Song du Jour

Song du Jour

Benedictine Thoughts, Teachings, and Prayers

The Beginning

Blog 1 – September 3, 2012

Just as a crowing rooster announces the morning of a new day on the many farms around Ridgely, MD, my day at St. Gertrude Monastery begins with a resonating tower bell which is known as the Angelus.  The outside bell alerts the Sisters in the Community as well as the townspeople that it is time to arise, put our feet on the floor, and adjust our focus onto God.  It is a new day. 

The Angelus is a Catholic devotion commemorating the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.  It consists of several short prescribes verses, three recitations of the “Hail Mary,” and a brief concluding prayer.  It is traditionally accompanied by  the manual ringing of the Angelus Bell which rings three times a day…usually at 6:00am, noon, and at 6:00pm.  We only say this recitation of the Angelus at noon time.  We still have the thick knotted rope in the tower room which was manually pulled.  Several years ago our Angelus was converted to a computerized carillon which rings electronically.  The devotion takes its name from the first work of the Latin version.  The Angelus was subject of a famous painting by the French artist Jean Francois Millet where the canvas depicts farmers pausing in their field chores to pray.  The bell alerts us to stop what we are doing and remember God and His many blessings on us before we resume what we were previously doing. 

Once the Angelus has awakened us, it is time to prepare ourselves to pray as a Community of Religious Women.  We enter the chapel in reverence, sit, open up our Liturgy of the Hours book, chant the Opening Prayer and pray the Psalms.  Music is always involved in our Liturgy, and it always reminds me of when I was nine years old, and I began playing the organ. The one hymn that has stayed with me all of my life has been, “My Song of Today” which was a prayer of St. Therese of the Child Jesus set to music by Nicola A. Montani which was published in 1925/  The first verse reads as this:

                Oh how I love Thee Jesus! My soul aspired to Thee,

                And yet for one day only my simple prayer I Pray.

Come reign within my heart, Smile tenderly on me.

Today, dear Lord, Today, Today, Dear Lord, Today.

This is what gave me my inspiration for the title of this blog, Song Du Jour. This song reminds me that every day is a new day and that each day has to be centered around God the Father – God the Son – and God the Holy Spirit.  Just as when the Angelus chimes three times daily to remind us where our focus is to be, this hymn reminds me to keep my focus in the Present of today.

The Angelus helps to create a balance in our lives: work and prayer or in Latin, Ora et Labora.  This mantra being our motto for daily Monastic Life.  Ora et Labora reminds me of when I traveled to St. Joseph’s Monastery in St. Marys, PA for a Benedictine Retreat.  As I drove onto the premises, there was a huge boulder exhibiting the etched motto: Ora et Labora.  This boulder, like the Angelus, reminded me every day of what my purpose is in Monastic Life: Work and Prayer.  The boulder was so profound that it gave me a sense of being grounded.

St. Benedict believed that it was of vital importance to balance the day with Prayer – 4 hours of work – Prayer – 4 hours of work – Prayer – Dinner – and evening rest.  Keeping God before us throughout the day and in everything we do builds on our relationship with God. 

So as with “My Song of Today” and our core foundation of the Benedictine Way of Life, I wanted to begin this blog with insight into what happens behind our Monastic walls each day from sunrise to sunset, gaining spiritual knowledge and wisdom through our Prayer and Song du Jour.

                                                                                                                        “That in all things, God may be glorified.”

                                                                                                                                              Sr. Jo-El McLaughlin, O.S.B.

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