Mass and Prayer Times
Monday - Friday: 8:30 a.m.
Sunday: 9:00 a.m.
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday: 11:30 a.m.
Tuesdays and Saturdays: Midday Praise, 11:40 a.m.
Sister Cecile Uhlorn at the organ.
Sunday -Friday: 5:00 p.m.
Saturday: Vigils at 6:30 p.m.
Feature: The Role of Music at the Monastery of St. Gertrude
By Erin Smith, 2012 Summer Monastic Intern
The legend of the origin of Gregorian chant says that God sang the chants to Pope Gregory the Great through the birds. But the reality is that chanted prayer and scripture is a much older component of our spiritual expression than Pope Gregory the Great. Our Jewish brothers and sisters have been chanting since long before Jesus' time. Sung prayer, although perhaps not codified, has been a part of the Christian faith from the beginning. In the past 2,000 or so years, a lot about our expression of the Christian faith has changed: Christianity was legalized, there have been multiple factions and schisms, the language has changed, monastic culture arose, etc. But, just as in the spiritual lives of our Jewish ancestors, song and chant are still an important part of the spiritual lives of Christians around the world. Wisdom from Sisters Angela and Cecile Ulhorn give us a glimpse of the role music plays in the community here at the Monastery of St. Gertrude.
Every day, as per the Rule of St. Benedict, the Sisters pray the Divine Office, part of which is sung prayer. One of the most frequently quoted excerpts from the Rule of St. Benedict is to "listen ... with the ear of your heart." According to Sister Angela, the music used in the Divine Office is such a special part of Benedictine spirituality because the music allows one to better access his or her heart, lift up his or her heart to God, and therefore listen to God, by way of St. Benedict's Rule, through his or her heart more easily. Both sung and spoken prayer are equally as good when they are truly from the heart, but as the adage "he who sings, prays twice" suggests, song seems to allow special access to the heart, access that is more difficult to replicate with speech alone, deepening one's state of prayer.
In the words of Sister Cecile sung prayer is "just better" than spoken prayer. Although difficult to pin down and name, there is just something about singing or chanting that elevates what is being said to a higher level. Music has the ability to bring out the beauty of the prayers we sing and the beauty of God and it can touch the heart in just the right way to fully and truly appreciate the beauty of God. And it works the other way too. When one feels the joy of knowing God's love, that joy often yearns to outwardly express itself. Song is certainly an effective vehicle for expressing that joy. "Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?"* In addition to the ability of music to lift an individual up in prayer, singing or chanting prayers helps to unite the congregation, making us see more easily how we are truly one body in Christ.
So next time you are in the area, stop by the Monastery of St. Gertrude and allow the music during one of the Divine Offices or during the celebration of the Mass to "welcome God's transforming power in [yourself] and the world."
*Breaking Bread 2012 #437
Erin just graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Nazareth College in Rochester, NY and will begin graduate studies in Musicology this fall at University of Maryland.