I am trying to raise $10K in 10 days, looking for 100 people to give 100 dollars to Dirty Vagabond Ministries, a group of amazing people who are dedicated to transforming cities one kid at a time. To donate, go to https://www.crowdrise.com/dirtyvagabondpitt2018/fundraiser/therealbobrice

Or, you can text “pghmarathon” to 41444. It is that easy!

Dirty Vagabond is more than a charity that helps poor people. We are passionate about evangelization. We believe that transformation happens through hearts be changed.

Dirty Vagabond Ministries aims at raising up saints in a grassroots effort and incarnational model of ministry. Our ministry in Dirty Vagabond Ministries, happens in conversation, relationship, and recreation, as opposed to formal youth group functions.

Though our goal is the same as any Catholic youth ministry program – raising saints, rooted in the sacramental life of the Church – our approach is different.The Dirty Vagabond youth workers live as missionaries, volunteering 3 to 5 years of their lives to be Christ among the people.

Please help!

I love Star Wars. From the first time seeing “A long time ago” appear in blue letters on the movie screen, I was hooked. As a kid, I collected almost every action figure and play set that Kenner toys ever made. It captivated my imagination, and I likely spent more of my childhood, at least mentally, in the world of Star Wars than I did in the real one. I remember hours spent in my bedroom, playing with my action figures. Or I’d be outside looking up at the stars, imagining what it would be like to travel in space, dreaming of someday being a Jedi.
When I was 10 or 11, my Aunt visited. She was a Carmelite Hermit, and obviously didn’t get out much, so a visit from her was a big occasion. She wanted to spend the afternoon with me and asked what I wanted to do. The answer was obvious: see The Empire Strikes Back for what must have been the 8th time. I’ll never forget the dinner we had afterwords, when she explained what it meant to be a follower of Jesus using the imagery from the movie. It changed my life. Now I no longer wanted to be a Jedi. I wanted to be a Christian Jedi.
To be honest, I still do.
I’m not naive. It isn’t a Christian movie. Actually, one of the great things my Aunt Rosie explained was not only what was good about the movie, but also what wasn’t in line with being Catholic. Even with its flaws, it is a spiritual movie, and let’s be honest: you don’t get that very often, especially in science-fiction. Now that I’m older, I appreciate it when movies touch on spiritual themes instead of acting like they don’t matter.
I love Star Wars, but I hated the prequels. “Hate” is a strong word, and I use it intentionally. Not that there weren’t good parts to them, because there were. But it changed the rules.
In The Phantom Menace, we were introduced to the idea of midichlorians—tiny symbiotic life forms that live within the blood. It was explained that this was how you knew if you could be a Jedi or not. Young Anakin had the highest amount of midichlorians ever seen, “even higher than Master Yoda!” a young Obi-Wan exclaimed.
So… if you want to be a Jedi you have to pass a blood test? Is this what determines whether you end up working in the Jedi Temple library or are on the Grand Council? Your ability to use the Force was genetically predetermined and there was nothing you could do about it? I remember sitting in the movie theater as this was unveiled on screen. It felt like a punch to the gut. I know I’m sounding like “it ruined my childhood”… but to be honest, it kind of did.
The other movies of the prequels continued in a downward spiral of blurring the lines between good and evil, Jedi and Sith. At the end, the Jedi were as much to blame as anyone else. From the original trilogy, I had thought the Jedis were the “guardians of truth and justice in the universe”, as Obi-Wan had explained to Luke Skywalker in A New Hope. After those movies, I guess not.
When The Force Awakens came out, I braced myself, expecting to hear once again about the midichlorians… but it never happened. It felt a lot like A New Hope, so much so that its biggest critique was that it was too repetitive. But for those of us who suffered through the prequels, the repitition was welcome. The movie left us with some unanswered questions, particularly about Rey’s parents. I mean, if she was that strong in the Force, it has to be because of her bloodline, right? Obi-Wan must have shacked up with somebody somewhere—who else had that kind of midichlorian count in their blood?
The Last Jedi began with a heart-breaking image: a Luke Skywalker that had lost his faith. It wasn’t just that Kylo Ren turned to the dark side. He also learned about the history of the Jedi and realized it wasn’t what he thought it was. In a sense, he had watched the prequels. So he was convinced that the world didn’t need Jedi, that the Jedi were a part of the problem, and the best thing to do is to shut himself off from the force and kill the order.
And Rey, hearing him say this, says adamantly, “YOU’RE WRONG!”
Later in the movie came the big reveal. Rey’s parents were… nobodies. Junk traders. She had no “special liniage” to speak off. The implications of this were staggering: you can be strong in the Force, and it doesn’t matter who your parents are. It just matters who you are.
In the end, Luke is back to the Jedi he was always meant to be, and it is clear the Jedi order will rise again. The final scene was, for me, the most poignant. Three slave kids, playing with what were essentially Star Wars figures, get kicked out by their overbearing master. One of them walks to the hanger and reaches out for his broom… and it comes to him by the power of the Force. Then he looks to the stars. He dreams of going to space one day. Dreams of being a Jedi. And perhaps he will.
That kid was me. My faith in Star Wars was restored.
Disclaimer: Never lost my faith in Jesus 🙂 

I’m always grateful to be a part of the #sharejesus video series, produced by Redeemed Online. I’m also really glad that after I did the video they took a nice picture of me (which you can see on this site), since I’ve yet to get any professional pictures of me sans beard.  I would have done the video for free, but the picture was a nice plus.

If you are blessed by this, check out some of their other amazing videos at http://redeemedonline.com.

“Hey, where’s the beard?” I’ve been getting that question a lot lately as I show up at different events. It is usually followed by, “Why aren’t you wearing a bow tie?” Fear not, citizens. The bow tie is alive and well. I wear it when I teach and on Sundays. The beard, however, is gone.

Technically, it is still there, always growing underneath my pale Irish skin, pushing forward like Play-Doh slowly squeezed through a sieve. To understand the reason it is gone, one must understand the reason it began.

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It was 2004 and I had just left youth ministry and began teaching at Franciscan University. It was an incredibly intimidating job, especially since many of my former teachers were now my professional colleagues! I was only 32 so I was one of the youngest members of the faculty at the time.

I walked into THE FACULTY LOUNGE—a secret place forbidden to students but now I could have access to. Actually, it took me about two months to raise my courage to walk in there. When I did, there was a grumpy professor (who shall remain nameless) who, without really looking at me, loudly put his book down on the table and said, “Students are not allowed in the faculty lounge.” So I said I was sorry and I left.

And that’s when I decided to grow the beard. I needed to look older, and fast, or I knew I’d keep getting mistaken for a student. So in the course of a month I went from this:

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To this:

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Those pictures were with my daughter Elliana, who is now 12! Amazing how time flies.

My mission was accomplished: I looked older. Over time, the beard added shades of grey, giving me a more distinguished look.

However, the last few years, I have felt betrayed by the beard. It went from “pepper” to “completely white”. I would tell people I was in my forties, and they’d say, “Wow! I thought you were older than that.” I’ve noticed that more people have been inquiring if any of the college musicians I play with were my children. This is me at an event in Fort Worth, TX… one of the last known pictures of the beard:

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I confess I thought about coloring it darker. I even bought a Just For Men hair dye kit. But the instructions were way too complicated, and I didn’t want to head down that slippery slope. So I lathered up and took it off. And now I look younger.

THE END

PHOTO: Fr. Chris Martin, Me, Megan Mastroianni, and Paul J. Kim 

In June I was doing music for a Steubenville Youth Conference that Paul J. Kim spoke at. If you haven’t heard of him, you should check out his website HERE. He’s an incredibly talented young man who is on fire for God and has a great message for young people. During his keynote, he talked about going to a Steubenville conference as a teenager and how the host of that conference said something that changed his life. It was a powerful story.

The next day, as we were all sitting together at lunch, he looked at me and said, “Hey, I think that was you!” Sure enough, it was. Then two other people on the speaking team that weekend, Megan Mastroianni and Fr. Chris Martin, both shared how I had also been at Steubenville conferences they were at when they were younger (2002 and 1996).

This became a theme throughout the summer. Katie Hartfiel shared a picture when she was a “fan girl” of mine in high school. Oscar Rivera told a story from the stage about how he had a conversion in 1995 (and still remembered the horse I rode in on). Kris Frank, hosting a conference for the first time, mentioned that I was the host at the conference he had a powerful conversation at.

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PHOTO: Me and Katie Hartfiel, 2001

I did the math and realized that last weekend was my 75th youth conference in 23 years. That number is a bit ridiculous. If you average about two thousand young people at each conference, that means the Steubenville conferences have given me the opportunity to share my gifts of speaking, music, and comedy in front of about 150,000 young people. There’s only one word that comes to mind as I let that sink in:

Grateful.

My first conference was in the summer of 1994. I was just out of college (Theater major from Rollins College in Winter Park, FL). I had met Jim Beckman (who was the host of that conference) a few months before at the first Catholic Heart Work Camp in Orlando (fun fact: I was the first Carpenter Commando). It was his idea to bring me to Steubenville, a place I had never heard of. At the time he said the weekend could use my gift of comedy (I was working at an improvisational comedy club at the time) to inject some fun into the weekend. But later he shared that he knew in his heart that I needed to experience the kind of Catholic ministry that Steubenville was offering. He was absolutely right.

So from the beginning there was a mutual blessing: the conferences blessed me by being a part of them, and I blessed the conferences by using my gifts in the weekend. It began with comedy but soon grew to songwriting (writing many of the theme songs of the 90s), speaking, hosting, and leading worship. In fact, over these past 23 years I’ve done everything you could do at a conference short of concentrating the Eucharist (yes, I’ve even spoken at a women’s session).

In 2005 I was asked to provide music for not just the youth but also the adult conferences as well. Since we’re counting, last weekend was my 67th young adult or adult conference. The fact that I’ve done over 140 Steubenville summer conferences really blows my mind. I still find them energizing, life giving, and powerful moments of God’s grace.

I am continually humbled and grateful for the opportunity to serve at the Steubenville Summer Conferences. I’m always excited when someone says, “I remember you from 1997!” Even if I didn’t say or do anything particularly profound that changed that person’s life back then, it is cool that God let me be a part of the team of people that blessed him or her.

This year the Steubenville summer conferences celebrated its 40th year. What an honor to have participated in 23 of those! While I don’t want to minimize the wonderful things God has done through me over these past decades at those conferences, I also realize that I have been more blessed by having the conferences in my life than vice versa. I could have said no to Jim’s invitation back in 1993, deciding instead to keep doing comedy and music in Orlando, and the conferences would have continued to grow and bless hundreds and thousands of teens. It would have been my loss!

Last weekend, just as I do at the end of every summer, I put my guitar down after the closing song of Mass and said a prayer of gratitude. There’s no sign of me stopping right now, but I also know I’m not the master of my own fate. I can’t believe it has gone on this long, so who knows?

All I know is that I’m so thankful for being a part of the ministry of the Steubenville summer conferences. I can’t imagine my life without them.

 

Bob and Sunny

PHOTO: Me and Clayton Farris, who plays “Sonny”, on the “Ask J” set. 

There was a time when adolescence was considered to be a moment of asking the Great Questions in life: Why am I here? What is my purpose? Why is there suffering in the world? In previous generations they’d ask family members, a teacher, or a friend for the answer. But today, they ask Google.

The challenge with the Internet is that you can find any answer you want to any question you ask. Many people don’t realize that “information” is not the same as “wisdom”. Deluged by a variety of opinions, blogs, and posts, it is easy to see why this generation is so relativistic—how can there possibly be a right answer when there are so many possibilities?

At Franciscan University, we wanted to create a web series that, we hope, would make a young person realize that perhaps Google doesn’t have the answers to the “big” questions we ask. And that’s where we came up with the idea for “Ask J”.

“Ask J” is a five part video series that follows J, a new employee at the Internet, as he tries to answer questions like “Why is there suffering in the world?” and “YOLO, right?” The hope is that it could be used as a discussion starter in youth or young adult settings, or something that could be shared on the Internet with a friend to start up a discussion about the bigger things in life. I got to serve as the executive producer of this project and it was a real blessing to be involved in such a high-quality production.

When Jesus taught, sometimes He explained things directly; other times He used parables. I think a lot of Catholic media does the former but misses the latter. I can see why: it is cheaper and easier to film a talking head explaining this or that Church doctrine. It takes a lot more work and expense to tell a story. Yet young people respond far better to narratives than lectures, and so we tried to create a funny story with engaging characters that might draw the viewer into thinking about deeper issues.

The more these are watched and shared, the more likely we will get to keep doing projects like this at Franciscan. So please, link to these via your social media and share them with friends. We have a lot of other great ideas we’d like to bring to life!

I’m flying high from a successful defense of my dissertation yesterday. Literally, I’m flying on a plane home from England as I’m writing this. And by the way, that is the proper use of the word “literally” because 1) it is not a metaphor or exaggeration and 2) I wrote it down.

I guess I have to be picky about my language now because, well, I have a PhD! Honestly, for most of my life I never thought this happen and some things that happened in the past few months really made me concerned that it wouldn’t. I knew the process of getting a doctorate would be a lot of work, but didn’t expect the emotional rollercoaster that it became.

The lowest point in the journey came just a few months ago, in January, when I thought I had submitted my final draft. I had mistakenly thought the dissertation was to be 60,000 to 100,000 words and that examiners preferred shorter dissertations over longer ones. My different supervisors read various chapters at a time but nobody saw the whole thing until I put it together and sent it out. It was a little shy of 60,000 words. I immediately got an email asking where was the rest of it, and did I know it was supposed to be between 90,000 and 100,000 words?

I was on a plane to Florida when I got that email. I began to cry. After working four years on this, how was I supposed to come up with 50% more content? Plus, I had some pressures at Franciscan (at the time) that meant I needed to be finished by MAY.

Though I tried to be prayerful throughout the whole process, that was a moment of true surrender. I thought of the young boy who gave his five loaves and two fish to Jesus. On its own it wasn’t much, but Jesus did something incredible with it.

Over the next six weeks, I lived in my office, working crazy hours. I often went to bed praying that angels would keep typing for me while I slept. I was blessed to have a number of speaking events that let me hide in a corner and continue to write. Numerous friends comforted me with words of encouragement and constant prayers—I can’t tell you what that support meant to me! By early March I felt like the dissertation was really strong, better than it had ever been. I checked the word count… 95,000 words. An incredible blessing from God!

My supervisors signed off on it, but warned they didn’t think it was quite ready enough. There are a number outcomes for the defense of a British PhD: the award is given right there, the need for minor modifications (three to six months), the need for major modifications (six months to a year), the need to resubmit and try again, the granting of a second Masters degree (with its own category of minor and major modifications), and complete fail. Obviously, the last three categories are the nightmare (I had that nightmare more than a few times). My supervisors suggested to expect certainly minor and likely major modifications. I wasn’t so concerned about potential minor revisions—we had been cautioned since the beginning that a very small percentage of students gets away with a direct award—but the major ones could keep me busy for up to another year!

Another different thing from the British PhD system is that, unlike PhDs in America or much of Europe, you defend in front of strangers, not the people who helped you write the dissertation. They think this makes the defense more rigorous, as there could be some bias with those who know you and have already given input on the thesis. (This is not at all to suggest that American and Europe PhD defenses aren’t extremely difficult! But I think the way England does it is far more terrifying—and my friends with PhDs from the US agree.)

So yesterday I found myself at a moment I had envisioned for the past five years—the defense of my dissertation. That morning I prayed in the Sacred Heart Chapel that Blessed John Henry Newman had built (pictured above). I offered Jesus my loaves and fishes, knowing it wasn’t much but it was all I could do, and prayed He would do something amazing with it. Then I prayed a rosary, not to ask for help, but in thanksgiving for what I knew God would accomplish. He didn’t bring me this far to leave me.

I was escorted into the meeting room, met my two examiners, and we talked about my dissertation. The time flew by. They pressed me on a number of issues, but overall seemed satisfied with my answers. It was a really amazing conversation with other scholars about my work. I actually enjoyed myself!

Then I was told to leave while they discussed. My supervisors were in the other room, with my wife, all eager to hear how it went. I said I thought it went well. Dare I hope for minor modifications?

I was asked back in and was told the incredible news: award directly given, no need for modifications. “Congratulations, Dr. Rice.” I was so stunned I had to ask him to repeat it. My supervisors were shouting for joy. It was an incredible moment I will never forget in my life.

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One of the great blessings of that moment were I the people I knew were there with me in spirit. One of my closest friends sent me an email before my defense: “Know that as you sit and begin to present – the sudden calmness you will feel rushing over you – is the love and faith of so many people who hold you in prayer.” That is exactly what happened.

So know you can call me Dr. Bob Rice, an achievement that happened through a lot of hard work, the support of friends, but most of all through the providence of God. I pray (and have confidence) that God will use this to continue to further the Kingdom. To Jesus be all the glory!

Last week I had a great time in Cleveland speaking at a Theology on Tap. I was asked to talk about, “Proclaiming Christ to a Pagan World”. There were so many questions I didn’t have time to answer them! So I said I’d put them in a blog, and behold, I am a man of my word.

What is a good way to talk about Jesus to a friend who has fallen away from the Catholic Church?

I think that would depend on why he or she fell away from the Catholic faith. A doctrinal issue? A moral disagreement? Apathy? All of those might require different approaches. But the one thing in common would be a witness of love and joy. I don’t think those kinds of situations are usually changed because you can argue a point effectively. If you are frequently sharing (and showing) how Jesus has given you an abundant life, that is the best “conversation starter” to get to the heart of why your friend might no longer be into the Catholic faith.

As a young mother or father with a quickly growing number of young children, your priority is to your family. However, to what extent and in what ways are you called to evangelize during that stage of life? 

Holy families are a powerful means of evangelization! I love sharing with strangers that I have seven kids. They always react in shock: “Did you say seven!?!” I immediately reply, “Yeah, it’s awesome!” That makes them even more in shock. So many of them expect me to joke about how I have no time or my life is crazy. Too many times in society we treat marriage or family like a punchline. Another example: I have a t-shirt that says, “I Love My Wife”. Someone came up to me, laughed, and looked at the back of my shirt, expecting some kind of joke… but there is nothing there. I just actually love my wife and I’m not afraid to wear a t-shirt that says so. I think one good way to evangelize is to not play into the negative, anti-life and anti-marriage stereotypes that are common in society (like “marriage is the end of freedom”, “kids ruin your lives”, etc.). Our priority is to our family, but there is not a conflict between family and evangelization when we realize that the witness of a holy family is a powerful way to share the Gospel.

How do we evangelize as Catholics? Isn’t a lot of what you discussed common b/w Christians without the “weird” stuff of Catholicism? (Mass, pope, priests, rosary, etc.)

I assume this question is because I talked a lot about sharing Jesus but didn’t mention things like Mass, pope, etc. It’s a great question! Since we all read the same Gospels, I think the initial proclamation of the Good News is very similar among all Christians, whether they be Catholics, Evangelicals, Baptists, etc. We proclaim Jesus Christ, Son of God, who became flesh and dwelt among us, died for our sins, rose for our salvation, seated in glory and calls us to be His disciples. I think it is important that we “claim” this message as Catholics and not avoid talking about Jesus because we fear it sounds too “Protestant”. The saints of the Church had been proclaiming this message for over a thousand years before our family became divided. A significant difference between Catholicism and many other Christians is how we encounter Jesus and what it means to follow him. Many of our Protestant brothers and sisters focus on the personal relationship—”me and Jesus”—the kind of faith community you join is optional. (BTW, there are thousands of different Christian denominations in the US, so forgive the generalization!) Catholics see the Church as an integral part of experiencing Christ, especially through the sacraments, intercession of saints, apostolic tradition and authority, etc. So as a Catholic I would share how Jesus Christ has changed my life and how I’ve been transformed by the sacrament of the Eucharist, or how my understanding of how to follow Jesus has been beautifully shaped by the writings of St. Theresa of Avila. The focus is still on Jesus, but my witness brings in the elements of my Catholic faith.

How do you get your “regular” Mass attendee to become more involved in parish life beyond the “minimum”. 

They have to fall in love with Jesus. We do the “minimum” when we think we are a part of an organization. We do more when we realize we are a part of a family. I think we need to do a better job of proclaiming the love and mercy of God and witness to the joy of following him—the kind of things Pope Francis so beautifully expressed in Evangelii Gaudium. One way of showing that love to the “regular” attendee is to change the attitude that is prevalent in many parishes: people are there for us. We sadly often rely on people coming to our faith communities because they are obliged to. What are we doing to help those who come to our Church? When we start serving others, just as Christ did, people will respond by getting more involved.

How do you recommend dealing with discouragement when efforts to evangelize make no perceived change?

Humility. Success or failure isn’t up to us—conversion is a work of the Holy Spirit. We need to be open to sharing our faith with others, but He is the one who is doing the “heavy lifting”. And remember that people turned away from Jesus. Seriously, if people wouldn’t listen to the Incarnate Word, why do you think they would all listen to you? When Jesus told the parable of the sower and the seed, it was the minority of those who heard the word that ended up bearing fruit. It’s more like playing baseball than taking the SAT. People who hit 1/3 end up in the Hall of Fame! So I might humbly lower your expectations, and don’t blame yourself if it doesn’t seem to work. (I mean, it might be your fault, but I’m assuming your not a jerk that tells everyone they are going to hell.)

How do you continue to get back up in times of weakness? 

Cling to His mercy! I think this is so important and one of the great examples of Pope Francis. He often talks about being a sinner and forgiven by God. Though this is tough to admit, it is a great way to evangelize. If people see us as “super Christians” then we become untouchable, and they wonder why God loves us but not them. St. Paul said, “His power is made perfect in weakness”. The difference between a saint and a sinner is that the saint got up after he or she fell. It is all about clinging to His love and mercy that never comes to an end.

I hope that helps! If you have more questions, or if I didn’t understand what your question was actually about (I had a hard time with some of the handwriting), feel free to ask in the comment section and I’ll try my best to respond.

 

 

A few years ago I was invited to be a part of an “Evangelization and Outreach” task-force that Franciscan put together. Barbara Nicholosi, a scriptwriter from LA (among other many talents), was brought in to discuss how we might create different kinds of media to evangelize youth and young adults. She made a simple statement that had a profound effect on me: “The best parables never mention God.” Up to that point, I hadn’t noticed that the majority of parables that Jesus told were about sowers, seeds, lost sheep, fathers and sons, and fig trees—but not specifically about God.

We decided in that task-force to create media that would be more of a parable than a teaching. There is nor shortage of “teaching” media in the Catholic Church, and I’m not remotely saying it isn’t important. But Jesus used both teaching and parables, and the latter is often missing in Catholic media today.

From a media standpoint, it is WAY easier to teach than to tell a story. Media focused on teaching can be done with a simple set, a few chairs, and educated people talking about a subject (like we have on the EWTN show, “Franciscan University Presents”). Telling a story means scripts, actors, directors, production schedules, location shots, makeup, audio, soundtracks, etc. It would take more time and money to make. It was also a bigger risk: the “enjoyment” of the story would be subjective, as tastes can differ drastically from one person to another. I was really proud that Franciscan took the leap.

The first fruits of this effort is called “Judgmental Moose”. The concept was to tell a parable about the seven deadly sins using the stuffed head of a moose as a “Jiminy Cricket” type of “voice of conscience”. The audience was young adults and we went for a fun, quirky style of story telling. We have two more series in the works… but more on those as they get released.

I’m really excited about the final product. It was a huge learning experience! I had no idea how much work and how many talented people were necessary to do something like this. I’d love to hear your feedback on these videos, and please share them with others!

 

Jesus has risen from the grave! And so have I!

Yes, this has always been true in the spiritual sense, but “resurrection” has meant for more me this year. As many of you know, I’ve been toiling away at my dissertation for the past four years, and more intensely this past year, and even more intensely these past few months. In January I submitted what I thought was my final draft—but apparently it was way short of what it needed to be. So since then I’ve been spending every extra hour in my office and every minute of the day focused on writing the dissertation.

I’m thrilled to share that on Holy Wednesday I offically submitted the dissertation. It was strange waking up on Holy Thursday and realizing there wasn’t anything else I could do about it. By the time Easter came around, I felt like I was alive again.

This process has caused me to strip away things in my life, one by one. It began with things I enjoyed but didn’t need to do (like this blog). Then it moved to things that were more important but not immediate, like working out. I cut down social time with friends until I barely saw anyone these past few months. With the exception of watching the new Star Wars a couple of times I essentially stopped going to movies or watching TV, and any book I read had to do with my studies. By the end, even time with family had to be cut back—a painful choice! But I was comforted in knowing that 1) I was doing this for my family (keeping my job, promotion, etc.) and 2) it was only temporary (though it didn’t feel that way!).

The one thing I clung to and that got me through was prayer. “Seek first the Kingdom of God” was my mantra, especially as I was continually tempted to ditch Mass or prayer time to squeeze in a few more moments to finish a thought or read another source. I was certainly not perfect in that focus but that, above all, is what got me through.

Now that the dissertation is behind me, I feel like I can breathe again. I’m spending more time with my kids. I’m hanging out with friends (the first Geek Night of 2016 was last night). Started running (though my brain thinks I can run farther than my body agrees with, at least for now). I’m catching up on all the emails I’ve not been answering these past months (sorry if I owe you one). And I’m watching Daredevil on Netflix with my boys without feeling guilty about not studying. Life is good!

Thank you for all your prayers during this time. I’ve got one more hurdle: I’m defending the dissertation in England on July 2nd. However, things are out of my hands now. Not that they ever were! That’s something I’ve learned through all of this.

I’m alive again! Hallelujah!