With Abbot Jeremy Driscoll after the profession are: back row — Brothers Thomas Buttrick, Jesse Ochoa and Ignatius Olivarez; and front row — Brothers Charles Gonzalez and Alfredo Miranda.
With Abbot Jeremy Driscoll after the profession are: back row — Brothers Thomas Buttrick, Jesse Ochoa and Ignatius Olivarez; and front row — Brothers Charles Gonzalez and Alfredo Miranda.
MOUNT ANGEL — After five men professed solemn vows as Benedictine monks here Sept. 11, they and the congregation spilled into a plaza, with bells roaring in the church tower. Since no one could hear anyone else speak, the crowd simply smiled at each other through masks for five minutes.

The scene of joyful music from above and appreciative attention from below was apt on this morning at Mount Angel Abbey. It had been five decades since so large a group had made a lifetime commitment to monastic life here, and everyone felt unspeakable gratitude for God’s work.

Brothers Thomas Buttrick, Charles Gonzalez, Alfredo Miranda, Jesse Ochoa and Ignatius Olivarez read their promises aloud, stood with arms outstretched in a symbol of surrender, then lay on the ground under black shrouds. That was a sign of dying to an old life to embrace life in Christ.

“Accept me, O Lord, accept me and I shall live,” the men chanted.

Solemn profession is among the biggest days for a religious community. It’s like a wedding in which newer members make lifelong vows. Readings for the day emphasized God’s loving initiative. “You are mine,” said the passage from Isaiah. “He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,” said the reading from Philippians. “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains but a single grain,” the Gospel reading declared.

Abbot Jeremy Driscoll told the young monks that Jesus, from the cross, had drawn them to himself and to monastic life.

“What you are about to do taking vows is not to your credit,” Abbot Jeremy said. “You are being saved by God. God makes the monk.”

Gold and yellow flowers decorated the church during this harvest time ceremony. A small schola of monks chanted and a choir of seminarians sang in the loft.

The profession is meaningful for many people who are not monks.

Judy Richardson, a resident of nearby Mount Angel Towers retirement community, brought a basket of goodies for the newly professed, three of whom she knows — Brothers Jesse, Charles and Alfredo.

“The gift of hospitality permeates this hillside,” Richardson said after the Mass. “And there is peace here, too.”

Rachel Campbell, a friend of Brothers Charles and Jesse, called the day “a visible, tangible reminder of complete devotion to God.”

Dave and Carmen Spector traveled from Florida to support Brother Thomas, their nephew. Like Brother Thomas, Dave was raised Jewish and later joined the Catholic Church, inspired in part by his nephew.

Brother Thomas, before entering the monastery, taught math at Blanchet Catholic School in Salem. One of his faculty colleagues was Harry Ahn.

“He’s very intelligent and hardworking,” Ahn said of Brother Thomas.

Piarist Father Luis Cruz, a friend of Brother Ignatius, traveled from Puerto Rico for the profession. The two had studied together. Father Cruz said he loves the charism of the Benedictines and might have joined them himself except for the early rising for prayer.

“I love monastic life until it comes to vigils,” he said with a laugh.

Bob Hitch, fleet manager for the abbey, knows all five newly professed men. “I think they’re wonderful,” Hitch said.

Also last month, Mount Angel Abbey received three men into novitiate and two into first vows. Belying the stereotype of aging religious communities, about half of Mount Angel’s monks are in their first 10 years of religious life.