On Dec. 8, 2018, Br. Mark Dilone, O.S.B, professed his “Simple Vows,” committing himself to the Benedictine Abbey of Newark for the next three years.
During this time, he immersed himself in the life of this place, guided by the Rule of St. Benedict and the spirituality and traditions of monastic life. He learned everything possible about Newark Abbey and St. Benedict’s Prep. He served the monastery as organist, cantor, guestmaster, webmaster, and tailor. He taught U.S. History to freshmen, the New Testament to UD2s, and Gregorian Chant to many students.
On Saturday, Dec. 4, Br. Mark completed this major phase of his spiritual journey, making the ultimate vow. He professed his “Solemn Vows,” committing the rest of his life to the monastery as a monk.
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At 10 a.m., with Benedictine punctuality, Br. Mark, accompanied by the monks of the Abbey and guest concelebrants, processed into the historic St. Mary’s Church, as they sang one of Br. Mark’s favorite hymns: “O God Beyond All Praising.”
During the Solemn Mass that followed, readings which were selected beforehand by Br. Mark focused on the calling to a prophetic and consecrated life. Following the Gospel, Br. Mark moved through the ancient steps of the Rite of Solemn Profession in which he symbolically leaves the ordinary world and enters a new life dedicated to God and His people.
Called before Abbot Melvin Valvano, O.S.B., Br. Mark was questioned about his resolution to dedicate himself to the monastic way of life. After he repeated that he was resolved, the Assembly knelt as all chanted the Litany of the Saints. The ancient repetitive supplication is sung only during the holiest of occasions, and in this case represented the Church asking all the saints to intercede for the young monk. Br. Mark prostrated himself on a carpet before the altar during the period as a reminder of his dying from his former way of life and rising to a new one.
Then, Br. Mark proceeded to read the formula of monastic profession, hand-written ahead of time, and then sign it on the altar where it had been placed on the book of Gospels. Prior Augustine Curley, O.S.B., and Sub-Prior Patrick Winbush, O.S.B, served as witnesses.
After a lengthy prayer of consecration by the Abbot, the special monastic robe known as the cuculla was blessed, and then the newly professed monk was vested by the Formation Socius Fr. Asiel Rodriguez, O.S.B., and Sub-Prior Winbush. Then, Abbot Valvano and all the monastics present welcomed Br. Mark with the sign of peace.
“We progress in obedience and true humility, day in and day out, living openly and happily in the monastery,” said the Abbot, addressing Br. Mark.
The ceremony included several hymns and chants sung by Chemistry Teacher Dr. Dennis Lansang, Drama Teacher Ms. Patricia Flynn, and Fr. Asiel Rodriguez.
At the closing of the solemn ceremony, attended by a diverse crowd of family, friends, St. Benedict’s faculty members, Benedict’s students, and members of St. Mary’s Parish, Br. Mark thanked the community. “Thank you especially to Abbot Melvin and the monastic community, thank you especially to all the brothers and lay people that made this possible,” he said.
Ever since he was a child, Br. Mark has had the calling to be a priest. He said that the special relationships he has had with figures in the church, like priests, helped him foster the idea of pursuing a religious life.
While studying Theology at St. John’s University, Br. Mark was invited by two monks from our monastery to explore life at Newark Abbey. He began visiting St. Benedict’s and became more and more interested in monastic life. He finally began the process of becoming a monk, and was quickly nominated to present his Simple Vows, with the hope of someday taking his Solemn Vows.
For Br. Mark’s close friends and family who have long followed his spiritual journey, Saturday’s ceremony was an emotional high point, one they knew that Br. Mark had long anticipated. “He is a person you would hope would be a leader in the spiritual life of people,” said John Lodato, a friend of Br. Mark’s during a reception held after in St. Benedict’s cafeteria.
The next big step for Br. Mark is to be ordained a Deacon on Dec. 18, and then, since he has already completed his Seminary studies, to be ordained a priest in April 2022.
Reflecting on his big day, Br. Mark beamed. “There was sort of a sense of completion,” Br. Mark said, “that I am finally where I am supposed to be.”