The Profession in Initial Vows of Br. James Martin Woodrum, SSJE – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Ezekiel 34:11-16 / Psalm 87 / 2 Timothy 4:1-8 / John 21:15-19

Today is a day which we have been hoping for, and praying for, for a very long time.  A day of rejoicing.  Our dear brother Jim is to make the vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience, as a professed brother of our community.  And what a wonderful day, the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, for the profession.

When these two great apostles first met Jesus: Simon the fisherman by the Sea of Galilee, and Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, neither of them could have imagined how Jesus would change their lives.  When they said yes to Jesus’ invitation, “Come follow me,” their lives would never be the same again.

Jim, when you first said ‘yes’ to Jesus’ invitation to “Come follow me” as a twelve year old at Abingdon Baptist Church, Virginia, could you ever have imagined the adventures that lay ahead, and that eventually would lead you to this day – this day, when you will become a full member of this community, and our brother? Continue reading

The Sacred Heart of Jesus – Br. Robert L’Esperance

robertWhether you’ve liked them or not, you’ve likely seen representational art portraying Jesus with a human heart floating outside his chest, sometimes surrounded by thorns and topped with a flame of inextinguishable fire. Such images can conjure up emotions and questions both positive and negative. The image I’m referring to is known as the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It’s a widely popular devotion in Catholic Christianity and we remember that devotion today. Continue reading

Frail Flesh and Family – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke DitewigIsaiah 40:1-11; Acts 13: 14b-26; Luke 1:57-80

Zechariah and Elizabeth are quite elderly when the angel Gabriel visits and says they will have a child. Zechariah doesn’t believe it. He becomes mute, unable to speak, for nine months until their son’s birth. About six months later Gabriel appears to a relative of Elizabeth, an unmarried young woman named Mary.  Gabriel tells her she will have a son, the Messiah. Joseph, her fiancé, also receives a startling visit from an angel. Elizabeth does give birth to John, and Mary gives birth six months later to Jesus.

We will celebrate Jesus’ birth in six months on December 25th. So today, June 24th, we celebrate John’s birth. John was born to barren Elizabeth and Zechariah, who were old enough to be his great grandparents. Jesus was born to virgin Mary, almost too young to be a mother, and her husband-to-be, Joseph. These are improbable parents, impossible births, and wondrous stories.  Continue reading

The Value of Sparrows – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis AlmquistMatthew 10: 24-33

For several years after college I worked for an international development and relief organization.  We provided medical supplies and expatriate staff for hospitals in 80 or so of the economically-poorest countries of the world.  My work was in personnel, which included preparing and orienting our medical workers for what they would encounter in their host culture.  We always told them in great detail the worst they would likely experience: the extremes of the weather, the meager diet, the primitive sanitary conditions, the political tensions with the host government, the competition among various religious and political groups in their area, the lack of privacy, the prospect of their becoming sick, the homesickness and loneliness they would feel, the possible strains on their family, the desperate need for their work… and the haunting guilt they would probably feel being such privileged people in the face of such great poverty.  Continue reading

Celebration of the Ministry of M. Thomas Shaw – The Rt. Rev. Frank T. Griswold, 25th Presiding Bishop

Celebration of the Ministry of M. Thomas Shaw, 15th Bishop of Massachusetts

Presiding Bishop Frank T. GriswoldIsaiah 64:3-5,8; 1 Cor. 12:12-13, 20-26; John 15:1-12

I am grateful for the invitation to break the bread of God’s word on this occasion as we gather here to give thanks for the amazingly fruitful episcopal ministry of the Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw.

I am particularly pleased to be with you this morning to celebrate someone who has been a close friend for many years – since the 1980’s and his years as Superior of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, and, additionally, for the past 20 years, as a colleague in the House of Bishops where he has been deeply valued as a person of wisdom and insight with the ability to draw to draw people together beyond differing points of view into a broader understanding and wider vision.  Continue reading

From Slaves to Servants – Br. John Braught

Matthew 6:24-34

Jesus uses the image of masters and slaves, as much as any other, to characterize our relationship to God, and to the world. For us, we may not be so quick to identify with the image of masters and slaves as Jesus’ first hearers were. Yet, many of us, I suspect, know something about being a slave; that is, we know something about being owned, being bound, being controlled by something other than God.  Perhaps it’s wealth that we are owned by, as Jesus suggests. Perhaps we are slaves to obsessions and compulsions; addictions, in a word, that dictate what we do, where we go, and who we associate with. It may be that pride is calling the shots, or maybe lust is your master; it might be greed, envy, anger, sloth, gluttony, but we don’t have to specialize.  Continue reading

Dying to Live – Br. Robert L’Esperance

SSJE141The Restoration of the Religious Life in the Anglican Communion:  The Profession of Marian Rebecca Hughes, 1841.

Matthew 16:24-27

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

Ayman Nabil Labib was a Coptic Christian.  “Like many Coptic Christians in Egypt, Ayman Nabil Labib had a tattoo of the cross on his wrist. And like 17-year-old men everywhere, he could be assertive about his identity. But in 2011, after Egypt’s revolution, that kind of assertiveness could mean trouble. Continue reading

Come, Holy Spirit – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Genesis 1:1-8 / Acts 2:1-21 / John 20:19-23

Four years ago, we brothers were gathered together at Emery House for the start of our annual retreat.  The weather was hot and very still.  Not a breath of air.  I was sitting in my room, and was feeling very tired and, frankly, a bit discouraged.  The renovations, living in a temporary home away from the monastery, had left me feeling depleted and spent.  Usually, the prospect of a week’s retreat would have really energized me, but now it just sounded daunting.  I offered a few desultory prayers – Come on Lord, help me get some energy.  I want to feel alive again.  Come, Holy Spirit – do something!

So I thought I’d go out for a walk, and went into the Maudslay State Park, and sat on a bluff over the river.  As I sat there, the temperature suddenly started to plummet, and out of nowhere there came this huge wind, blowing over the bluff.  I started laughing.  It just seemed such a gift from God, an answer to prayer.  Thank you God – and I remember running down the hill towards the river, feeling quite exhilarated.  Here comes the Holy Spirit. Continue reading

Practicing Gratitude: A Monastic Guide

 MW-gratitude-banner2

“Thank you.”

“Many thanks.”

“I really appreciate it.”

How often in a single day do you speak or hear these words? We Brothers hear them day after day, from our Friends, who write to thank us for a word we’ve shared, or a sermon we’ve posted. We are so grateful for this stream of thanks, which inspires and heartens us, that we wanted to stop and take a moment to reflect on how just powerful gratitude can be in our lives.

As our friend Anders sums it up: “Gratitude seems to be shortest path to love God with all our hearts and souls, and to love one another as ourselves . . . In gratitude, we are co-creators with God, and it is good.” 

Gratitude is so important that the fundamental action of Christian worship is the Eucharist, an act of gratitude that literally means “great thanksgiving.” “Let us give thanks to the Lord,” the celebrant invites us. And we respond, “It is right to give God thanks and praise.”

Gratitude is a great gift, which we are made to receive and offer back to God. And to do that, we need to practice!

Our friend, Ruth put it perfectly:How often we see the hole instead of the donut! How blessed we are from day to day! May God grant us the ability to see those blessings!”

Watch a short video of Br. Curtis Almquist on the gift of gratitude.

 

PRACTICING GRATITUDE (a monastic guide)

Gratitude, like any other spiritual practice, is something we do, not just something we feel. And it’s something we need to practice. To practice gratitude, we don’t need a special cushion on which to sit, nor a special lamp to light, nor a special icon on which to gaze, nor special incense to smell, nor special prayer beads to finger, nor a special prayer or mantra to recite. (None of that is in any way bad or inappropriate. It may well help. It is simply not enough.)

What is enough is here and now. The Psalmist reminds us, “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps 118: 24). Gratitude consecrates our life and makes us real, because it makes us really available to the real presence of Christ, who is at work within us and around us – now.

We hope you’ll try out these four simple invitations and see how they change your day.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF GRATITUDE

6am1. Pray your gratitude.

The Psalmist asks rhetorically, “How shall I repay the LORD for all the good things he has done for me?” (Ps 116:10). Start with gratitude. Br. Geoffrey suggests that the best time to practice gratitude is first thing in the morning – even Monday mornings! (God Loves to be Thanked – Br. Geoffrey Tristram) Before you ask God for anything, say thank you for one thing or many things.



noon-22. Keep your ears open. 

People will want to thank you today. Let them. (This can be a hard one!) They need to speak their gratitude; you need to hear it. Respond to them, “You are welcome,” and say it from the bottom of your heart. And keep your ears open to hear God’s gratitude for you. There is no one else like you, and God – believe it or not – is immensely grateful for who you are and all the good that you do.

6pm3. Express your gratitude to others. 

People are so easily taken for granted. Whether they be people whose labor is menial or in leadership, or whose lives are closely linked with yours, people are so easily taken for granted. You’ll change their day, perhaps change their life, by expressing your gratitude for who they are and what they do. Stop throughout the day and thank someone. Make an unexpected phone-call to say thank you for something that happened, even long ago. A handwritten note can be equally powerful. (We Brothers know first-hand how much these messages of thanks matter.)

9pm4. Savor your life at the end of the day. 

Take time to remember and reclaim what is so amazingly good in your life. (Br. Luke Ditewig offers tips on how to do this in a short video.) Gratitude means saying “Yes” to the life you’ve been given, to the hand you’ve been dealt. Accept the good gifts of life that actually are there, free of resentment for what is not there, or no longer there. Complete the daily chapters of your life by remembering and appreciating what has been so very good today.

WANT MORE?

Here you’ll find a selection of the Brothers’ preaching, writing, and videos on Practicing Gratitude:

  • In this short video on Praying Our Lives, Br. Robert L’Esperance makes  a passionate argument for how gratitude helps us embrace the newness of every moment. Watch it here.
  • Does prayer elude you? In his article “Living Gratefully,” Br. Curtis Almquist encourages a practice of gratitude, assuring us, “Gratitude in prayer is like oil to a frozen gear box.Get some tips here.
  • “Our whole life is a life of gratitude,” said Thomas Merton. But how can we cultivate a spirit of gratitude in all things? Br. David Vryhof offers some suggestions in his article Life Becomes Rich: The Gift of Gratitude.
  • Follow your own Streams of Gratitude back to their source with Br. Mark Brown, who suggests that “If gratitude is the fullness of our humanity, and if we are made in the image and likeness of God, gratitude itself must have its origins in the heart of God.”
  • “Our life should overflow with thanksgiving to Jesus. Thanksgiving should be the driving force in our daily lives.” Say a simple Thank you, Jesus with Br. John Goldring

The Subtext about St. Peter – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis AlmquistJohn 21:15-19

Beneath this Gospel text we’ve just read is a subtext.  This interchange between Jesus and Peter is happening, of course, following Jesus’ crucifixion, where Peter had denied that he as much as even knew Jesus.  The subtext is that Jesus has gone back to Galilee to find Peter.  The northern shores of Galilee are a long ways from Jerusalem, but Jesus obviously knew where he would find Peter, and what he would find in Peter.  Jesus asks Peter three times if Peter loves him.  This could only be agonizing for Peter, having denied at Jesus’ crucifixion as much as even knowing Jesus.  Denied three times.  The subtext behind Jesus’ three questions of Peter – “Do you love me” – is that Jesus has already forgiven Peter.  And Jesus already has plans for Peter: Peter will be the key person on whom Jesus will entrust the oversight and leadership of his followers.  Jesus already knows this. Continue reading

The Martyrs of Uganda – Br. David Vryhof

davidvryhof_1Hebrews 10:32-39
Matthew 24:9-14

Christianity is costly.  “When Christ calls (us),” writes Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a martyr of the 20th century, “he bids (us) come and die.”

Some Christians pay the ultimate cost for their allegiance to Christ.  Among them are the martyrs of Uganda, whom we remember today.  One source describes their witness in this way: Continue reading