Love your Motherboard: Colorado-based company is unifying Church and skate

Let’s face it: When it comes to skateboarding culture, there could be a little less skull and crossbones, and a little more Sacred Hearts.

Five years ago, Lisa Fixler had this realization when her son and his friend, both of whom are avid skaters, came into her house with a skate deck that had the image of a skull plastered on the bottom of it. 

“I look down at the ground and I’m like, ‘what is that doing in my house?’  I was just repulsed,” Fixler said “I started talking to my husband and we’re like, ‘why does it have to be that way?’ Go into any skate shop and look at the designs that are available for kids. They are horrifying.”

Having already founded the local Catholic gift company Full of Grace USA 10 years ago, Fixler has extensive experience in creating quality products with a Catholic bent. So, she decided to do something about the skateboard conundrum that had made its way into her home, and thus, Motherboards was born.

Motherboards is a Catholic skate company that also deals in other extreme sports such as snowboarding and surfing. They enlist the talents of artists around the country to create traditional Catholic images with a bit of an edge to adorn their decks and boards. It may seem a bit unusual at first glance, but dig a little deeper and it’s obvious that Motherboards is trying to do something different, both in the extreme sports world and on the evangelization front.

“If you’re at the skatepark riding and someone looks at your deck, and it’s a picture they don’t understand…maybe it’s the Immaculate Heart of Mary and they say, ‘wow, that heart is really cool. What is that?’  Well, that’s your open door to evangelize,” Fixler explained. “It’s not in your face. It’s just answering a quick question. And you can answer that question in a way that tells them about their fate or the kingdom of God… Whatever it may be, it just makes it easy.”

Brother Gabriel Cortés is a Franciscan Friar of the Immaculate based out of Bloomington, Ind., but he’s becoming known more commonly as the “skating friar.” Brother Cortés rides for Team Motherboards. (Photo provided)

Motherboards already has a team of talented skaters and snowboarders who are representing their brand and starting conversations.  One of their skaters is Brother Gabriel Cortés, a Franciscan Friar of the Immaculate based out of Bloomington, Ind., and affectionately referred to as the “skating friar.” Few things compare to watching Brother Cortés tear it up in his grey Franciscan habit.

After a long day of prayer, devotion and his other duties as a friar, Brother Cortés frequents a skatepark near his friary where he’s built strong friendships with some of the regulars.

“I can talk to them about anything. It’s an avenue that I have access to that a lot of people don’t have access to,” Brother Cortés said. “They know me well. And some of these guys, I can tell they have nothing in their lives. Nothing…even moral compasses are kind of absent.”

Brother Cortés admits that extreme sports culture can be a bit off-putting to those who don’t understand it, especially Catholics. 

“The skateboarding, snowboarding and surfing culture is all very, very similar, even though the sports are quite different,” he said. “There’s a bit of a subculture that exists in these in these groups, which is not very wholesome, is kind of dark.”

That’s all the more reason, Brother Cortés said, for Catholics and other people of faith to become more immersed in that world and help break down those walls that separate “us” from “them.” 

“If you think about it, we’re the custodians,” Brother Cortés explained. “Catholics look at it from the wrong way,” he said, like we don’t fit into the skateboarding or extreme sports world. “No, it’s ours. It’s our stuff. They’re playing with our toys. We just need to introduce them to the right way of playing with our toys.”

Fixler recently opened a retail storefront in Arvada called The Retro, where both Full of Grace and Motherboards products can be purchased. But the interest in Motherboards has already expanded far beyond Colorado.

“We get e-mails from people all over the world who are interested in our products. It’s unbelievable. It’s really turned into a worldwide thing,” Fixler said. “It’s super fun for us for shipping off [complete boards] to Australia or to Belgium or to France. We just think, ‘oh my gosh, we’ve got just this teeny little idea and we’re targeting a really narrow group of extreme sport enthusiasts who may or may not be Catholic.’ But we’ve been blessed completely.” 

Visit Motherboards online:

COMING UP: Sin, suicide and the perfect mercy of God

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I love my hair stylist. 

She’s a devoted Christian. So, when I see her, we tend to have much deeper discussions than the usual gossipy hair stylist sessions. And, because it’s a small shop, the discussions often branch out to the other people within earshot, waiting for their appointments or waiting for their color to process. Because she tends to attract a smart and faithful clientele, the discussion is always interesting. 

Yesterday, at my bimonthly appointment, we somehow got onto the topic of suicide — specifically, the insidious way that it spreads among teenagers. One suicide often leads to another, which leads to another. I made the comment “It is demonic.” 

At that point, a woman in the waiting area chimed in. “I disagree. I’m Catholic. It used to be a mortal sin, but they changed it. It’s not any more. It’s mental illness.” 

If a nice Catholic lady at my hair salon could be confused about this, I figured perhaps some of you out there may be as well. Which made me think perhaps it’s time for a little review on the nature of sin — both in general, and specifically as it applies to suicide. 

First, sin in general. The fundamental point here is that the Catholic Church has no power to decide what is a sin and what isn’t. It’s not like there’s a committee that meets periodically to review the list of sins, and decide if any need to be promoted from venial to mortal, or demoted from mortal to venial, or dropped from the list entirely. 

Sins are sins because they are outside of God’s will. And they are outside of God’s will because they have the potential to do tremendous damage to people created in His image and likeness, whom He loves. We know they are sins because it was revealed to us in Scripture, or it has been handed down from the time of Christ in sacred tradition. Sometimes the Church must apply these timeless, God-given principles to new situations, to determine the morality of technologies undreamt of in ancient times. 

The Church has the authority to do that because she received it from Christ, her bridegroom. And once she does declare on a subject, we believe it is done through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. So the Church isn’t going to change her mind. Something can’t be a sin, and then suddenly NOT be a sin. 

“But,” you ask. “What about eating meat on Friday? That was a sin, and now it isn’t.” This is an example of a discipline of the Church. Eating meat has never, in itself, been an objectively sinful behavior — on Fridays or any other day. But the Church was calling us, as Jesus calls us, to do penance. And the Church selected that penance as something we could all, as a Church, do together. The sin was never in the ingestion of the meat. It was in disobeying the Church in this matter. This particular discipline has been dropped. But it doesn’t change our obligation to in some way do penance for our sins and the sins of the world. 

Now, on to suicide. It is obvious that something must have changed in the teachings of the Church. Because, in the olden days, a person who committed suicide couldn’t be buried with a Catholic funeral Mass. And now they can. So what gives? 

Here’s the situation. Taking innocent human life is always a grave evil. (I add the “innocent” qualifier to distinguish this discussion from one about self defense, or about the death penalty — which in a sense is self defense. But those are separate discussions.) God is the author of life, and it is He who decides when our lives will end. To usurp that power always has been, and always will be, a grave moral evil. 

But there is an important distinction we must understand. There is the objective gravity of the sin — the nature of it, and the great damage done by it. Then there is the question of the individual’s moral culpability of that sin. In other words: a great evil was done. But is the person who did it liable to judgment for it? Or were there extenuating circumstances that mean that, while the evil was indeed done, the person who did it was somehow functioning in a diminished capacity that reduces or eliminates their moral responsibility? 

For a person to be culpable for a mortal sin, three conditions must be met. First, the objective act must be gravely sinful. Second and third, the person committing the sin must do so with full knowledge of the sinfulness of the act, and full consent of the will. In the question of suicide, we have learned to much about the psychological condition of a person driven to such a horrible deed. The instinct to self preservation is strong. In order to overcome it, the mental and/or physical suffering is frequently very intense. There may even be, as my friend at the salon mentioned, mental illness involved. All of this can drastically reduce a person’s mental and intellectual capacity to make rational decisions. 

And so, while an objectively horrifying act has occurred, God may very well have tremendous mercy on that person’s soul, given the extreme states of agitation and pain that led up to the act. 

Know that I write all of this as someone who has lost one beloved relative and several friends to suicide. And I am tremendously optimistic in my hope that they are with God. Not because they didn’t do something terrible, or that what they did was somehow justified. But because the God who loves them sees their hearts, and knows that pain and suffering can drive people to acts they wouldn’t possibly consider while in their “right” minds. 

And this is why the Church offers the Rite of Christian Burial to those who die by suicide. Because they need the prayers. And their families need the comfort. And because the Church, too, believes in that the God who embodies perfect justice also embodies perfect mercy. 

And we live in great hope that they are with Him.