Thoughts on Giving

By Melodious Monk

This past week, I started reading Heather King’s book on St. Therese of Lisieux. I find it engaging to read, as I can relate to much of the thoughts and conversations in the writing. In the chapter subtitled, ‘on learning to serve’, I was reading along fascinated by some of the psychological insights quoted from various authors, when one simple sentence about Jesus jarred my reading to a halt. Ms King writes, “In fact, fully living his own life, and giving with no expectation of return, was the way Christ conducted all his relationships.”

I can’t even fathom this type of living. It’s easy to know Christ loves all, and all equally, but this depiction of him practically living out this love as a human, seems almost impossible. It grieves me to realize how much I’m always wanting something back from others.

Even on my best, most-giving days, somewhere inside I’m keeping track, keeping a record of what I’m doing as if I’m saving up points or tickets at an amusement park, hoping for a better prize.  Perhaps letting go of this unnecessary record is part of how Christ intended for our yokes to be easy and our burdens to be light. I put so much unnecessary thought and emotional baggage into relationships. To give, expecting a certain return, is a way of self-protection–but rather than providing safety, it puts a limit on our creative potential. Jesus taught that the measure you give is the measure you will receive. If we give without wanting back, we open ourselves to the possibility of receiving many times more then we ever could hope for.

The Community of Jesus


By Renaissance Girl

My dog started a fight with another dog yesterday. It was completely my fault. I was outside with some friends and took him off his leash to let him roam around while we talked. I didn’t even see the other dog coming — but he did. It happened so fast and I didn’t stand a chance of grabbing him. Eventually I did and thankfully, there were no major injuries — but my heart was pounding for a long time.

I don’t understand why my dog doesn’t like this other dog — he has no reason but their greetings are never friendly. So I Googled the question, “what makes dogs aggressive towards certain other dogs.” The first page to come up was Cesar Millan’s website. I have such respect and admiration for him, so I opened the article hopefully. Actually, he didn’t specifically address the question I asked, but this phrase caught my eye. “You need to become the dog’s pack leader and establish rules, boundaries, and limitations. You need to fulfill the dog as Nature intended him to be fulfilled.”  I don’t think about my dog being “fulfilled” but it stuck with me. In talking it through later, I realized that, similar to parents with children, I buck against boundaries myself so I don’t like to require them of my dog. But, aside from putting him and others in a dangerous situation, it also leaves him unfulfilled, worried about filling a spot that shouldn’t be his to fill.

Maybe that’s how God sees us — he gives us structures and boundaries so we are relieved of the pressure to be someone we’re not, and can simply be who we are created to be, and thus fulfilled.

The Community of Jesus


Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Chant, Chant and MORE Chant!

I was in a meeting working on a very exciting possibility for another chant conference. It is simply amazing to me that the demand for teaching chant seems to be on a very quick rise.

During a lesson with Dr. Mary Berry in the summer of 2007, we were discussing the revival of Gregorian chant. What I remember is the look that came over her face as she expressed her heartfelt belief that there would be a great revival of chant. Anyone who knew her will instantly understand the following description: With eyebrows slightly furled, lips slightly pursed, eyes WIDE OPEN as she peered above her glasses, and gently but firmly stated “It will happen — it’s already beginning!”

I will be forever grateful to have heard these words from Dr. Berry’s mouth with such a clear expression. It was as though she had a glimpse of the future and she wanted to make certain that we all knew exactly what she had seen. Such faith and awareness that this treasure of the Church would indeed return to be a blessing to all who encountered it.

Ubi caritas est vera, Deus ibi est  (Where true love is, God Himself is there)

The Community of Jesus

Tuscan Tomato, Bread and Herb Soup: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

By Gourmet Nun

Tuscan Food has grown rapidly in popularity in recent years. Since opening a new house in Barga, Italy, in the heart of Tuscany, we have become quite familiar with much of the Tuscan way of life-including foods most typical of that area. This herbed Tuscan tomato bread soup has become one of our favorites. It is delicious hot, cold, or at room temperature, and it will be even more flavorful if you use home grown garden-fresh tomatoes as they come into season.

Tuscan Tomato, Bread and Herb Soup

3 pounds of tasty, ripe tomatoes
Good extra-virgin olive oil |
2 large cloves of garlic, one whole, one finely chopped or crushed
2 medium onions, very finely chopped
3 sticks celery, very finely chopped
Pinch of salt
Black pepper
Small bunch of basil, leaves only (at least 25 leaves)
1 ½  pints chicken or vegetable broth
½ loaf Italian bread, cut into small pieces

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and turn off the heat. Put the tomatoes into the water and leave for a couple of minutes. Test with a knife tip to see if the skin peels away easily. Discard water, skin the tomatoes and finely chop.

Heat ½ cup olive oil in a large pot. Add the whole clove of garlic, the onions and celery and sauté for a few minutes, until the onion is translucent, but not browning.

Add the chopped tomatoes, a pinch of salt and some black pepper, and cook gently for a couple of minutes.

Add stock and the pieces of bread. Cook, covered, for another 20 minutes on a low flame. Add more stock or hot water if necessary.

Locate the cooked garlic and squeeze it back into the dish with a garlic press. Add the raw chopped or crushed garlic and the finely chopped basil. Taste for seasoning.

You can serve this hot, at room temperature or chilled. Serve with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and raw extra virgin olive oil to swirl on top at the table.

Serves 6

The Community of Jesus


Botanically Speaking

By Sr. Nun Other

It’s sunflower season. Whether in a garden or a vase, they stand as uncomplicated and unpretentious sentinels of joy. An interesting fact about sunflowers: they turn their heads toward the sun, following its course each day. In so doing, they produce healthy fruit, tiny, edible seeds that burst with nutrients. I make life difficult and pursue joy as if I can earn it. What if I were to simply follow the Son each day, without question or resistance?

The Community of Jesus


By Melodious Monk

Too much to do and not enough time. This seems to be modus operandi of much of our culture. We create gadgets to be more efficient, and we still find ourselves running out of time!  I find myself often bemoaning the fact that I can’t get all the “things” I’m responsible for done — the list never seems to end. It seems to grow the harder I try! The list feels like some of those trick birthday candles that never blow out no matter how much air you blow at the flame!

Do you ever ask yourself why God gives us work?  M. Basil Pennington puts forth this idea about how St. Benedict uses work to teach us lessons about God.(1) He says that having too much to do is actually a gift from God.  When we get to the end of the day, we realize we weren’t able to accomplish everything we might have wished.  And we are reminded that we are not God.  We are weak, needy people, in need of help.

Often I just get angry that I couldn’t finish everything I wanted to in the day. I try to plan better to find out how I can improve tomorrow.  But again this is a dead end.  In my own strength, I’ll still come up short. In his wisdom, Pennington is reminding me that coming up short is okay, and in fact a very good thing, even a gift from a loving God.  Why? Because it forces me to remember who God is, and allows me to choose to live in his strength, and by his grace.

[(1)  from Listen with your Heart, by M. Basil Pennigton, Ch 14]

The Community of Jesus

Rainy Morning

By Renaissance Girl

I got up early this morning and walked down to the garden. I love the hush of early morning, especially after a rain. The air has that cool, fresh tang, and everything hangs with drops of water perched on the ends of branches or suspended on petals and leaves. Everything feels refreshed — which, on a Monday morning, is much needed.

Perhaps a reminder for me that no matter where else I look for refreshment, the real Source is not the amount of sleep I get, or the moments I can steal for myself — but the Sender of Rain who knows just what to send, and when.




Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

The Universal Language

For many years, music has been referred to as the “Universal Language” — speaking from “heart to heart.” Chant certainly has that quality.

On a recent trip to Italy, I found myself meeting delightful people–their personality simply gleamed through their smile or handshake. Yet, we had no pathway to communicate verbally. I only speak a few words of Italian, and the people I met, for the most part, spoke no English. However, part of that trip included chanting both the midday Divine Office and Compline. Many of those same people attended those services, along with our group from the United States.

What happened next amazed me. We opened our mouths to chant the Office, and suddenly we were speaking the same language and we actually knew what each other was saying. The week leading to these services had been both exciting and tiring, in part because daily communication posed problems that one never even considers at home. Yet, we were united in the same language of prayer and it seemed that for those minutes we chanted, we were united through the same language and music.

This is a very important aspect of Gregorian chant and one which, if we give ourselves to it, will lift us from our daily routine and bring us together with God through sung prayer.

chant july 17







Credit for photo


Pepperoni Parmesan Croutons: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

By Gourmet Nun

This is the season for salad lovers, and we have been enjoying lots of salads at the convent with the daily fresh picked lettuce, herbs, and cucumbers from our gardens.

To add interest to them I’ve come up with my own croutons. If you like crisp and crunch, and you savor the flavor of Parmesan and pepperoni you’re sure to like these.

They are simple, quick and easy to make, add great taste to your salads, and served as snacks, they disappear in no time.

Pepperoni Parmesan Croutons
4 cups of torn Italian bread about 1/2 of a loaf
¾ teaspoon mixed Italian seasonings
¾ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
½  cup torn pepperoni

Tear bread into bite sized pieces to equal about 4 cups. Toss with seasonings. Spread out on 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle with cheese and torn pepperoni.  Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes or until golden all over. Cool and break into pieces.

pepperoni parmesan croutons



Thoughts of Visions

By Melodious Monk

Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Word and Revelation of the Eternal Father.
Come, we pray, and take possession of our hearts.
Cleanse us from all that would make us deaf to your call or slow to obey it.
Fill our minds with the thought and our imaginations with the vision of your love,
that there may remain in us no room for any desire that is not in accord with your holy will;
For with the Father and the Holy Spirit, you are blessed for ever. Amen.
William Temple

I like this prayer. I like its hope, and its challenge. I try to imagine what it would be like to only think and be aware of God’s love. If I took the best moments I’ve ever known, the times I felt most alive, most full of purpose, most loved – can you imagine that being every moment? I find it takes courage to hang on to visions of God’s love. God’s necessary “cleansing” involves suffering and the need for faith to grow. It is far too easy, and much less work to be fearful, negative and cynical in this life. But it is also lonely and un-rewarding. I want, and need, to spend more time filling my thoughts with visions of his love.