We are preparing to have a new choir constructed and installed in our church. I have been invited by Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB, at Pray Tell Blog, to offer some explanation of the theology behind the shape and placement of the choir. As a prelude to this project, and to give the fullest possible context, I would like to tell the story of our liturgical development, from the foundation of the monastery to the installation of the choir.
This story begins with our three founders working as missionaries in Haiti and Brazil in the mid 1980’s. One of the things that they found challenging in the missions was the lack of a centering communal practice of prayer. In thinking this over and discussing the problem with their superiors, Frs. Thomas, Brendan (then still called Patrick), and Edward were given a leave of absence to look at the possibility of founding a new religious community. They had thought about monasticism, but were reluctant to look seriously at the Benedictines or Trappists at the time. It is easy to find contemporary echoes of their disinclination. Monastic withdrawal, it is mistakenly thought, is contrary to the Great Commission to evangelize. Or at the very least, as missionaries, our founders could question whether the flight from the world could be seen as a genuine outgrowth of their previous vocation to the missions.
Providentially, two of the brothers, unknown to each other, discovered the Rule of Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Community was an experiment in urban monasticism. The idea of going to the city was to re-evangelize places like Paris (today they have communities in Florence, Warsaw, Cologne and Montreal, among others).
But this would not be done primarily through preaching or service to the poor, though they did engage in these works. Rather, evangelization would be carried out primarily by a joyful and reverent celebration of public liturgy in the beautiful church of St. Gervais.
So here, the aspirations of our founders encountered a first confirmation. Here was communal prayer and mission. The mission field was of a very different sort, but was in keeping with the New Evangelization that Pope Saint John Paul II was introducing into the Church’s lexicon at the time. Our founding trio received permission to do a second novitiate in Paris and returned after a year to seek out a city in which to make a new foundation of the the Jerusalem community.
Next: disorientation and reorientation; the influence of Fr. Aidan Kavanagh, OSB.
Vigils at the Jerusalem community: