How did your journey to the Monastery begin?
I’m a cradle Episcopalian. I grew up going to church and was an acolyte, a crucifer, a torchbearer, and a server. I enjoyed the church youth group and socializing with kids my age in the fun activities they put on, but I found church boring. Like many people, I stopped going at the first opportunity. I don’t think I ever made the connection between being a church-going Episcopalian and having a relationship with Jesus. Certainly it was the receiver, not the message, that was broken, but that element wasn’t really communicated to me. So I left the church and became wayward (in my own way).
One day back in October 2003, I started exploring the “links” section of the website for the church I was then attending, and I found there a list of monastic communities’ sites. I already knew that there were monastic communities, but for some reason, on this day, the fact that they had websites intrigued me. I wondered, “What the heck do they put on them?” So I started clicking through – the Franciscans, the Benedictines – and, you know, there weren’t really any surprises; it was just monks and nuns. But the last website I visited was SSJE’s. And it had this line on the front page: “We’re men living traditional vows in a non-traditional setting of Harvard Square. We’re learning to pray our lives.” And for some reason that is what struck me: Tradition in a non-traditional place and praying our lives.
I wonder if Isabel Myers and Katharine Briggs ever considered adding a Mary and Martha continuum to their MBTI: the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. What type of person are you? Are you an introvert or an extravert? Are you sensing or intuitive, thinking or feeling, judging or perceiving? Those are the various “dichotomies” in the Myers-Briggs test, which measures how far you lean to one side or the other or if you hit the sweet spot right in the middle.
In his Spiritual Exercises, St Ignatius of Loyola asks us to imagine a charismatic leader whom we admire and whose life and mission have been an inspiration to us. Think for a moment of who this person might be for you. Whom do you admire? Who has inspired you?… You believe in this person’s values and priorities. You admire his/her integrity. You are convinced that the cause he/she represents is so true, so important, so worthy, that you are ready to offer your full support.
There are times in the gospels when it seems like Jesus is his own worst enemy. Here he returns to his hometown, where he gets a warm reception – initially. The gospel writer reports that “all spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth” (v.22). Then, suddenly, he seems to turn on the crowd, blasting them with words they find completely offensive, and the next thing we know, we’re reading that “all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff!” (v.28-29). How does he go from ‘warm reception’ to ‘angry mob’ in the span of a few minutes? And why?
When did you first begin to have a sense of your vocation?
Even as a little kid, I somehow or other knew that I wanted to be a priest. I used to have a very dark blue wool dressing gown, which I would wear backwards as I wandered around the house pretending to be Mr. Pasterfield, the rector of our parish. I couldn’t have been more than maybe six or seven years old. I remember saying to my mum, down in the laundry room, “When I grow up I want to be like Mr. Pasterfield.” So, from childhood, I always felt attracted to the priesthood, and that attraction never really went away.
My awareness of the religious life came a bit later. While I knew that there were nuns in the Anglican Church – in fact I’d been taught nursery school by a sister of the Sisterhood of Saint John the Divine (SSJD) – it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I learned that there are monks in the Church as well. I learned that through an advertisement in our church newspaper for a summer vocations program at SSJE’s Mission House in Bracebridge. Though I ended up not being able to attend that program, I finally made it to Bracebridge for a reading week when I was at university. During that initial visit, I was really drawn by the silence, the prayer, and the worship. I came away from that first experience thinking, “I could do this.”
When I think of the early martyrs I often think of Tertullian’s words, “The blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the Church.” (Apologeticus Ch. 50) That simple sentence contains the answer to many questions about the martyrs’ willingness to face death.
Ignatius of Antioch was one of those martyrs, a century earlier than Tertullian.
Jesus’ responses to those who said they would follow him that we heard in today’s Gospel have sometimes made me uncomfortable. They can seem abrupt or off-putting. We usually think of Jesus speaking to people with compassion.
There was a very fine film that came out a couple years ago that you may have seen: “Of Gods and Men”. It’s about a community of Benedictine monks at Tibhirine in Algeria who got caught up in the violence of war. The agonizing question for them was whether to leave for their own safety or stay in order to continue their ministry to the people of the village.
Profession In Initial Vows – Luke Ditewig, SSJE
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 Luke is to make the vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience, as a professed brother of our community.
And what a wonderful day, Trinity Sunday, for this profession! First, because, Luke, you grew up and for many years were formed in the Christian faith by the community of your home parish, Trinity Presbyterian, Santa Ana, California. Secondly, our understanding as brothers, of what Christian community is all about, is profoundly rooted and grounded in the very nature of God, the Holy Trinity.