Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Psalm 51: Have Mercy on me, O Lord

You might expect that this is a chant blog for Lent with such a title. No. At Friday morning Lauds, we chant Psalm 51 –  perhaps the most well-known penitential psalm –  throughout the year. Though we have often discussed beauty and the value of repetition in both the Divine Office and Eucharist, I think this psalm and chant deserve a special mention.

Chanting Psalm 51 reminds me that I am in need of God’s mercy and loving restoration. The gentle Mode VI antiphon creates an aural “portrait” of God welcoming us home, much as in the story of the prodigal son.

Chanting Psalm 51 reminds me that we are about to go into the weekend, which concludes with Sunday – the Lord’s Day. Though that may seem an obvious thing, I often forget this and think primarily (if not exclusively!) of the projects I must accomplish which received none of my attention through the week. Chanting Psalm 51 reminds me that I am in need of God’s mercy to help me prepare for the Sabbath.

Finally, and perhaps most important, chanting Psalm 51 reminds me that I need to offer God’s mercy, forgiveness, and love to others which has been so generously given to me. Once again, chant – the song of prayer – turns me and all of us to God’s loving and welcoming voice!

chant blog.may 23.2014

In Search of Pefect

By Sr. Nun Other 

Matthew 5:48 says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” I wear myself out trying to look perfect. I say look and not be, because I’m in enough reality to know I won’t reach that goal. In reading the verses surrounding Matthew 5:48, I discovered that God’s perfect has nothing to do with the flawless, ageless, sinless I imagine.  It is instead about forgiveness and unselfish love, woven as a beautiful tapestry within one’s heart.

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Organ Prelude

By Sr. Nun Other

I’m now part of a team assigned to keep the inner workings of our E.M. Skinner organ pipes dust free. The prelude to dusting included a tour of the area where the pipes reside. It was an intriguing labyrinth of small spaces, some high up and some maneuvered on hands and knees. What I found most interesting about the tour, was our guide didn’t focus on what to do, but rather on what not to do. Although he apologized for his negative approach, we assured him that his “learned the hard way” advice was invaluable. The what not to do’s represented hundreds of possible work hours and thousands of dollars saved. It occurred to me how easy it is to do the wrong thing — to respond in anger, withhold forgiveness, and seek vengeance. And how difficult it is to do right — to consider God’s love for my current enemy, turn the other cheek and ultimately forgive.

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Another Year of Grace

So hard to believe another year has drawn to a close. On Sunday, the sermon encouraged us to look back and record God’s blessings from the year as we turn to face a new one. I find it easy to get too introspective about it — reviewing events and what I could have done differently, and what will I face this year — so the suggestion to focus on the blessings was needed.  This hymn came to mind and it seems to capture the right attitude in passing from one year to the next.  “What need we fear…?” 

“Now greet the swiftly changing year with joy and penitence sincere;
     rejoice, rejoice, with thanks embrace another year of grace.
For Jesus came to wage sin’s war; this Name of names for us he bore;
     rejoice, rejoice, with thanks embrace another year of grace.
His love abundant far exceeds the volume of a whole year’s needs;
     rejoice, rejoice, with thanks embrace another year of grace.
With such a Lord to lead our way in hazard and prosperity,
      what need we fear in earth or space in this new year of grace?
“All glory be to God on high and peace on earth” the angels cry;
     rejoice, rejoice, with thanks embrace another year of grace.”


I am embarrassed to say it hit me yesterday that Christmas is what it’s all about. Of course, I’ve known it to some extent but yesterday, for some reason, out of the clear blue, it was an “aha! moment.”  This day, with its month-long advertising lead up, its marketplace pressures of “what are you getting for the ones you love?” Its frantic “get-it-while-it-lasts” message — is really about a quiet birth. And, amazingly, this quiet birth is really about the saving of the world! God wrapped and sent his most precious gift. His Son — our salvation, wrapped in our flesh and in the arms of a young woman who said Yes.
And the shocking thing — it’s not what anybody asked for or wanted! No warrior on a steed to conquer the empire. No king in a chariot to overthrow the government. A baby, who would grow and suffer and die — and redeem the human race.
So perhaps Christmas isn’t getting what we want – it’s receiving what we need.

With Mercy, Not Prejudice

by Sr Nunother  

I occasionally cause trouble by rushing to judgment. When I have an unresolved grievance against another, I’m primed to strike and easy prey to gossip and innuendo regarding that person. I wish to believe the worst because it validates my personal sense of rightness.  This happened recently and I hurt a friend for whom I have considerable respect. John Henry Newman in Parochial and Plain Sermons wrote, “In truth, the all wise, all-knowing God cannot speak without meaning many things at once.” What an amazing thought! Unlike me, God views the world with perfect understanding and sees multiple possibilities where I see only my own narrow perspective. For example, what feels like love to the neglected, could translate as excessive control to another. Each interpretation would be true and valid. God’s love and mercy are creative and fathomless, and for that, I’m extremely grateful.



Faith Inventory

by Sr Nunother  

To paraphrase a current advertising slogan, “What’s in my wallet?” What do I carry with me that I consider irreplaceable? Let’s see. I have currency in worry, a credit card of remembered slights, a repertoire of words to deceive or outwit, and…but wait a minute. That’s the old me, isn’t it, before I met Christ? Faith, trust, hope and forgiveness are fail-safe problem solvers if I allow their participation.  Today I choose a wallet-full.



All Creatures Great and Small

by Renaissance Girl  

I love the feast of St.Francis. I start looking forward to the Blessing of the Animals about a week before it happens. This year it took place in the atrium of our church. It had rained most of the day and the sky was still dark so we gathered under cover of the atrium roof.
It’s a beautiful chaos — dogs, cats, rabbits, turtles, and even a lizard. Some of them snuggle close to their owners while others lurch out, trying to meet all the others. Someone barks a hello from across the circle and people smile at the honest exuberance of an animal. We bless them and then disperse, a few playful romps springing up along the way – or a final snarl letting the others know who’s boss.
What I love is the sense that a meeting of spirits has just happened that we really don’t even know. I can’t argue all the theology of whether animals have souls or not, but I believe there are things they see that we can’t. I’ve sometimes caught my dog staring at something intently in the air that I certainly am not seeing. And I am often stunned at what animals teach us about love, and forgiveness, and total abandonment to whatever’s in front of them — living in the moment.  
St. Francis statue1



by Melodius Monk  

“Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’.” In reading Matthew’s Gospel this week, this command from Jesus stuck in my mind as something to ponder. I go about many days with these verbs reversed, thinking if I sacrifice enough, then God will show mercy. But this is not what Jesus asks.

Mercy can be defined as: compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

I feel awkward that Jesus desires for me to show him compassion. How is it that the God of the universe desires that I show him mercy? Is it actually within our power to punish or harm this omnipotent God of all creation?  Does God care for each of us so intimately that my rudeness, self-centeredness or arrogance hurts God so much that he desires – but does not force – yet desires mercy from me? Surely this generous love leaves plenty to ponder.

The Altar in the foreground with the Cross behind.


by Melodius Monk  

In the early 1970’s, the Community of Jesus’ founders, Mother Cay and Mother Judy, would hold regular teaching conferences and bible studies. Thankfully, some of these teachings were recorded, and I enjoy listening to them to hear the voices and sayings of our Community’s Founders. On one tape I particularly like, the Mothers are talking about our need for Jesus. Mother Cay says in her calm voice, “It’s so relaxing to be a failure.”

This phrase makes me pause, giving me something to think and pray about. If you’re anything like I am, this lesson is so opposite of how I live. I strive to exhaustion to look good, to grasp at controlling my life and its surroundings. And where is Jesus is this striving? He’s usually waiting for me to ask for some help. The funny ironic truth is, when I can’t admit I’m a failure, when I can’t see that I’m a needy desperate soul always in need of help, in need of a Savior, then I can’t relax into His arms, into his care.