Here I Am, Lord

by Sister Victoria

Just recently we made the long journey from Kuvlu to Bafut to attend the consecration service for three of the Emmanuel sisters. What an event that was! It was a whole day affair, beginning with the service at 9:30 in the morning followed by a meal for all and then drumming, singing and dancing well into the night.

It is an event for all the families, who were distinguished by wearing outfits of the same flamboyant fabric, many neighboring villagers and friends, other religious including 20 clergy, and no doubt some walk-ups. All in all, there had to be no fewer than about 500 guests.

We were blessed to experience another slice of African life in this event, very much like a large wedding where the families “gave” their daughters away to be brides of Christ.


Blessed Feast of St. Mary Magdalene

The Risen One
by Rainer Maria Rilke

Until his final hour he had never
refused her anything or turned away,
lest she should turn their love to public praise.
Now she sank down beside the cross, disguised,
heavy with the largest stones of love
like jewels in the cover of her pain.

But later, when she came back to his grave
with tearful face, intending to anoint,
she found him resurrected for her sake,
saying with greater blessedness, “Do not –”

She understood it in her hollow first:
how with finality he now forbade
her, strengthened by his death, the oils’ relief
or any intimation of a touch:

because he wished to make of her the lover
who needs no more to lean on her beloved,
as, swept away by joy in such enormous
storms, she mounts even beyond his voice.

Donatello Mary Magdalene

Walking on Water

By Melodious Monk

This past Sunday we celebrated the feast of the Transfiguration here at the Community of Jesus. Because our church is named after this feast, we always celebrate the feast on the Sunday closest to the traditional feast date of August 6th.

As the Gospel story was read aloud, I was drawn to St. Peter’s words first words to Jesus, “It is good to be here.”  But the Transfiguration gospel also made me recall another story about Peter and Jesus.  I’ve just been re-reading one my favorite books titled Walking on Water: reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle. In the final chapter titled “Feeding the Lake”, she writes:

“When Jesus called Peter to come to him across the water, Peter, for one brief, glorious moment, remembered how and strode with ease across the lake. This is how we are meant to be, and then we forget, and we sink. But if we cry out for help (as Peter did) we will be pulled out of the water; we won’t drown. And if we listen, we will hear, and if we look, we will see.

That sounds so simple –all we need to do is step towards Jesus and we can partake in the glorious impossibility of walking on water.  But the tiny word IF can become a stumbling block — IF we can listen, and IF we can hear.  We all are capable of hearing the divine voice, but how quickly we forget to do this!  We forget to cry out for help.  Scripture tells us Peter was apparently scared both stepping onto the water and when he witnessed the dazzling white light on Mt Tabor as Moses and Elijah suddenly appeared with them. But even in being scared, Peter proclaimed,”It is good for us to be here!”

When I’m scared, that’s the last thing I think of. Usually I want to protect, run the other way, or fight.  Many fears come up every day, in relationships, over unexpected events, through anxiety, or perhaps real physical dangers. I mostly want to avoid the things I’m afraid of, rather then proclaim that it may be good that I’m here. I don’t usually remember that perhaps this point of fear is good for me today.  For if God brought this fearful point into my life today, instead of running, perhaps I can conquer this fear.  Perhaps I, like Peter, can take just a step or two walking across new water.  If I don’t listen, and if I don’t look, the alternative might be to miss out on some of the “brief glorious moments” that God most certainly designs uniquely for us.

L’Engle moves on to write: “The impossible still happens to us, often during the work, sometimes when we are so tired that inadvertently we let down all the barriers we have built up. We lose our adult skepticism and become once again children who can walk down their grandmother’s winding stairs without touching.”  If we listen and if we hear…..we can be transfigured in ways we can’t even imagine or understand.

The Community of Jesus


Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Chanting by Heart: A Path to Lively Prayer

Just by reading the words “Salve Regina,” many of us have a very familiar and beloved tune begin streaming through our “inner ear” — a sound many of us have known since childhood. Likewise, “O Come Emmanuel” will instantly whisk us inwardly to the time of Advent. If we even begin chanting “Humbly I adore Thee, verity unseen”, we are reminded of Maundy Thursday or the celebration of Eucharist itself.

In current-day language, most people speak of performing “by memory” or “without music.” As I re-read my old notes from classes with Mary Berry, I am struck with her continual references to knowing the chant “by heart.”  “By heart” says something very different than “by memory.” “By heart” implies having something buried deep inside ourselves, something which has truly become part of us and which has become connected not just to our memories, but our emotions and spirit as well. THIS is chanting “by heart” and is one of the greatest joys of chant — to learn and know it so well that it becomes a conduit for prayer as a living conversation, full of spirit and verve!

The Community of Jesus








Image Credit
Gregorian Institute of Canada: News

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Come, Holy Spirit

Veni Creator Spiritus (Come Holy Spirit) is one of the best known and most beloved of all chants. It is sung at the opening of the election process of a new pope, monastic chapter meetings, as well as Pentecost Sunday. Mary Berry always opened her teaching sessions with this chant. An invocation for inviting the Holy Spirit to be present, it is truly a chant for all occasions.This chant is also found in today’s hymnals, set in modern notation, and is frequently put into choral anthem settings.

As we begin a new year, it seemed a good time to point out that of all the Gregorian chant repertoire, perhaps the most famous work also has one of the largest audiences. Below, I have put an English translation of the text that can serve as an opening prayer for 2015!

Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,  and in our souls take up Thy rest; come with Thy grace and heavenly aid to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

O comforter, to Thee we cry, O heavenly gift of God Most High, O fount of life and fire of love, and sweet anointing from above.

Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known; Thou, finger of God’s hand we own; Thou, promise of the Father, Thou Who dost the tongue with power imbue.

Kindle our sense from above, and make our hearts o’erflow with love; with patience firm and virtue high the weakness of our flesh supply.

Far from us drive the foe we dread, and grant us Thy peace instead; so shall we not, with Thee for guide, turn from the path of life aside.

Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow the Father and the Son to know; and Thee, through endless times confessed, of both the eternal Spirit blest.

Now to the Father and the Son, Who rose from death, be glory given, with Thou, O Holy Comforter, henceforth by all in earth and heaven. Amen.

The Community of Jesus







Credit for image Misa Tradicional en La Plata: Secuencia de Pentecostés

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

The Spirit of Solesmes

In 1997, Sr. Mary David Totah published a collection of various writings from writers associated with the Abbey of St. Peter of Solesmes.  This collection, entitled The Spirit of Solesmes, contains translations of inspirational works — many for the first time in English.  Recently, someone handed me a short, inspirational “word” from this book which I wanted to share with you as I thought it encapsulated the spirit of the monks who have given us so much through their guardianship of Gregorian chant:

“God clearly entrusts us with a task; obstacles present themselves, they accumulate. Should we leave the struggle, appealing to the name of “impossibility”? But the impossible is the very region of faith. As long as we move in the realm of the possible, we are only half sailing in the supernatural; but when someone leaves the shore and learns how to launch out generously under the watch of God into what he does not believe possible but what is clearly demanded of him, he carries out marvels. Happy are they whom God considers strong enough to track down in this way and compels to spring into the supernatural element of pure faith.”

The Community of Jesus





Credit for image: Photo: Abbey Saint Pierre – Solesmes – France
www.all-free-photos.com1800 × 1200

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Pay it forward!

What FUN it was to speak to a group of University music majors last week about the need to have some understanding of chant in order to work effectively in the world of sacred music! It was wonderful to see their reaction as we chanted together the Credo Cardinale (sometimes nicknamed the “Jazz Creed”), and the two-voice setting of the tune of O Come Emmanuel, which Mary Berry discovered some years ago in a 15th century Processionale. It was so clear that these young people had NEVER experienced chant like this!

As I watched their faces and listened to them chant, I noticed the face of my own composition teacher of thirty years past, who had offered me the invitation to come and speak to these students. He was as enthusiastic as they were! What a joy it was to see. In offering something that enlivened interest and enthusiasm to his current students, he, too, was enjoying their reactions. The choral director, also an old friend, said that this hour had opened his eyes to chant in a completely different way!

Through all of their reactions and responses, I could almost hear Mary Berry’s voice saying, “You must pass this on,” remembering how much she enjoyed seeing someone make a new discovery. I can only believe that this experience was a living reminder to me to pay forward all of the love, enthusiasm, knowledge, and sheer joy which she so generously gave to so many of us!

The Community of Jesus








Image Credit: www.bloggen.be198 × 240


Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

“Even the dogs” 

In 2007, I had the privilege of being part of a group of four cantors who spent the entire summer studying chant with Mary Berry in Cambridge, England. Dr. Berry taught us much about chant, and welcomed us as part of her family which included her dogs, Kai and Tien.

Never one to miss an opportunity to teach chant through daily life, Dr. Berry would chant an ancient Gregorian grace before meals. On the surface, that did not seem a particular surprise. However, what made that chant memorable were the dogs, Kai and Tien. It made no difference where the dogs were or, even what time it was. All Dr. Berry had to do was begin this simple and child-like little chant, Benedicite, and the dogs “came-a-running!” Their faces expressed a level of joy that made us all howl in laughter – just like Kai and Tien. Dinner time was a time to rejoice and they knew it!

I will never forget the beaming look in Dr. Berry’s eyes as she gave each dog their treat after they dutifully sat through the remainder of the chant. This was one of Dr. Berry’s favorite ways to show that all creatures – even the dogs -had a joyful response to the loving voice of their Master!

The Community of Jesus









Cartoon of St Philip’s Schola © Kath Walker 2011

Thoughts on Giving

By Melodious Monk

This past week, I started reading Heather King’s book on St. Therese of Lisieux. I find it engaging to read, as I can relate to much of the thoughts and conversations in the writing. In the chapter subtitled, ‘on learning to serve’, I was reading along fascinated by some of the psychological insights quoted from various authors, when one simple sentence about Jesus jarred my reading to a halt. Ms King writes, “In fact, fully living his own life, and giving with no expectation of return, was the way Christ conducted all his relationships.”

I can’t even fathom this type of living. It’s easy to know Christ loves all, and all equally, but this depiction of him practically living out this love as a human, seems almost impossible. It grieves me to realize how much I’m always wanting something back from others.

Even on my best, most-giving days, somewhere inside I’m keeping track, keeping a record of what I’m doing as if I’m saving up points or tickets at an amusement park, hoping for a better prize.  Perhaps letting go of this unnecessary record is part of how Christ intended for our yokes to be easy and our burdens to be light. I put so much unnecessary thought and emotional baggage into relationships. To give, expecting a certain return, is a way of self-protection–but rather than providing safety, it puts a limit on our creative potential. Jesus taught that the measure you give is the measure you will receive. If we give without wanting back, we open ourselves to the possibility of receiving many times more then we ever could hope for.

The Community of Jesus

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Chant, Chant and MORE Chant!

I was in a meeting working on a very exciting possibility for another chant conference. It is simply amazing to me that the demand for teaching chant seems to be on a very quick rise.

During a lesson with Dr. Mary Berry in the summer of 2007, we were discussing the revival of Gregorian chant. What I remember is the look that came over her face as she expressed her heartfelt belief that there would be a great revival of chant. Anyone who knew her will instantly understand the following description: With eyebrows slightly furled, lips slightly pursed, eyes WIDE OPEN as she peered above her glasses, and gently but firmly stated “It will happen — it’s already beginning!”

I will be forever grateful to have heard these words from Dr. Berry’s mouth with such a clear expression. It was as though she had a glimpse of the future and she wanted to make certain that we all knew exactly what she had seen. Such faith and awareness that this treasure of the Church would indeed return to be a blessing to all who encountered it.

Ubi caritas est vera, Deus ibi est  (Where true love is, God Himself is there)

The Community of Jesus