Before joining the Community of St Anselm, Peter worked for an investment bank in New York City. Here he looks back at his experience as a resident member last year.
In the five months since my time as one of the first members of the Community of St Anselm has ended, I’ve often been asked what the experience was like. Almost every conversation starts with the same question: “What exactly did you do last year?”
I usually start by describing the Community as a group of young Christians living as residents and non-residents in a shared life of prayer, study and service.
Sometimes I talk about our opportunity to talk about the secularization of modern society with the Preacher to the Papal Household. Other times I describe what it was like to visit a Franciscan Community in Dorchester, and how there I was humbled to realize how little I knew about hospitality.
And I often end up talking about the incredible experience of participating in the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius over thirty days in silence with the Community of Chemin Neuf.
At some point I admit that no matter how much I talk about the amazing teachers, the places we visited, or the retreats we made during the year, this only touches the surface of what it was like to be a part of the Community of St Anselm.
I’ll sometimes answer this simply question by saying: “In community, we met with one other.”
There was an understanding among Community members that we would always work to welcome one other. This understanding led to encounters and relationships that grew in both depth and transparency throughout the year. With an aim of simply meeting, we built relationships not on our differences but on our commitments to faith and understanding.
We met with each other in different ways throughout the year. Some of our meetings were more structured and formal, such as during Morning Prayer or daily Eucharist.
At other times meeting with each other was a surprise; it was almost impossible to walk anywhere around Lambeth (the south-London borough where Lambeth Palace is) without seeing someone we knew or met through the Community.
And our most frequent meetings – meals – gave us a chance to speak and listen with each other while eating – or more often, when washing the dishes.
Part of the reason why we were able to meet with each other was because in joining the Community, we committed to a Rule of Life that led us closer to Christ. And so I found that when I was meeting with others, I was really led to meet with Christ.
At the end of these conversations about the Community I’ll sometimes hear, “That sounds incredible. I couldn’t do it.” Sometimes people will say that living a shared life sounds hard, or that they couldn’t take a year off from work, or that the disciplines we practiced during the year sound constricting.
I often agree – it was hard. But this drama of living in community is exactly what we’re called to confront. After all, the Community of St Anselm didn’t just teach me about relying on God. It gave me a life-changing experience of meeting with Him, repeatedly, over the course of the year.