"I totally went along with it because I thought it would be a great idea, because that's really who I am at heart."
The Papal Ninja was raised Catholic. He grew up in Cranford, New Jersey and attended Catholic schools much of his life.
"I didn't really take faith seriously but I started exploring it the last three years of high school," he said.
Bryan said his faith life changed when the events of 9/11 and a friend's death unfolded in the same year. With the help of his teachers and a local priest, Bryan was able to process everything and ask questions about the faith.
After high school, Bryan attended Temple University. The same local priest that helped guide him in high school encouraged him to go on a retreat.
"I decided that no, retreats are for Jesus freaks, so I'll just start going to Mass."
Over time, Bryan said he started feeling more comfortable in his faith. He was on the gymnastics team at Temple University for two years before transferring to the University of California, Berkeley.
"I saw it as a new beginning," he said. "I made a new commitment to be myself and part of that is to not worry about what people think, to go to Mass, and to take my faith seriously."
When he finally decided to go on a retreat, Bryan said he was asked to help lead it.
"I thought, woah, woah, woah, I've never been on a retreat before, let alone help lead one."
"That experience of ministering to people," he said, "to see the reality, how faith is planning out people's lives, really impacted me."
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It was then that Bryan began to discern his vocation and thought God was calling him to the priesthood.
"I assumed that if God is giving me the gift of faith to dedicate my life to it, it's probably the priesthood."
But after four years of formation with the Salesians, before making vows, Bryan decided religious life was not God's call for him. While at the Dominican School, Bryan said Father Michael Sweeney O.P., the school's president, helped him appreciate the importance of the lay role in the Church. Bryan began working on the Lay Mission Project.
Bryan's family, friends, young people he mentored, and a few Salesians all watched him train for American Ninja Warrior and gave him advice. During the competition, they cheered him on until he hit the red buzzer.
Sharing the moment with his parents, Bryan said, was the most special thing about the whole experience. They traveled from New Jersey to support him.
During the course, Bryan said he just took each obstacle as it came and focused on what was next. Throughout training, he would integrate prayer into difficult activities, make the sign of the cross, ask for protections and strength, and pray to St. Francis de Sales for humility.