Eastern alum chooses life of ‘obedience to God’ as a friar

When many college students dream of life after graduation, they envision finding the perfect-paying job with the perfect working hours so they can spend the perfect amount of time raising their new family. But not Bob Elder.

Since his graduation from Eastern last year, Elder felt a call from God to become a Franciscan friar.

“Some people view it as something that’s kind of crazy,” he said. “You have no possessions of your own, no wife and your will is not even your own.”

He first heard the call as a theology major with aspirations of becoming a United Methodist minister. After reading Martin Luther’s position on the Eucharist, that Christ is physically present in the taking of Communion, his beliefs were “derailed in quite a spectacular way.”

To become a friar, one must take solemn vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to God. He equated these vows to marriage: just as a man and woman vow to love, honor and cherish each other for as long as they live, a friar vows poverty, chastity and obedience to God for the rest of his life.

Before these vows can be taken, however, the candidate must follow a six-year long training process, beginning with postulancy, the stage that Elder is presently in. This is essentially a breaking-in to living the life of a friar: he is now living at a friary and is expected to be involved in community prayer and meals.

The next stage is the novitiate, where he will be invested with the habit, the robe that he will wear. This also involves a more intense prayer time, with a specific focus on mental prayer. He compared this stage to army boot camp.

Next come the simple vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. These vows last for three years, after which he will have the option of either renewing these vows for another two years, or moving on to take his solemn vows.

According to Elder, this process helps a person to be certain of his calling.

“It’s not something you can stumble into,” he said.

As a friar, Elder will also be expected to pursue some sort of ministry. His ultimate desire is to teach, perhaps on a college level. He currently teaches sixth grade Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) at St. Katherine of Siena church, in Wayne.

Vowing to forsake everything just as Jesus did during His time on Earth was what attracted Elder to the Franciscan order.

“It’s not something you pick,” he said. “It picks you. One of the best ways to live the Christian life is to follow Jesus not just in how one prays, but in every aspect of how one lives.”

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