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Community Lectio (Visio) Divina: Art by Mary Southard

Mary SOuthard

Artwork: “In the Shelter of Your Wings” © Mary Southard, CSJ
Used with permission courtesy of

With December comes a new invitation for contemplation. This month I invite you into a visio divina practice, which is an adaptation of lectio divina. In visio divina we are invited to see with the eyes of our heart, much in the way lectio calls us to listen with the ears of our heart.

I was drawn to this piece of art by Mary Southard for the month of December because we are entering the season of Advent, which is a season of waiting, and in the northern hemisphere, a time to enter more intentionally into the expanse of night and dreamtime. These darkening days call us to surrender our own plans and initiative and yield to the call of mystery found in long nights. The birthing which we await at Christmas only comes through this period of gestation and leaning into the unknown.

How Community Lectio (and Visio) Divina works:

button-lectioEach month there will be a passage selected from scripture, poetry, or other sacred texts (and at some point we will engage in some visio and audio divina as well with art and music).

For the year I am choosing an overarching theme of discernment. I feel like the Abbey is in the midst of some wonderful transition, movement, and expansion.

How amazing it would be to discern together the movements of the Spirit at work in the hearts of monks around the world.

I invite you to set aside some time this week to pray with the text below. Here is a Visio Divina handout (feel free to reproduce this handout and share with others as long as you leave in the attribution at the bottom – thank you!)

Lean into silence, pray with the image, look for what shimmers, allow the images and memories to unfold, tend to the invitation, and then sit in stillness.

After you have prayed with the image (and feel free to pray with it more than once – St. Ignatius wrote about the deep value of repetition in prayer, especially when something feels particularly rich) spend some time journaling what insights arise for you.

How is this image calling to your dancing monk heart in this moment of your life?

What does this image have to offer to your discernment journey of listening moment by moment to the invitation from the Holy?

What wisdom emerged that may be just for you, but may also be for the wider community?

Sharing Your Responses

Please share the fruits of your visio divina practice in the comments below or at our Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks Facebook group which you can join here. There are almost 1000 members and it is a wonderful place to find connection and community with others on this path.

You might share the word or phrase that shimmered, the invitation that arose from your prayer, or artwork you created in response. There is something powerful about naming your experience in community and then seeing what threads are woven between all of our responses.

You can see the full fall calendar of invitations here>>

Join the Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks Facebook group here>>

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6 Responses

  1. I forgot momentarily how protected I am. My mom just passed away, but there she was in Mary’s painting, reminding me of her soul’s intention, ever after. Humbly, thank you..

  2. Right here, right now I am safe, comforted and loved.
    What looks so far away is wrapped around me.
    I forgive myself, I forgive you.
    We are immersed within each other.

  3. Mary’s comforting painting reminds me of a poem I wrote in response to my brother’s cancer diagnosis.


    You’re ten, pale and wan, like sometimes
    you were back then. You lie in a narrow
    bed, under a pile of blankets.

    I stand over you like those guardian
    angels of our youth—tall, with wings,
    who kept us from falling off the bridge
    in those holy cards the nuns gave us.

    What perilous bridge do you walk on now?
    What precipice do you stand before?

    Or is it I who should call down the angels?

    You’re sick, but make no complaint,
    ask nothing. You just look up
    and smile at me, your older sister.

    I scoop you up, blankets and all,
    and take you to another room,
    larger and brighter, with two beds—
    one faces a window full of sky
    and greenery and the flight of birds.
    The other faces a wall.

    “Which bed?” I ask. “Oh, to look
    out the window,” you say,
    as I knew you would.

    And when I wake in early light,
    with the old fatigue and tears
    from the aggravations of life,
    I look out and ask the finches
    and the black birds at the feeder:
    Who will care for me?

    I turn, pulling up the blankets,
    hoping to sleep again, but I sense
    a presence moving down the hall,
    entering my room, and standing
    over me. So tall! Wings and all.

  4. I want to sink into sleep under these wings, bathed in these shadows, under that moon. This image stirs up that longing to be cradled and protected, to nestle in that peacefulness. At first I imagine myself to be the one who is sheltered. But the more I gaze, the more I can feel the urge to be the one who shelters. And as still as they are in gesture, I feel there is a dynamic between them. The sleeper is also the watcher, the watcher the sleeper –each has a halo, their arms are entwined, and where they touch, the deep blue-purples light up to rosy-purples, to warmth in that connection. I feel that warmth is at the heart of the peace they share.

  5. Clouds hover
    Wings flutter
    Love’s Presence abides
    Dreams speak
    Numinous whispers
    Of love everlasting
    Infinite, my care
    Arise and come
    Follow the song of my voice
    Into the timeless space
    Relinquish your spirit
    With a breath and sigh