Solemn monastic consecration is a moment of intense joy in the life both of the individual professing solemn vows and for the monastic community who have accompanied this man on his journey of discernment and preparation. On December 3rd, 2016 the Mepkin community gathered with Father Gerard Jonas’ family, his archbishop from Lipa in the Philippines and a large number of the diocesan priests from Lipa and his other friends to pray with him as he expressed his perpetual vows in the presence of Abbot Stanislaus, his brothers in the Mepkin community and all who were gathered, thereby consecrating his life to God as a monk of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance.
Our vows of stability, obedience and conversatio morum (loosely translated ‘ongoing conversion’) ground a man in a distinct way of living for God and for the Church which goes back to the 2nd century in the desert of Egypt along the Nile River, but finding particular expression in the 5th century when Saint Benedict accepted a call from God to the monastic way and wrote a Rule that has guided others, including ourselves in the present day.
Father Gerard Jonas has left family, home, his ministry as a diocesan priest in Lipa in his home country, to follow God’s voice guiding him here to Mepkin Abbey in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, within the boundaries of the Diocese of Charleston, to live this radical response to God’s love. Rising each day at 3 AM to be at prayer with his brother monks for Vigils – the first of the “hours” of common prayer the monks offer in behalf of all God’s faithful – Father Gerard Jonas gives the first five and a half hours of each day to prayer in an ongoing rhythm of prayer with his brothers, prayer alone, singing the psalms abbot’s side of choir leading to prior’s side of choir leading – the 150 psalms repeated every two weeks, in a rhythm that will go on for the rest of his life.
For monks, prayer is our life. Ceaseless prayer mingled in with and holding together the tasks of each day that allow us to have this sacred space that is the monastery property. If you ask what is the glue that holds it all (holds us) together, it is prayer. As the gospel tells us, Jesus went apart to be alone in prayer with the Father. Everyone makes this effort periodically – taking a time to be alone (to retreat) – to renew themselves in God’s love. Monks choose constantly and deliberately to live aware of God’s presence at all times. After six years of preparation and spiritual refinement, Father Gerard Jonas commits himself to this way, resolved to be at prayer in everything he will do.
And very rightly his mother and sisters came to raise a joyful noise with his brothers in the Mepkin community and the many guests present, because this embarking on this path by a perpetual vow formula is a foretaste of the everlasting banquet that Jesus celebrates with his bride, the Church. A little taste now to acknowledge the fullness God will give.
Rich in words, symbols and expressions of support, the rite for the solemn profession of a monk allows those who are present to consider God’s graciousness in the life of one person as a catalyst to consider God at work in all of our lives. While monks live apart we are not disconnected. Truly our commitment is to pray for all of humanity. And the all-encompassing love God offers each and every person whether acknowledged or not, moves every monk to bring those we know and those we don’t know to God in prayer of intercession, blended with prayers of praise as well as prayers of gratitude. Father Gerard Jonas over his years of preparation has been mastering the disciplines such a way of living entails. With the support of the prayers of his brothers in community, he will continue to make every effort to live a life of continuous prayer.
With joyful hearts and prayers of gratitude we ask you to join us in praying that God will help Father Gerard Jonas fulfill his commitment as a monk of Mepkin Abbey.