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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Carl Bunderson is managing editor of Catholic News Agency. He holds a BA in economics from the University of Colorado Boulder and a BPhil from the Pontifical Lateran University.