The Genesis of A Monk’s Chronicle
For forty years I have been a Benedictine monk at Saint John’s Abbey, and through much of that time I have worked in several departments at Saint John’s University. In the course of my life I’ve been privileged to meet some extraordinary people, and I’ve witnessed many events that are well worth remembering. Consistently through the years I have enjoyed writing, and friends have encouraged me to share those experiences with others. And so you have the genesis of A Monks Chronicle.
The inspiration for this title stems both from my life as a monk and my love for history. But less obviously I owe a debt to reading The Chronicle of Jocelyn of Brakelond. I first turned the pages of this early 13th-century book when I was in seminary, and I’ve returned to it several times since. Jocelyn, a monk of the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds north of London, met and observed a raft of characters, and he felt the chronicler’s urge to record stories of the great, the near-great, and the merely normal people whom he encountered.
What struck me most in the course of several readings is one valuable conclusion that can give us all a bit of encouragement. While kings and popes show up in Jocelyn’s narrative, they show up in everybody’s narratives. In fact, they appear in such profusion that we have to number them. But it is the ordinary people who appear in Jocelyn’s account that give his Chronicle enduring value. It’s those stories that give flesh and blood to the community of Bury St. Edmunds, long after most of its buildings have slipped into elegant decay.
In the weekly additions to A Monk’s Chronicle, I hope to imitate Jocelyn by providing glimpses into the life of the Benedictine community at Saint John’s Abbey. I will also touch on my work at Saint John’s University, as well as reference many wonderful experiences I have come to cherish as a member of the Order of Malta and the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.
Like Jocelyn, I reserve the right to shift topics at a moment’s notice. That is the nature of a chronicle. Also like Jocelyn, I do not pretend to create something of everlasting value. A Monks’ Chronicle is merely the diary of some souls, searching for God and a sense of purpose in their lives.