Br. Mary John McKenzie, O.S.B.
My name is Br. John McKenzie, O.S.B. I was born and raised in Detroit, MI; however, I also lived in St. Louis, MO with my grandparents. I have one brother (29 years old) and one sister (13 years old). My mother lives in Detroit, while my father passed away in May of 2007. Despite not having been raised a Catholic, I was educated by a group of Catholic nuns in elementary school. It had a profound impact on my future vocation.
I spent time at the Casa Balthasar in Rome from 2003-2005, which is when I heard about the monastic community in Norcia. After visiting the monastery in 2004 and 2005, I petitioned to join in September 2005. I made simple profession on December 27, 2006, the feast day of my holy patron, and made solemn vows on October 6, 2009, which providentially was the day I entered the novitiate just three years previously. Since 2008, I have been studying philosophy at Conception Abbey Seminary College in Missouri. I am expecting to graduate in May of 2012 with a B.A. in philosophy.
Fr. Prior chose the name “John” (which is Hebrew for “God’s grace”) for me, which, incidentally, was my first choice. St. John the Apostle (or “the Theologian”) shows us how important love of God and love of neighbor are. In loving God, I am able to fall more deeply in love with Christ Jesus the savior of the entire human race. In loving neighbor, I learn how to overcome differences with my brother monks and, as St. Paul says, “bear one another’s burdens” (cf. Gal 6:2). Community life, therefore, enables the monk to root out vices and acquire virtues—both necessary in loving God and neighbor.
While in the monastery, I’ve been the guestmaster, assistant cook, basilica coordinator, librarian, and most recently, gift shop manager. Although, I suppose my first and primary job in the monastery is to be a good and faithful monk!
Some of my favorite saints are St. Gregory the Great, St. Monica, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, St. Ignatius of Antioch, and Moses the Ethiopian. Finally, I think the seven following points guide my life as a monk:
- Live in holy obedience to God, by means of the Abbot, in our case, the Prior;
- Be humble and honest all in one (it’s difficult, but it’s a must);
- Pray the Divine Office and Holy Mass daily;
- Pray Lectio Divina;
- Pray the Jesus Prayer constantly, even when I don’t feel like it;
- Remain ever attached to the Holy Theotokos (i.e. The Blessed Virgin Mary); and
- Examine my conscience at least twice daily.