This past Wednesday was our annual vow service. It is one of the most beautiful nights of the year. The church, still clothed in Christmas garb, glows with the warmth of candle light. The vowed Community, robed with white scapulars, fill the seats on either side of the aisle the candidate will walk.  And the candidate, this year already robed and making final vows, exudes a light that comes with saying Yes.
I find everything about the service moving, from the hymns, to the speaking of the vows, to the moment where the candidate prostrates him or herself at the foot of the altar in a moment of total vulnerability and surrender. It’s an event where the ever-moving stream of history is almost palpable and the unity with monastics across time and space is humbling to say the least. And it is a moment that reminds each of us of our own call.
The most beautiful moment to me, is the chanting of the Suscipe — an ancient and traditional chant for the final vows in a Benedictine Community. The newly vowed sings it once on their own and then, in a chorus of support, the entire vowed community repeats it.  It is as though, through the Latin text, we are pledging to stand with the newly professed, and they with us — a bond of obedience and dependence on God.  And we sing it, knowing we will stumble, that sometimes we will want to quit, and that sometimes, we just need to stand still.
“Suscipe me Domine, secundum eloquium tuum at vivam; et non confundas me, ab expectatione mea.”

Uphold me, Lord, according to your word, and do not disappoint me in my hope.




A Gift

 by Renaissance Girl

I received a special gift this past week. I’m about as white, Anglo-Saxon as they come – Irish, Swedish, Scottish three generations back, but my friends have teased me about having some Russian Orthodox blood in me. Ever since visiting Russia with the choir in 1998, and then again with our youth group in 2002, I have hoped to go back someday. There is something about it that I love – a depth and history to the country and the people that just grabs hold of your heart. Especially in worship. I’ve never seen people so eager to be close to the Eucharist – so unconscious of the personal space that we Americans fight to preserve. They press in and past each other to draw close to the altar. And their music – impossible to describe with words how years of persecution and perseverance and love pour out in achingly beautiful harmonies.

So earlier this week, I happened to mention to a friend that I was wanting to pray the rosary, something I used to do as a teenager, but had lost my rosary years ago. The next morning she showed up at work and said “I have these two rosaries if you’d like to use one.” She handed me a red, knotted rope with beads and said “this one was blessed by the Patriarch.”

It’s been in my pocket and passed through my fingers since then. It helps find words for what’s in my heart.


Limited Capacity

I was taking myself very seriously the other day. I wasn’t sure how I could solve (or survive) global warming, the health care crisis, the rise in violent crime, and all the diseases I read about in magazines. Modern life is complex, and it’s easy for me to get lost in its intricacies. I had a thought about Jesus that brought comfort and led to a poem of sorts:

                      He is Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,

                                         And Mary’s son.

              The Great High Priest, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,

                                            And carpenter.

             Author and Finisher, the Chief Cornerstone, King of Kings,

                                      And calmer of storms.

                Desire of Nations, Sun of Righteousness, Bread of Life,

                                        And friend of sinners.

               He is of the highest complexity and the greatest simplicity.

                          He alone is God even when I pretend to be.


Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

by Gourmet Nun          
Most of the Convent Sisters love to cook and even those who may not, learn to, so that everyone can help prepare meals.  All are encouraged to be creative, which makes for a great deal of variety in our menu. As a result, we can actually go around the world in a week without ever leaving home.

Thursday evening has been established as Italian night. Many sisters love Asian and Thai cooking. Mexican is a long-time favorite, and Sisters who have spent time in Germany, Korea, and India all like to have a chance to relive their experiences there through cooking dishes native to each country…..thus the great diversity of our meals. We never simply have “the same old thing.”

But one day a week we choose to have only very plain food. Basically bread, cheese, fruit, and a simple soup. This has led to baking many different kinds of bread and one of our favorites has become this beautiful Portuguese sweet bread.

Portuguese Sweet Bread
3          packages of yeast
1/2       cup warm water
2          cups warm, milk
1          Tablespoon sugar
5          pounds flour
12        eggs
3 1/2    cups sugar
3          Tablespoons lemon juice
2          sticks butter melted
2          Tablespoons salt

Egg Wash
1 egg, beaten
1 Tablespoon water

Dissolve yeast  in warm water, (not hot). Add warmmilk and 1 Tablespoon sugar. Whisk together and set aside to proof yeast. In a separate bowl, add eggs, sugar, and lemon juice. Beat well and then add melted butter. Add yeast mixture, the remaining flour and salt. Mix well and let rest for 10 to 20 minutes. Continue mixing until dough begins to pull away from bowl or knead with greased hands until dough pulls away from your hands. This takes a while and the dough is sticky unlike bread dough. Place in greased bowl and cover to let rise to double, about 1 to 3 hours. Punch down, turn over, and let rise to double a second time. Carefully break away about 2/3 pound of dough at a time, rolling dough into a nice loaf shape and place into greased loaf pans. This should make about 5 to 7 nice loafs. Let rise until double in the pans for a third rising. Make two to three 1/4-inch slits on the top of each loaf and then brush tops with 1 beaten egg mixed with water. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes and then reduce heat to about 300 degrees Fahrenheit for another 25 to 30 minutes. Remove loaves from the oven and lay them on their side on a rack for a couple of minutes before removing from the pan




Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

The Beauty of Repetition
I recently had the opportunity to work with an extraordinarily enthusiastic group of cantors in preparation for a full Gregorian mass. As we moved through our preparations and, ultimately, the mass itself, I was struck by their sense of awe of and responsibility for the chant and how it was presented.
Even though we only had two hours of preparation time together, we all mutually stepped into a legacy of chanted prayer that had long preceded us, and will last long after any of us walk on this earth. It only takes a moment of pondering that thought to realize that we were joining ourselves into a type of repetition. In this case, repetition which changes every time it occurs. A bit of a paradox — perhaps. But just as  liturgical seasons repeat every year, so do those scriptures which  inflame and inform them and by extension — the chants, which help illuminate those texts!
It was that understanding in which I found myself standing with that group of cantors — the joy of having known these chants and yet discovering new dimensions and how these chants would enhance this particular mass.  As you spend time chanting, take the time to return to chants which you already know – see what new insight they give you.

Bee Alive

by Sr Nunother  

Recently, as I served breakfast to a guest, he politely asked, “So what happens here on Saturday morning?”  I assumed he referred to the stream of people hurrying by the window with shovels, brooms, garden carts, ladders and paint cans.

“Oh, that’s work crew”, I answered.  “There’s a job for everyone, from folding church bulletins and jam making, to mowing grass and renovating buildings. 

He replied that it looked just like a beehive.  Exactly!  Beehive is the name given to our Saturday morning endeavor and I was glad he made the analogy. The conversation led me to do a little research and I found these significant facts:  1. Honey bees are altruistic social insects that band together for the good of all;  2. The basis for division of labor within a hive is the age of the worker and is designed to prolong life;  3. Hives continue to develop and survive as long as every member functions well at his/her particular tasks.  It occurred to me that the beehive is a living symbol of I Corinthians 12, the scripture that speaks of the interdependence of the parts of the body of Christ and the necessity of all.


The Sanctity of Human Life

by Melodius Monk

During college, one of the best courses I took was “bio-medical ethics.” It was the most engaging, shocking, and morally challenging course I had. We debated issues of genetics, assisted suicide, patients’ rights, abortion, and the selling of human embryos — polarizing subjects, and quite prevalent in our current everyday news.
To me, these moral ethics all hinged on one’s beliefs about the concept of the “sanctity of human life.” Is all life from God? Is the core of humanity something Holy, something sanctified and therefore something full of spiritual powers beyond our understanding?
C.S. Lewis believed that the greatest weapon of the devil in the 20th century was to convince people that he did not exist. In watching the news, it is full of suicides, murders, and much disrespect for human life. I fear more and more that we as a people are losing the belief in the spiritual realm and its powers.
When we discuss to make choices about our lives, we should remember that as humans we are created Holy. We need Jesus’ help to recognize the devil and to defend the sanctity that we have been given.

Seeing Through

I was in Boston this past week with Elements Theatre Company.  Four members of the company performed “God of Carnage” by French playwright Yasmina Reza.  In short, it is the story of two sets of parents who have met to discuss the fact that one of their sons has smashed the other in the face with a stick and broken two teeth.  Through the course of the play, each parent is stripped down to their raw-est self and what seemed a clear cut case left me with more questions than answers.
It was a unique opportunity to see it almost four times.  I learned things about myself I wasn’t completely prepared for.  Like the fact that I make a hard and fast judgement based on surface facts.  It seemed clear to me that the boy with the stick was at fault and should be punished – until the rest of the story started to come out and I found myself questioning the “victim.”  Or that I, too, have a “public persona” I put on to ensure that I am well-received and liked, when what’s really underneath would rival any nine year-old.  When I get uncomfortable with a situation, it’s easier to fixate on something else — like a tragedy in a foreign country — than to lean into what’s right in front of me.
Isn’t that partly (or mostly) why we go to theatre?  To see ourselves and what we truly are – or could be?  To see that maybe we don’t have to live our persona — maybe it’s possible to just be ourselves. 


Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

by Sr Fidelis  
More about Solesmes
As the monks of Solesmes continued to gather and study ancient chant manuscripts, they were able to reconstruct the original melodies which had been changed and altered.  The books of that day contained a lot of “heavy, square notes”, with no indication of rhythmic nuance. By the 1880’s, the Solesmes monks began printing chant books based on the ancient sources. As always when there is a change, there was great controversy over the “new” versus the old “plainchant”.
In 1903, Pope Pius X authorized the monks to prepare editions of chant for the Mass for the entire Roman Catholic Church.  Along with the publishing of these books came a flowering of renewed interest in the chant, of teaching, scholarly debate, publishing, and recordings that spread throughout Europe and North America.





A Timely Reminder

by Sr Nunother

I’m in awe of phrases such as: “no worries,” “be happy,” “not a care in the world,” “kick back,” “chill out,” and “take time to smell the roses.”  I find it interesting that they’re popular in a society that’s forever on the move, looking for faster, better, and more efficient. Rarely do I achieve any of the former as I race to my imaginary finish lines.
Not so the fellow pictured below. He’s living in and enjoying the moment, communicating without words a complete trust in our creator.  I’m glad he found his way into my day.