Register Radio: Chart-Topping Nuns and Preparing for Lent

On Register Radio this week, Elena Rodríguez talks with Monica Fitzgibbons of De Montfort Music about the first nuns to ever win an award from Billboard. And the hits just keep on coming! The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles just released their third album, Lent at Ephesus. Also, Dan Burke speaks with Anthony Lilles, author of Secret Mountain, Secret Garden about the wisdom of the saints and how we can prepare for Lent.


Lent at Ephesus

Elena Rodríguez interviews Monica Fitzgibbons, who founded De Montfort Music in 2012, along with her husband, Kevin. Coming from a music-industry background, they launched De Montfort Music specifically to release sacred music and chant. Decca Records Label Group, the largest global distributor of classical music, took an interest in De Montfort. Their latest release, Lent at Ephesus, from the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s “Classical Overall Music Chart” and “Classical Traditional Music Chart” last week.

De Montfort Music has become an adventure that Monica and Kevin enjoy sharing with their five children, especially knowing that it is reflective of the true and the beautiful.

There’s a sample of Jesus My Love on this week’s show. The nuns prepared to sing this song — and the others on the album — the way they prepare for everything else: with prayer. As spouses of Christ, “they are singing love songs,” Fitzgibbons said.

“We don’t take them out of their natural setting” to record the albums, she said. The recording studio is built within the architecture of the monastery, she explained. “We really took our time with the recording,” she said.

The songs are ones the nuns are already singing as part of their life within the monastery. “They’re incredibly musical,” Fitzgibbons said of the nuns, whose convent was founded in 1995.

Chants, polyphonies and hymns are all included. Some of them are very familiar, while other songs are original compositions or are not as well-known. “I think they sing more than they speak,” according to Fitzgibbons. “Each arrangement is more unique than the next.”

“Their musical ability is only outmatched by their sense of charity,” she said, after sharing about how they made her lunch and served her during the recording sessions.

Their music is “so genuine, so unadorned, so honest,” she said.

Part of the monasticism of the Benedictines is that they are “hidden away.” Their No. charism is to pray for priests, which is why they don’t give interviews; they are committed to their way of life. These albums are a glimpse of their life and take the listener into the Ephesus chapel to listen to the album, which was recorded in two and a  half days.

EWTN will air a 30-minute special called Lent at Ephesus, featuring some never-before-seen sights and sounds of the Benedictines of Mary, just in time for Lent. The program will air Friday, March 14, at 6:30pm EST and then again on March 18 at 6pm. 


Wisdom of the Saints for Lent

Dan Burke speaks with Anthony Lilles, a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, who completed his graduate and post-graduate studies in Rome at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas. Lilles is a founding faculty member of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, where he served as academic dean for nine years and is a scholar and author in the field of spiritual theology.

His recent book, Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden: A Theological Contemplation on Prayer, is a compilation of discussions with seminarians, students and contemplatives about the spiritual life.

“The biggest influence in my own spiritual life [for] Lent […] was John Paul II,” Lilles said. “The principal behind the practices of Lent is to return to the practices of the early Christians, and what motivated the early Christians was their love and devotion to Christ.”

“Penance is love that responds to the mercy of God,” wrote John Paul II, and Lilles sees the 40 days of Lent as “the way we should always live.”

Lent is also a season where we commit ourselves to asking for forgiveness. Lilles references Pope Francis’ recent comments on this topic.

Lent is very much like the penitential rite at Mass, he explained. It’s “40 days to get ready, so we can celebrate Easter — the special season of mercy — in the right way.”

It’s also a time to step away from worldly things, Lilles said, explaining how St. Isaac of Nineveh wrote a book called On the Ascetical Life, where he shares proverbs concerning how to live a converted life. St. Isaac advocates the renunciation of the things of this world that distract us from God, such as material possessions and profit, entertainment and games.

Lilles also shared what St. Isaac taught concerning thoughts: “We need to be vigilant” and “renounce those thoughts that are holding us back from loving one another,” especially if we need to forgive.

On the advice of St. Isaac, “we need to read the Scriptures with wonder,” Lilles said, pointing out that “that’s not spoken of enough today.”

He also noted that St. Benedict says, “Lent is a time to increase your holy reading” — or your lectio divina.

Tune in to also hear what Sts. John of the Cross and Faustina taught about Lent and how you can prepare.