Hello dear friends. I hope this note finds you well. It is my prayer and hope that you and yours had a joyous and deeply blessed Christmas and New Years. Sorry for the delay in posting. Last semester grew increasingly demanding, and was glad to see it come to a close.
I have some very exciting updates for you! For the past few years I have been discerning a call into the Priesthood of the Catholic Church. Through those years of prayerful discernment I have come to the conclusion that God is not calling me to enter the Priesthood. Instead God is calling me to live a married life and raise children in the Church. I was extremely happy and grateful for God's direction and guidance in coming to this conclusion.
I have also discened that God is calling me to become a college/university professor of Catholic spirituality and liturgy, and so I have found out that I have many more years of schooling left. I have also discerned that I will someday become a deacon in the Church, many years down the road after having children.
I will be applying in September to enter a Masters program at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. I visited there last November with my parents and immediately fell in love with the place. Dr. Scott Hahn is a professor there, and his books have changed my life. God used him in a major way in bringing me home to the Catholic Church. I currently have seven of his books, and I hope to add to that in the coming months and years. I will be obtaining a Masters of Arts in Theology while at Franciscan University. While there I will have the opportunity to spend a semester in Gaming, Austria and getting credit for it! The university owns a campus there, and tuition is the same as if I were spending it in Steubenville. I say 'campus,' when in reality it is a former Monastery. It is absolutely beautiful! Visit http://www.franciscan.edu/Austria/ to get a better look at the Austria program.
The one thing my parents and I noticed most about Franciscan University is the dedication to Christ and His Church. The campus community has daily Mass, and they also have 'households.' A household is not who you live with, but instead a group of people you meet with for Mass, to pray the Rosary, to pray the Way of the Cross, and to grow in faith together. They are called 'Faith Households,' and there are 22 for male students, and 24 for female students. Another thing (according to our tour guides) that I liked was that almost the entire campus community goes to Washington DC for the March For Life each year.
The final thing that I really enjoyed was that they have a chapel known as the Portincula, in which the Blessed Sacrament is exposed 24/7 during the academic school year for students and faculty to pray before. I currently observe Eucharistic Adoration every Thursday evening here in Mt. Vernon, and I would be lost without it. It is the best hour of my entire week.
As I continue my journey into the Church, RCIA is going extremely well. I am attending RCIA at St. Peter's in Mansfield, the same parish I was baptized in some 22 years ago. I am truly 'returning home.' I also attend the RCIA sessions here in Mt. Vernon each Tuesday and am loving that as well. The Mt. Vernon class travelled to Pittsburgh last month to visit the Vatican Splendors exhibit. I truly cherish this memory. At the end of the exhibit, they had a mold and a cast of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II's hand in which visitors could place their hand in. Mine was a perfect fit. It brought tears to my eyes, for I was able to 'hold hands' with our Holy Father.
Another update for you...I have chosen a patron saint. I should say he chose me. It is St. Francis of Assisi, and I don't think there could be a better match. I currently wear a Tau Cross daily, along with a St. Christopher medal. St. Francis has deeply blessed my life in so many ways. I am now a member of a Secular Franciscans cell in Lexington (near Mansfield), and I am loving it. We meet once a month and attend Mass together, followed by prayer and a lesson on Franciscan spirituality.
A note on my St. Christopher medal. Over a month ago, my mother told me that my grandmother wanted to give me something. So one day my mom and I went to visit Grandma. We are extremely close, and we visit her regularly. She is over 74 years old, but acts and lives like a 24 year old. She walks two miles everyday, and goes to the YMCA to work out daily. She goes to line dancing once per week, and she works at an OSU Buckeyes store a few days a week. She also travels a lot, so we try to visit her as much as we can when she is home! Anyways, we went to visit her, and she gave me the St. Christopher medal. She smiled at me and said "Bobby, I want you to have this. It's been on my nightstand in my bedroom since 1996. It's been there since your grandpa died. It belonged to him, and he wore it daily until the day he died. I want you to have it, since you are now becoming Catholic." By the end of it, she was crying, as was my mom, and me as well. My grandpa died after a long and painful battle against Lung Cancer. I remember holding his hands and praying with him when he was sick. These are my earliest memories. I was seven at the time. I also prayed at his funeral Mass after the Priest was done performing the rites. My mom tells me that I asked the Priest if it was ok to pray for grandpa one final time, and so I stood beside the Priest and the casket and said one final prayer for grandpa. I turned that into a short story, one I hope to publish someday.
In closing, I just wanted to mention that I also publish a 16 page newsletter that you may enjoy. I am getting ready to print the next issue, and would be happy and honored to send you a copy if you would so wish for it. Email me your name and mailing address, and I will be sure to send one your way. My email is Robert.B.Rhea@hotmail.com
Deep blessings to you and yours this wonderful day!
In Nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti