All posts by jilsy63

Jill Maria Murdy is the Director of Liturgy and Music at a large parish in Wisconsin. She has written and published many articles on Liturgical Theology, Benedictine Spirituality, and other spiritual topics. Jill Maria is an entertaining and engaging speaker, and knowledgeable in many aspects of liturgy and spirituality. She is also an active community member, and enjoys making music and performing at open mics and area venues in her spare time.

Our Hearts

In praying with the scriptures of today   one hears the story about the Road to Emmaus,  and other early stories of the Apostles.   In honor of Poetry Month,   I’m breaking away from my standard Haiku.

I thought it would be fun to pull out the basic formats from my youth.    Today’s  verse is in Iambic Pentameter, meaning each line has ten syllables    weak strong weak strong.

“Are not our hearts burning within?” we sighed.

Have we not seen our Risen Lord indeed?

How often do we miss our God revealed

throughout our day in many simple ways?

In family and friends, all nature sings

“Rejoice you hearts that seek the Lord.” Amen.

But then,  I started thinking and remembering all those who have walked with me, and supported me even through all the rough and bumpy times in life,  and I was again feeling overwhelmed with gratitude.


Sojourn begins all fresh and new, and clean.

The optimism of our youth abounds.

The road looks short, the path is all mapped out,

so many bumps and detours yet unseen.

Along the way we meet new faces too

For but a short time we quickly forget

Others reach in and touch our very souls.

They walk beside us, laughing in the sun,

or silently and still when night has come. 

Picking us up, gently dusting us off

urging us on when we have no more steps.

And when we reach the journey’s end we cry

once more: “Are not our hearts burning within?”

Have we not seen our Risen Lord indeed?

 Jill Maria April 3, 2013

April Poetry Month hmmmmm which came first?

April is National Poetry Month.      Many of my friends are writing posts about it on Facebook and other such happy places.    I think I’m too tired to write a poem tonight, but want  to talk about poets and poetry and literature and life.   My undergrad is in music, and it has always been part of my vocation and avocation.

As such, I am a “Jill of all trades, master of none.”   I am a trained vocalist, play multiple styles of  guitar, sax, and trombone well.  As a former band instructor, I have at least a semester on a zillion other instruments so could understand them and do basic fingering charts etc and play well enough to stay ahead of a Jr. High player.

I can usually handle my own on the keyboards, but no matter what, that is always a secondary skill for me.  I have a couple of musician friends who are gifted in ways that I could never even fathom.   Yes, They have been gifted, and they’ve also worked incredibly hard to be what I call ‘thoroughbred’ musicians….they are skilled at a level that I can barely even covet.     Thankfully they are generous with their time and talents, and I’ve been able to work with them for most of my large liturgies, and other musical events.    When I have to play for something important, I actually pray that their spirit may enter my fingers.

I’m reminded of a quote I’ve heard attributed to a couple of people:  “A genius! For 37 years I’ve practiced fourteen hours a day, and now they call me a genius!” –Pablo Sarasate (Spanish violinist)  The truth of the matter is the musicians I mention had both a natural gift and a discipline that I will never have.

My brain frequently works in loose associations, and friends and  associates  either marvel or cringe at the fact that you can say dang near anything and I will break into song.   It could be a popular song, an oldy, or a freshly minted paraphrase on an existing tune just to fit the situation.

This actually comes in handy when I am doing liturgy preparations.   When I meet with a funeral family, or look at Sunday’s liturgy,  I can read the scripture, or listen to the story about the deceased, and think of a song that would be a really good fit. I had a boss once who used to call me  “the human jukebox. ”

What I am saying  is that LYRICS are very important to me.   If I get a new CD, I’ll play it over and over until I have internalized the whole thing and know the text and the changes.   Sadly, people in the pews don’t always catch the  painstaking steps one takes to tie together the hymns with the scriptures and prayers.   Or it is an AHA moment when one realizes “Hey, those hymns went right a long with what Father said today…..”

You know, it doesn’t matter how great the homily was though, more people are going to leave the liturgy humming the final hymn than the homily.   Music has such a subliminal ability to carry the message, and to connect life moments.   I could do a whole life timeline by what I was doing  or where I was at in life when I heard that song, or where I prayed that hymn for the first time.

So  where all this is leading  is to a major insight I had a few years ago.   For many many years, I thought of myself as a musician who liked to write, but a few years ago, I had an AHA moment and in that epiphany, discovered that I was actually a writer, who makes music.    Perhaps that may seem like splitting hairs,  but it was an important piece of self knowledge, and that gnosis  has given me a truer vision of my gifts and my talents as well as my strengths and weaknesses.

The rich imagery and poetry of the Psalms have always been some of my favorite parts of scripture, and how those lines of poetry that I prayed daily for so many years in the Monastery  still come back as a source of strength and insight to me now.   It seems the right line and emotion are always there.

We just finished Holy Week and the Sacred Easter Triduum.  Perhaps the most powerful moment for me was Sunday AM after communion, when the congregation sang a hymn together that summarized all that we had been through.   M. D. Ridge’s beautiful “Three Days” set to Gustav Holtz’s THAXTED  In its concise three stanza format, it captured all that hours of prayer had said, creating a ‘nutshell’ version that was ever so rich.

KALEIDOSCOPE_WEBSo, as we begin this month of poetry I’m reflecting back to the influences on my life:  Our primary reader series (school was JUST beginning to move away from Dick and Jane (Kaleidoscopes)  with Miss Olson.  (Panorama and Serendipity were the other books in that series… they were so cool, and I loved those big words!)

The Roberts English books (remember one had the turqoise stripes on the covers and others were patterned?)   It was there with Mrs. Dannis, Mrs.McIvor, John Moffatt, and so many others that I learned Robert Frost’s “stopping by the woods on a snowy evening” and “the road not taken”  Walt Whitman, and Joyce Kilmer’s “Tree”  and so very many other poems. But my very favorite was a line from Shakespeare that I still tend to throw out in odd places and situations:  “And greasy John doth keel the pot!”  It appears the actual quote is  “While greasy JOAN doth keel the pot” but I always pictured a big sloppy guy in renaissance clothes…. for many years I had it that way, until I actually looked it up a few years ago and discovered it was all Joan’s fault


When icicles hang by the wall,  
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,  
And milk comes frozen home in pail,  
When blood is nipp’d, and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl, 
To-whit! To-who!—a merry note,  
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.  
When all aloud the wind doe blow,
And coughing drowns the parson’s saw,  
And birds sit brooding in the snow,  
And Marian’s nose looks red and raw,  
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,  
Then nightly sings the staring owl,
To-whit! To-who!—a merry note,  
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

Love’s Labour’s Lost, V.ii; written circa 1593

I remember a Bismarck State instructor, Arnold Lahren, who taught  Doug Blumhardt, Isolde, Cynthia Trondstat nee Katharine Swanson the importance of poetry, and accepted our feeble efforts and attempts and found some greatness in them.  Kathleen Norris and her husband poet  David Dwyer, David Whyte,  and Anne Sexton gave me an appreciation for contemporary poets.

Yet, all that paled when I first experienced someone writing a love sonnet for me.  It moved past the intellectual, even beyond the spiritual, as there were those wonderful, terrible, truly ineffable vicissitudes of emotion that accompanied it.   For when a simple statement is not enough,  when one needs to wax eloquent, or to try and find the perfect word, then only a poem will do.

It is late, the month is young, and while I have strayed far from my initial concept, there is much more to be said about poetry, but I will leave it for another day.



First Day That FELT Like Spring

finally warm sun
open office window chimes
children skipping ropeyouthful ignorance
have not touched their liveshow many doctors
did it take? one, skip, two skip
rope snapping sharply

how many doctors
will it take? o crack, my old
knees snapping sharply

when did that childhood
move so very far away
distant like a dream

(reflection on watching the school children from my window this very long day 🙂

March 28, 2013
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Good Morning!

Well,  Actually it is 2:02 PM

I tend to write long posts on my Facebook on regular basis, and I finally decided it might be interesting to turn it into a blog.   There are many times I am touched by nature, the daily scripture readings, or the words of my favorite new or old song.  I also have a bit of a quirky sense of humor, and can entertain myself  quite easily.

I hope and pray that you may find something here that works for you!    Blessings on your day and on your light.

The Proverbs 31 Project

(I was asked to write on a friend’s blog)

The Proverbs 31 Project: She does him good and not harm all the days of her life…

Proverbs 31 Project

Today’s author, Jill Maria Murdy, is the younger sister of a family friend. My mom started working with her older brother when I was probably 3 or 4. We got to know each other last year when I started making liturgist jokes on her brother’s Facebook. These days, she’s my late night chat buddy on Facebook and graciously agreed to write something for this. ?

She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life ?? exclaims the NRSV translation of Proverbs 31: 12, but it is hard to ask ??what does this mean??? without putting it in the context of the whole chapter of Proverbs 31: 10-31. One could go down the list of skills and gifts presented in the scripture and come up with a similar, albeit updated list of skills of the wife or woman today.

Sometimes people pick and choose which verses of this passage they want, and you end up hearing ??Yep. The good wife, she cooks and cleans, and takes care of the men.?? But that is the smallest degree of what was said in the first place. Sometimes the passage is called ??the valiant wife?? or ??worthy wife.?? ??She is more precious than jewels.?? Take a look at the passage and then reflect on it. Perhaps she works with fine arts instead of wool and flax, or clips coupons instead of bringing her food from far away.

Maybe she rises early to take the children to school, write her blog and pray, or do a task at home before heading out to her own job. She may be a land owner or investor, and finds time to work out at the gym. Late night she is busy paying the bills, and managing the family??s calendar for the week. She waits for the repairman for the garbage disposal, and reminds her husband of the ??honey do list?? of chores which must be done to maintain the house. She is involved in volunteer work and helps at the domestic violence shelter and the food pantry.

Her house is sturdy, and she cares for her belongings and pays her electric bill on time. She is not afraid of the snow as the kids have warm clothes. Perhaps it may be chaotic, but the household is filled with love. She or her husband may hold public office, and perhaps she is a successful businesswoman, or holds her own roles within the church or community. Her identity is not dependent upon his, but they support each other.

Time and beauty may pass, but still they are happy as they continue to love and grow together.

So if we go back to the original premise, ??She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life ??, who??s life would not be richer for having this woman, this lover, this friend along side them? She is exercising the virtues which come naturally from being a good woman. These are the skills she learned from her mother, and every generation of women has been down to those who follow them since long before Proverbs was ever written.

Jill Maria Murdy is the director of Liturgy and Music at St. Frances Cabrini Parish in West Bend WI. This is a large parish with 2300 families, 6000 members. She grew up in a small Montana town. She is a frequent writer and contributor to many liturgical publications. She also has a background in small rural communities, and Benedictine Monasticism.

In her current ministry she plans about 70 funerals a year. The Proverbs passage is frequently discussed so she has had many chances to reflect on it.

Inspiration and Affirmations

Had a neat start to my day. Sometimes as a writer, you put things out there, and wonder if they are ever helpful to anyone, or if you are just blathering words into the universe. It is not a matter of saying “Affirm me, Affirm me.” Rather you really just don’t know. Once you’ve written the words and passed them on to an editor you just have to let go and let God.

This morning someone called to tell me how an article I wrote a few years ago was helpful to them this morning. It put a smile on my face as yet another busy day begins!

Cana Woman

This Weekend’s Gospel is the WOMAN AT CANA…
This is a reflection I wrote on it last C Cycle:

Do you remember?
When the wine ran out at Cana
we first saw glimmer

in changing water.
Jesus transformed his very life
never to be the same.

We come to praise you
week by week and year by year
Ancient formula:

when WORD is spoken
drawing life-breath and spirit
proclaiming anew;

the marvelous deeds
of broken BREAD at table
WINE renewed once more.

You and I become
Epiphany manifest
when we too are changed.

Will not be silent!
You shall be called by a new name!
So shall God rejoice!

Wisdom, knowledge, faith
are released as gifts within
calling us to serve.

This is the one hope
We yearn, we trust, we pray for
Working in us, NOW!

Do you remember?
Oh! Let us proclaim the
Mystery of faith!

Jill Maria Murdy