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What is Shimmering? (a love note from your online Abbess)

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ireland treeI have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the
pearl of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realise now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

—R.S. Thomas

Dearest monks and artists,

This poem above has arrived to me in a couple of different ways lately and each time keeps deepening me into its invitation. One of the things I love most in Ireland is the way the sky can grow so dark and grey and intense rain falls. Then the sun will emerge through the clouds, its illumination all the more brilliant in contrast to the sky surrounding it. The way the light falls across the wet field and makes it luminous always makes me stop in awe. I wonder too if those ancient Irish monks beheld this vision and were inspired to add gold to their illuminated manuscripts to come closer to reflecting these moments of vision into eternity.

I spent this last weekend leading a retreat for a delightful group here in Ireland of folks who run retreat houses across the country. We explored lectio divina and the creative arts and how lectio can open up our poetic imagination in new ways. The central impulse in lectio is to look for what shimmers, and to trust that as the place where God is speaking to our hearts most intimately, right in this moment of our lives. I have such a love of lectio, and have shared before that John and I pray this way together each morning. These times of listening from the heart then shape our work for the Abbey, so it comes from this place of encounter with the holy presence working in our lives.

Sacred scriptures offer us many things, one of which is a way to meet the poetry of God in an intimate way.  I find myself daily inspired by the words or phrases that shimmer forth, planting themselves in my imagination and calling forth new visions. Words have such power to shape us and shift our ways of seeing, they can break open in a moment.

This act of paying attention to what shimmers in the text also shapes us to begin to see the shimmering all around us at every moment. Life continues to invite us into our own unfolding, offering moments that call us forward into our deep dreams and partnership with the divine Artist at work in our lives.

The rhythms of lectio divina, are the rhythms which call us more deeply into the heart of the world: listening for what shimmers, savoring it and letting it stir us, yielding to the invitation offered, and then resting into stillness. The monk in the world cultivates spaciousness of days so that these possibilities might have room to rise up like fire, like the illumination of the bright field and for at least a moment, remind us of something more beautiful, something enduring, the holiness of now.

For the men of the community, we have a wonderful new program exploring the wisdom of some of the biblical texts for your journey as monks in the world, starting in just a few days.  Join us for Exile and Coming Home: Priest, Prophet, Politician, and Poet – An Online Journey for Men. John Valters Paintner (you can read his previous guest post here), Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, Roy DeLeon, and Michael Landon have a beautiful experience of soulful reflection and shared conversation in store for you. Please consider gifting a man in your life with this experience as well.

John and I will also be leading an online retreat for Lent on The Soul’s Journey and exploring a different biblical image of pilgrimage each week. If you register by February 1st there is a free mini-retreat on listening to the stirring in your belly included for the upcoming Celtic feast of Imbolc.

There is a new Photo Party and Monk in the World guest post by Peg Conway. Winners for Give me a Word drawing are here.

May you discover the shimmering heart of God calling you more fully into the poetry of your life.

With great and growing love,


Photo: Tree in Ireland

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