Q & A: Visiting monks join Saint Anselm monastic community

James Tweneh, Crier Staff

Brother John Glasenapp and Brother Andrew Peterson are Benedictine monks visiting the Saint Anselm Abbey for the 2022-2023 school year.

Where are you from originally?

Br. Andrew: I’m originally from Birmingham, Alabama. I grew up and lived there for most of my life until I was about 14 years old.

Br. John: I am originally from Cleveland, Ohio and I liked it a lot. I was happy to grow up there.

What brings you to Saint Anselm?

Br. Andrew: I’m here at St. A’s to get my degree. So, I entered the monastery right after high school. I actually did one year of college down in Alabama, because they wanted me to live at home for at least one year during formation. It was actually from the encouragement of Br. Aloysius at the time, now Fr. Aloysius, who really sort of encouraged me to look into Saint A’s.

Br. John: I’m here as a monk visiting St. A’s to teach music history and Conversatio

What is your impression of St. A’s as a school?

Br. Andrew: Oh, I love it. I think it’s been wonderful to me. It’s such a wonderful college that is steeped in the Benedictine tradition. And, you know, the opportunity to continue to live my monastic life while I’m doing my studies, you can’t beat it.

Br. John: I can only compare it to other places I’ve been, but the students here seem very hard-working, very honest, and very humble, which is a great thing. Because you have to be humble to learn. If you think you already know everything, there’s not much educating you can do.

Why did you become a monk in the Order of St. Benedict?

Br. Andrew: The Benedictines stuck out to me mainly because of the community life and the ordered structure of the day. This life is not easy. But, having your brothers there doing everything with you each day, in and out, it’s sort of encouraging to know that you all have one goal in mind, and that’s to get to heaven. It’s quite reassuring.

Br. John: “I was drawn to the Benedictines for a few reasons. One was their intellectual tradition and their artistic tradition. I was also very drawn to social justice. And over time, I became less and less convinced that that activism was the best way, or the only way to create real social change. And I was really struck by the
Benedictine idea of hospitality being a form of social justice that welcomes everyone regardless, no questions asked, and treats everyone equally as Christ. And I thought, does there need to be anything? Does it need to
be more complicated than that? Is there anything more difficult about Catholic social teaching than just treating everybody like Christ?

How do you see God in your everyday life as a person and a monk?

Br. Andrew: I think I see God through the people around me. But, I especially see God sort of in nature. And that’s what I love about Saint Anselm – it really reminds me of being back home and Alabama, because it is a very wooded area, lots of open fields and trails, and you can just really take in God’s beauty. And of course, you know, the heart of campus is the church. And, we’re in the church five times a day, roughly. And, you always see God literally in the liturgy. And, I think that’s wonderful.

Br. John: You know, you never encounter God in totality. You get glimpses, here and there, at times where you least expected. I think God creeps up on you, all day, every day. And so requires an openness and awareness of that, but we don’t control God. The best we can do is to be open and to recognize those sacred moments and find them.

How did you feel when coming to St. A’s for the first time?

Br. John: I was very excited. I’d never lived in New England before. When we got an email yesterday that there was a bear on campus, I couldn’t believe it. I’ve never lived in a place where bears even existed.

Br. Andrew: I was super nervous. Not only was I going to a brand new monastery, I had never been really to another monastery before long term. But, also the fact that I had just never really been out of Alabama for a long extended period of time. And, to be thrown in the New England culture was quite a shock. And, I was very nervous for about the first two months or so. But, I quickly realized that this is almost basically a second home to me.

What is your most memorable moment at St. A’s so far this semester?

Br. Andrew: I think the most memorable experience so far was going to the talk with Ken Burns. Surprisingly enough, that was a really fun night and the opportunity to go listen to him was just fantastic. And it was a very festive meal. Everybody was having a good time. Ken Burns gets the shoutout!

What is your major? And why do you love it?

Br. Andrew: I’m a biology major and I think what I like about biology is that you really get to dive into the world that we see. You get to look at creation all the way down to the cellular level. And it just sort of works in this machine-like fashion, to build the world that we live in.

How do you connect your major to your faith and life?

Br. John: I think that music is a really powerful way of seeing and expressing the world that does not rely on the limits of vocabulary. Music touches something much, much deeper than that and just has more tools to express big ideas for me. There’s a disproportionate number of religious scholars in music. And I think it says
something about music. It really showcases the best of humanity. The biggest ideas, the most creativity, the most beauty, the most virtuosity, technical control, all these things. It really showcases the best of humanity. I wish we could all be surrounded by music all the time. And in the ancient world, they actually said we were, we just can’t hear it all. Everything fits together in a symphonic way.

Br. Andrew: I think by learning about living things and living organisms and the world around us, you see that there’s order and structure, and that’s a reflection of God. And so, in many ways, I think that the study of biology can bring me closer to God, you often get the clash between faith and reason. But, they can be in
harmony quite nicely.

What is some career or vocational advice you would give to any student?

Br. Andrew: Don’t get comfortable with being comfortable. You’re not going to grow unless you learn to live in uncomfortable situations and learn to overcome adversity. In terms of the spiritual life, I think what it boils down to is just asking questions and seeking the answers, but on your own.

Br. John will be at Saint Anselm for the ‘22-23 academic year, while Br. Andrew has two more years to complete his degree.