Chant — Crossing Boundaries

By Sr. Fidelis

I just returned from a weekend “Chant Retreat” in Barga, Italy — two days of sharing together, preparing for Advent. Once again we experienced the incredible way in which this prayer can unite us in spite of language or cultural barriers. The retreat was held in both English and Italian, but really since all the chanting was in Latin we shared that common ground.

We began by singing the Salve Regina. Everyone in Italy knows this piece by heart, and no matter what their current connection with God or the church, singing these words together seems to bring a feeling of family. After this we studied some basic points of Gregorian chant, learned the De Angelis Mass and a Vespers service. Another wonderful point of meeting was that so many in Italy still have this Mass in their childhood memory so when we sang it in church that Sunday, the priest and much of the congregation joined right in!

Unlike many of our retreats in the US, the Italians were more interested in being together than studying and in that way it was a nice time of community as we learned, explored, listened. One of the poignant moments was just listening to some chants about Mary and “coloring” as we listened. No heady brainwork — just letting it wash over us as prayer.

It seems we all came away from the time renewed in some way and though we gained some knowledge about chant, it seemed to be more about experiencing the life it can give as we spend time with it — a good thing to ponder as we begin Advent…

Sr. Evangeline from the Community of Jesus leads a Gregorian Chant Retreat at the Villa Via Sacra in Barga, Italy

Not Just a Routine Christian

By Sr. Nun Other

Recent events revealed two important things to me: I rely heavily on routine, and I’m people dependent. I spent the early days of a recent Tuscany tour (pilgrimage, actually) re-defining my faith. I’m strong in my home environment, but when surrounded by the unfamiliar, not so much. While grateful for progress on my Christian walk, I realize I have miles of journey ahead to become fully grounded in Christ. As autumn transitions to winter, I trust and rely on His love, that spring waits on the other side.

The Community of Jesus


By Renaissance Girl

Yesterday was the feast day of the Transfiguration, the name day of our church. Our Sunday Eucharist was enlivened with movement and brass fanfare and ribbons streaming from the west wall depicting the Transfiguration story. But what’s on my mind is transfiguration in its broader sense — most likely prompted by the combination of yesterday’s service, and the impending opening night of “Julius Caesar” this Friday by Elements Theatre Company. It’s a big word for a concept that is both basic and immensely mysterious — change.

A word most of us both long for and avoid. I easily focus on the little changes of my daily life — an updated rehearsal time, a cancelled event, a new living situation — and I overlook the fact that life itself is one big change, and one we can’t measure by time or distance. Like St. Paul says in the scriptures, “And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.”  Degree by degree, moment by moment, becoming who we are meant to be.

What eludes me sometimes is the fact that God can use anything to bring about this change. It’s not about me trying to become different — it’s an action God does in me when I say “yes.” Which is where “Julius Caesar” comes in. Isn’t part of what draws us to theater — or any art — is the potential for change? To see something a little differently, experience life in someone else’s shoes. I wonder if theater/art is one of the few places we humans are actually open to having our minds or opinions changed — maybe we even long for it. The “Julius Caesar” I read in high school, held at arms length, is quite different from the “Julius Caesar” I am living now. And sometimes just the willingness to engage (to consider that what seems like an old story from history, actually has something to teach us now) is all it takes to start the change.

I have a quote on my desk that I love and says it far better — it was said by Monsignor Timothy Verdon, Director of the Office of Sacred Art and Church Cultural Heritage in Florence, Italy. He says the role of an artist requires him or her to give to others and therefore inspires us to look to him/her as a giver of spiritual life and “by doing that, we acknowledge art’s potential to nourish our craving for richer, deeper, more meaningful life, and we are already changed.”

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


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


Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Chant “back then”

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of traveling to the city of Barga located in the northern part of Italy. As part of that travel, our chant schola chanted the midday office and compline in a church which was constructed and then added to over the course of several centuries. Towering above us in this church was a 12th century wooden statue of St. Christopher, still bearing its own wounds from centuries of war and unrest made visible in the arrowheads still in its torso.

As we chanted, I was struck by the thought that when that statue and that church were new, it is quite likely that chants we were praying were also relatively new. We were actually chanting in the surroundings in which these chants first came to life! Listening in this extraordinary building, the acoustic “told us” the tempo to take, allowed us to hear and experience the building of harmonies which hung in the air like incense, and gave us a sense that this chant had been heard in this room many thousands of times. The span of centuries was instantly crossed as we joined our voices with those voices of chant from “back then” – when the voice of the church was much younger and yet full of all the years that it would carry through. It made me realize again that we have the privilege every time we chant, of joining instantly with all of those centuries of prayer.

013-chants-of-the-priest.july 2014








www.sanctamissa.org384 × 307



Common Sense

By Melodious Monk

This morning I was reading about Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, a 20th century Italian priest from a farming town in southern Italy, more well known as Padre Pio. He gave this advice: “Whatever can I say in order to stop the multitude of your thoughts? Don’t try, excessively, to heal your heart, as your efforts would only make it more infirm. Don’t make too great an effort to overcome your temptations, as this violence would only make them stronger. Despise them and don’t dwell on them too much.”

I smiled while reading this, as it reminded me of conversations I frequently have with one of the long standing brothers at our community. He often tells me to try not thinking so much. Because put simply, “How do you expect to hear God’s voice with so many thoughts and voices of your own to drown His out? It’s just common sense!”


Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

The beginnings of Roman chant notation – from a Benedictine monastery!

This is my last blog to be drawn from Fr. Klarmann’s book Gregorian Chant. For many of us, the story of Guido d’ Arezzo was made legend while in music school. However, Fr. Klarmann’s telling of the tale is rather more interesting and reminds us again that monastic life can be quite exciting, as is the history of chant!

“One of the greatest incentives to the spread of the chant was invented by a companion to St. Bernard, a monk named Guido. He maintained strong views about the chant and thereby incurred the unpopularity of his brother monks. He was sent, or possibly went of his own accord under the duress of petty jealousy, from the monastery of St. Maurus near Paris to Pomposa in Italy. The same fate of an ambitious musician met him there. He then went to a monastery near Arezzo and there, apparently, he found peace. He set himself to the task of placing the neums on horizontal lines, one known and designated as the ‘do-line’, the other as the ‘fa-line.’ He later added another line between these two and still another below, all of which formed the staff of four lines which we have today. The fifth line of our modern staff was not added until the 17th century. The Pope, John XIX, was elated at the invention for in it he saw the means of perpetuating and propagating the chant melodies without entrusting them to fickle memories. He summoned Guido to Rome to teach his discovery to others. Because of ill health, Guido had soon to leave the city. The monks who had formerly brought about his dismissal from their monastery now welcomed his return (!) But Guido decided upon Arezzo and remained there until his death. It was he who gave the notes of the scale their sol-fa names.” (pp.125-126)

The image with today’s blog is the way Guido developed to teach his system by using the joints in the hand for the various note names.



Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

by Cantor

A Treasure in our hands

Last evening, I had a marvelous opportunity to speak with a religious sister who does a great deal of work with chant both in her community and as a ready and willing research aid for others. We were sharing stories of how we got involved with chant and the rare opportunity chant has offered both of us in meeting such a vast range of people!
She relayed a story of a trip to Rome to visit “some of the great treasures of the church”. She noted to me that she told the group she was leading, “that with chant, we carry one of the greatest treasures of the church in our hands, in our mouths, and in our hearts”.
Advent, with all its extraordinary chants, is a marvelous time to remind ourselves of this treasure, and offer our best efforts in bringing that treasure to the church as a whole.

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