Growing up in New York City, my favorite place was The Cloisters (a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art with art from medieval European monasteries). I had fallen in love with the aesthetic dimension of monastic tradition long before I understood what that way of life really meant. The art, architecture, music, and illuminated manuscripts all made me swoon.
It wasn't until graduate school that I really did begin to understand and fall further in love. Hildegard of Bingen was my entrypoint. Always having had a love of art and spirituality, I wanted to know more about this incredible woman who was artist, visionary, poet, composer of music, writer, as well as preacher, healer, and Abbess of her community. In longing to learn more about her, I had to begin a more intensive study of the Benedictine tradition in which she was immersed.
It was around this time when I also discovered the practice of lectio divina. In lectio, I found an incredibly beautiful way to move my prayer deeper and deeper and began intuitively using it in my classes and retreats, as a way to pray with both scripture as well as art, music, poetry, dreams, nature, and life experience.
When I moved up to Seattle six years ago, I knew I wanted to make my commitment as an Oblate to a Benedictine community. When I found out there was a women's community about an hour away — St. Placid Priory — I knew I had found my spiritual home. Sister Lucy Wynkoop is the director of Oblates and the Spirituality Center and she welcomed me in and put me to work right away leading retreats. We became friends quickly and when she asked if I wanted to write a book about lectio divina together with her for Paulist Press, I jumped at the opportunity. The chapter I love the most is the one on using lectio to pray with art and art to respond to lectio.
It is my incredible privilege to do the work I do, work that I love and believe in with every fiber of my being. This summer I will be leading a retreat for Palisades (the beautiful Archdiocesan retreat center) on Creative Expression and Contemplative Practice (July 12-14, click for brochure) where we will be exploring the rhythms of lectio divina and art-making together. I would love to have you come join us!
For an initial taste of using lectio divina to pray with the arts, visit Patheos where I have a new article on Audio Divina (praying with music). Select a piece of music that is meaningful to you and try the process out for yourself.
This summer I am also teaching a class on Contemporary Expressions of Benedictine Spirituality for the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University (July 27-31). It is a one-week intensive and the format will allow us to experience some of the monastic rhythms of prayer as a central part of our class. And in the fall I am offering an online class through CDSP (the Episcopal Seminary of Berkeley) on Benedictine Spiritual Practices: Contemplative Ways of Being in the World (October 26-December 20).
So consider getting yourself a copy of Lectio Divina: Contemplative Awakening and Awareness (you can order through Amazon, if you use the link it helps to further support the work of the Abbey, or you can order a signed copy directly through me).
In October I will be traveling to Rome for the World Oblate Congress, gathering together with Oblates from around the world to discuss "The Religious Challenges of Today — The Benedictine Answer." The practices of monastic tradition shape the way I move through and experience the world around me in profound ways. They offer me the invitation of complete presence and a profound listening to the way the holy pulses through each moment. To be able to share this with others is a gift beyond measure.
Summary of Benedictine Resources:
- Lectio Divina: Contemplative Awakening and Awareness (the book!)
- Article on Audio Divina at Patheos (praying with music)
- Creative Expression and Contemplative Practice (Retreat July 12-14)
- Contemporary Expressions of Benedictine Spirituality (Class July 27-31)
- Benedictine Spiritual Practices: Contemplative Ways of Being in the World (Online Class Oct 26-Dec 20)
(All photos taken by Christine at the Cloisters at her last visit in March 2008)
© Christine Valters Paintner at Abbey of the Arts:
Transformative Living through Contemplative & Expressive Arts