Work and prayer put to song

  • August 24, 2013

There’s a very thin layer between heaven and Earth. That’s how Monica Fitzgibbons describes her experience listening to the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles Sisters as they recorded Angels and Saints at Ephesus.

Fitzgibbons experienced this while sitting in the Priory of Our Lady of Ephesus chapel in Gower, Missouri, listening as the sisters chanted and raised their voices in song in recording their fifth album.

The album was at No. 1 on Billboard’s Traditional Classical Albums chart for 13 weeks. It was recorded in the sisters’ chapel for a more authentic and natural feel of the carefully chosen ancient hymns.

“It’s a mobile recording studio,” said Fitzgibbons, co-founder of De Montfort Music, the recording label for this 17-track compilation produced by Christopher Alder, nine-time Grammy Award winner and producer for pianist Lang Lang, among other famous artists.

“It was just us documenting that which was already happening,” Fitzgibbons said.

The sisters are a monastic order following the rule of St. Benedict, ora et labora, a life of work and prayer, which includes farming, making liturgical vestments, albs, surplices and altar linens by hand. The sisters also pray for the men who will use these items as part of their process. They attend the Extraordinary Form of the Mass daily and chant the Divine Office in Latin. Mother Cecilia Snell, the order’s prioress, is a classically trained musician who arranges most of the pieces the sisters sing.

“They probably sing more than they speak, and so they really are in tune with one another,” Fitzgibbons said, adding that they chant eight times a day and observe silence during their work.

Their talent comes from the hours they spend glorifying God through song.

Angels and Saints at Ephesus is not the first successful CD the sisters have released. It was made after the success of Advent at Ephesus (2012), which was at No. 10 on Billboard’s Classical Traditional Music Chart at the time Fitzgibbons spoke to The Catholic Register.

“When we released that in time for Advent, it really took off. It really made a big difference with people and as soon as Advent was over, people still wanted to have their music to listen to, but they felt a little guilty listening to it after Advent,” said Fitzgibbons.

In response, Angels and Saints was made.

“Being a monastic order, they really do have quite a deep relationship in communion with the angels and saints,” she said.

“It was natural that they wanted to honour their friends the angels and saints.”

Mother Cecilia has said that with this album the sisters wanted to acknowledge the help of intercessors on their journey toward heaven.

The album, and the sisters’ music in general, has resonated with people. Fitzgibbons believes their countercultural lifestyle that is not typically associated with North America is piquing interest.

“Also it’s simply gorgeous,” she said.

From the new album, the sisters also released a song by St. Francis Xavier on YouTube with lyrics in honour of those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings last April.

“You just really feel the love for our Lord these sisters have. It’s very infectious. It comes out in their music,” said Fitzgibbons.

For more information on the sisters, visit Their music can be purchased at

(With files from Catholic News Service.)

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