Jonathan grew up in Marton and went to Palmerston North Boys’ High School, before university, work and time overseas. He describes his formation journey.

My novitiate with the Cistercians has drawn to a close.

As I look back on the two years’ programme – one year at our own monastery and one year near Melbourne at Tarrawarra monastery – I know it’s been quite a challenging time. I was comfortable living in a secular culture. The monastic culture is austere, which might sound tough. Perhaps better put, it is uncluttered. My formation is helping me understand the depths of that simplicity.

I’ve greatly appreciated the tradition of the Cistercian Order which goes back to the Middle Ages. I’ve been helped to unlock the wisdom that’s there. I’ve come to grow in appreciation of the simplicity of our communal life, which seeks to illustrate what is truly valuable in life.

My spiritual life has grown much quicker than I imagined it would. That means immersing myself in our life: reading the scriptures, prayer, the liturgy of the hours, Mass, and also embracing the value and dignity of simple work. I’ve noticed the joy and peace I’ve gained and thank God for that.

Solitude is part of the life of a monk. I know that sounds difficult. It isn’t easy but I can say I’ve benefitted immensely from the challenges and rewards of solitude, which have involved some self-examination and correction.

Christ is all things to all people and in answering the call to monastic life, God has surprised me by providing everything I need in the monastery. While in many ways monks renounce the world, I now know we receive much too. I have been blessed with a generous increase in faith, in purity of heart, and in focus on God and what is good in life. Within the balanced environment of the monastery, growth of virtues is encouraged in an ongoing and sustainable way.

The underlying purpose of my novitiate, with my two other novice companions, has been ongoing, day-by-day conversion. Our aim is the hope that being formed in our tradition we will become fully professed Cistercian monks in three years’ time. Meanwhile, on the Feast of the Annunciation I made my simple vows of Profession.

Maybe you could pray for me, and all of us here at Kopua, as I continue my formation journey?