Brother Matthew Rehagen CSC, a Jefferson City native and graduate of St. Peter Interparish School and Helias Catholic High School, recently professed first vows in the Congregation of the Holy Cross.
During Mass Aug. 3 in Sacred Heart Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, he and 11 other men professed before God their intention to spend the rest of their lives in poverty, chastity and holy obedience to the leaders of their congregation.
Each was given a Holy Cross habit, as well as the Cross and Anchors emblem, as signs of their professed membership in the congregation.
Brother Matthew said the vows are a way for him to offer all that he has and all that he is, to the Lord.
“Poverty, chastity and obedience help me to focus my life on trusting dependence on, single-hearted intimacy with, and total surrender to God,” he said.
Brother Matthew is the youngest of four sons of Mark and Susan Rehagen of Jefferson City.
His brother is Holy Cross Father Christopher Rehagen, who is serving at a parish in South Bend, Indiana.
Brother Matthew said his family set a great example for him and his brothers while they were growing up.
“Faith and family were the two most important elements for us,” he said. “Everything else would stem from that.”
That experience helps him see the whole Church as a family.
“Through our faith, we are united with bonds of love with God and with each other,” he said.
Brother Matthew recently wrote to the people of his home parish that St. Peter always seemed like a spiritual home to him.
“I know that I would not be where I am today without the help of my family, our parish priests, my teachers and the community at St. Peter’s,” he stated.
He believes the biggest help in his early stages of discernment came from his parents’ and grandparents’ involvement in the life of the parish.
“They showed me the joy that an active life of faith produces,” he stated. “Through their own teachings and examples, my parents really encouraged me and my brothers to grow in our faith.”
Brother Matthew and his extended family went to Mass together, shared meals and drew closer to Christ together.
His parents’ insistence on attending 7 a.m. Mass before school on Fridays helped deepen his faith.
“I say with confidence that I have been truly blest to have grown up in such a great spiritual environment,” he stated.
“Our only hope”
The Congregation of Holy Cross is a religious order founded in 1837 by Blessed Basil Moreau in France.
Modeled after the Holy Family, the congregation is composed of priests, brothers and sisters.
Members are educators in the faith and are engaged in numerous apostolates throughout the world, including a robust presence at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
Their motto is “Ave Crux Spes Unica” — “Hail the Cross, Our Only Hope.”
Brother Matthew was a student at Notre Dame when he began to sense that God was calling him to the Priesthood.
“I was drawn to Holy Cross because of the vibrance of many of the religious I got to know while I was at Notre Dame,” he said.
He recognized the Holy Cross priests and brothers as men of great joy, whose communal lives and communal prayer appealed strongly to him.
His oldest brother had entered formation with the Holy Cross congregation in 2009 and was ordained to the Holy Priesthood in 2015.
“Witnessing his joy during his years of formation helped me to realize how fulfilling following the will of God could be in my life,” said Brother Matthew.
The younger brother transferred into the Holy Cross seminary as a sophomore and has been in formation ever since.
His first profession followed a year of prayer and discernment in the Holy Cross novitiate in Cascade, Colorado.
Brother Matthew said many priests and brothers, including his older sibling, helped him discern his calling.
Brother Steven Schonhoff of the De LaSalle Christian Brothers, a member of the Helias Catholic High School faculty, helped him discern the possibility of a vocation to religious life.
Following first profession, Brother Matthew recently moved back to the University of Notre Dame, where he will pursue a master’s degree in Theology while continuing his religious and priestly formation at Moreau Seminary.
“Moreau has such a vibrant community, and I am glad to be back with my brothers here,” he said.
He said formation — a guided process of spiritual transformation and study — has helped him grow in his relationship with God.
“I’ve heard my entire life that God loves me, but it’s only been within the past few years that I’ve let that sink into my heart and affect the way I look at life,” he said.
That same formation has helped him recognize God’s presence in others and serve Him through a variety of ministries.
These have included work in hospitals, schools, parishes, homeless shelters, and clinics for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
“Formation is an ongoing process for us all as we strive to bring the love and joy of Jesus Christ to all whom we encounter,” he said.
Mind, heart, soul
He pointed out that religious life is not all religious.
The former pitcher for Helias Catholic’s varsity baseball team still enjoys playing and watching sports — especially St. Louis Cardinals baseball.
During his novitiate year, he read many classic books of literature and developed a particular fondness for Fyodor Dostoevsky.
He believes that like his father, he is an educator at heart.
“There’s something special about being in a classroom while helping to form the next generation,” he said.
But he emphasized that education for Holy Cross is not just a mental activity.
“Knowledge and facts are not enough,” he said. “True Christian education requires the formation and education of the whole person.”
He said information leads to formation, and formation leads into transformation into the person of Christ.
“In other words, there has to be a connection between the mind, heart and soul in Catholic education,” he stated.
“Trust in God”
Brother Matthew is grateful for all the prayers and support he has received from people in his home parish and diocese.
“Prayer works,” he said. “I’m not sure that I would be where I am today without all of your prayers.
“Please continue to keep me in your prayers, and be assured that I will be praying for you,” he said.
He urged anyone who recognizes a possible priestly or religious calling in someone else to call it to their attention.
“This life is a beautiful one!” he said.
For those considering Priesthood or religious life, Brother Matthew said a life in service to the Church is a great and joyful experience.
“It is not an easy life, but it is one of the most fulfilling imaginable,” he stated.
He pointed to a discernment prayer by Trappist Father Thomas Merton, a Catholic mystic and writer:
“My Lord God, ... the fact that I think that I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You.”
“If you are discerning your vocation,” said Brother Matthew, “the most important thing is to just trust in God. Just try to listen to God in the stillness of your heart and know that God loves you.”
“Take that first step, and God will lead you where you need to go,” he said.