Monk Profiles: Abbot James Wiseman
Like all but three of our monks, I grew up quite far from Washington, DC, first coming to this city from Louisville, Kentucky for undergraduate studies at Georgetown University. Already in high school I had looked at several forms of consecrated life, and my search narrowed down to the Benedictines during a post-graduate year in Germany, where I made several visits to monasteries in that country and was taken by the Benedictine balance between liturgical and personal prayer, work that was of service to others, and life in a community where all the members were basically seeking the same transcendent goal. Having no desire to enter a monastic community on the far side of the Atlantic, I asked my younger brother, himself then a student at Georgetown, to visit St. Anselm’s and have some of their literature mailed to me. Attracted by what I read, I decided to apply to this community and so became a postulant at the very beginning of Advent in 1964, a time of year that seemed most appropriate for persons whose life is so centered on the liturgical year.
The ensuing years have inevitably brought many unpredictable tasks and responsibilities, including a relatively early eight-year term as abbot, subsequently twenty-seven years as a professor of theology at the Catholic University of America (happily only a ten-minute commute in a region notorious for heavy traffic), teaching at least one course per semester in our abbey school even while on the CUA faculty, and now a second term as abbot. My favorite theologians past and present, including Benedictines such as Bede Griffiths and Henri Le Saux, are those who ponder and even revel in the divine mystery that envelopes us all, a loving God to whom we monks offer praise and petition morning, noon, and night. My earnest desire is that many others come share this bracing adventure with us.