Benedictine nuns' new album an offering to Saint Joseph

By Carl Bunderson

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The community records an album in the St. John's Chapel. Credit: Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles.

A newly-released album by a chart-topping community of Benedictine nuns in rural Missouri is devoted to the hearts of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, but is dedicated in a particular way to Saint Joseph's paternity.

“St. Joseph has shown himself a father to us very poignantly in recent months, both spiritually and temporally, so this CD is our little votive to his paternal heart,” Mother Cecilia, prioress of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, told EWTN News.

The Hearts of Jesus, Mary & Joseph at Ephesus was released to coincide with the May 1 feast of St. Joseph the Worker. Funds from the sale of the album will support the construction of the expanding community's priory church, which has $2 million remaining.

The album can be purchased from the nuns' website at https://music.benedictinesofmary.org/ or at Amazon. Digital copies are available from iTunes.

Mother Cecilia reflected that “Devotion to the Pure Heart of St. Joseph seems to be burgeoning in popular piety as connected with the Two Hearts. While there have not yet been official approbations of its explicit revelations … there is nevertheless a strong case in favor of this general devotion especially in the addresses of out recent popes.”

“The heart being the symbol of love and of conformity to the Divine Will, and St. Joseph being the patron of the Universal Church, it seems an apt devotion especially in our times amidst a crisis of fatherhood.”

She added that the theme of the album was suggested by Cardinal Raymond Burke, prefect emeritus of the Apostolic Signatura, who was leading a retreat at the priory.

The cardinal “asked about a recording, to which I replied that we had thought of doing one in honor of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts, but were torn since we had also promised one to St. Joseph,” Mother Cecilia recounted. “His Eminence turned to us and said simply, 'You know what you should do is one to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the most Pure Heart of St. Joseph.' The Sisters spontaneously broke into applause at the direct answer to the dilemma.”

The album includes 22 tracks, eight of which are original pieces.

One of the original compositions, “Hymn to the Three Hearts”, is by a guest composer, Lisa Nardi, who was introduced to the community's music through her classical radio station, WQXR. The song includes lyrics written by the sisters at the priory.

“She was so taken by what she heard, that she reached out to us with a proposition to compose a piece for a future recording,” explained Mother Cecilia. “We happily took her up on her kind offer after hearing some of her other works, which were beautiful.”

The Sacred Heart of Jesus, being the oldest of the three devotions – revealed to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 1670s – included on the album, has a great deal of music dedicated to it, the prioress said.

“We had a hard time narrowing down which songs to do. We included our originals, 'For Love of Me' and 'The Heart of the Infant King.' The lyrics of the former was actually a poem by St. Alphonsus, and the latter by one of our Sisters, who had just read the writings of Mother Louise Margaret de la Touche, author of The Sacred Heart and the Priesthood. We included a hymn by the great American champion of Gregorian chant, Dr. Theodore Marier, who wrote a very moving hymn to the Sacred Heart in his days at Manhattanville, and the well-known 'Cor Dulce' with propers of the Mass.”

Hymns to the Immaculate Heart of Mary “were a little more sparse,” she said. Among those chosen for inclusion on the album is “I Am Thine”, an original which has been sung at profession and investitures at the priory, “so it is very much beloved by our community.” The 'Sub Tuum' “was a challenging piece by Charpentier,” a French baroque composer. It is one of the community's “first ventures” into music of that era, “but one we enjoyed very much.”

“We had an original, 'The Blessed Heart,' written 2006 in memory of a seventeen-year-old young lady who was to join us, but suffered a stroke shortly before her entrance at the age of seventeen,” Mother Cecilia added.

Mother Cecilia said the nuns “were a little dismayed by the generally narrow repertoire of Hymns to St. Joseph, especially songs that mentioned his heart, so sought to remedy the situation!”

The community has sung the “Hymn to St. Joseph” every Wednesday since 2007. And “Blessed Be St. Joseph” is an “entirely new piece,” the chorus of which was inspired by the invitatory for the feast of St. Joseph. The song's verses “came from Fr. Olier's prayer quoted by St. Peter Julian Eymard in his Month of St. Joseph,” Mother Cecilia explained. “Fr. Olier had a profound influence on St. Louis Marie de Montfort, and it was really a delight to set such beautiful words to new music.”

Life in the community is marked by obedience, stability, and “continually turning” towards God. They have Mass daily according to the extraordinary form, and chant the psalms eight times a day from the 1962 Monastic Office.

The nuns also support themselves by producing made-to-order vestments, as well as greeting cards.

Though the community practices limited enclosure, their music albums have brought them international renown and popularity – they have been Billboard's Best-Selling Classical Traditional Artist several years in a row, and their albums have topped Billboard's Top Traditional Classical Albums.

Sales of The Hearts of Jesus, Mary & Joseph at Ephesus will support construction of the priory church, which was begun in May 2017, and is due to be completed in September.

“In two short years, we have been blessed to raise $4 million dollars in funding, but we still have about $2 million left to go,” Mother Cecilia said. “We have great confidence that St. Joseph, to whom we entrusted the entire project, will see it through to the end, inspiring souls to assist us in raising this last amount.”

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