You may recognize Sean Bryan from the television show American Ninja Warrior where he competes as the Papal Ninja and wears shirts designed after the Vatican Flag (with a nod to the Dominicans, too!). But here are ten things you may not know about Sean.
1. He discerned with the Salesians for four years
During his last semester of college at University of California Berkley, Sean cross-registered for two classes at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology to get a jump on classes for seminary (he had been accepted into the seminary for the Archdiocese of Newark, NJ). One class was taught by a Salesian sister and it piqued his interest so much that he decided to enter formation with the Salesians instead.
2. The most negative comments Sean receives about being openly Catholic on American Ninja Warrior are from…other Catholics!
People seem to think that Sean’s cashing in on being Catholic and athletic, but he’s not making any money by appearing on the show or from other things related to the show. He competes openly as a Catholic simply to show the world that being Catholic is normal and to display his gratitude to God for the gifts He has given him. And to hopefully bring others to faith, as well!
3. Sean’s favorite drink is Pedialyte
Not exactly by choice, though! Sean drinks Pedialyte to make sure he has enough electrolytes in his system to help with muscle recovery. He doesn’t follow a specific diet, either, just makes sure to get enough protein, fruits, and vegetables…and the occasional In-N-Out 😉
4. Sean prays with fellow American Ninja Warrior competitors
There are many Christians who compete on the show and they make it a point to pray together as often as possible. Sean often seeks out the all-star ninja warrior / prayer-warrior, Grant McCartney to pray over him before he competes. Other Christian Ninjas include Travis Rosen and Maggie Thorne who lead prayer circles, Daniel Gill who is known as the Kingdom Ninja, Michelle Warnky who often writes Scripture verses on her arms and legs, and Joe “The Weatherman” Moravsky is a fellow Catholic- to name a few!
5. People are being brought back to the Faith by seeing Sean compete
Many have reached out to tell Sean that seeing him compete while displaying his faith unabashedly has impacted their lives. At the Los Angeles City Finals, a man in the audience told him afterwards that seeing Sean pray before attempting the last obstacle- the Elevator Climb- and watching him hit the buzzer made him turn back to the Lord (Sean also ended up with the fastest time of the night).
6. Yes, Sean is discerning…whatever his state-of-life vocation is
Sean is currently single and, although not actively on the dating scene, is open to whatever God has in store. But ladies, proposing over social media is not the most effective way to this man’s heart! In the meantime, Sean focuses on his imminent vocation, that is, doing in the moment whatever the Lord wants of him and doing that as fully as he is able. Guess we’ll have to keep watching ANW for updates on Sean’s life!
7. Sean helps run the Lay Mission Project
Sean is the Animating Director and on the Curriculum and Development Teams of the Lay Mission Project which seeks “to animate the lay apostolate in the Church by preparing lay people for the sake of their fundamental calling: to transform secular society through living the faith in all aspects of life”.
He also often acts as aMaster of Ceremonies for the Bishop of Oakland, Most Reverend Michael C. Barber, SJ.
8. Sean’s favorite saint is St. Francis de Sales
Pretty much a no-brainer considering he was formed by the Salesians for four years before attending graduate school and obtaining a Master of Arts in Theology with a “Salesian Studies” concentration! Francis de Sales is a doctor of the Church whose writings capture Sean’s heart, especially with his focus on true devotion and the universal call to holiness. He also has a special affinity for St. John the Evangelist (his namesake), St. Michael the Archangel (his confirmation saint), and St. John Bosco.
9. Before each American Ninja Warrior run, he prays a Prayer to the Holy Spirit, created for him by his collaborator, Fr. Michael Sweeney, O.P.
The prayer is:
Come Holy Spirit, be my strength. Banish from my heart my doubts, my fear, my shame. Let me see with you, move with you, rejoice with you, rest in you. Conform me to Jesus Who is Christ and Lord. That I may proclaim him, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
10. “For the greater glory of God and for the salvation of souls” (St. John Bosco) is as close to a mantra as Sean has been able to articulate
Sean told me, “A close friend told me that the saints all had one thing that helped them remember and one thing that they were really good at that they simply focused on, which helped them on their path of holiness. What’s my one thing? For me that’s…first, the reality of the Faith. Second of all, how immensely providential and loving, how God’s foreseeing love plays into my life all the time. It’s a constant reminder of God’s providence and encourages me to live a life of holiness and help others see that.” A paraphrase from Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Redemptor Hominis paragraph 13 also resonates deeply with Sean: The Church seeks the single end that the Risen Lord might be encountered. Sean’s living this out pretty well by making the Faith visible to all who watch American Ninja Warrior!
You can follow Sean Bryan’s adventures on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Be sure to watch him compete in Las Vegas at the American Ninja Warrior National Finals! Part 1 airs on NBC on September 4, Part 2 airs on NBC on September 11, and Part 3 airs on NBC on September 18.