Teaching Chant at St Benedict’s – an Interview

Sister, tell us where you are from and where you first met the Sisters Adorers of the Royal Heart of Jesus.

I am French and I discovered the Sisters thanks to the Canons who were accompanying a youth group of which I was a member.

And you made your vows in …

In 2010, on the feast of St. Michael the Archangel with 5 other Sisters

Wonderful! Did you ever imagine that you would end up in Northern England?

No, I admit that I would never have imagined that.

Have you fallen in love with Preston, or is that putting it a little too strongly?!

Yes, the Preston apostolate is really charming as are its faithful.

How do the Sisters see their mission here in Preston?

Consecrated to the Royal Heart of Our Lord, our primary vocation is to adore It. In second place, our apostolic vocation puts us close to the Canons by praying for them and helping them with their care of souls. This support is given above all by the chanting of the Mass and of the Divine Office.

So, your life is a union of the contemplative and the apostolic?

Yes indeed, our life has its foundation in the contemplation of, and the union with, God. The apostolate, always in obedience to the orders of the superior of the house, is like an ‘overflow’ of this union with God and this charity received in the life of prayer. This life with God finds its most beautiful expression in the accomplishment of His will. In fact, it’s only by our obedience that we are religious.

And you and another sister are involved in another new foundation – the Saint Benedict Academy – in the liturgical life and in the teaching. What subjects do the sisters teach at St Benedict’s?

We teach French, Gregorian chant and some Catechism lessons, (the Canons and the Abbés having the biggest responsibility).

Teaching Gregorian chant is a demanding task. As well as the technical and musical dimensions, it is always a prayer.

Yes, Gregorian chant is a prayer; it is the most beautiful expression of the prayer of the Church.

There are several different ‘schools’ of Gregorian chant. Which one do the Sisters Adorers follow?

Through the formation that we have received from our superiors, we follow the method of the abbey of Solesmes. Its most illustrious representatives are Dom Mocquereau and Dom Gajard who, in the 19th and 20th century, were the big theorists of this chant and who contributed to its restoration in the liturgy of the Church, on the request of some Popes.

What is it about the Solesmes Method of Gregorian chant which has made the Sisters Adorers adopt it? I mean, how does it help you in living your religious life?

This method, which is inspired by some ancient manuscripts and which brings out what is essential in Gregorian chant, is a prayer and a petition to God. We sing for God, we give our voices to the Holy Church and to the liturgy in order to glorify, adore and carry our petitions to God, our Father. It’s simultaneously an attitude of humility, of filial love and of profound joy that Gregorian chant gives to the soul.

And for the pupils of St Benedict’s, they’re being formed in this school of music and of prayer. This must be a wonderful formation for young hearts and minds.

Yes, we hope so. Our primary desire in the teaching of Gregorian chant, is that the children don’t stop at the technical aspect but that this chant supports their prayer and their spiritual life. Just from the human point of view, Gregorian chant is already a school of self-forgetfulness, of generosity and of attention to others. No egotism possible: to make only one voice, it’s necessary to listen continuously to each other.

Sister, thank you very much and thank you for all you are doing at Saint Benedict’s.

Soft, Strong and Astronomically Long

Pupils in years 3 and 4 are enjoying their astronomy course and have been amazed at what they have learnt about God’s wonderful creation. They have been learning all about the solar system; the sun, the planets, the asteroid belt, the international space station and more.

One of their activities has been to compare the distances of all the planets from the sun. Toilet paper, laid down one of English Martyrs’ corridors was perfect for representing the distances. The terrestrial planets all seemed ‘close’ to the sun – only 93 million miles for ours! – but the distances of Jovian planets were incredible. Neptune disappeared out of the corridor and into the hall.