes, without knowing what they truly believe?” “How often do you need extra encouragement?” “What are you possessive of?” “Do you pray for wisdom?”
A family story
In 1975, at age 14, Craine moved to Cumberland from Ohio with his father and stepmother after his parents divorced.
Craine has been married to his wife, Nita, for 36 years. The couple met in high school, but never dated; they both went on a “last hurrah before college” trip to Valleyfair with classmates after graduation, and that’s when they started dating. They married in 1980.
The couple has three daughters: Marie (Erik) Thompson, Spring Valley; Cassy (Chris) Lamberger, Maryland; and Brittney (Rory) Grilley, Cameron.
The Craines have two granddaughters, with a grandson on the way.
From habit to ministry
A few years ago, Craine gave up Facebook for Lent. He told his kids to hold him accountable if he faltered.
“Facebook was kind of consuming me,” he remembers. He was wading into every political issue, involved to a degree that was “not necessarily healthy.”
Craine had been reading daily Scripture passages and writing down his reflections. Near the end of Lent, he started praying about Facebook.
“God was telling me, you can do something good on this,” he said.
So, he began posting his thoughts on the day’s Scriptures. At first, Craine posted on whichever reading was hitting him. He wasn’t getting much response, so he stopped.
Then, he said, “My messaging just blew up.” Friends wondered why he was no longer sharing.
“It was something I didn’t realize people were actually reading,” he explained. “It was for me originally, and then the more I started doing it, the more I realized other people were getting something out of it. Now, it’s part of me.”
Every morning, Craine wakes up between 4 and 4:30 a.m. He reads the daily reading, writes his reflection and posts it on Facebook. On weekdays, his posts are up by 5:30 a.m.
The habit has evolved into a ministry. Craine started with 600 or 700 friends, but he’s sought more as an outreach effort. He now has 1,607 friends, and his Facebook page is public, so anyone can access it.
“I’ve probably doubled my friends list over the last few years,” he added.
Craine is unsure how many people actually read his reflections. He sent out a casual questionnaire in 2014, and more than 400 people responded. Of them, 300 were reading his reflections regularly, and more than 100 were reading them daily.
Craine believes social media is a powerful evangelization tool because he can reach everyone – Catholics, Christians, non-Christians, agnostics, atheists, saints, sinners – everyone.
“I’m trying to help people that are Catholic that really don’t understand the faith, but also people that aren’t Catholic, but maybe have the wrong thinking about the Catholic faith,” he said.
Having once been a questioning Catholic himself – his Baptist bosses were strongly anti-Catholic, and Craine began wondering whether his religion was wrong – he understands many cradle Catholics may not have a strong grip on their faith.
When Craine was questioning, he started reading to learn more. He grew in faith, and he has now been teaching catechism classes for 26 years.
It will come as no surprise that Craine once discerned a vocation to the permanent diaconate. He entered the program but struggled with the question of whether God wanted him there.
So, he went to Adoration and prayed before the Blessed Sacrament for more than an hour. He clearly heard God’s answer: You don’t need to be a deacon to do what I need you to do.
Prompted by several years’ worth of requests, Craine finally made the leap into publishing a book in 2016.
Throughout 2015, he copied and pasted each post into a Word document and at the end of the year, submitted them to WestBow Press in Bloomville, Indiana. The publishing process took nearly a year, and the price was high – he hopes to recoup about $6,000 in costs through online and in-person sales of the book.
“Raw thoughts,” Craine calls the style of his reflections. Although the publishing company edited a part of the book as a free sample and Craine edited the rest, he didn’t want to substantially alter the tone. Thus, his words retain a more natural flavor, akin to an early morning diary entry.
Craine is currently in promotional mode, contacting reporters and websites to market the book. He appeared on Chicago Philippine Reports TV; the interview is posted on his Facebook page.
“It’s a learning process,” he said of the marketing phase. Craine knows he needs to go out and promote the book, but he’s not sure how. He’s also noticed the book is mostly being directed to Catholics, and he’d like to reach a broader audience.
“I’m not just going to Catholics,” he said. “I’m not just going to Christian faiths. That’s why I do this on Facebook. It’s bigger than me.”
Throughout this process, Craine has felt overwhelmed, “like I’m not worthy of this,” he added. “Now I just know that it’s God, the Holy Spirit working through me.”
“I don’t feel like it’s a burden,” he said. “I just do it. My goal has always been to get people to think, to acknowledge there’s more out there than the sometimes mundane life they live.”
The book is available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and westbowpress.com. Cost is $24.95 for paperback, $3.99 for ebook or $39.95 for hardcover.
To learn more, email Craine at moc.l1487882131iamg@1487882131eniar1487882131ctner1487882131b1487882131 or call 715-651-1061.
Craine’s reflection from Ash Wednesday 2015, Feb. 18:
Do you acknowledge your sins? Today is Ash Wednesday, and for many Christians, the start of Lent. Lent is 40 days of fasting, not counting Sundays, before Easter. The fast is a time of acknowledging your sins, and your faithfulness to God, and giving up of something that you have grown fond of, to realize that it is given to you by God. It can also be a time of doing for others, and making your life more complete by the giving of your surplus, or time and gifts. Take some time to reflect on what you have, and what you have done, and what you could do, or do differently. Is there something that you feel is not good for you, or that you enjoy too much, that you can do without for 40 days, to see how God can provide in that time of desire? When you do without, you reflect on why you are giving up, and ask God to understand, ‘why’? This psalm is a great reflection and acknowledgment of our sinfulness.
Lord, be with me during the Lenten season, help me to see you and know that you will never abandon me, even in my lowest moments. Grant me the strength to resist when I am weak. Psalms 51:3-6ab, 12-14 and 17
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