Interviewing an old classmate: Rebel News profile, 1/9/14

For the first Rebel News of the new year, we decided to profile a classmate of mine from Priory who was about to profess his solemn vows in the monastery. Brother Edward (he was Paul, then) and I went to school together for six years, and he and I were pretty good friends, so interviewing him about his life was kind of a strange experience. I had to preface it with a disclaimer that while a lot of my questions were going to seem obvious or redundant, I wanted to make sure to get everything right. The story also gave us an excuse to explain the process of becoming a monk to people who might not know exactly how it goes (I had a general idea, but learned a lot of details from this).

Brother Edward, ’05, prepares to take his solemn vows

Ten years ago, Brother Edward Mazuski, ’05, was a junior here at Priory, playing Halo in room 300 with some classmates on a Saturday afternoon. A man of quiet demeanor and understated humor, it should surprise no one that his journey since then into monastic life was a simple, undramatic one. On Sunday afternoon, he’ll profess his solemn vows, and become a permanent member of the monastic community.

Born in Minneapolis, Brother Edward moved to St. Louis when he was 4 years old and has lived here ever since. His father is a trauma surgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, and his mother, trained as an architect, was a stay-at-home mom. He grew up with three siblings: sisters Andrea, who is 3 years older, and Cristina, 2 years younger, and brother Richard, ’11, who is 6 years younger. Andrea lives in Washington, D.C. and has a doctorate in chemical engineering, Cristina is working on a doctorate in neuroscience at Washington University, focused on circadian rhythms, and Richard is a junior at Northwestern University, where he is double majoring in cello and chemistry.

The Mazuski family has impressive academic credentials, but they also share a love of music. His father played the viola, and his mother played the classical guitar. Andrea took violin lessons, and Cristina learned to play the piano. Richard has continued his study of the cello. For Brother Edward, violin lessons began when he was 5 years old, and he continued them through high school. He also sang in the Archdiocesan Childrens’ Choir when he was in the 6thand 7th grades. During college, he almost earned a minor in music by taking music history and theory classes.

“I’ve been listening to classical music my entire life,” he says. “It was on every radio in our house, and it was always on in my mom’s car when we were driving around.”

Now, in the monastery, that musical background has translated itself into part of his assigned workload. Brother Edward sometimes conducts the monastic Schola at Mass, and is in charge of picking music for the school Masses and proofreading the programs for them.

During his time at Priory as a student, Brother Edward says he greatly appreciated his classes and the teachers he worked with. He says his favorite classes were the AP classes he took, including AP European History and his AP French set that only had 6 students in it.

After Priory, he went to Washington University and studied physics in their engineering school. It was while he was at Wash U that he first began to explore his vocation.

“I started coming to vespers with Andrew Lutz (another classmate who considered a vocation at the time). At that point, it wasn’t so much a vocation thing as much as an easy way to get together to hang out,” he says. “In my sophomore year, I started to really think about it.”

A trip to Rome during his junior year with some Priory classmates sealed the deal for him, and he began speaking to Abbot Thomas about exploring his vocation. That summer, he stayed in the monastery as a visitor, and after graduation, he formally applied to enter the postulancy. He is one of seven Priory alumni that are now members of the monastic community.

There are three phases of training a new monk goes through, with two sets of vows. They enter the monastery as a postulant, which is a flexible time period with few assigned duties. “It’s a time for you to get to know the community, and for the community to get to know you,” Brother Edward says. His postulancy only lasted six weeks, since he had already stayed in the monastery as a visitor for a few months. About halfway through being a postulant, a new monk is given his habit, and his time as a postulant ends with a formal clothing ceremony, after which he is allowed to wear the monastic hood.

Next comes the novitiate, during which the new monk is a formal member of the community with an assigned workload and a more intense period of spiritual formation. For the first year, there are strict rules for the new members, including strict restrictions on internet access (“I could check my e-mail once a day, and that was it,” Brother Edward says) and time away from the Abbey (“We had ‘month days’ when we could leave…once a month,” he reports). After that year, the new monk takes his simple vows, which bind him to the community for three years. Brother Edward took his simple vows in November 2010. The rules lighten up in the 2nd year of the novitiate, but the workload and spiritual formation continue.

Lastly, the new monks become Juniors, which is when they are allowed more external work duties and assignments. During his time as a junior, Brother Edward has taken two years of philosophy classes at Kenrick Seminary, and has taught 7th grade theology in the school. He recently began teaching 8th grade theology as well.

When asked if he ever imagined himself teaching at Priory one day when he was a student here, his answer was a definite, but humorous, “no.”

“It’s odd being on the other side,” he says. “Being around the monastery and hearing about things from the opposite perspective is interesting. Teaching has been challenging. I anticipated that, but it’s been more of a challenge than I thought it would be.”

Also in the monastery, he serves as assistant kitchen master, which he jokingly says means, “basically I do all the things Brother Athanasius doesn’t want to do.” The role, he reports, actually entails ordering breads and taking over for Brother Athanasius when he is not available.

A monk continues to be a junior even after taking his solemn vows, which permanently binds him to the monastery. Brother Edward says only the Abbot says when a monk is no longer a junior, typically after he has been ordained to the priesthood or after some period of time has passed.

After his own solemn vows this weekend, Brother Edward will continue to further his own education and to teach in the school. He anticipates being sent to study for the priesthood sometime in the future, but the Abbot has not settled on that yet.

Brother Edward will take his solemn vows during a Mass in the Abbey Church on Sunday at 2 p.m. We offer our thoughts, prayers and congratulations to him as he takes this momentous step.

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