Life Profession of Nicholas Bartoli SSJE
Exodus 33: 7 – 11
Psalm 139: 1 – 12
1 John 4: 7 – 12
John 15: 9 – 19
If truth be told, I am more than a little surprised to be here today. Indeed, I am more than a little surprised that any of us are here today. I am actually most surprised that Nicholas is here today!
There was a time, not all that long ago in the scheme of things, that I was convinced that this life profession of our Brother Nicholas, would never happen. And I am not the only one. I think Nicholas was even more convinced that it would never happen! He was so convinced in fact, that he went around telling Brothers individually, that he was leaving the community!
In the midst of all of this, I tried to convince Nicholas that leaving, at least leaving when he was thinking about doing so, was not a good idea. But in case you didn’t know, Nicholas has a stubborn streak in him as wide as the Brooklyn Bridge! What saved the day was a conversation he had with a good friend of ours. In the course of that brief conversation, our friend put a couple of questions to Nicholas. In less than an hour Nicholas’ mind was changed as whole new possibilities opened up. A little more than a year later, here we are. Here we are to witness, and support, and encourage Nicholas as he makes his life profession in our Society, promising to God and before the whole company of heaven and in the presence of this congregation … that [he] will live in life-long observance of poverty, celibacy, and obedience, according to the Rule of this Society.
So friend, if you are out there, we owe you our profound thanks, because if it weren’t for your intervention, today’s profession would not be happening! (Although, there may be days in the future we blame you that it has happened!)
Feast of Saint Edward the Confessor and Requiem for Brother John Goldring SSJE
Wisdom 3: 1-6
1 John 3: 1-2
John 20: 1-9
I first met John in the fall of 1981. I was at the Mission House in Bracebridge with a group of my fellow divinity students from Trinity College, Toronto for our annual fall retreat. I remember a number of things about that weekend. I remember that it was a wonderful fall weekend, much like the last several days have been here. Father Dalby, whom some of our will remember, was our retreat leader. And John preached at the Sunday Eucharist.
Now I don’t remember what John said in his homily, but I do remember that I, like my other classmates, was stunned by its simplicity, its brevity and its depth.Little did I know at the time, that John’s sermons would become a regular and important part of my spiritual life. Nor would I have ever guessed on that Sunday in the chapel at Brace bridge, that I would be standing here, 35 years later, presiding at his funeral as his brother and Superior.
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Profession of Life Vows by Brother Luke Ditewig, SSJE
Now I can’t claim to be the list king in this community. There is another brother, who will remain nameless, who is the king of lists, charts and calendars in this community. But what I can claim to be is the brother obituariest (the brothers call me something else, but it’s a little rude so I won’t repeat it!). Anyway, I am the one responsible for writing the obituaries which we read at Compline, on the anniversary of a brother’s death. It’s a job that I take great delight in. One thing I have done is to make lists of all the brothers who have died in the community since our founding in 1866 beginning with Father Coggeshall, who was the first in our community to die in 1876, up to and including Brother Bernie whose death earlier this year was the most recent. By my count there have been 153 deaths in the community. But while I was making that list, I became curious about another list. I began to wonder how many men have made their life profession in our community, and when. So I began to dig, and it has taken quite a lot of digging, because our records are somewhat incomplete. But according to my count Luke, you are at least the 201st person since Father Benson to make his life profession in the Society of Saint John the Evangelist and the 47th to make his life profession here in this Chapel since Father Lockyer, who was the first to be professed here, on 21 July 1938.
A Sermon preached for SSJE Fellowship Day, 3 May 2014.
Jane Shaw, Dean of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco.
Texts: Isaiah 44:1-8; Psalm 92:1-2, 11-14; 1 John 5:1-13 John 20: 1 – 9.
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Thank you Brother Geoffrey, and all Brothers of this Society, for the kind invitation to preach here on this special occasion. I am honored to do so.
In 1950, the English novelist Dame Rose Macaulay, then living in London, received an airmail letter from one John Hamilton Cowper Johnson of
980 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, Massachusetts, better known as Father Johnson of SSJE. Father Johnson had known Rose Macaulay slightly when he had been at St Edward’s House in Westminster some 30 years earlier. He was writing now because he had enjoyed her most recent novel. (It’s nice to think that monks, too, write fan letters!) Macaulay replied, and so began a correspondence that lasted for eight years, until her death. (1)
“In April, 1536, at the end of the twenty-seventh year of the reign of King Henry VIII, there were, scattered throughout England and Wales, more than eight hundredreligious houses, monasteries, nunneries and friaries, and in them there lived close on ten thousand monks, canons, nuns, and friars. Four years later, in April 1540, there were none. Their buildings and properties had been taken over by the crown and leased or sold to new lay occupiers. Their former inhabitants had been dispersed and were in the process of adjusting themselves to a very different way of life.”[i]
So begins G.W.O. Woodward’s essay on the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Woodward goes on to write about the reasons for the Dissolution, the way in which it came about, and its far-reaching consequences, not only for the Church, but for the whole of British society. For the next 300 years there would be no monasteries, convents, monks or nuns in the Church of England.
Today we are celebrating the feast day of our Founder, Father Richard Meux Benson, a priest of the Church of England who, with two companions (one of them an American), established the Society of Saint John the Evangelist in a section of Oxford called “Cowley” on December 27, the feast of St. John the Evangelist, in the year 1866.
Father Benson was a man of God, a theologian and a mystic, a man of deep prayer and an ascetic. His writings can be dense and difficult to comprehend, but they can also be very inspirational. Many things can be said about him, but no one can dispute the fact that he was a man who was in love with God, and that he lived in a state of union with God that so transformed him that countless others were transformed by him – by his words, by his writings, by his example, and by the order he founded and which has tried to carry on his vision.
In 1991, when we in the SSJE celebrated the 125th anniversary of our founding, the whole SSJE community made a pilgrimage to England and Scotland to visit places where the Society worked or had once worked, and other significant Anglican sites. One of these was Little Gidding. We stopped there for lunch on our way to Oxford and saw the place where Nicholas Ferrar had lived in the 17th Century with his little community. Today is his feast day.
You may have heard me say in the past that the Christian faith, and specifically the liturgical cycle of feasts and fasts is one of the few ways that connects many of us to the world around or rather, under us. In the past few decades wide open spaces have turned into strip malls. Soil has become a toxic waste, and our feet rarely touch the ground. It is not because we have finally discovered how to fly. Rather it is because out cities have become concrete canyons. In places like Toronto and Montreal there exist a labyrinthine system of tunnels and underground shops, office buildings and walkways which connect most of the downtown to the subway system. There you never have to go outside to swelter on a hot and humid July afternoon, or freeze on a frigid February morning. We have become observers to the world outside us, sheltered from the elements by air conditioning and central heating. Electricity extends the day, far beyond nightfall and what we can do and when we can do it is no longer limited by our need to cooperate with nature, but rather by our ability to harness it.