Apr 6 2018

Friday Florilegium

From the margins of a 9th century manuscript comes today’s Florilegium: the joyful poem by an unnamed Irish monk about his cat, Pangur Bán. (Some of you will recognize this name from the lovely and haunting Secret of Kells).

The Scholar and His Cat, Pangur Bán

I and Pangur Bán my cat,
‘Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
‘Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill-will,
He too plies his simple skill.

‘Tis a merry task to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur’s way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

‘Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
‘Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our task we ply,
Pangur Bán, my cat, and I;

In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.

Translated from the Irish by Robin Flowers

Oct 21 2016

Friday Florilegium

Day 21 in a month-long series on Cultivating Sanctuary.


Ah, the lovely cadences of 19th century prayer! Taken from the daily devotional, Prayers Ancient and Modern, collected by Mary Wilder Tileston.


Friday Florilegium 1


Oct 7 2016

Friday Florilegium

Day 7 in a month-long series on Cultivating Sanctuary.


When I visit the Trappist monasteries near Dubuque or the Sisters of the Love of God in Oxford, England, I’m taken aback each time by the grill between the guest area in the chapel and the monastic area. The boundary seems unwelcoming. However, I realize that the grill is a reminder that boundaries nurture their life together.

I love the times when the grill is opened and I am welcomed in–at Compline at New Melleray, at Monday night Mass at Our Lady of Mississippi convent, and at meals with the Oxford sisters. It makes it all the more special.

For life in the Contemplative Cottage to flourish, boundaries are necessary to cultivate sanctuary.

A quote that captures this so beautifully is from Elizabeth Goudge, The Middle Window.* Goudge describes a conversation about the boundaries necessary for beauty to flourish:

“That’s the monastic ideal,” said Judy, “and I’ve always thought it rather selfish—a creeping away from life.”

“Then you have misunderstood it,” Ian said. “The monastic ideal is a core of sanity in a loathsome world, a core of sanity that spreads. Again and again men [and women] have gone into solitude to create beauty, and the beauty, created, has revolutionized a whole country.”

Judy was still unconvinced. “But if nothing can get through the mountains to contaminate your Utopia, how can the beauty you create get out into the world?”

“If you light a bonfire in a sheltered valley the protection makes such a huge blaze of it that those outside see the whole sky lit up.”

Often, I hear monasticism and monastic communities critiqued for “leaving the world behind.” While there are examples of this perspective, there is a much more prevalent life-giving monasticism that offers men and women in the communities a boundaried space to deepen their love of God and their calling to a particular way of life. Historically, many monasteries became centers of learning, the arts, and culture.

In our own time, the Monks of Santo Domingo De Silos created a world-wide musical phenomenon by recording an album of Gregorian Chant. Chant sold over 1 million albums in 1994– its first year. In 2004, the oldest Cistercian monastery Stift Heiligenkreuz, a continuous monastery since the 12th century, released a chant album and has enjoyed a similar popularity. The highly acclaimed documentary, Into Great Silence, gave its viewers over 2 hours of nearly silent video, showing the simple daily lives of Carthusian monks in the Grand Chartreuse monastery.


My professor-monk at St John’s, Fr. Columba, often commented that the boundaries of the horarium and the monastic enclosure allowed for monks to focus on the arts, giving them time and space to grow from amateur to expert over the years. He also talked about how even the monastic boundaries were challenged by workaholism, the 24/7 culture, and pervasive connectivity. It required discipline and vision to maintain the life-giving boundaries.

Monastic communities model what it means to prioritize a vocation and make the choices necessary to see it flourish. And I learned from them that protected sanctuary space is just as necessary for people outside the monastery. Whether a person is called to marriage and family, singleness connected to community, life in a religious community, or other integrations of family, work, and community, each calling has it’s own need for boundaries to flourish.

What are life-giving boundaries that help you flourish in your vocation, art, discipleship, work, or relationships?

Friday Florilegium 1

When medieval monks copied texts, there were often left over scraps of vellum available for the monks to record quotes from scripture or other texts on which they wanted to meditate personally.  These scraps were often bound together into a florilegium, Latin from flos (flowers), legere (to gather): a bouquet of literary flowers.

*Disclaimer: While I love Elizabeth Goudge’s later books, The Middle Window is a earlier effort, uneven in story and writing. If you are interested in reading a beautiful book by her, start with The Scent of Water.




Sep 30 2016

Friday Florilegium


Eilean Donan castle, credit unknown

On my playlist this week has been a cover of Rachel Platten’s global hit “Fight Song” by The Piano Guys. Not only is it an instrument version with piano and cello, it also includes a Scottish bagpipe and drum band, and is filmed on location at the stunning Eilean Donan castle.

(Before listening, please pause The Music for Dreaming in the sidebar >>)

While I appreciate the original song because of the story behind it–a singer/songwriter’s struggle to keep committed to her craft no matter what the response, The Piano Guy’s version is a mash-up of the song with Amazing Grace.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already to come.
Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far

and grace will lead me home.

Lines from the hymn opens the video along with a quiet introduction of the hymn melody. Later, the hymn returns in a poignant reprise, and finally the two melodies are seamlessly woven together for the finale.

Platten’s lyrics, while not sung, are expressed by the fierceness and determination of the Scottish bagpipers and drummers, as well as the beautiful, passionate playing of piano and cello (Steven Sharp Nelson’s joy when playing is delightful to watch):

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

But with Amazing Grace gently offering a counterpoint to Platten’s melody, the song is grounded in an everlasting source of strength. The hymn anchors the song brilliantly in the grace and power of God and turns the words into a declaration of perseverance in the face of trials.


Dec 5 2014

Friday Florilegium

Silent Heart-Sulamith Wulfing


O break my heart; but break it as a field
Is by the plough up-broken for the corn;
O break it as the buds, by green leaf seated,
Are, to unloose the golden blossom, torn;
Love would I offer unto Love’s great Master,
Set free the odor, break the alabaster.

O break my heart; break it victorious God,
That life’s eternal well may flash abroad;
O let it break as when the captive trees,
Breaking cold bonds, regain their liberties;
And as thought’s sacred grove to life is springing,
Be joys, like birds, their hope, Thy victory singing.

Thomas Toke Lynch (1818-1871)


While Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head.

But some were there who said to one another in anger, ‘Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.’

And they scolded her.

But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you trouble her?…

She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’

–Mark 14:3-9

Friday Florilegium 1



I’m joining with my friend Kimberlee sharing quotes and book reviews. She writes:

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Nov 28 2014

Friday Florilegium

Carl Vilhelm Holsoe (Danish artist, 1863-1935) Standing on the Balcony

Carl Vilhelm Holsoe (Danish artist, 1863-1935) Standing on the Balcony

Cup of tea and book in hand on a snowy Iowa morning, I’m celebrating the first deeply quiet day after months filled with moving and teaching and finishing the dissertation. The draft has been given to the committee, and in a week, I will be flying to Boston to defend it. While I’m thankful to have the draft behind me, I’m holding onto the comfort and hope of this quote:

‘What a strength and spring of life, what hope and trust, what glad, unresting energy, is in this one thought: to serve Him who is “my Lord,” ever near me, ever looking on; seeing my intentions before He beholds my failures; knowing my desires before He sees my faults; cheering me to endeavor greater things, and yet accepting the least; inviting my poor service, and yet, above all, content with my poorer love.

Let us try to realize this, whatsoever, wheresoever we be. The humblest and the simplest, the weakest and the most encumbered, may love Him not less than the busiest and strongest, the most gifted and laborious. If our heart be clear before Him; if He be to us our chief and sovereign choice, dear above all, and beyond all desired; then all else matters little. That which concerneth us He will perfect in stillness and in power.’

— Howard Edward Manning – (1808 – 1892), English cardinal, Archbishop of Westminster


Friday Florilegium 1

After monks copied texts in those days before press or xerox, they would take left over pieces of vellum, copy down quotes from scripture or other texts on which they wanted to meditate personally.  These scraps were often bound together into a florilegium, Latin from flos (flowers), legere (to gather), creating a bouquet of literary flowers.

Each Friday, I’m going to offer a digital florilegium of a quote or three from books I’m reading, or a longer review. These texts could be from scripture, 19th century devotionals, contemporary and historical authors, dissertation reading on prayer and education, music, movies, or just some random-quote-goodness! My dear friend, author, and lover of children’s books, Kimberlee Conway Ireton, will also be doing the florilegium each Friday. She writes:

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