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It was a women’s afternoon, balmy, fragrant. Four-part harmonies of sacred hymns hovered within the curlicue of stone arches rounding the circumference of the monastery church, St. Anselm’s. Listeners upon wooden pews grew still as intricate harmonies wove our hearts within the ineffable.

Nineteen members of the Missouri Women’s Chorus, inconspicuous in their black attire, gave full voice to eight Latin selections, recently discovered by musicologist Craig Monson (Nuns Behaving Badly – Tales of Music, Magic, and Arson in the Convents of Italy, 2010). Organ and cello enhanced the sonorous tones of the singers.

It felt like being in a time warp, suddenly enveloped in sixteenth-and-seventeenth- century Bologna and Milan, in the company of gifted nun-composers who chose cloister walls to better live out their consecrated lives. Such passion for the Sacred found expression in their hymns. But their singular voice angered the Vatican’s Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars, created in 1572, lest they lose authority over the masses. Despite restrictions upon the cloistered choirs, the nuns kept composing motets and the townspeople kept filling their chapels, over ninety-four of them in Bologna. The Sacred Feminine would not be silenced. Its expression saturated thirsty souls and evoked deep communion. This, indeed, was life.

Then, as well as now, such sacred harmonies restore wholeness, rejuvenate psyches, and enlarge faith in the unseen beauty that permeates all creation. Humbly, we seek its presence and thrive.

 

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There is a story of a French peasant woman in the winter of 1839.  One night she happened upon Anne Chauvin, a poor, blind, partially paralyzed, old woman collapsed upon a snow-packed street, abandoned. Moved by her plight, she scooped her up in her arms, climbed the wooden circular steps to her postage-stamp apartment, placed her in her bed, and cared for her. Word of her kindness spread throughout Saint-Servan. Both infirm elderly and young women, desirous to help them, began knocking on her door.

 

The woman’s name was Jeanne Jugun, the foundress of the religious community, The Little Sisters of the Poor, who, today, staff two hundred nursing homes for the poor elderly in thirty-one countries.

 

One of these communities in Denver, Colorado, made national news on January 24, 2014. On that day, the Supreme Court Justices unanimously granted the sisters’ petition, submitted by two lawyers from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberties, to refrain from providing FDA-approved contraceptive measures for their employees, a mandate from ObamaCare, until heard by the U. S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. One source cited February 22, 2014 for this hearing. Once the lower court rules on the merits of the sisters’ objections on religious grounds, the loser will probably ask the Supreme Court to rule on this dispute. This case could drag on …

 

Another story comes to mind of a poor shepherd boy, David, centuries ago, who slew the Philistine’s giant, Goliath, with a single stone picked up from the river bed, then with the giant’s sword, cut off his head. I Samuel 17: 40-47.

 

At issue here is the locus of real power.

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