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St. Kevin and the Blackbird + Poems from the Wild Edges ~ A love note from your online abbess

Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,

October 25, 2015 - TOP IMAGE - Kevin of GlendaloughThis fall has been a season full of wonderful opportunities for journeying alongside our beloved dancing monks in person.  When you receive this love note, we will be in the midst of our third pilgrimage group in Ireland, something we love doing because we continually see this amazing landscape through new eyes and are blessed by the community that forms.

As many of you know John and I arrived in Galway almost three years ago in the midst of a life pilgrimage.  It can be hard to explain sometimes how we ended up in this place. It is certainly beautiful, perched on the edge of the ocean, with a feeling of being on the wild edges of Europe. The Irish people are genuinely warm and welcoming to us. We have ancestral connections to this land, and so something in our blood draws us to this place.

After years of claiming the path of monastic spirituality as the one most life-giving for us, it makes perfect “sense” that we would land in Ireland, a place where monasticism flourished for so many centuries in a unique form from more Roman-centered monasticism.

Here on this Irish soil we discover the sheer plenitude of monastic ruins within an hour of where we live, because it was so much a vibrant part of the culture. We immerse ourselves in the stories of saints like Brigid, Brendan, Patrick, and Columcille, hearing them whisper across the landscape.

We find a path that is more about following one’s own ripening and unfolding rather than looking for the straight path and plan. There is a wonderful story about St. Kevin, who founded the holy city of Glendalough where we led our young adult pilgrimage last spring. In his prayer, kneeling with arms outstretched and palms open, a blackbird lands in his hand and nests. He feels her laying eggs and realizes he has to stay in this position until the birds are hatched. It is a marvelous description of holy yielding of our own agendas, to the birthing happening already around and within us. (The image above is our newest dancing monk icon of St. Kevin).

This monastic path calls us to let go of our own plans. This is the beauty of this ancient way. It teaches us through stories and practice and very concrete way to let go of plans and surrender to the Divine current carrying us to our own places of resurrection.

We are delighted to share with you some of the poems that pilgrim participants in our Writing on the Wild Edges retreat wrote while in the beautiful landscapes of Inismor and Inisbofin, two islands off the coast of Connemara. Click here to stop by the blog post and savor the inspiration of this sacred land.

With great and growing love,


Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE

P.S. – If you subscribe to the wonderful journal Weavings, look for my article on “Welcoming in All of the Selves as Beloved.”

Photo: © St. Kevin dancing monk icon by artist Marcy Hall

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