In September 2012 to June 2013, three exceptional young men took part in the Monastic Internship Program, living, worshipping, and working alongside the community for nine months. We asked them to reflect on what they would take away from the experience.
One of the real beauties of this year for me has been being seen, really being seen and embraced as a person. In this, I think that the Brothers epitomize the best of Christian community: They embrace people as individuals and don’t ask that you live up to a set of standards before they love you. That’s really rare. And it’s what I needed.
So often, as human beings, we settle for less than we deserve. We’ve bought into a commercial version of life where we’re told, “If you get certain stuff you’re going to be really happy; if you get these jobs, you’re going to be happy; if you climb high enough up on the ladder and get a certain house and get a certain amount of security, then everything is going to be okay.” The truth is that none of that is very important. The most important thing is community and love. The SSJE community really exemplifies those values, which are a central theme in Johannine spirituality, but which I’d always dismissed as sort of Hallmark stuff. But love, in its fullest sense, is what God wants for us. This kind of love is accepting and it’s warm and it’s forgiving and it’s very spacious and it allows us to be fully human and not need to put on airs or pretend like we’re something we’re not or to strive in some way for achievements or possessions. When you’ve lived in a place like this, where you’ve been shown great hospitality and abundant love, you begin to realize that love does have the potential to transform us as individuals. No material things can do that. No amount of security or money in the bank is going to really transform us. But love has the ability to really transform people.
That certainly has been my story here: To be loved, as I’ve experienced this year by this community, wakes up a part of you that makes loving other people possible. And I think that, as a church, or just as people on a very human journey, our capacity to love is really the most important thing that we can develop. If we’re going to spend time in life doing anything, this is the one thing that really has the potential to transform us the most, and to transform the lives of everybody around us.