Feeding Your Family’s Soul

Back in September we published a new book by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, Feeding Your Family’s Soul. This book has prompted an overwhelming response, and some fascinating conversations with religious ed directors, and Catholic school educators who have been looking for this kind of resource.  Br. Joel Sweet, who serves all of our Catholic churches in Hawaii, shared with us this great feedback from Chrislyn and her parish!

When speaking with Br. Joel and hearing about this book, Feeding Your Family’s Soul, I thought that this would be a wonderful way to increase family-style catechesis with the parents and grandparents of my RE ministries. I was hesitant at first to take it on, as I had just finished a book sale of the Mother Mary Coloring books and still had half my inventory! But after reading a preview of the book online, I thought I would give it a try for my Advent Parent Gathering. I gifted a family in the RE program a copy of Feeding Your Family’s Soul and asked for her feedback. She loved it so much, as she is a mother of three children: 1 in middle school, 1 in high school, and 1 in ctacosoupollege. Their schedules are so busy nowadays she has difficulty gathering them for meals. I asked her if she would select a recipe to cook for the Advent Parent Gathering and she chose Taco Soup. We cooked a huge pot of it and served it with bread. We used this simple meal to bring the parents together and practice from the book as if we were one family. We had five tables and each member of the table pretended to be a member of the family (mother, father, child, teen, grandparent, etc). They selected a chapter and practiced sharing the topic with one another while eating their soup and bread. At the end of the gathering, we had our little sales table, with the remaining coloring books, the Feeding Your Family’s Soul book and some other gift items. We sold a lot, especially as it was a perfect time for Christmas gifts! Many parents bought the book for themselves. We also placed a few copies of this book in our parish library so that others who do not want to purchase it may borrow it instead.


Chrislyn Villena,
Religious Education Ministries,
St. Joseph Church, Hilo, HI



Watch the trailer with Br. Joel Sweet:


Prayers of the Reformers

On Friday, February 18th we celebrate the 461st anniversary of the death of Martin Luther, that great theologian and reformer of the Church. We know so much about the bold deeds and writings of this man and his many contemporaries who changed the world, that they have become almost legendary for us. But thankfully, we also know them just as men – people, sinners saved by grace like you and I – who clung to a relationship with God the Father and Christ their Savior, wrestling with their faith, and fervent in their prayer. On this anniversary of Luther’s death, and indeed throughout this important anniversary year of the Reformation, let us join Luther – not as Reformers, or theologians, but simply as men and women seeking to know more about God, and more about ourselves, through prayer. Paraclete offers this new book, Prayers of the Reformers, as a help and guide. And as Luther himself is credited with saying, “Grant that I may not pray alone with the mouth; help me that I may pray from the depths of my heart.”

From the Introduction

Prayers of the ReformersSome historical events have such a profound impact and such a multitude of consequences that the world is changed forever in their wake. The Protestant Reformation must certainly be counted among such events. Given the loud repercussions—social, theological, cultural, liturgical (among so many others)—that have continued to echo through the centuries, even to our own day, it might be easy to forget that behind the forces that brought about such change were devout people of faith, whose everyday lives were marked by times of prayer. The Protestant “reformers,” as they have come to be known, were also, and perhaps most importantly, “pray-ers.”

Certainly we learn much from the writings they have left, as well as the many records of their lives. But they have also left us their prayers, like windows into their own souls, and in their prayers we can meet them and learn from them. The prayers of the Protestant Reformers are filled with some of the central themes of their faith, perhaps first among them being an unshakable confidence in God’s supreme authority over all time and space. History is God’s workplace.

He does not stand afar off, but actively and intimately participates in the lives of people in order to show his love and bring about his will. Many of the Reformers’ prayers reflect this conviction as, again and again, they seek for God’s will to be done on earth, and in themselves. Asking for the grace to be obedient to God is not so much an expression of servility as it is an expression of hope—the hope that my ordinary life can play a part in God’s extraordinary plan. The Reformers were convinced that we are all God’s instruments for the working of his purposes, and so we pray for what we need in order to serve him faithfully.

A second recurring theme follows directly: utter dependence on God for everything needed to live for God. Here are prayers for wisdom, guidance, perseverance, protection, and for daily bread in all its forms, offered in the certainty that God alone is the source of such gifts. Turning to God with confidence starts by acknowledging one’s own weakness and helplessness, beginning with the confession of one’s own sin. Our dependence on God is never more profoundly apparent than when we stand (or fall) in need of his grace, mercy, and forgiveness, all of which are generously given through the shed blood of his only Son. For the Reformers, every prayer we offer is built upon the foundation of Christ’s saving Cross and Resurrection.

Third, implicitly and sometimes explicitly, these prayers express our need for illumination by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. In the writings of the Reformers there often appears an almost seamless movement between quotations from the Bible and phrases of prayer. As students of God’s word, they conversed with God using his own “language.” They believed that one must pray in order to understand the Scriptures, and that one must read the Scriptures in order to know how to pray. And, in both cases—when reading the Bible and when praying—they taught that we depend upon the Holy Spirit to shed God’s light upon minds and hearts that would otherwise be left blind to God’s handiwork. Praying for light is as important as praying for bread, for the Christian cannot live without either.

Fourth, trust in God stands as the chief motivator for prayer. Just as he is all-powerful, God is also all-loving. We express our needs and desires, sometimes cheerfully and sometimes despairingly, but always believing that God’s answers will spring from an eternal love that is as unchangeable as it is mysterious. We ask of God because we trust in God, that he is faithful to his promises, that he is always ready to hear and to answer, and that he never will turn away when we call out to him. All of the Reformers expressed this kind of trust through their prayers, and some of them showed it even in the moment of their violent deaths.

Finally, for the Reformers, the ultimate goal of praying was the same as it was for living—that God may be glorified.

Thanksgiving for God’s goodness is directed to the same end as asking for God’s forgiveness. In both cases, and in every case between, God’s answer will elicit praise from our hearts as well as from our lips. If our aim is to live “to the praise of his glory,” then woven through all of our prayers is the ultimate hope that, in Christ, God will unite all things in heaven and on earth, including us, into his everlasting kingdom. So we pray in order that his kingdom may come now, in whatever way it can, and that we will always be part of that coming.

Psalm 142

I cried unto the Lord with my voice. . . Here the cry of the poet is directed to his only hope in a time of loneliness and desperation. “Even unto the Lord” he makes his supplication. The superscription suggests that it was written by “when he was in the cave.” The exact circumstances are unclear, but the two incidences we have recorded in Scripture—1 Samuel 22:1 and 1 Samuel 24:3-4—refer to the time when David was fleeing for his life from a jealous and vengeful King Saul. Not all who pray this psalm do so out of such dire conditions, though even today, in many parts of the world, faith in God is still lived at the risk of losing one’s life. Such desperate words as these can be prayed in the name of those who suffer such persecution.

On a more personal level, however, there are two significant elements to this psalm that anyone can understand. The first is the utter sense of loneliness, even of abandonment. Not only is the psalmist in trouble, but no one cares. He looks for someone to offer compassion, but “there was no man that would know me,” he laments (v.4), “and no man cared for my soul.” However self-sufficient we may consider ourselves to be, the human heart in such bitter times yearns for a companion.

In fact, the psalmist does have company in his condition. Despite his fear, he knows that there is one who “knows his path.” For the psalmist, this is no theological platitude. Placing his hope in the Lord is the conviction of his heart. Notwithstanding his vacillation between despair and trust, he expects God to “bring his soul out of prison.” The psalmist uses an interesting word when he describes the Lord as his “portion” in the land of the living (v.6). This is the same Hebrew word used to refer to the “inheritance” of land apportioned to the twelve tribes of Israel. As one lives off the land the psalmist “lives off” God. The psalmist’s very life depends upon the provision given him by the Lord.

Finding Words of Healing

Words of healing coloring book

When the spirit or body needs healing, creative resources can bring peace to those who are ill and their family members.  For years Paraclete Press has provided grief and bereavement care materials to hospices, churches and funeral homes in the form of video and book resources.

Now we also have Words of Healing – A Coloring Book to Comfort and Inspire. This is a meditative coloring book with words of healing, prayer and comfort,  paired with scripture verses and a letter to color.

Last year, one of our employees stood by his brother’s side as he battled brain cancer. Simple, strong scriptures were an anchor for him.  Creative outlets were important for both him and his brother as they travelled a challenging road. He experienced firsthand the importance of spiritual strength as a much-needed friend  on the journey through the life-threatening illness and, ultimately, the death of a loved one. His experience became the inspiration for this book.

Words of Healing is also available in a coloring book / CD set, paired with the music of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina.


What is the purpose of art?

New from Paraclete Press!

“Why is there inside man the desire, even the burden, to create? What is the source of this desire?…May a Christian devote his life to the creation or study of music, painting, literature, and the other arts? Are the arts dangerous to the spiritual life?”   From Chapter 1

“Thousands owe to this giant of Wheaton their ability to hear literary voices with Gospel-tuned ears.” — Jeremy Begbie, Professor of Theology, Duke Divinity School

Beauty, art and aesthetic are being embraced and discussed by Christians of all denominations and indeed people of faith from many different traditions. This volume will introduce a new generation to the work and influence of Clyde Kilby who, more than fifty years ago, was an apologist ahead of his time.

“Now a new generation has the chance to experience the sparkle, wit, aesthetic insight, and deep Christian commitment that made Kilby such an unusually captivating teacher. . . his words remain a true inspiration.”
—Mark A. Noll, author and Professor of History, University of Notre Dame

Dr. Clyde S. Kilby  (1902–1986) was a Professor of English at Wheaton College and founder of the Marion E. Wade Center, a research center including a collection of materials by Inklings authors.

Publicity roundup!

Some of our favorite book reviewers have been doing what they do best, and we’re the proud recipients of several wonderful reviews. Here is a taste of the most recent and best:

All Creation WaitsAll Creation Waits – Author Gayle Boss was a featured guest blogger on Krista Tippett’s On Being blog. You can read that post here.

The Paraclete Poetry Anthology was featured in the Chicago Tribune today, in a weekly round up of religion titles. Barbara Mahaney said: “Consider this a short course for the soul. Or, perhaps, the syllabus to last a lifetime. . .

Paraclete Poetry AnthologyGathered here we find selected and new poems from a contemplative monk or three, an Episcopal priest, a rabbi, a protege of Thomas Merton, an Iranian-German poet, a theologian, a flock of English professors, and poets from Ireland, Poland, West Virginia and Tennessee. Tucked amid the poets’ roster, we find Rainer Maria Rilke, considered one of the most lyrically intense German-language poets, in new and previous translations by Burrows.

You’ll wear out the pages and the binding before you’re ever ready to put down this book.”


Charles of the DesertWe also had a wonderful mention on “The Millions” for Charles of the Desert: A Life in Verseas part of Nick Ripatrizone’s Year in Reading. “Each year I read more books than I can possibly review — here are. . . the finest and most memorable of that bunch. They are worth your money, your time, and your attention.

Beautiful verse, full of pieces like “The Pangs of Wanting:” “I deliver my body to the church, / though I cannot imagine what penance might relieve / these pangs of wanting.” Later: “I take first communion…My tongue licks up the bread: a whisper / of paper on my teeth…His torn body in my stomach, / his blood in my spit, I almost vomit; I almost sing.” More collections about God like this one would be very welcomed.”

A “brilliant” introduction to the Inklings writers

well-of-wonder-e-mail-5Just in and currently only available from Paraclete Press is A Well of Wonder: Essays on C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the Inklings by Clyde S. Kilby (Professor of English at Wheaton College and founder of the Marion E. Wade Center, a research center including a collection of materials by Inklings authors.)

“Clyde Kilby opened the door on beauty and put us in the hands of a whole set of wise, holy, and imaginative guides.” — from the Introduction by Loren Wilkinson

Listen to an excerpt from the chapter “Into the Land of the Imagination” on C. S. Lewis and how The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe came to be.

Listen here

This book is a brilliant introduction to the themes of themes of myth, theology, and imagination in the fiction and prose of the Inklings writers!

All Creation Waits – Stunning, for Advent


Looking for something new this Advent?

This December, reach for a truly beautiful and unique Advent companion! In this book are twenty-five fresh images of the foundational truth of the Christ story. Portraits depicting how wild animals of North America ingeniously adapt when darkness and cold descend allow us to see and hear, as if for the first time, the ancient wisdom of Advent: The dark is not an end but a doorway to a new beginning.

“Each of the beautiful creatures in this little book is a unique word of God, its own metaphor. . . they announce the Good News of Advent: that through every dark door the creating Love of the universe waits.” — Richard Rohr, OFM

Short, daily reflections that paint vivid, poetic images of familiar animals, paired with charming original woodcuts, will engage both children and adults — a wonderful gift!

A Spiritual Odyssey

path-revealed-e-mail-header-1Just days after turning fifty, Martha Maddux is told she has Alzheimer’s disease. As Martha and Carlen navigate this new alien world, their faith is challenged and they experience spiritual transformation – the “journey from a conventional faith to a stunningly real relationship with God.”

A Path Revealed is a deep spiritual memoir. As Carlen seeks healing for his wife, he encounters God in a new way and finds growth and healing for himself. For anyone coping with a crisis, this book tells the story of finding a spiritual path through the darkest of hours.

“You or a loved one may be staring your own crisis – cancer, stroke, job loss, diabetes, heart attack, home foreclosure – you name it. Regardless of the crisis, the potential for emotional and psychological upheaval is much the same . . . but this is not a story about hopelessness. Rather, our story traces a different path.” — Carlen Maddux

“The reader who travels with Carlen into the mysterious depths of human life, human tragedy, and human relationships will be led to reflect, to ponder, and to expand.  .  .  . I urge [you] to move into the maze and the mystery that is Carlen’s story, which may also lead you into deeper reflection on the maze and mystery of your own story.” — Rev. Dr. Arthur Ross III, from the Foreword

Mozart – In Concert and on CD

Greetings from Paraclete Recordings!

Gloriæ Dei Cantores presents one of the world’s classical masterpieces, Mozart’s Requiem, as well as a hidden gem, Britten’s The Company of Heaven, in celebration of the Feast of All Saints. Led by Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Richard K. Pugsley, this concert will be performed with full orchestra and world-class guest soloists Martha Guth, Soprano; Kathryn Leemhuis, Alto; Aaron Sheehan, Tenor; and Andrew Nolen, Bass. Concerts will take place October 28 & 29 at the stunning Church of the Transfiguration at Rock Harbor in Orleans, Massachusetts (on Cape Cod). This concert is sure to be a highlight in New England for classical music and fine arts lovers.  Click here for more details.
You can also follow Gloriae Dei Cantores on Facebook and Twitter.

More about Mozart!Mozart: Rare Choral Works

In a relatively short life, Mozart achieved “musical immortality” through an astonishing variety of responses to musical form and the human condition, through an unwavering adherence to classical ideas, and through an indomitable spirit that led him through difficult times despite his human foibles.

It is well known that Mozart was a precocious child with musical gifts beyond imagining, and his father Leopold toured him around the great courts of Europe. It was during one of these visits that Mozart’s incredible ear was discovered: after he listened to a performance of Allegri’s Miserere in the Sistine Chapel, he transcribed it perfectly onto manuscript paper.  Because this particular music was a closely guarded composition for the Vatican, Mozart’s transcription was kept under lock and key for no one else to see. Despite the grueling conditions of touring, Mozart gathered serious elements of sacred composition during this time from people like Padre Martini and other fine teachers in Italy.

What is likely not so well known is that Mozart also composed a substantial amount of sacred choral music in his lifetime, much more than the popular Requiem and Mass in C minor.

Misericordias Domini was written by Mozart while employed as a court musician in Salzburg, 1773–1777. During a trip to Munich in early 1775 to hear a performance of his opera Lafinta giardiniera, Mozart received a request from the Elector Maximillian III Joseph of Bavariato write contrapuntal music. Mozart accepted the challenge and set the liturgical text of Misericordias Domini to a single-movement chorus. With a spare orchestration of just strings and continuo, Mozart wrote this masterpiece of polyphony and counterpoint based on a single line of text. He alternates homophony and polyphony in the choral writing, while the orchestra interjects and supports the endless variety of musical and rhetorical responses to the text. The work alternates between the soft, solemn refrain of “Misericordias Domini” and the loud, more animated and melismatic polyphony of “cantabo in aeternum” (“I shall sing forever”).  There are strains of a familiar tune within Misericordias Domini which many consider a foreshadowing of the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony commonly referred to as “Ode to Joy” written in 1824, 33 years after the death of Mozart.  (from the Concert Program notes for Gloriae Dei Cantores concert, July 2014)

Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi

Start by doing what's necessary

Today is the Feast Day of Saint Francis of Assisi!

To celebrate, we’re offering 30% off all books about the world’s most popular saint. We know of the great love Francis had for all of God’s creatures, so we are extending the offer to all books that celebrate our animal companions and all that they can teach us about the love of God. Use coupon code FRANCIS at checkout.

New site!

We have a new site!

Thank you for your patience with our recent software upgrades!

We’ve been experiencing some growing pains recently and it became clear that we needed new software and a new website. Our new site is now live and you can use this link to connect directly to your existing customer account!

As a thank you, we are offering a 15% discount off of your first purchase – use coupon code NEWWEB at checkout. Offer expires 9/30/16.

Midwest Book Review: A Short Trip to the Edge

Here’s a review from for newest book from Scott Cairns, courtesy of the Midwest Book Review.

Short Trip to the Edge: A Pilgrimage to Prayer
Scott Cairns

Synopsis: Poet and literature professor Scott Cairns ran headlong into his midlife crisis (a fairly common experience among men nearing the age of fifty) while walking on the beach with his Labrador. His was not a desperate attempt to recapture youth, filled with Short Tripsports cars and younger women. Instead, Cairns realized his spiritual life was advancing at a snail’s pace and time was running out. Midlife crisis for this Baptist turned Eastern Orthodox Christian manifested as a desperate need to seek out prayer.

Originally published in 2007, this new edition of “Short Trip to the Edge: A Pilgrimage to Prayer” from Paraclete Press includes photos, maps and an expanded narrative of Scott’s spiritual journey to the mystical peninsula of Mt. Athos. With twenty monasteries and thirteen sketes scattered across its sloping terrain, the Holy Mountain was the perfect place for Scott to seek out a prayer father and discover the stillness of the true prayer life. Told with wit and exquisite prose, his narrative takes the reader from a beach in Virginia to the most holy Orthodox monasteries in the world to a monastery in Arizona and back again as Scott struggles to find his prayer path. Along the way, Cairns forged relationships with monks, priests, and fellow pilgrims.

Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented, this new edition of “Short Trip to the Edge: A Pilgrimage to Prayer” with its photographic illustrations is an inherently fascinating and consistently compelling read from first page to last. Informative, thoughtful, written with insight and inspiration, “Short Trip to the Edge: A Pilgrimage to Prayer” is unreservedly recommended reading for all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliation.

Short Trip to the Edge: A Pilgrimage to Prayer
Scott Cairns
Paraclete Press
PO Box 1568, Orleans, MA 02653
9781612617329, $16.99, PB, 256pp, www.amazon.com



Portrait of Chayo as Saint Jude Thaddeus

by Susan Miller
Look for her upcoming book Communion of Saints from Paraclete Press

I never set out to write a book about the saints. I was a Catholic convert at 37, after a long struggle with discernment which began in my early twenties. I had never been baptised, never belonged to groups, religious or otherwise—even my friends often didn’t know each other. Over the years it seemed more and more important to be part of something bigger, and the Catholic church, as I grew to understand it, drew me in. I traveled a fair amount—to Mexico, India, the Czech Republic, and then in a period of very few years, to Canada, Peru, Spain, Morocco, and repeatedly, back to Mexico, sometimes several times a year. I usually began and ended my travels in Mexico City, the Districto Federal, which its citizens refer to as D.F.

I usually stayed with friends there, and these friends had a remarkable cook named Chayo. During my first visit, when I was 28, Chayo was introduced to me by Clementina, the matriarch of the family. She told me that Chayo had given her own kidney to her son when he was in dire medical condition. When I met her, Chayo was a little reserved, but soon she opened up, usually with some surprising statement out of nowhere. When I was growing up, I was taught that only criminals get tattoos, but I thought for a long time about getting a stem of flowers right here behind my ear. Or Ugh. That picture of me is terrible. Give it to the robbers. She’d tell me horrific cautionary stories about babies who got their toes chewed by rats in the slums of Mexico City, or she could repeat a gruesome joke about the earthquake, its punchline a phrase from a children’s song: A hand here, a foot there…

I can feel already that I’m giving you some of the wrong details. Her toughness was real, but she wasn’t hardened—Chayo radiated gratitude. She was always singing, with the radio, by herself, sweeping up the living room. She wasn’t just cheerful; she seemedMexican Lunch deeply contented. It surprised me when she admitted that, as a girl, she had been very talented at drawing and drafting and had wanted to be an architect. Instead, she had chosen a life of work in the homes of wealthier people. She never appeared dissatisfied or regretful. She had to work hard, coming to work from the North on the bus in the early morning chill, wrapped in a crocheted shawl, cooking and cleaning before most people had woken up.   She was good at her job, proud of her food, loved and respected by the people she worked for, and she always made time to teach me how to make one thing or another. And she shared with me her devotion to Saint Jude Thaddeus, who had helped her when her son’s health was failing.

One day, near the end of my trip, Clementina announced that Chayo was to take the day off from cooking and spend it with me at the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe. She navigated our trip to the North of the city by communal van, subway, and a brief walk through one of the city markets that springs up at every corner in D.F. She told me that I’d recognize the Basilica from a distance: it’s the one that looks like a big stupid circus tent, she said. She was right—it wasn’t exactly an architectural triumph—but we rode the conveyer belt under the miraculous tilma of Juan Diego together, and visited the old cathedral, now sinking into the ground and filled with ex voto paintings by cured postulants. It seemed silly, though somehow quaint, to get a photo taken on a donkey, as people were doing on the hillside leading up to the smallest chapel. We walked up the hill to that chapel, and there both Chayo and I stopped to pray.

Praying can be such a private thing—and for each of us, it was—but somehow, I felt that the barriers between us, of language, nationality, religious upbringing, had somehow softened a little—that Chayo recognized in me the rootless quality that made some kind of home so important to me, and that I understood more about her solitary experience of belief. I don’t know if that day affected her feelings about me, but by the end of the trip, she was referring to me as her “American daughter.” It took another decade before I committed to my conversion, but I have always remembered her own example of faith as a model for me.

It was only later that I started to think of Chayo as a version of her favorite saint: the patron saint of impossible causes.

Portrait of Chayo as Saint Jude Thaddeus

In a green apron, Chayo stirs chayote soup,
holding her palm taut so she can daub a taste there

to check the salt. Her skin doesn’t feel the heat
though if I try the same I blister myself. She sings

while she chops chives into tiny rings
that float on the surface of the liquid.

When Clementina first told me about her, she taught me
in Spanish riñones, kidneys, because Chayo gave one

to her son, who almost died when his failed.
In Mexico City she pinned a bean-shaped charm

to the skirt of a statue. Priests, I dont talk to much,
she says, but San Judas Tadeo, him I trust.

 I prayed to him to intercede, to heal my son. She lifts a copper bowl
down from the cabinet and hugs it

against her chest with both arms. Now he works
as an engineer, and lives with his girlfriend. She sets the bowl

on the counter, lifts a stack of plates onto
the wheeled cart she uses to set the table.

She wraps warm tortillas in a cloth, spoons salsa
into a shallow dish, fills the serving bowl

with pale green soup I watched her form
from three chayotes, a potato, and bouillon.

Above her the stove-light burns in its hood,
illuminating each loose strand of hair on her head.

Nothing, she tells me, is a lost cause. This soup,
for example. If you cook it too long, add water and Norsuiza.

 If green beans turn dark, a little baking soda keeps them bright.
She smoothes her hair and straightens her apron,

ready to serve. And if you use a pressure cooker
for frijoles, theyll be perfect inside of half an hour.

This poem was originally published in Collective Brightness: LGBTIQ Poets on Faith, Religion, and Spirituality, edited by Kevin Simmonds (Sibling Rivalry Press).

Mary and Martha in Chicago

By Sunset Septuagint

Have you seen the painting “The Scream”? I am currently on a trip to Chicago which began by travel on a full airplane which was late in landing. On arrival everyone immediately stood up, jamming the aisles while the passengers who had close connecting flights were fighting to get through to the front… What mayhem! Too bad there was no announcement for those not in a hurry to wait until the others got off.

Then I got in line to get a taxi…..there was a break in the barricade so wheelchairs could get through but behind the wheelchair others were cramming forward to get to the head of the line. Others ran to the end of the line behind the people waiting so they could hop into the cabs first without having to wait in line.

I am a very impatient person myself but this time I had no deadline so I started a conversation with a woman beside me in line and wound up telling her I was in Chicago for a doctor’s appointment. She asked the name of the doctor and when I told her, she said her father had the same surgeon and she told me how wonderful he was! Suddenly a weight of anxiety was miraculously lifted from my shoulders.

I thought of the Mary/Martha sermon last Sunday in church. It wasn’t the work that Martha was doing that was the problem but her anxiety and worry. By the grace of God alone for that moment in the taxi line, I was able to choose the better part to have a friendly chat with another person, and Jesus used the conversation with that woman to calm my fears!

Engraving by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

Engraving by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

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The Word

By Sr. Fidelis

We have wonderful and stimulating disagreements in our scholas! It is thrilling when schola members are so engaged that the small details matter — the lengthening of a note, the shaping of a particular neume — all in an effort to bring out the meaning of a word or phrase within a chant. That being said, however, I would like to offer us a quote this week from Dom Eugene Cardine about the final goal of chant:

“Gregorian Chant is a sung word, a sacred word which comes to us from God in Holy Writ and returns to God in praise…we must so greatly assimilate the result of our work that we end up by forgetting technique so that the listener does not hear it either…May good sense guide us and keep us halfway between inaccessible perfection and a routine which is too easily satisfied with anything at all.” (pp. xxviii-xxxi, The Restoration of Gregorian Chant, Dom Pierre Combe, trans. Marier/Skinner, Catholic University of America Press, 2003.)

May all of our discussions have this blessed ending!

gregorian_chant3.14.14 (1)

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By Sr. Spero

I picked some zucchini from the garden this morning. As I decided which squash to pick and which to let grow for another day, I realized that God is the great gardener. Sometimes it’s best to pick zucchini small for the best flavor. But sometimes a larger squash is better for soup or bread. And sometimes it’s best not to pick one at all, so the seeds can mature for the next crop. For me, it’s a matter of trust. Do I trust God enough to believe that when I’m picked I’m ready? Or if I’m not picked, do I trust that he might have some other plan in mind?


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A word from Saint Francis de Sales

“The everlasting God has in His wisdom foreseen from eternity the cross that He now presents to you  as a gift from His inmost heart. This cross He now sends you He has considered with His all-knowing eyes, understood with His divine mind, tested with His wise justice, warmed with loving arms and weighed with His own hands to see that it be not one inch too large and not one ounce too heavy for you. He has blessed it with His holy Name, anointed it with His grace, perfumed it with His consolation, taking one last glance at you and your courage, and then then sent it to you from heaven, a special greeting from God to you, an alms of the all-merciful love of God.”


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Hymn for the Feast of Saint Benedict

By Sr. Fidelis

This week we celebrate the Solemn Feast of Saint Benedict of Nursia. Here in our Benedictine Community this is an especially significant day. We begin the service of Vespers with a beautiful hymn written by Saint Peter Damian (1007-1072 AD), Benedictine reformer, and Doctor of the Church. Found in the Breviarum Monasticum, the hymn is written in Mode I and has a lovely lyrical tune setting off this stunning poetry. The writer uses phrases such as “precious jewel of the heavenly king”, “your heart fixed on the stars,” and “you work through the narrow beginnings of a strict life” as he recounts the life of Benedict.

Each verse begins with a stepwise melody in the lower range, blossoms in the middle in leaps of 4ths and 5ths, and then settles back to a repeat of the opening phrase. It sticks to the typical features of Mode I – beginning and ending on Re and at points hovering around La. The clarity and simplicity help paint the perfect backdrop for the hymn text.

In preparation for this day we have been reading through this text together – first to get our tongues wrapped around the words and then to digest them in our minds and hearts. It brings to mind his wisdom passed down to us over the centuries: Listen my Son with the ear of your heart….


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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.


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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.


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Praying with the Body in the Liturgy of the Hours

By Sr. Fidelis

We begin and end the office standing. Standing is a sign of reverence to God. As shown in paintings on the walls of the catacombs in Rome, the early Christians used to pray standing, with their arms uplifted. Although less familiar to us, standing was, for many centuries, the usual posture for communal prayer, and it is still the norm in Eastern Orthodox churches. In the Liturgy of the Hours, following the antiphon and intonation of the first half of the first psalm verse, we sit for the psalm. We stand again after chanting the first half of the last verse of each psalm, and bow for the Gloria Patri. Through all of these gestures, we are, as creatures, paying homage to God, our Creator, and to his majesty, and thus the gestures carry a weight of meaning far beyond the actual motions we make.

susanna1 Velata_priscilla

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The Roar of the Waterfall

By Sr. Spero

Deep calls to deep “in the roar of the waterfall.” (Psalm 42:10).

God calls to us from the depths of his love to the depths of our soul. Psalm 42:10 says he calls “in the roar of the waterfall.” The images of the psalms can translate to many situations, so they are always personal. To me, at this moment, the waterfall is all the thoughts in my mind that compete for attention. They roar and fall down around me on all sides. But the psalm tells me that God calls me in the roar, and if I listen, I can still hear. Today, the waterfall is thoughts, tomorrow it might be an emotion that consumes me, but the message is the same. He calls through the roar of the waterfall. I just have to stop and listen.


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Benefits of Praise

By Faithful Friar

Today I read in my devotional book about the benefits of Praise. It said that praise lifts up the spirit, builds up faith, defeats the enemy’s stratagems, and joins our prayers to heaven, where saints are already united in unending praise.

I have the privilege of ringing our Change Ringing bells. I think of ringing the bells as a part of the worship service where the overflowing of praise bursts from inside the church to the outside of the church. After reading this meditation, which went on to remind us that praise is a weapon against darkness, I wondered if that may be why so many people love to hear to the bells ring every day. In a time of such division, and bad news, the bells remind of us of beauty, hope and that His glory will prevail.


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Farewell to a Fellow Traveler

by Sunset Septuagint 

Yesterday was the funeral celebration of one of our Clergy whose family had moved to the community 40 years ago.

Ed was a farmer at heart and he loved taking care of the vegetables, flowers (roses were his specialty), and all the animals. One of the hymns sung during the liturgy, “In the Garden” (based on the scripture Genesis 3:8), says it all for Ed: “And they heard the voice of the Lord walking in the garden….”

One of the post-funeral traditions we hold dear is going to the cemetery after the funeral, to place our loved one in the ground. Each person takes a shovel full of dirt to lay on the coffin. The Community family takes care of the body from the moment of death — keeping vigil by the coffin — to the laying of the sod over the coffin when the last shovel full of earth has been laid.

Another custom, while we are filling the grave, is to share any remembrances of our loved one. All ages enter in — from the 10-year-old who remembered Uncle Ed always giving the children lollipops every Sunday, to a landscaping manager who got his first love of landscaping from Ed, to the fellow community member who remembered when he was struggling spiritually being told by Ed, “Come into my office (which was under a shade tree) and let’s talk.”

What a wonderful way to say goodbye to a fellow traveler on the road to our eternal home!


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Deep Calls to Deep

By Sr. Spero

A wise abbot recently described lectio divina as taking a bite of scripture and chewing on it, like gum. I tried this with a verse from Lauds this morning, Psalm 42:7, “deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls.” I soon realized my bite was too big, that “deep calls to deep” was enough to chew on. After a while, I understood that deep calls to deep is exactly what God wants for us. Out of the depths of his love, he calls to the depths of our souls. I may be personally satisfied with a surface life, but he wants more. And sometimes he has to ruin my plans and destroy my superficial life so that I can hear the depths calling to me. Deep calls to deep. And what about “the roar of the waterfall”? That is for another time of chewing.


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June 21 Echoes of Eternity

weinberg merzhausenOut of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined.
Psalm 50:2

I take pleasure in providing blessings for My children. The beauty you see and enjoy is a gift of My love. You have a super abundance of it where I have placed and kept you. To enjoy it fully you must accept it as My gift of love. To reap all the benefits I intend, you must surrender your fretting. The earth is Mine and the fullness thereof. Do not lust after what I have denied you, but embrace what I have given so freely. I take pleasure in providing blessings for you, but I am saddened and grieved when you despise them and fail to recognize My fatherly care.


Echoes of Eternity by Hal M. Helms

Lift up your eyes!

By Sr. Fidelis

This week is the anniversary of the Dedication of the Church of the Transfiguration at the Community of Jesus, and we opened the festivities with First Vespers on Saturday night. The chants selected for the feast were pulled from various liturgies, pieces written hundreds of years ago for the dedication of other churches and monasteries — Texts from the Old and New Testaments, and poetry speaking of adoring and worshiping God in his Holy Temple. One of the hymns we sing is by Prudentius (4th-5th century), a writer who lived in exciting but fearful times in the history of the Church and the world. He begins the hymn: Whosoever you are who seek Christ, raise your eyes on high; there you will be allowed to see a sign of eternal glory!
In our weekly chant class this week, one of our Community members shared his thoughts on this hymn – the encouragement of knowing that we are not alone in our feelings of ups and downs, that we are not alone in the living through of difficult and troubled times. This hymn-writer was encouraging us: Lift up your eyes! It was clear as he shared that the message of this hymn was touching a number of people deeply. It was not just another piece of music to learn but a very meaningful reminder, encouragement, and link to Christians through the ages.

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A Tower for All Seasons

By Faithful Friar

As the weather steadily improves, we look forward to ringing in our tower on sunny days, with the doors wide open, and we also look forward to welcoming the many guest ringers who come to share our joy!

Our tower is probably one of the more “seasonal” towers in the United States. Most towers welcome visitors all year long, but our tower definitely sees a rise and fall in the number of guest ringers, depending on the season. Of course we never question why our ringing friends aren’t clambering to visit in January or February, when a down parka, hat and snow boots are required to stand in the “ringing room”. But we also understand the smiles on ringers’ faces as they enjoy ringing on a beautiful summer day, with the sun streaming in, and a gentle breeze wafting through the open tower doors. That season is approaching and we eagerly anticipate the arrival of our friends from Boston, New York, England and elsewhere.

One thing we realized right away as we began our journey of learning to ring, was that every bell ringer in the world is hospitable and delighted to share their skill with any other would-be ringer. As a band starting out with not an ounce of experience among us, we presented a daunting task for any experienced ringer. But strangers became friends upon the first meeting, and we quickly learned that all bell towers and ringers share this modus operandi. We were surprised, relieved, humbled and grateful to find this was the case — and the rest is history. Here we are, years later, still struggling to conquer our fears and foibles, but enjoying every minute of it, and doing our best to emulate those we have met along the way — hoping to make those who visit our tower feel as welcome as we did in every tower we have visited. Hope to see you soon!

Sarah with sally

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