Blessed Feast of St. Mary Magdalene

The Risen One
by Rainer Maria Rilke

Until his final hour he had never
refused her anything or turned away,
lest she should turn their love to public praise.
Now she sank down beside the cross, disguised,
heavy with the largest stones of love
like jewels in the cover of her pain.

But later, when she came back to his grave
with tearful face, intending to anoint,
she found him resurrected for her sake,
saying with greater blessedness, “Do not –”

She understood it in her hollow first:
how with finality he now forbade
her, strengthened by his death, the oils’ relief
or any intimation of a touch:

because he wished to make of her the lover
who needs no more to lean on her beloved,
as, swept away by joy in such enormous
storms, she mounts even beyond his voice.

Donatello Mary Magdalene

Mary and Martha in Chicago

By Sunset Septuagint

Have you seen the painting “The Scream”? I am currently on a trip to Chicago which began by travel on a full airplane which was late in landing. On arrival everyone immediately stood up, jamming the aisles while the passengers who had close connecting flights were fighting to get through to the front… What mayhem! Too bad there was no announcement for those not in a hurry to wait until the others got off.

Then I got in line to get a taxi…..there was a break in the barricade so wheelchairs could get through but behind the wheelchair others were cramming forward to get to the head of the line. Others ran to the end of the line behind the people waiting so they could hop into the cabs first without having to wait in line.

I am a very impatient person myself but this time I had no deadline so I started a conversation with a woman beside me in line and wound up telling her I was in Chicago for a doctor’s appointment. She asked the name of the doctor and when I told her, she said her father had the same surgeon and she told me how wonderful he was! Suddenly a weight of anxiety was miraculously lifted from my shoulders.

I thought of the Mary/Martha sermon last Sunday in church. It wasn’t the work that Martha was doing that was the problem but her anxiety and worry. By the grace of God alone for that moment in the taxi line, I was able to choose the better part to have a friendly chat with another person, and Jesus used the conversation with that woman to calm my fears!

Engraving by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

Engraving by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

The Word

By Sr. Fidelis

We have wonderful and stimulating disagreements in our scholas! It is thrilling when schola members are so engaged that the small details matter — the lengthening of a note, the shaping of a particular neume — all in an effort to bring out the meaning of a word or phrase within a chant. That being said, however, I would like to offer us a quote this week from Dom Eugene Cardine about the final goal of chant:

“Gregorian Chant is a sung word, a sacred word which comes to us from God in Holy Writ and returns to God in praise…we must so greatly assimilate the result of our work that we end up by forgetting technique so that the listener does not hear it either…May good sense guide us and keep us halfway between inaccessible perfection and a routine which is too easily satisfied with anything at all.” (pp. xxviii-xxxi, The Restoration of Gregorian Chant, Dom Pierre Combe, trans. Marier/Skinner, Catholic University of America Press, 2003.)

May all of our discussions have this blessed ending!

gregorian_chant3.14.14 (1)


By Sr. Spero

I picked some zucchini from the garden this morning. As I decided which squash to pick and which to let grow for another day, I realized that God is the great gardener. Sometimes it’s best to pick zucchini small for the best flavor. But sometimes a larger squash is better for soup or bread. And sometimes it’s best not to pick one at all, so the seeds can mature for the next crop. For me, it’s a matter of trust. Do I trust God enough to believe that when I’m picked I’m ready? Or if I’m not picked, do I trust that he might have some other plan in mind?


A word from Saint Francis de Sales

“The everlasting God has in His wisdom foreseen from eternity the cross that He now presents to you  as a gift from His inmost heart. This cross He now sends you He has considered with His all-knowing eyes, understood with His divine mind, tested with His wise justice, warmed with loving arms and weighed with His own hands to see that it be not one inch too large and not one ounce too heavy for you. He has blessed it with His holy Name, anointed it with His grace, perfumed it with His consolation, taking one last glance at you and your courage, and then then sent it to you from heaven, a special greeting from God to you, an alms of the all-merciful love of God.”


Hymn for the Feast of Saint Benedict

By Sr. Fidelis

This week we celebrate the Solemn Feast of Saint Benedict of Nursia. Here in our Benedictine Community this is an especially significant day. We begin the service of Vespers with a beautiful hymn written by Saint Peter Damian (1007-1072 AD), Benedictine reformer, and Doctor of the Church. Found in the Breviarum Monasticum, the hymn is written in Mode I and has a lovely lyrical tune setting off this stunning poetry. The writer uses phrases such as “precious jewel of the heavenly king”, “your heart fixed on the stars,” and “you work through the narrow beginnings of a strict life” as he recounts the life of Benedict.

Each verse begins with a stepwise melody in the lower range, blossoms in the middle in leaps of 4ths and 5ths, and then settles back to a repeat of the opening phrase. It sticks to the typical features of Mode I – beginning and ending on Re and at points hovering around La. The clarity and simplicity help paint the perfect backdrop for the hymn text.

In preparation for this day we have been reading through this text together – first to get our tongues wrapped around the words and then to digest them in our minds and hearts. It brings to mind his wisdom passed down to us over the centuries: Listen my Son with the ear of your heart….


Saint Benedict

By Sr. Spero

I learned about St. Benedict from his Rule, imagining him as a fatherly abbot caring for the souls of his monks. Until a recent study trip on St. Benedict with the Mount Tabor Centre in Barga, Italy, I knew very little about his life. I discovered: His spiritual life began with three years alone in a cave when he was a young man. His first monastic experience was with a group of monks who asked him to be their abbot and then tried to poison him. He left undeterred and started 12 other monasteries in the same area. He has many miracles attributed to him, and was known as a mighty spiritual warrior. But his greatest success  is in the thousands of monasteries and millions of monks he has inspired to follow his way. St. Francis admired him greatly (the only portrait of St. Francis made in his lifetime is a fresco in the Holy Cave of St. Benedict), although he led his friars in a different way.

The study trip took us to Norcia, where Benedict was born, and Subiaco, the site of Sacro Speco (the Holy Cave), and monasteries covered with medieval frescoes illustrating the life of St. Benedict. Some no longer have monks or nuns living in them, but all have signs of a rich devotion to the saint. This seems to me his greatest legacy. The visible love of his followers—shown in their artwork, and the gift of their lives.


Praying with the Body in the Liturgy of the Hours

By Sr. Fidelis

We begin and end the office standing. Standing is a sign of reverence to God. As shown in paintings on the walls of the catacombs in Rome, the early Christians used to pray standing, with their arms uplifted. Although less familiar to us, standing was, for many centuries, the usual posture for communal prayer, and it is still the norm in Eastern Orthodox churches. In the Liturgy of the Hours, following the antiphon and intonation of the first half of the first psalm verse, we sit for the psalm. We stand again after chanting the first half of the last verse of each psalm, and bow for the Gloria Patri. Through all of these gestures, we are, as creatures, paying homage to God, our Creator, and to his majesty, and thus the gestures carry a weight of meaning far beyond the actual motions we make.

susanna1 Velata_priscilla

The Roar of the Waterfall

By Sr. Spero

Deep calls to deep “in the roar of the waterfall.” (Psalm 42:10).

God calls to us from the depths of his love to the depths of our soul. Psalm 42:10 says he calls “in the roar of the waterfall.” The images of the psalms can translate to many situations, so they are always personal. To me, at this moment, the waterfall is all the thoughts in my mind that compete for attention. They roar and fall down around me on all sides. But the psalm tells me that God calls me in the roar, and if I listen, I can still hear. Today, the waterfall is thoughts, tomorrow it might be an emotion that consumes me, but the message is the same. He calls through the roar of the waterfall. I just have to stop and listen.


Benefits of Praise

By Faithful Friar

Today I read in my devotional book about the benefits of Praise. It said that praise lifts up the spirit, builds up faith, defeats the enemy’s stratagems, and joins our prayers to heaven, where saints are already united in unending praise.

I have the privilege of ringing our Change Ringing bells. I think of ringing the bells as a part of the worship service where the overflowing of praise bursts from inside the church to the outside of the church. After reading this meditation, which went on to remind us that praise is a weapon against darkness, I wondered if that may be why so many people love to hear to the bells ring every day. In a time of such division, and bad news, the bells remind of us of beauty, hope and that His glory will prevail.