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Welcome to the Society of Saint John the Evangelist

Love Life

I've "learned a lot" – Hannah Tadros

IMG_9355There was a Sunday afternoon when I was a child that I sat my mother down and demanded to know about life and death, where babies come from, and where we go. When my mother had answered all my questions to my satisfaction, I announced, “I’ve learned a lot today,” and left the room confident in my grasp of existence.

To say I’ve “learned a lot” from the Brothers, from the other interns and residents, from the time spent here in prayer and silence, would be a simplification of the same sort. To give in to my tendency to itemize and label each “revelation” and new awareness seems to me to be my thirty-three-year-old version of that same seven-year-old confidence: an only slightly more grown up “I’ve got this.”

During the nine months in the Monastic Internship Program, I always found it difficult to answer the question most commonly posed by guests during Sunday talking meals: “Why are you doing this program?” I think one particularly taxing week I may have responded with, “I heard there was treasure buried under the Chapel.”

As an adult, I haven’t been blessed with the same gift of certainty I had as a child. I cannot claim many affirmative statements about God, myself, or the world. I entered the Monastery with a list of questions ranging from the subject of theodicy to the definition of love. I guess my response to the guests’ repeated question should have been that I came here wanting an index of answers, one monolithic truth about who and what God is, a tremendously long, Roman-numeraled outline entitled “How to Be a Human and Do This Whole ‘Life’ Thing.”

But better than a great big cosmic sense of “I’ve got this” was the invitation to get comfortable in uncertainty. And more relevant than a clearly delineated blueprint of reality were often the quiet truths couched in the negative. “Love is not coercive,” a Brother told us interns. “Force is not of God,” a hymn repeated. And finally, from a James Martin, SJ book we read as a group, words that now speak to me from three Post-It notes on my mirror, “You’re not God. This isn’t heaven. Don’t be a jackass.”

Besides my being sleepy, my most intense experience of my time at SSJE has been one of gratitude. In the understanding I had of faith for most of my life, calling me an unbeliever would be generous. (A generosity often extended to me by those blessed with religious certitude.) By their doing and not doing, by their words and silence, mostly by their astonishing expression of grace, the Brothers have helped heal and widen the damaged and limited awareness of God, self, and faith that I brought with me nine months ago.

                                                                                          – Hannah Tadros

 

Love Life: Vocation Compilation

Today’s offering is a compilation of the five Vocation videos. We hope this compilation will help you to catch up on any videos you might have missed, as well as providing an easy way to share the week’s videos in a group. Let us know how this week went for you!
Watch the Videos. Write your Answers. #LoveLife

Questions:

Vocation 1: How would you describe your vocation? (Today.)
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Vocation 2: Who has shown you what it means to be a person of love?
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Vocation 3: What obstacles are you working with?
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Vocation 4: How is God’s love being perfected in you?
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Vocation 5: How have you experienced God enticing you, drawing you, calling you?
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Vocation 5: Home

Question:

How have you experienced God enticing you, drawing you, calling you?
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Transcript of Video:

My own experience of vocation has been the extraordinary experience of God actually coming and looking for me and calling me. And one way in which I was particularly aware of this was during the years which I spent at the seminary. In our chapel we had a very beautiful icon of Christ holding the Book of Life. And on that Book of Life was inscribed just one text from scripture, and it was from the gospel of John. I remember it was Chapter 15, Verse 16. And the words were, “You did not choose me but I chose you.”

And those words I used to look at them every day at worship during all those years of training to be a priest. And those words have meant so much to me in the years following in my experience as a parish priest, particularly when things were difficult or when I was beginning to feel, “Oh, I wish I perhaps did a different job or not chosen this way of life.” I remembered those words, “But you did not choose me I chose you.” And I realize that all through my life God has been there calling me, enticing me, choosing me, drawing me to himself and it’s kind of an extraordinary and wonderful experience. And that is how I see vocation as God, the one who so loves me, that he longs to call me, ultimately to call me home.

– Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Vocation 4: Dignity

Question:

How is God’s love being perfected in you?
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Transcript of Video:

I think it was Paul Tillich who said that God – who defined God as, “The object of our ultimate concern.” “The object of our ultimate concern is God,” that’s how he defined God. And I think we could turn that around the other way, too. I think we might say that the human being is the object of God’s ultimate concern. Saint Irenaeus, I think in the 2nd Century, said it very luminously. He said, “The glory of God is the human being fully alive.” And of course in the gospel of John we read that, “The word, who was God in the beginning, became human flesh.” Not some other kind of flesh but human flesh. And there’s a recognition there of the very high status of the human being in the whole scheme of things.

It invites us to certainly a deep regard and respect for our own being and then of course a deep respect and regard for every other human being that we meet and recognizing the capacity of each human being to incarnate the love, grace and truth of Christ. To be the means by which God’s love is made yet more perfect in the world.

– Br. Mark Brown

Vocation 3: Obstacles

Question:

What obstacles are you working with?
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Transcript of Video:

Most people who are struggling to find their vocation very often aren’t really looking in the right place. Vocation comes from the root which means to call or to be called and a calling as in the gospel the example of Jesus calling the disciples, first of all John’s disciples, “Come and see,” and later the other disciples, “Come follow me.” So ask people who are looking for vocation what gives you the most satisfaction. What sort of – what calls to you to really feel that you are doing something worthwhile. Something that feeds you intellectually and emotionally. Maybe not all at the same time but both of those factors are usually there.

In truth, very often when a person is seeking their true vocation, they will find that it’s not always an easy road. Sometimes there are obstacles to be overcome. And in seeking one’s true vocation one needs to penetrate why it is that those obstacles are there. Is it something saying look someplace else or is it something saying you’ve got to work your way through this.

– Br. David Allen

Vocation 2: Offering

Question:

Who has shown you what it means to be a person of love?
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Transcript of Video:

Some of the call in John’s gospel is for us to be people of love. We’re called to be part of a community of love. So all of us have been called to this. This is what Jesus is inviting us to, to be part of a community of love and to love one another and to love those in need. And so what would that look like for you.

Jesus says that he has come to lay down his life for his friends and then he invites us to do the same thing. He says, “I’m calling you also to lay down your life for others.” And I think we do this in a multitude of different ways and there’s all kinds of ways that we do this day by day by day. The people that we live with, the people we work with, the people that we associate with, we’re constantly called to offer ourselves to be channels of God’s love to others. And how that will look for any one of us, as some of us may have a particular role to fill or some particular vocation in terms of a career or a job in which we feel like that’s our primary way of living out this call, but all of us are called to be it.

So maybe you are called to be the one who cares about elderly people in your parish or the one who takes care to notice and remember the names of the children that live in your neighborhood. Or maybe you’re called to be the one who brings a small gift, maybe baked goods or a card or something to someone in the hospital. Or maybe you’re called to be one who listens deeply to others. There are so many ways that we can lay down our lives in love for one another. So all people share that calling. All of us have been called to that. And we will find in that loving service such a great and high calling and purpose in life, far beyond any other goal that the world can offer to us. This is where we will really find our joy and our satisfaction because we’ve been made for this.

– Br. David Vryhof

Vocation 1: Belonging

Question:

How would you describe your vocation? (Today.)
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Transcript of Video:

When I say vocation I’m not talking about a job. I’m talking about your identity. I’m talking about who you are as a child of God. What has made you up. How you have been equipped, sensitized, empowered. The kind of access you have to people, wherever and however. The question is how have I been uniquely formed to bear the beams of God’s love where I am. We all have vocations. Some of us have a portfolio. Some of us may have a calling card that actually in sync with our vocation. But vocation is a much deeper reality than our job. By virtue of our baptism, we have a vocation.

If you’re waiting on a job, waiting to find a job, waiting to get out of a job, waiting to get back into a job, you’re not on vocational hold. I think there’s a reason why today isn’t tomorrow. Don’t live your life leveraged into the future. The future which you hope will happen, maybe some days demand must happen, and in a certain shape and form. Don’t miss the moment. The invitation for living life is in the present moment where God is going to be most present to you and with you, within you and around you, is now. And if there is to be a tomorrow, you’re going to need today to prepare you for tomorrow. Don’t cut in line.

So in the meantime, claim your vocation that you’re a God bearer. You are teaming with God’s light and life and love. Don’t grasp it. Don’t squander it. Let it go. Let it go and let it flow.

– Br. Curtis Almquist

Love Life: Vocation Conversation

This week’s videos will take up the theme of Vocation. As you get ready for the week, we invite you to listen in on a conversation about Vocation between the Novice Guardian, Br. David Vryhof, and Brs. Luke Ditewig and John Braught. We hope their questions will start your thinking about your own, and give you a glimpse into the Brothers’ daily life as monks who look to the Gospel of John to guide their own lives of love. We hope this coming week will help you to #LoveLife.

Question:

Can you grow into where your heart leads you?
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Love Life: Collaboration Compilation

We are pleased to share in this Lenten journey with you. Today’s offering is a compilation of the five Collaboration videos. We hope this compilation will help you to catch up on any videos you might have missed, as well as providing an easy way to share the week’s videos in a group. Let us know how this week went for you!
Watch the Videos. Write your Answers. #LoveLife

Questions:

Collaboration 1: Can you love as a witness? Can you be a listener rather than a savior?
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Collaboration 2: Can you be content with what you have to give?
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Collaboration 3: Make a list of your sinful and graceful actions today. Which side is longer?
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Collaboration 4: What breaks you out of your patterns of dislike?
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Collaboration 5: When you feel lonely, how can you turn to God for help?
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Collaboration 5: Loneliness

Question:

When you feel lonely, how can you turn to God for help?
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Transcript of Video:

Any person that’s healthy emotionally and psychologically feels lonely from time to time and finds that loneliness painful. And I think that the thing that’s always the most important in prayer is to be honest with God and to ask for what we need. And so when I’m lonely, when I feel isolated, I say that to God in my prayer and identify it and I say, “I want to be relieved from this. This is painful. This is difficult for me.” And God always responds. Sometimes not necessarily alleviating the loneliness in the way that I want it to be alleviated. But God invites me into a kind of deeper intimacy with Him through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Or God – I guess a better way of putting it is God takes that loneliness and transforms it into a kind of contemplative sense and an intimacy with Christ that it doesn’t get rid of the loneliness but it makes sense of it I guess.

I think it – you know, I mean, I think it … I think when I was younger – and I don’t think I’m too unusual in this in my life – that when I was lonely I would try to fill that isolation and think that another person was going to take care of that. And the longer that I prayed and the longer that I’ve experienced God’s presence the more I caution myself about that. I say, “You know another person is not going to take care of the way you feel today. There’s a possibility that God can do this.”

– Br. Tom Shaw