When we pause to reflect upon our spiritual journeys, we are sometimes able to see the small turning points — those moments that seemed insignificant at the time, but later proved to be immensely formative. For Brother Lawrence (formerly Shawn Machia, B.A. Theology ’08), many of those turning points occurred through the conversations and people that he encountered during his four years in the Templeton Honors College.
Baptized and confirmed into the Catholic Church at the age of 18, Brother Lawrence sought a college that would allow him to engage questions of faith in a theologically diverse environment, and concurrently enable him to pursue his burgeoning interests in astronomy and astrophysics. The integration of the Templeton core curriculum with the resources of Eastern University was a perfect fit, and in 2004, he matriculated into the Templeton Honors College.
Brother Lawrence remembers his college years as challenging and transformative; he notes, “My whole experience at Eastern planted the seeds that eventually grew into a vocation, the consecrated life to God.” Perhaps more than anything else, Brother Lawrence appreciated what he calls the “dialectic” nature of Templeton. The conversations always continued past the classroom; he remembers staying up late in a Doane lounge, debating the merits of Calvinism and Catholicism with his roommate. As he learned about the breadth of the Christian tradition, Brother Lawrence was drawn to the study of theology. “You have human reason which is reaching for truth, and you have revelation which is God revealing the truth. The two come together in this beautiful synthesis. That is theology,” he says.
During his time at Templeton, Brother Lawrence began to think seriously about vocational discernment and discovered a deep hunger for community and the Church. “I wanted to live in a place where my life was the Church, where my life was Christ,” he remembers. The longing for a life devoted to communal living and the practice of the faith continued after he graduated and through his subsequent years of ministry and teaching. His vocational questions and desires solidified into action during one particular conversation, in which his spiritual advisor encouraged him to consider monastic life. When he visited St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, he was immediately able to envision himself there, entering into the rhythm of prayer, work, and study. Three years after he graduated from the Templeton Honors College, he became a postulant in the Benedictine monastery. In 2012, he entered the community as a novice, and in the summer of 2016, he will make solemn vows, a lifelong commitment to the monastery.
Brother Lawrence quips that he always wanted a large family, and now he has 150 brothers. “St. Vincent — this particular community, and this way of life — it’s like everything I ever wanted out of life all in one place. And it started while I was at Eastern…in a large way, because of the formation of the Honors College,” he says. Brother Lawrence is currently pursuing ordination within the Catholic Church, and he also intends to pursue further education in astronomy with the hope of teaching one day. Of his undergraduate years, he reflects, “Looking back a decade to my freshman year, I can see that God has always been with me, teaching and leading, especially at Eastern, ever merciful and gentler to me than I deserved.”