Inevitable Change

By Sr. Nun Other

A  tricolor leaf on a sandy pathway signals change. It’s arrived much too soon, this autumn leaf that rests by itself on sun baked sand. I ignore its message as I make my way around it. My lunch in one hand, and a folding beach chair in the other, I wish that summer would stay awhile. But the truth is, I’ve noticed days growing shorter and nights a little cooler. I hear back-to-school chatter and discover stores filled with enticing note books, pencils, and flower-shaped erasers. Leaves change color as they react to the environment around them, shedding the green of summer to reveal colors that have been there all along. Who can judge which is more beautiful?

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The Greatest Commandment

By Melodious Monk

Recently I’ve come across a few writings of Father Alfred Delp, a Jesuit priest executed by the Nazi’s for his outspoken faith and opposition to the regime. He seems to have been a bold man, with a very ecumenical heart. Something in his writing reverberates inside me, not with a sense of full comprehension, but with the sense that I’m being brought through a door that offers layers of wisdom and discovery. He wrote:


“A person can be rigid in many ways. He can have a one-track mind like the rich young man in the Gospel….This paralysis in the realm of things, this fixation about property, riches, gold, jewels, art, and good living was characteristic of the last century…..Even more dangerous is that inner paralysis which induces us to betray the fundamental laws of our existence. No longer “living to all truth, to all goodness” we pull up short, set ourselves apart, rest on our laurels, and lead the life of a pensioner. We no longer strain with all our might to achieve ideals, reaching for the stars. The command to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s mind, and with all one’s strength no longer has any meaning for us; we treat it as something handed down like a legend, something that has served its turn and can be thrown aside. All the truths have already been discovered, we think — no need to go to the trouble of looking for any more. The world has grown dumb–we no longer hear the underground rumblings as the secret forces collect their strength for the great fulfillment which can only be brought about by humanity’s conscious recognition and decision.”


If we wish, God has much more for us in life than, as Father Delp puts is, a retired “pensioner.” I hope I can discover some of the ways I’m rigid, and awake my spirit and heart to the “underground rumblings” of the Holy Spirit.

 

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Right Living

By Renaissance Girl

Our daily devotional had a meditation on Saturday that caught my attention. It was a quote from Richard Rohr in his book “Hope Against Darkness”, “God makes grace out of our grit; salvation out of our sin. We are saved, ironically, not by doing it right as much as by the suffering of having done it wrong. We come to God not through our perfection as much as through our imperfection. Finally, all must be forgiven and reconciled. Life does not have to be fixed, controlled, or even understood to be happy. Now be honest, that is good news.”

What I am compelled to admit, is that while I love the look of this in writing, I often don’t live this way. Too many times I forfeit the short road to God by fighting to be right in any given moment, instead of accepting my imperfection. I sacrifice the happiness that comes with being unfixed, out-of-control, and misunderstood. Instead, I bolster my efforts to control my own life, fix the chipped paint of my exterior, and press my point until I feel I have been heard.

It reminds me that recently I heard someone say, “sometimes you just have to surrender . . . to fall back and trust that arms will be there to catch you.” So I offer up my prayer: Lord, give me the grace, like a spiritual skydiver, to let go, fall back, and let you make some grace of my grit.

The Community of Jesus

 

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.

 

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

Speaking of Words

By Sr. Nun Other

I’m privileged this summer to be part of a once-a-week vocal class. Our teacher, to help us better convey the meaning of our song, assigns an interesting exercise. We choose an English translation of a sung Latin phrase and then read the sentence aloud, emphasizing a different word each time. The sound looks like this:

Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.
Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.
Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.
Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.

And so forth. In a world where communication often consists of abbreviated texts such as, “How R U?”  “K. U?”, we risk losing the personal touch of word selection. Having both the capacity to hurt or heal, to cause laughter or tears, words express our humanity. Jesus did this like no other, choosing his words with both compassion and honesty. I need to follow his example.
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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.
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Lessons From My Dog

By Renaissance Girl

I was working on a project the other morning — one that involved keeping careful count of an item, and therefore required my full concentration.

My dog was with me, quietly hovering just on the edge of my circle of focus . . . except for his insistent repetition of dropping his tennis ball on a box in front of me, or at my feet, and then backing up expectantly, waiting for me to catapult it into the air so he could give chase. He’d pull back and wait for a minute, then, if he did not get the desired response, he’d snatch it up again and drop it an inch away (as if maybe just a slightly different location would inspire a better result).  We’d had our play time so I ignored him while I finished up.

But at some point he pulled my focus away from my task and onto his face, his ears alert, jaw twitching, and wide brown eyes full of confident and hopeful expectancy — truly believing if he just kept at it, eventually I’d turn his way and kick the ball — which I did.

And it hit me — here was an image of our relationship with God — or perhaps what it should be. Not that He ignores us, but sometimes the answer doesn’t come in the time I want it to. Too often I quit and simply walk away from the ball — or maybe snatch it back in frustration and sulk — or tear it to pieces. But maybe the point — and the work — is to stay in the constant state of hope and expectancy, believing that the answer WILL come — and poised and ready to spring after it with all joy.

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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!

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Cartoon of St Philip’s Schola © Kath Walker 2011

Worthy Seedlings

By Sr. Nun Other

The Sisters do some early gardening work, and this morning, some of us planted seeds. When planting time ended, I washed my hands, changed clothes, and began my normal routine. Still planting seeds, but of another kind. It’s my belief that one day I’ll be accountable for the seeds I’ve sown. Because I follow Jesus and carry Him in my heart, I expect to discover some good fruit in my resume. But it’s the not-so-good fruit that worries me: the doubt, innuendo, anger, and unkindness I’ve spun into an unsuspecting environment. I’m a too-casual custodian of words and their impact, and on that point, I plan to change.

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Immediately

By Melodious Monk

Every time I hear Matthew’s account of Jesus walking on water I think of John Ortberg’s book, “If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat.” It was some time in the late spring about 12 years ago– I had gotten sick with a seasonal flu, and I stayed home for a day. I had just finished my first year of college and was living at the Community for the summer. I was in a lot of turmoil inside, trying to figure out what to do with life. A friend had recently been reading this rather short blue-covered book and sent it over to me.

It was the perfect book for me at the time, and a huge comfort. I was quite anxious of the decisions about college and life, and how these decisions would affect the rest of my life!

I was thinking back on this transition time as the Gospel was read this past Sunday. At the end of the familiar gospel passage, I realized I’ve forgotten a very important part of the story. Yes, action is needed. We must take a step, must “get out of the boat” which undoubtedly can present challenges interiorly and exteriorly, physically and emotionally. What I tend to forget each day is what happens after we step toward Jesus. Matthew recounts that Jesus immediately catches Peter (and you and me) when we start to sink. Immediately. How much time does that leave for danger to occur?

When we are willing to step out toward God’s calling, every day we can choose to walk into any storm, whether big or small, dangerous or joyful, with the assured faith that if we start to sink, “immediately” we will be rescued.