A Word from Thomas Merton

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this,
you will lead me by the right road
thought I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always
through I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my struggles alone.

Saint Benedict

By Sr. Spero

I learned about St. Benedict from his Rule, imagining him as a fatherly abbot caring for the souls of his monks. Until a recent study trip on St. Benedict with the Mount Tabor Centre in Barga, Italy, I knew very little about his life. I discovered: His spiritual life began with three years alone in a cave when he was a young man. His first monastic experience was with a group of monks who asked him to be their abbot and then tried to poison him. He left undeterred and started 12 other monasteries in the same area. He has many miracles attributed to him, and was known as a mighty spiritual warrior. But his greatest success  is in the thousands of monasteries and millions of monks he has inspired to follow his way. St. Francis admired him greatly (the only portrait of St. Francis made in his lifetime is a fresco in the Holy Cave of St. Benedict), although he led his friars in a different way.

The study trip took us to Norcia, where Benedict was born, and Subiaco, the site of Sacro Speco (the Holy Cave), and monasteries covered with medieval frescoes illustrating the life of St. Benedict. Some no longer have monks or nuns living in them, but all have signs of a rich devotion to the saint. This seems to me his greatest legacy. The visible love of his followers—shown in their artwork, and the gift of their lives.


Holy Desire

By Sr. Spero

The entire life of a Christian is an exercise in holy desire.  St. Augustine

The Lauds reading this morning was from St. Augustine—about stretching our souls through holy desire.  He used the illustration of a wineskin, the forerunner of the wine bottle, that could be stretched to hold more wine. I’ve never had to stretch a wineskin, but I’ve put too much in a suitcase, and been very grateful for a top zipper that expands my space. So I understand the concept.

St. Augustine’s point is that we are containers, of one sort or another, that should expand and stretch so that God can use us more and more. We do this through holy desire. As we desire God, we are being stretched, to be able to hold more of Him. I suspect spiritual stretching is like physical stretching. It takes effort, it’s sometimes painful, but always worth it. Lord, help me to desire you more and more, and not be surprised when I feel the stretching.

Vineyards at the Community of Jesus

A Closer Look at Mode 3

By Sr. Fidelis

When discussing chant theory, it is important to remember that the theory came later!  These melodies were already in existence.  In truth, many chant pieces are categorized by their final note, the Home Tone, but within the piece itself, depending on where the cadences lie, it can sound like a completely different mode! This is proof that we cannot put all the chants in a “theoretical box”; they all don’t “fit the mold.”

In my recent blog on Mode 3, I stated that the reciting tone was TI—an unstable pitch that wants to pull up to DO.  The ancient theorists stated that the distance between the Home Tone and Reciting Tone was a perfect 5th for the Authentic Modes (1,3,5,7).  This theory worked beautifully for the other Modes, but Mode 3 has the “challenge” of the TI.

Many older Antiphonales  (Chant books that contain the Divine Office Antiphons and Psalms) show Mode 3 as reciting on DO, not TI.  However, the Solesmes Antiphonale of 1934, lists both the Tonus in tenore antiquo —the ancient tone reciting on TI, and the Tonus recentior or recent tone, and it is on DO.  In the most recent editions of the Antiphonale (2005j),  the recitation on TI has remained.

Here is an excerpt from Dom Mocquereau’s Le Nombre Musical Gregorien” about Mode 3:

The dominant of the third mode was regular in ancient times;  it was formerly si (TI), as we can still see in the psalmody of the Introits at Monte Cassino and at Benevento in Italy.  But the mobility of this note, its proximity also to DO, gradually attracted to this latter note the dominant – or at least the reciting tone in psalmody.  But the si (TI) remained in the body of the melody both as a reciting tone or as a passing tone, without being affected by the change which had taken place in the psalmodic recitation tone.

Below is a simple Mode 3 antiphon, followed by psalmody, with the reciting tone on TI.  It is taken from the Office of Compline. Listen for this relation! Salva Nos

A Few Kind Words

By Sr. Nun Other

If God said, “You may choose one gift of the Spirit and become that gift,” which would you choose—love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control?  Me? I’d choose kindness because our world surely needs it.

Kindness is hard to define and difficult to achieve. It’s situational, not one dimensional, and best occurs when there’s an absence of agenda on the part of the giver. Genuine kindness is closely knit to truth; it unselfishly expands the capacity to love.

I end with this wonderful verse: “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.”  Proverbs 3:3

From the floor of the Church of the Transfiguration, the acorn is native to the Holy Land and a traditional symbol of kindness

From the floor of the Church of the Transfiguration, the acorn is native to the Holy Land and a traditional symbol of kindness

Gregorian Chant: Close Cousins

By Sr. Fidelis

One look at this antiphon reveals that it is very similar to the Mode 3 selection we looked at last week.

The characteristic FA-MI relationship (home tone MI) is found right at the beginning of this antiphon.  However, the range is much lower, mysterious sounding, even hovering below the reciting note LA, which we hear only 3 times.  Only once does it ascend above this point on the word “Moyses”.  Listen and look at this Mode 4 expression of: And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elias, speaking with Jesus.

This antiphon is from the Feast of the Transfiguration

Et Ecce


By Melodious Monk

Last week was a particularly special and significant week for our monastic community, because it is the week in which novices, and simple professed members can make their professions.

The Rule of Life of the Community of Jesus states, “Though in its essence Christian discipleship is a vocation common to all believers, the vows made in a monastic life give that discipleship a distinct form.”  The next page continues on to say,  “Following centuries of monastic tradition, membership in the Community of Jesus is built upon three primary vows: obedience, conversion, and stability.”

Hearing these professions serves as a reminder to me of the life-choices I have committed to in this particular place. I think it can also serve to remind all Christians of their daily choices to follow Christ. Each morning I’m given anew the choice to step into the endless stream of the unceasing love, mercy, and creativity of God. The choice is mine to reject — or to wade forward on faith: the opportunity is always newly presented. Many days I have to remind myself to re-choose this discipleship, to choose to believe in God’s promised goodness as a backdrop for my life today.

The Community of Jesus

Darkness Before Dawn

By Renaissance Girl
Our bulletin this morning had an excerpt from Walter Hilton, an Augustinian mystic of the 14th Century. He was known for the beauty and simplicity of his writings in describing the soul drawing close to God through love. He had tremendous insight to those dark times where we aren’t sure our efforts are drawing us any closer to God.  
“When someone first begins to perceive that the love of this world is false and temporary, and begins to prefer the love of God, that person will not instantly be brought into that light. There will be night for a while. It is a good night, a luminous darkness…. Even so, this night of the soul can be distressing as well as comforting….The world is near, and God seems far away. If this should happen to you, don’t be discouraged….wait for God’s grace. Focus your attention on Jesus. Think only of him. Jesus, who is both love and light, is in this darkness. It does not matter whether it is pleasant or unpleasant. Understand that it is the darkness before dawn.”

Ask and Seek

By Melodious Monk

“The worst temptation, and that to which many monks succumb early in their lives, and by which they remain defeated, is simply to give up asking and seeking. To leave everything to the superiors in this life, and to God in the next—a hope which may in fact be nothing but a veiled despair, a refusal to live.”

This past week I’ve been mulling over this quote from Thomas Merton. I’ve often thought of Jesus’ well-known direction, to “ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you,” as a loving invitation more then a command to stay living in Christ. It’s certainly both, but I don’t regularly think of “asking and seeking” as a very active way to fight daily temptation. Seeking truth can be a challenge, causing turmoil internally that feels safer to avoid. Merton is right in his challenge to us. When we stop the active life-giving task of seeking and asking God to show us his face in all that confronts us each day, we are the poorer for it.  In doing so, we risk not being able to see all the doors that God would like to open for us.


The Forest for the Trees

I was reminded this weekend of how small my world is. Its not a pleasant reminder – in fact, it’s rather embarrassing. I get so focused on my needs and my little “to do” list that I lose track of the bigger picture – why am I here and what’s it all about. I miss the forest for the trees.

As I saw people streaming into the church on Saturday for tours, I felt quite small in the face of something huge that was drawing them. I was reminded that I’m not here to do my own thing, to get what I can out of life. I made a promise to God that I would do what He wanted. It’s an everyday choice and I fail all the time-but it helps to pick my head up and see the forest again.

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