Feast of St. Scholastica

Little is known about St. Scholastica, the sister of St. Benedict of Nursia. She founded a house of sisters near Benedict’s monastery, Monte Cassino, and as far as we know, followed a similar monastic rule. The one anecdote that we have of her her life, from the writings of Gregory the Great, tells us that during a visit from her brother, St. Benedict, she pleaded for him to stay longer. He refused, and then Scholastica prayed for rain to block his departure.  An extreme rainstorm followed, and Benedict was forced to remain until the following day. Just two days later Scholastica died, and at that time Benedict saw a white dove ascending to heaven, a sign of her spirit rising to God. In the sculpted image here of St. Scholastica in the cloister of the Community of Jesus, Scholastica is pictured with a dove. Interestingly, this story is retold in the Gregorian antiphons for office of Lauds on the feast of St. Scholastica. What follows it the English translations of the text:

St. Scholastica Carving - Church of the Transfiguration - Community of Jesus

Stone carving of St. Scholastica

Go out now, brother, go out if you can, and having dismissed me, go back to your monastery.

May Almighty God spare you, sister; what is this that you have done?

Behold, I begged you and you would not hear me; I begged my Lord and he listened to me.

Let us talk now until morning about heavenly things, in holy conversation about the spiritual life.




While the holy Benedict, three days later, was standing in his cell, having raised his eyes, he saw the soul of his sister which had left her body, enter the secret places of heaven in form of a dove.

Both the monastery at Montecassino, Italy, and the monastery of Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire, France, claim to house the remains of both saints. Tradition says that at the end of the 7th century, the relics were stolen from Montecassino and brought to France.

The lives of both of these saints continue today to inspire religious life in both of these monastic houses, and indeed inspire monastics and laypeople worldwide.



Ringing into Eternity

A few of us were out shoveling snow off our driveway earlier this year when the lowest bell began ringing in the bell tower. After a dozen or so strokes it seemed clear that one of our members had passed away. I lost count of the number of tolls somewhere in the 60’s, and stopped shoveling. Roughly 85-95 strokes. To hear the news from the tower out in the cold over the snow, I was struck how special the tower has become to our community. The bell tower was sharing the news with everyone, ringing our dear friend into eternity.

At the funeral reception celebrating a life fully lived, after the bells were finished, each of us were given a card with lyrics to a favorite song:
You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In Between
You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene
To illustrate his last remark
Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark
What did they do
Just when everything looked so dark
Man, they said we better, accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between
No, do not mess with Mister In-Between
Do you hear me?
Church of the Transfiguration Bell Tower in the Snow

Bell Tower in Winter at the Church of the Transfiguration, Community of Jesus

Feast of the Presentation of Jesus – Candlemas

The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is also known as Candlemas. The tradition of Candlemas blessing on the Feast of the Presentation dates to the 11th century and is inspired by words of the Nunc Dimittis (Canticle of Simeon), speaking of Christ as the “light to lighten the Gentiles”. 

In our community, as in many others, this celebration includes the blessing of the liturgical candles for the coming year. As our candles are handmade by our members, this service blesses the work that goes on throughout the year to keep the church supplied with candlelight.

This feast also celebrates ‘spiritual sight’.  Both Simeon and Anna, who had dedicated their lives to prayer were able to recognize Christ as the Messiah when Mary and Joseph brought him to the Temple. Scripture verses from Malachi that point to the coming of John the Baptist are part of the lectionary readings for this feast. “Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple…Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord.” Several of the Gregorian chant psalm antiphons for this Feast also link the offering of Christ in the Temple with our own salvation.

“Offer, blessed one, the child, your only one and the Father’s; offer him through whom we are offered, the price at which we were redeemed.”

“Go on, O regal virgin, bring forward the son with a sacrifice; he recalls all people to joy, who comes, the salvation of all.”

Icon: Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, Sr. Faith Riccio, Community of Jesus

Feast of St. Marcella

 Marcella is credited as one of the founders of monasticism. Widowed at a young age after just nine months of marriage, she formed a small community of noble women dedicated to a life of austerity and asceticism. Her home, which had been a center of Roman society, was now a place for pilgrims, for the poor, and a gathering place for the women in her community.  A close friend of St. Jerome, she felt free to spar with him on theological matters and to dispute his translations of the Scriptures. She died soon after being tortured by the Goths who were seeking the hiding place of her wealth, which had long ago been given away to the poor.  

In one of St. Jerome’s letters, a memoir of Marcella, he describes her love of scripture and says “She was forever singing these verses, Your words have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against you,(Psalm 119:11) as well as the words, his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law does he meditate day and night. (Psalm 1:2)”

The Feast of Saints Timothy & Titus

Both Timothy and Titus heard Paul preach when they were young men and became trusted friends and partners in Paul’s ministry in the following years. They encouraged the faithful, cared for Paul when he was imprisoned and in Timothy’s case, followed Paul to a martyrs death. May we be a support to those in our communities with a particular call to spiritual direction.

“He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine.” — Titus 1:9 NIV

The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

The dramatic story of St. Paul’s conversion can be an encouragement that God’s grace can come in an instant. Paul, who had been actively against all things Christian, now became as dedicated to spreading the message of Christianity as the first apostles. He became the author of thirteen books of the New Testament which were first a pastoral response to the churches that he led but now have become a source of spiritual direction for Christians through the centuries.

Pray without ceasing,” he told the Thessalonians, “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17–18)

Gregorian Cantors travel from Cape Cod to Benedictine Abbey in Mission, British Columbia

We have just returned from a week at Westminster Abbey & the Seminary of Christ the King in Mission, BC, Canada, where two of us sisters taught a workshop on Gregorian Chant for the seminarians there.

It was a time of mutual sharing – taking part in their worship, their way of life, and sharing our experience with the Gregorian Chant from our community.  Starting with the common ground of many beloved and well-known pieces, we approached the chant from several different angles. We worked together in a classroom setting, at times in smaller groups and also brought the chant to life in their beautiful church.  In the end, the many aspects that we discussed still distilled down to some very simple points which can be said best by the Masters:

– Chant is a question of bringing forth the music which the words already contain.  Dom Jacques Hourlier

– Gregorian Chant is a music that is essentially sung speech.  Dom Eugene Cardine

Chant is like a garden….you visit it dozens of times, but always see something new and fresh!  Dr. Mary Berry

In addition to our time with the seminarians, we got to know many of the monks and gave one session with them as well as with the Highschoolers.  Coming away we were very enriched by all whom we met, worked and worshiped with.

Twice a year, we host a Gregorian Chant Retreat here at the Community of Jesus. In 2018 we will host retreats in March and again in August.

To learn more, or to register, click here.


Flying in Formation

Today I learned a lesson about living in community from the habits of geese.

When geese are migrating and fly in a “V” formation, they are working together in many ways. As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird directly following it.

Birds can increase their flying range by 71 percent simply by flying together! People who share a common direction and sense of community can also get where they are going more quickly when they travel on the thrust of one another.

When a goose falls out of formation, it will suddenly feel the drag and resistance of trying to fly by itself, and it quickly gets back into formation with the lifting power of the bird in front. When the front goose gets tired, it will rotate to the back and another goose will take a turn at being at the point. It is sensible to take turns doing demanding jobs and sharing the load.

The geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. We all need encouragement.

When a goose gets sick or is wounded or falls out of formation, two other geese fall out with that goose and follow it down to lend help and protection. They stay with the fallen goose until it is able to fly or until it dies. Only then do they launch out again. If we would have the sense of a goose, we would stand by each other as well.

Group of Canadian geese flying in V-formation over sunburst


Feast of St. Agnes, Early Christian Martyr

St. Agnes lived a short life of dramatic faith and died a martyrs death around 300 AD at the age of 12 or 13. She turned away many suitors with the words “Jesus Christ is my only Spouse”. The young men (including the Governor’s son) whose offers of marriage were rejected by Agnes became so angry that they denounced her as a Christian to the authorities. Eventually she was condemned to death — some accounts say that when she was tied to the stake her body refused to burn, so eventually she had to be beheaded. Her blood was then soaked up with cloths by fellow Christians. Her strong faith at a young age can be an inspiration to young people and her single-hearted devotion to God can encourage all of us to sacrifice whatever God is asking us to give Him. The word Agnes means lamb, so she is often pictured with a lamb in Christian imagery, as she is below in this image from the cloister at the Church of the Transfiguration.

Home From Cameroon

Upon our return from Cameroon,  I can’t help but reflect on what has transpired in my life over the past 20 months that I spent there.  At the airport, a pastor friend asked me what would be my “take away” from my time in Cameroon.
How is it possible to sum it up in one sentence or two?
I had the privilege to work with not one, but two religious communities on their daily worship services. One Community, the Benedictine Sisters of Bethany, now has a new formation house that can take young girls desiring to serve God in the religious life. The other Community, the Emmanuel Sisterhood, is already well established. They asked for my help, something they said they have been longing for.
In both cases, it was a joy for me to see the fruit already taking shape. For the young ones, they are starting out with daily offices of prayer and singing the Psalms that they have grasped onto amazingly well. As for the older community, they told me they have been inspired to improve their singing in their daily worship, now that they have had some instruction.
When I first went to Cameroon I had no inkling that this would be the work for me to do and as it began to develop, I was, and am so grateful to God that this is the course He took me through.  — Sr. Victoria MacNeil