Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Be anxious about nothing

Yesterday, the beginning of the 3rd week of Advent, has long been known as “Gaudete” or “Rejoicing” Sunday.  The chant introit, Gaudete in Domino (Rejoice in the Lord always), is something of a surprise. Rather than being a boisterous and rousing paean, this chant is quite gentle in comparison to last week’s introit trumpeting the arrival of the King.

This chant remains primarily in the lower part of the mode, save for the word “nihil” (nothing) within the text “Be anxious about nothing.” Also, rather than sweeping up to this high point with a horn-call motive, it is actually reached by a slowly climbing melody from which this highest note springs as the natural climax. What an incredible underscoring of this text which tells us to rejoice in all situations.

Equally important is the humility portrayed in this chant, rising only to its highest point at this blessed command from God to be anxious about nothing. Otherwise, the rejoicing we find here is not so much exuberance as assuredness that God himself is coming.

The Community of Jesus


Circle of Life

By Renaissance Girl

Isn’t it interesting that at the same time we are ending the calendar year, we begin the church year? My type A personality brain says — couldn’t we have coordinated this better?

But as I think about our decorating this past weekend, hanging lights from the huge tree in front of the Convent, stringing garland along the walkways, making baked goods for the gift shop or putting candles in windows, it strikes me that logic and coordination are not what this season is about.

Our human minds tell us the year is closing, things are ending, darkness is prevalent and sleep is the order of the day.  Into this bursts the new Liturgical year, with light enough to illuminate the world, and cries “Sleepers Wake!”  And we leave off endings and begin again.

The Community of Jesus

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Prayer For All

Yesterday, November 2nd, was the Feast of All Souls.  I have always found the Divine Offices for this feast to be mystifying and moving. Unlike the Feast of All Saints, which is an extraordinarily elaborate celebration, the chants for the Feast of All Souls are quite simple. In fact, the chants for this feast day bear considerable resemblance to the Divine Office chants of Good Friday. On these two days, there are no opening prayers, no doxology verse at the ends of the psalms, and no closing sentences. The services begin in silence without a signal from the Superior of the monastery, and there are no opening sentences which are common to all other other Divine Offices. In addition, antiphons are often completely removed.

That which remains is the psalmody, the scripture readings, the confession and the Lord’s Prayer. Only that which is of most significance — the true heart of the Divine Office — remains in place. How appropriate and inspired that the Church Fathers saw fit to relate the Divine Office of the day when Jesus himself bore the sins of everyone to the Divine Office of remembrance for all souls! It is also a timely marker of the coming of Advent, only four weeks following this feast, that Jesus came for all mankind. And finally, we are  reminded that these chants — these prayers — are truly for all of us.

The Community of Jesus









Credit for Image: Gregorian Chant Splash Page


Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor 

Chant as Prayer

Looking toward the fall and the new school year, it seemed a good time to reflect on chant as prayer.

The following text is a short excerpt from Reflections on the Spirituality of Gregorian Chant by Dom Jacques Hourlier. Based upon a series of college lectures from 1975 given at the Abbey of Solesmes, this excerpt is from a chapter entitled “Gregorian chant as Prayer”:

The statement that Gregorian chant is prayer has been repeated so often that it seems commonplace. Nevertheless, it is a profound truth, corresponding fully to the inner needs of our lives as Christian . . . {Chant} has a beauty which never wearies. Its originality and cyclical nature . . . help create the impression of something very dynamic – the public prayer of the Church.

Each Gregorian piece is an invitation to prayer. It nourishes that prayer day by day. It shapes the very depths of your being. At the same time, it bursts from your heart and lifts you, in mind and in heart, towards heaven. Is prayer supposed to be anything else? In the words of Auguste Le Guennant: “Prayer has become music.”          (pp. 10-12)

The Community of Jesus








Photo credit: www.sanctamissa.org225 × 291

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

We recently finished a series of chant classes in our community in which everyone joined a schola, prepared a chant, and taught it to the other scholas. It was amazing to see how various individuals came together in these ad hoc scholas, and in just a few weeks’ time, learned to work and communicate together as a group.

When we completed the final class, we asked folks what they believed they had learned. Their responses included: “We learned about supporting each other,” and “We felt a new sense of mutual support within this group,” and “It was a ‘rush’ to feel the entire community join the chant after we completed the intonation.” The word “support” was the most common remark, and not one word about neumes was mentioned, (though they worked quite hard with learning the notation)! Everyone seemed to agree that they gained a greater sense of unity through participating in a schola. Once again, chant served a purpose beyond itself as we learned to support each other more in learning the chant and ultimately, in the worship service.


The Community of Jesus









Credit: Cartoon of St Philip’s Schola © Kath Walker 2011

Creative Mastermind

By Melodious Monk

If I was asked to pick a graceful animal, the cow wouldn’t be first to pop into my head. But if you’ve ever seen a cow lie down — or run, (yes run, even gallop around the yard!) — you know this large animal can be light on its feet. Arriving at our barn for the afternoons’ chores, I marvel at the distinct traits of animals. I’m awed watching this huge cow gracefully (yes, a cow can be graceful!) collapse her legs under her and gently lie her massive body down. And for a moment, in the late afternoon sun, staring at a cow, I admire how creative and detailed and thoughtful God is.
The Community of Jesus

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

The Missa De Angelis and Rock of Ages – A Joyous Experience!

We experienced a beautiful funeral liturgy last week, singing Missa de Angelis, an array of gospel hymns, and two solos from Handel’s Messiah! What fun! This musical combination basically “said it all” about the lovely lady who passed away. One person actually noted to me that they “had never seen a chant Agnus Dei and Rock of Ages side by side.”

That comment made me think. We live in a time when the chant is being re-discovered, employed ever more and more in worship services, and is being made available to an increasing number of people. In the same breath, I would also say that we live in a time where there are a good number of folks looking back – looking for the music – the faith – of their childhood which was part of their spiritual formation. I believe I heard the result of part of that searching in that liturgy. The singing of Rock of Ages actually energized the mass movements, which, in turn, energized the communion hymns. All of a sudden, it was as though people had discovered that they could LOVE IT ALL!

I know that may not be a revelation for everyone, but I believe it is for many. Loving and understanding chant actually opens doors for understanding other styles of music but – more important – opens doors just for the understanding of text and music which has the ability to inspire and move the listener to pray. What an amazing experience!

The Community of Jesus






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Baked Chicken Nuggets: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

By Gourmet Nun

For years I have been making what I called crispy chicken strips, the result of an idea that came to me out of the blue and one that was very successful after simply trying it out on my own without any recipe.

I used them a lot as appetizers along with chutney or sweet and sour sauce. Sometimes I top a salad with them for a nice lunch, and often I add Italian spices and grated Parmesan cheese to the crumbs and serve them with a favorite pasta and sauce for a main meal.

I liked my original idea and have been quite pleased with myself for having come up with something that tasted so good and was exclusively mine or so I thought . . . until a while ago when flipping through a friend’s recipe book and look what I found:

“Baked Chicken Nuggets” – almost identical to what I’d been making, only using bread crumbs instead.

7-8 boneless chicken breasts, uncooked
Onion salt
1 cup butter, melted
2 cups crushed saltines
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional
2 Tablespoons mixed Italian spices, optional

Cut chicken into 1½ inch pieces. Season well with onion salt. Dip chicken in butter, then in crumb mixture, adding in optional Italian spices and Parmesan cheese for a Mediterranean accent if desired. Place on baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes – just until golden but still plump and juicy – not dry.

Makes 14-16.

P.S. Saltines give a much crispier crust than bread crumbs.

IMG_Baked Chicken Nuggets

Italian Strawberry Crostata: Recipes From A Monastery Kitchen

By Gourmet Nun

We’ve been cooking up lots of strawberry jam for Christmas gifts with this summer’s bountiful crop of berries from our garden.  One of our sisters has been dying to make a strawberry tart with it and today she did.

I loved the looks of it when it came out of the oven. I loved the taste of it even more, as did some of the other kitchen sisters who sampled it. The unusual flavor of fresh lemon zested crust was a taste treat in itself even without the filling.

“Leave it right here”, I said “I’ll be back in a minute to take a picture. This has to be a blog!”  Locating the camera as quickly as possible I returned to take this photo…..

strawberry tart






“A picture is worth a  thousand words.” photo by Sr. Clare

Italian Strawberry Crostata

The pastry for this simple jam tart is made with olive oil and flavored with vanilla, lemon rind and a little alcohol, which makes it tender. It is an easy, smooth dough to handle and does not go hard when stored in the fridge.

4 cups plain flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
pinch salt
3 large eggs
2/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons vodka or other alcohol
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
3/4 cup strawberry jam

Heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt on a clean surface. Lightly beat together eggs, oil, vanilla, alcohol and rind. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the egg mixture.

Using your hands, work the flour in gradually to form a dough. Work dough lightly until it comes together into a smooth ball.

Divide dough into 3 pieces.  Roll out all pieces to about 1/2 inch thickness. Press 2 of them into the base of  9-10 inch sallow baking pans. Spread each generously with jam.

Cut remaining piece of dough into very thin long strips. Form a ring around edge of dough and make a criss-cross pattern on top of the tarts. Cut tiny diamonds of leftover dough and place into the center of each criss-cross.

Bake for 30 minutes, until lightly golden.

P.S. We added a few fresh berries on top of the jam the second time we tried it, and felt it added yet another dimension of wonderful flavor.

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.