Psalm 95

Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 8.59.18 AMThis is the one “true” accordion song off the upcoming CD. What you hear is what it is (except I can play it better—it was a challenge to do a good take between napping baby, loud kids, etc!) Just a boy and his accordion, praising the Lord.

The words are from Psalm 95. Those of you who pray the Liturgy of Hours know that it’s the standard psalm to start the day. It is so rich in it’s imagery and message. It doesn’t just praise God and submit to His guidance, it begs that we wouldn’t be like the hard-hearted Israelites who saw all of God’s works and still wouldn’t obey. No wonder the Church prays it every morning!

I always have great reasons to sing a psalm of joy, and one of those reasons is that last week we made the minimum goal of $9,000 for the Kickstarter campaign to fund my new CD, “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice.” It’s going to happen! Currently, the project is at $10,400, which really blows me away. That means I can fly in my good friend, Katie Rose (who sang with me on “Nowhere Else To Go” and “I Shall Be Healed”) to lend her incredible voice to the CD. At $11,000 I’ll be able to add more music, and at $12,000 I’ll be able to add a lyric book to accompany the CD, which would be very cool.

The campaign ends one week from today, so if you’d like to contribute, you can do so by going HERE.

Thanks again to everyone who has made this project happen. You did it! And now, let’s praise the Lord…

Hey, Youth Ministers!

1

SowerLast week was the St. John Bosco Catechetical Conference and it was such a joy to see people from America, Canada, England, Ireland, and even Australia come together to celebrate the faith and be equipped to pass it on more effectively.

Of course, the group I got to hang most with are the youth ministers, and my gratitude for all of you who endured the difficult schedule. It was a blessing to share what little time I could amid the numerous workshops, worship music, and baby at home.

The conference made me realize that I’ve been a bit deliquent on putting articles I’ve written for the “Sower Magazine” on my website—hadn’t updated that since last year! So here are the most recent ones, and if you’d like a full list of articles, you can check them out HERE.

“Proclaiming the Bad News to Teenagers,” April 2013. Talking about hell can pose a challenge for those who work with young people today. But if young people don’t understand the horrors of hell, they can never appreciate what Christ went through to bring them to heaven. Or to put it another way, the Good News isn’t really good unless the bad news is really bad.

“Thinking Win/Win with Your Volunteers,” October 2012. Attracting volunteers to your ministry is a daunting challenge, but it can be done. One way of doing that is to think “Win/Win.” A ministry that is as concerned with the positive experience of its volunteer as it is with it’s ministry to young people becomes a dynamic and enticing environment that attracts both youth and adults alike.

“Will You Love Me?” April 2012. When St. John Bosco famously said, “Love, and they will follow you anywhere,” he wasn’t talking about relational manipulation. He was speaking the truth. Teenagers, then and now, desire true friendships and respond to real love. One thing is sure: postmodern teenagers feel more than they think.

“Not Young Adults, but Emerging Adults,” January 2012. What is a “young adult?” Christian Smith, author of Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults, suggests the term young adult is a misnomer. He proposes we call this age group emerging adults.

“Saints and Superheroes,” October 2011. Movies and stories about superheroes are all the rage with young people today. As catechists, we can use those stories to point them to the real superheroes—the saints.

In other news, the Kickstarter campaign is going great! Thanks to everyone’s support, we’ve gotten past the minimum goal and are pushing towards an even better product. More on that (with new music video) tomorrow.

Prince for a Pauper

1

Screen Shot 2013-07-16 at 5.17.43 PMThis is another instance of how the idea behind the song ended up nothing like the song itself.

Believe it or not, the inspiration for this song came from wanting to write something beautiful about the liturgy. But I imagined it to be, well, more liturgical. To be clear, this song might be about the liturgy, but it is certainly not for the liturgy!

I was at Mass one day and the words of the Eucharistic prayer really spoke to me: “May you see and love in us what you see and love in Him.” At Mass, we participate in Christ’s perfect prayer and sacrifice to the Father.

“For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son” (John 3:16.) Hardly a fair trade! The Father gave the Prince of Peace for lowly paupers like us. I started getting so excited about this incredible act of love that my brain went from “reverent worship” to “excited punk rock.” And that’s how this song came to be.

I’m hoping to record this song on my next CD, “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice,” but I need your help. There’s two more weeks of the fundraising campaign and we’re almost there! So if you can, please make a donation to create the CD. You can get an autographed CD, exclusive T-shirt, or even your name in the CD insert!

I want to thank the many people who worked hard to make this video. First of all, there’s my amazing band: Amanda Enriquez and Emily Mislan on background vocals, Andre Villenueve on keys (he’s just there to look good,) Matthew Fox on violin, Dan Bozek on bass, Andrew Laubacher on guitar, and Kevin Mahon on drums. Thanks to the people who ran the cameras and Kelly Butler who put it all together. But the folks who  make the video rock are the 2,200 amazing teens who really got into it! Thanks everybody!

Gratitude

5

HSY2 19It’s been an amazing few weeks for me and my family. If I could sum up what I’m feeling in one word, it would be: gratitude.

I just finished my fourth and final youth conference of the summer. I always struggle to find words to express that experience: awesome, life-changing, unforgettable. Even though the theme and the content is consistent, every weekend is unique. The teens are different each conference and the group takes on its own “personality.” Some like to rock. Some are more contemplative. Others are hesitant but then they jump in.

IMG_2362These past few weekends gave me the opportunity to see a lot of amazing young people who are trying to boldly live their faith. I love taking pictures and signing autographs, but it’s the small conversations with someone who has been really touched by something I’ve said, sung, or written that warm my heart and encourage me to keep doing what I do.

One of my most special moments was when I met three teens who made me this amazing t-shirt! If you can’t see, it’s got the “at the intersection of Catholicism and culture” sign from my blog, a bow tie on the neck, and “Between the Savior and the Sea” at the bottom. On the back it says, “All for the Love of God,” has their names, and they also wrote “35 Day Spiritual Workout since 2011!” So thank you Jenny Schmid and Sarah and Michelle Sherman for such a thoughtful gift. I’m thrilled to have blessed your life!

Speaking of the 40-Day Spiritual Workout, I’m told that almost ten thousand teens have signed up and are doing it right now! That’s amazing!!! I’m praying for all of you who are growing strong in your faith through it, and so grateful that something I did is blessing so many.

You never know how what you do can impact somebody. I was blown away when I was being interviewed by Mark Newman, the founder of Cross Roads Radio, when he said that my music was one of the major inspirations for starting that station! Wow. (If you haven’t checked them out, you really should! Click HERE for great music.)

Since I’m on the topic of music, I’m thrilled that my kickstarter project for “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice” is 87% there! It’s been fun to play the music live (new video coming tomorrow) and get such great feedback. I feel pretty confident it’s going to be successful and the thought of creating a CD debt free really blows me away. A few months ago I despaired that it wasn’t going to happen (the money I had saved up had been eaten by medical expenses.) And now, thank’s to the goodness of God and the generosity of folks like you, I’ll get to record music that blesses lots of people. Especially my family!

But the music is only as good as the musicians and I’ve been blessed all summer to play with not only amazing musicians but incredible people: Andrew, Amanda, Andre, Dan, Emily, Kevin, and Matt. They’ve also been super helpful with creating the music videos I’ve been posting every week to promote the album. Thanks guys!

Not only do I play with amazing people on stage, (see how much I have to be grateful for?) I also get to hang with some of the coolest folks in Catholic ministry. Some are friends I’ve been connecting with for years, others are new friends I look forward to doing more ministry with in the future. I was on the phone with a friend of mine who used to speak at conferences and is now full time in homeless ministry. He said, “I don’t miss speaking at youth conferences, but I do miss the community of it.” Though I travel around the country throughout the year preaching and singing, I’m usually the main event. The conferences are a cool time where I’m part of a great team of people who do the same thing I do. It’s really special, and I’m so thankful to be a part of it.

IMG_2364As I mentioned in an earlier blog, this is my 20th summer doing youth conferences. They have been a source of God’s blessing for me. That’s what brought me to Steubenville in the first place, where I met my wife, got me involved in national ministry, and now I work here! If you would have told me 20 years ago that I was going to end up moving to Steubenville, get a Master’s degree, be a college professor, speak nationally and internationally, write books, and lead worship for over ten thousand people each summer… well, I don’t know what I would have said. It would have been more than I could have hoped for.

But all that pales in comparison to the blessing that is my family. Yesterday was my oldest son’s 15th birthday, and a week ago was my youngest son’s birthday. Being a husband and father is, by far, the second greatest blessing of my life.

The first? That’s easy. Being loved by God.

“How can I repay the Lord for all the great good He has done for me? I will offer a sacrifice of praise and call on the name of the Lord!” (Psalm 116:12, 17.)

The summer’s not done yet! I’ve got three more great adult conferences that I’m looking forward to and I’m excited to see how the “Gospel” CD will turn out. But this seemed like a great moment to praise God for everything He’s doing in my life and thank all of you who support what I do with your encouragement and prayers.

I’m so grateful!!!

And his name shall be called…

11

IMG_2283Apparently, I have a perfect track record when it comes to calling what the gender of our kids will be. I don’t actually remember that to be true, but my family says so. So when I felt pretty strongly that we were having a boy, but the ultrasound tech was “absolutely positive” it was a girl, I figured five out of six wasn’t bad.

But the streak continues…

Labor went smoothly, and thanks for all your prayers. When the baby was born, they asked us if we had a name. We said we weren’t totally sure, but we were thinking, “Felicity Rose.” The nurses looked at each other with an confused look and  the doctor responded, “Uh… that’s a funny name for a boy.”

WHA?!?

I abruptly did some manly fist pumping in the air to celebrate my surprise son. Cheers and laughter ensued, even with Jen, which shows how much of a trooper she is.

So then the question… what is his name?

Between Facebook, Twitter, and texts messages, I think friends and family have suggested every name ever. But the whole thing was a bit overwhelming, so we decided to sleep on it and pray about it in the morning.

Well, we’ve slept. And we’ve prayed. And we are proud to announce to the world our new son, Aidan David Rice.

Here’s the stats for those interested: he was born July 10th, 2013 at 9:15 PM. He is 7 lbs. 3 oz., and 19 3/4 inches long. 

Aidan is a beautiful Irish name of many great saints. But the thing that tipped it for me was when my friend, John Magee (who is from Ireland) said that Aidan (which literally means “fire” in Gaelic) was the Irish for Moses. Not finding any proof of that on the Internet (the bastion of all that is accurate) he shared that a wonderful, holy, and sweet Franciscan friar we both knew (his name was Aidan, too,) said so. And that’s enough for us.

David was “a man after God’s own heart,” a musician, and was never afraid to be “undignified” for the Lord. I’m also friends with a guy named Fr. Dave, who isn’t too bad of a guy, I guess.

And as a catechist, I love having a son named after two of the greatest figures in the Old Testament. Moses and David  brought a deeper understanding of God to the Israelites. I pray my son Aidan David will do the same for the world.

Thanks for all your prayers and the outpouring of support we’ve received. We’re all doing great!

Well, almost everyone. My two daughters aren’t too happy with this. And then there’s all the girly outfits and dresses we bought…

I hope Aidan doesn’t mind a pink car seat.

IMG_2234

2,000 Years Ago

2

Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 9.15.35 AM

“My old heart that loved sin died 2,000 years ago.”

I was mentoring a friend through a bible-study designed for people with addictions (settingcaptivesfree.com,) and that phrase jumped of my computer screen and pierced my heart. It was a reflection on the famous words of St. Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ, yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me,” (Galatians 2:20.)

This was a common theme of St. Paul. In his letter to the Romans, he wrote, “We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. For a dead person have been absolved from sin,” (Romans 6:6-7.)

A dead person has been absolved from sin! We are freed from the sting of sin and death because we already died—2,000 years ago with Christ! St. Paul exhorts us, “Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.”

This song, “2,000 Years Ago,” is a celebration of that great truth.

Thanks to Andrew Laubacher on guitar and Dan Bozek on bass. And special guest was Tim Hepburn, my former drummer who now plays with the kickin’ Celtic band, Synthian. It was fun to play with him again.

And here’s the obligatory pitch: I’d love to record this song on my new CD, “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice,” but I need your help! Visit my kickstarter page and help if you can. You can preorder the music, get an autographed copy, get an exclusive t-shirt, even get your name in the CD!

I’ve been thrilled with the donations this past week. We’ve passed the half way mark and are almost at $6K of the $9K goal. The fundraising ends July 31st, and if I don’t hit the target, I’ll get none of it. So please, donate if you haven’t yet and spread the word to people you think might be interested in supporting Catholic music.

And thank you, thank you, thank you to all who have supported the project so far! Enjoy the song!

St. Maria Goretti

3

 

mariagoretti2

Today is the feast day of one of my favorite saints, St. Maria Goretti. As a young man, I had two medals on my scapular: one was St. Joseph, and the other was St. Maria Goretti. Her story of purity, faith, and forgiveness is one of the most inspiring stories of a teenage saint that I know of. I named my daughter after her (and named her “twin” Joseph.) And when I had a chance to write a script about purity, I knew exactly what two people I’d love to write about.

This picture was drawn by an amazingly talented friend who wished to remain anonymous. And the video was produced by my good friends at Outside Da Box.

St. Maria Goretti, pray for us!

Small (Flower in Your Garden)

4

This song is based on the simple spirituality of St. Terese of Lisieux. It features Andrew Laubacher on guitar and Matthew fox on the violin. I’m actually impressed it came out as well as it did—I just used the iPad’s built in mic and it’s pretty clear.

I tried to record it in my backyard but it was too windy that day. So right after doing a Saturday AM set with a youth conference, Matt, Andrew and I went to “Kelly’s Garden,” which is just outside the student center at Franciscan. Kelly Roggensack was a sophomore who died in a car accident on the way back from a cross-country track meet. I thought it was a fitting place for this song.

I’m planning to record it for my new CD, “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice,” but I’ll be honest—I’m getting a bit worried that it might not happen. I’m half way into the kickstarter campaign with less than a third pledged, and there hasn’t been a lot of new activity the past week or so. Not being able to publicize this at the conferences has been a significant fund-raising blow.

But God is big. And I am, well, small. Or at least, I’m trying to be. If you haven’t yet made a contribution to the CD project, you can do so HERE (I also uploaded a new promo video which does a better job describing the project.) Any help you can give is greatly appreciated.

I want to be a flower in Your garden, I want to be a star within Your sky
I want to be a member of Your body, I want to be a singer in Your choir 
And I want to be just one word within Your story, I want to be faithful to Your call
Oh, to be a single note within your symphony! Father, teach me how to be small. 
 
And still I try to compare, worry about who’s better than me
I see others as competition, You see us as community
Am I diminished by the beauty that’s around me or am I part of Your great tapestry? 
Meek and humble of heart, meek and humble of heart…
 
Sometimes I think that the world revolves around me
And it’s all about me being the best
Then I’m reminded You’re the hero of this story
I am the damsel in distress
If I seek You will You take care of all the rest? 
 
Oh, to be a single note within Your symphony!
Who am I that You should care for me at all? 
Yet you tell me to be part of that great litany
Is to be the least of all
Teach me how to be small
 

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 9.25.11 AM

20 Years Later

6

Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 2.03.34 PM

It was the summer of 1994 when I first set foot on campus at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. I had been hired to speak at a Steubenville Youth Conference, something I hadn’t even heard of until a few months before. At that time I had been playing concerts and working at an improv comedy club in Orlando, Florida, “The City Beautiful.” So pulling into the polluted air of “The City of Murals” was quite a shock. “I could never live here,” I thought.

And somewhere up in heaven, God laughed.

That was the first summer Steubenville had two youth conferences. Other locations for youth conferences hadn’t started yet. I was there to help a group of students called the “Work Crew” (which later became “Young Apostles”) and do some comedy to lighten the mood of the weekend. I and another friend dressed up like friars—I was Brother Steub, he was brother Ville, and together we were Brothers Steub and Ville. We kept saying things like, “Back in Vatican I, before there was a sequel, we didn’t kneel on grass. We knelt on broken glass! And we loved it!” Oddly enough I got asked back the next year. And the next. And I’ve been involved in youth conferences in almost every different role a guy can do (speaking, hosting, entertainment, giving workshops, speaking at men’s sessions, I even spoke at a women’s session once, and leading music)  for the past 20 summers. It has been one of the greatest blessings of my life.

That first summer, I heard our blessed Mother speak to my heart while I was praying the rosary. She told me to drop everything and move to Steubenville. I didn’t hesitate—I knew God’s will was always the best. I thought it was to do youth ministry, but God had even more planned for me. I completed my Masters in Theology and met my wife, who I married in the campus chapel in 1997. And after 7 years of youth ministry in Latham, NY, Franciscan asked me back to be a part of the faculty to teach about two things I was passionate about: Scripture and Youth Ministry.

I took over the music ministry for the on campus conferences in 2005. Once again, it was something I never expected to do. I had done plenty of concerts before, but lead an entire weekend of worship? I had spent the previous years hosting conferences and really enjoyed doing that. But once again, I knew God’s plan was the best, and I’ve been so grateful to play music that has blessed tens of thousands of people!

This summer the conference office wanted to audition a new worship band and asked if I wouldn’t mind hosting the conference instead of playing it. I love doing music but I was thrilled to have a chance to host again—I hadn’t done it in eight years. And by God’s providence, that was the first conference that my oldest son was attending. Jon Niven (the musician for that conference) invited me on stage on Sunday AM to play one of my “classic” songs: Behold the Lamb, the theme song from 1997. For me, it was the perfect ending for that weekend, and a great moment of nostalgia as I thought about the 20 years I’ve been blessed to sing and speak from that stage.

I few years ago, I got over the shocking revelation that I had been doing ministry longer than all the teens in the room had been born. I don’t feel old at all—I feel young. I love sharing the love of God with young people, using every talent I’ve been blessed with.

I got asked a number of times, “which do you like better, hosting or leading worship?” Do I have to choose? I’m thrilled to do them both. But I have to admit, there is nothing more exciting for me than to tell people about how Christ died for them and be the person who gets to invite them into a deeper relationship with Him. I had a chance to do that this summer, and I’m grateful for the friendly folks at steubenville.org who caught it on tape:

I know that many people are blessed by the Steubenville summer conferences, but I can’t imagine anyone more blessed by them than me. Praise God!

Let This Be A Church Again

4

When I first started typing the description of the video, I wrote, “I think I did a good job playing with myself.” And then I fell over laughing.

All of my great-grandparents are from Ireland and I’ve always had an affinity for Celtic music. The style of accordion that I play is heavily influenced by that genre. And while there’s a bit of that Irish style in a lot of my music, I never went all-out until I wrote, “Let This Be A Church Again.”

A few years ago, a “Church Brew-works” opened up in Pittsburgh and my wife really wanted to go. The Catholic Church had been decommissioned (is that the word for it?) and they turned it into a restaurant and bar. The place was packed, probably more packed than it had been on Sundays. I felt really uncomfortable while eating there. It was all legit, of course. The restaurant hadn’t done anything wrong—in fact it probably helped the diocese by purchasing the building. But in the big picture, I felt like we had lost something.

I had that same feeling when I was asked to speak in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I spoke at a college that renovated a chapel for it’s lecture hall. It felt so right to preach the Gospel there… it was if the walls themselves were urging me on, rejoicing to hear the message they were created to echo. It was a powerful experience. That’s where the idea for the song first came from. I jotted down a few lyrics then, but the song was left unfinished for a while.

Then last month I went to a Reliant K concert that was in a place called the “Altar Bar,” a renovated Church that featured a very extensive drinking selection and some pretty loud music. And though Reliant K is a Christian band, the line up of the other artists who were going to preform there in the next few months were anything but. That’s what pulled the trigger for me to finish the tune.

“Don’t get me wrong by the tone of this song.” This song isn’t so much to slam pubs as to hope for a world where there are so many faithful people that have to turn bars into Churches instead of the other way around. But that won’t happen unless we first change our hearts.

If you like this song, please help me record it by donating to my kickstarter project, “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice.” Thanks again to all who have pledged money so far. We’re almost 30% there!

20130607-201541.jpg