The Catholic Cowboy Way

This Catholic Cowboy Way of relating to Jesus is not just for those on horseback. It’s a discipline and disposition that all of us can tap into. But the only way to get there is to get raw and real.

In other words, to encounter Jesus in a personal way, we have to get off the surface of life and into our hearts. We have to be honest with ourselves in order to be honest with God. We have to acknowledge the good, the bad, and the ugly within our own lives in order to encounter the God-Man who is the source of all that is good; who took on all that is bad in order to redeem it; and who came to help us persevere through all that is ugly.

I remember in seminary the buzzword was vulnerability. Just be vulnerable, man. I get it, be open. Be in touch with your thoughts, feelings, and desires.

But there is something lacking in the masculine department with this phrase. If I’m trotting across the pasture next to my buddy Zeke and I tell him to open up and be vulnerable, I might get a string of beechnut in my lap. But if I simply say,Be raw and real, bro,”then we might just get somewhere. And it’ll likely be a lot more colorful than his getting in touch with his feminine side.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m forever thankful for my seminary formation and how it helped me stay in touch with my heart. But for your average Joe, vulnerability is not in our vocabulary. Raw and real is, though.

Cowboys already live by this. Most tell it like it is. And most, like Jesus, can smell inauthenticity a mile away. The trick is to take this brutal honesty and use it in our relationship with God. Jesus is raw and real. Look at Him hanging on the Cross. No duplicity there. His entire being is there for the world to see.

Being raw and real does not mean that we hang our dirty laundry out for everyone to see. But it does mean that if we want to encounter Jesus, we need to meet Him where He’s at.

Jesus is so multifaceted. In one instance, He’s our wounded Healer, ready to heal our injuries incurred by our sins and the sins of others. In another moment, He’s our Brother, coaching us on how to live life and fulfill the Father’s will. In the next, He’s our Savior, leading us across death and into eternal life. But in order to continually encounter Jesus’ raw-and-realness, we need to follow His path…

The beauty of this kind of raw and real faith is that it isn’t just in regard to our needs or brokenness. It’s also a way of encountering God with our dreams and desires. Think of the saints. Here are men and women who shared their hearts with the Lord and let Him lead them through the wildest adventures one could ever imagine.

I think of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who used all his intellect and imagination first to encounter Jesus and then to serve Him with creativity and zeal. Or St. Teresa of Ávila, who found in Jesus her closest friend and spent her whole life passionately planting monasteries all around Spain.

I love the saints. They show us that serving God and being human are not incompatible. They demonstrate by the example of their lives that the gifts God has given us are to be used for the building up of His Kingdom.

This, for sure, comes in many shapes and sizes. But man was made to glorify God. We do so primarily by being fully the men and women He has created us to be as well as by servingHim with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.[1]

What if all the cowboys and professional people out there sought first the Kingdom of God?[2] What if we used all the skills and energy it took to excel in our fields and directed them to the building up of God’s Kingdom? Not only would the world be a better place: we’d all be a lot happier too.

I dream of this world. Most people think that being Catholic is boring and restricted. I’m here to tell you otherwise. Catholicism is about being fully human. It’s about encountering and following the prototypical Man, Jesus, who shows us what it means to be fully alive.[3]

Not only does He show us: He helps us too. Left to ourselves, we are base at best and dead at worst. Walking in a state of grace, however, allows the life of Christ to dwell in us.

Sure, there are dark forces out there wanting to keep us down. But Jesus dispels the darkness and gives us wings to fly. He is our perfect role model and hero. He trod the path of childlike seriousness with a raw and real faith. And if we keep our eyes fixed on Him, He’ll teach us to do the same.

[1] Mark 12:30.

[2] Matthew 6:33.

[3] See John 10:10

Editor’s note: the above excerpt is taken from Fr. Bryce’s The Catholic Cowboy Way, available now from Sophia Institute Press.

Photo by Carlo Borella on Unsplash


Fr. Bryce Lungren was blessed to grow up in a family with deep Wyoming roots. After graduating from high school in Worland, Wyoming, in 1998, he moved to Montana, where he worked in the world and grew in his Catholic Faith. In 2008, he entered the seminary, earning a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy at Mount Angel Seminary in St. Benedict, Oregon, and a Master of Divinity and a Bachelor of Sacred Theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, Colorado. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Cheyenne on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 2018 and is the associate pastor of St. Matthew’s Catholic Church and surrounding missions in Gillette, Wyoming.

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