Striving after holiness and trying to live Christ-centered lives is not how we were raised. If some fortuneteller would have foretold our future after we met—that we would be homeschooling parents of eight kids who purposely moved to Wisconsin (who even visits WI?!) to live by a group of robe clad monks so that we could live a simple life of prayer and raise our family to love and serve God and His Church—we would have laughed, and knew someone’s crystal globe was seriously broken! We did fall for each other fast and knew we wanted to be married but we had very different plans and ideas about life and what marriage was even about. We both grew up as typical American MTV Generation kids. We were both baptized Christians but lived and understood our faith nominally. Our ideas about life were shaped by American pop culture. Each of us questioned God’s existence, sought truth in other religions and had little respect or concern for authority or rules and yet we were both not happy or satisfied with the answers we were fed.
We both wanted to travel and had career plans; Jessica was in college and in the process of getting her pilot license and Manny was in college and a musician (not professionally). We both knew what we wanted to do with our lives and we were going to do it together however, we ended up pregnant, scared and pregnant and we considered an abortion. The world told us it was okay, this pregnancy was just an inconvenient mistake, and it would be irresponsible of us to not take care of it and move on in life. Thankfully the love we had for each other made us come to our senses and we continued with the pregnancy.
Well nothing can make you grow up quicker than a baby! We each turned to God for help and started seeking answers about life and faith. Manny grew up Roman Catholic and Jessica, all though baptized Catholic, was raised a non-denominational, “born again” Christian. This presented a problem suddenly. A very long story short, Manny was able to show Jessica (while he was still searching himself) the truth and beauty of the Catholic Church. So we both joined R.C.I.A and were confirmed together.
So there we were—new, unwed, teenage parents looking for answers about our faith, church and life. We were scared as hell trying to figure out how to create a happy family for our new daughter and trying to understand what Christian marriage was all about. We had a newborn baby and were living together but we knew that our lifestyle was “less than ideal.” So, we committed to abstinence until we were married two years later.
We started studying and reading everything we could about the Church. A wonderful Catholic bookstore owner who helped us discover the truth about the Catholic Church (many, many thanks Vic!) was hosting a Salvation History class (Scott Hahn series) and we decided to attend. There we met a great retired couple who had invited us to visit the Byzantine Catholic monastery where they regularly attended Sunday liturgy. Neither of us had ever visited a monastery before and we were intrigued, so we went.
We can remember vividly our first experience at Divine Liturgy. All of the beautiful sights, and sounds, and smells that make liturgical worship so rich seemed to have been braided and woven together in such a way, we were left feeling as if we had found a beauty and sacredness that the Liturgy should be – we had experienced heaven in all of our senses that day. We also had many of our misconceptions about monks disappear; these guys were warm, welcoming, and funny. Nothing at all like the rigid and stiff (even Druid-like) clerics we had imagined they would be. A potluck lunch followed after liturgy, along with a short catechism lesson and a visit with the rest of the small community that regularly worshiped there. We discovered a treasure that day that would change our lives in ways we couldn’t have imagined at the time.
We fell in love with the East, we started learning both Western and Eastern theologies simultaneously and soaking up everything we could. We visited the monastery often and eventually became regular Sunday worshipers. In time, we would be married by Abbot Nicholas and would come to have all of our eight children receive their sacraments at his monastery.
The life of the monastery greatly influenced us. The commitment the monks had in living their Christianity was something we not only admired but wanted to emulate. We wanted our lives and our family to be lived for God too. We were not quite out of our teenage years when we met the monks. We “grew up” at Holy Resurrection Monastery, alongside some wonderful friends. The teachings and traditions of the Eastern Church and example of the monks influenced and formed how we live.
We have not always lived as close to the monastery as we do now. A long story short, the monks needed to move and we eventually followed them. We long dreamed of living within walking distance of the monastery (we use to drive almost an hour and a half) and were finally able to see that dream come true; never expecting that it would include months of snow and thousands of miles between us and our closest friends and family.
Now fifteen years married, we have been blessed with eight children (four boys and four girls; ages ranging from 17 years to 18 months) whom we homeschool. Part of why we moved to Wisconsin is to have a simpler and healthier lifestyle (we were in hectic Southern California) that flows from the liturgical life of the Church — the life of bride and bridegroom – a beautiful life-giving dance that repeats and replays year after year. We try and incorporate daily prayer and Christian traditions into our home and hope to help others by sharing a bit of practical and straightforward encouragement stemming from our experience as monastic associates (oblates).
We realize that we have had a unique experience. Once upon a time, it was far more common for Christians to live in some form of tight-knit community, around a parish or monastery. We believe we need to regain that solidarity if we hope to impact our society and bring the heart of the gospel message to the world and more importantly, if we hope to have a deeper understanding of Christianity at all – since none of us are Christians in a vacuum. This site is a way we hope to build a little online community that will hopefully grow into stronger families and communities of Christians in the real world (You can read a thorough explanation of what we mean by Every Home a Monastery here).
One of the most surprising and greatest blessings we have received over the years is meeting and getting to know the many and varied pilgrims that visit HRM. We freely admit that there is a bit of selfish motivation behind this project – we would love to meet more Christians that are on the same journey as we are! So please feel free to contact us, like our facebook page and share our site with your friends and family. We look forward to meeting you all!
“Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”” – C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves