Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
This is a special love note because these are special times. During this Jubilee year we have been sharing our Monk in the World retreat content in this space and you will find this week's below. But I felt moved to write to you directly. The global disruption happening demands that our usual patterns and rhythms be disrupted as well.
We are experiencing an event unlike anything any of us has ever gone through before. There is much unknowing about the road ahead and where it will take us. We know that there will be more loss of life to come and with it the tremendous grief that accompanies it. Many of us are fearful both about the potential impact on our health and also on our financial futures and livelihood. I sit in this messiness with you. I do not have all the answers.
What I can offer are practices rooted in ancient wisdom. Practices which will help us to navigate the treacherous journey with more kindness, more compassion, more grace, and more hospitality to all of our deeply tender and wounded places. Monasticism flourished in the Dark Ages, when communities centered around attention to the divine and to each other.
I also believe that language is powerful and we might consider reframing the terms "social distancing" as "compassionate retreat" and "isolation" as "solitude." For those of us who are not in essential services (and we are seeing how not only medicine and science is vital right now, but all those who are serving our communities through food production and distribution, waste management, and much more) instead of filling our time with distraction, we have an opportunity to turn inward and do some deep reflection. Like Jesus' 40 days in the desert, we too are sitting vigil in the wilderness of our hearts. Our experience this Lent has been magnified.
My deepest hope is that through this time of compassionate retreating, we might begin to see a new way forward when all of this abates. That we might rebuild a society and culture on profound compassion and solidarity, and one that helps Earth to thrive and be nourished again.
John and I are still technically on sabbatical, but in the midst of this crisis we felt moved to offer a gift to this community – our Novena for Times of Unraveling. We began last week on the Feast of St Patrick and our nine days will end on the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25th). Each day includes a focus on a particular spiritual practice that can help sustain us. and offers a variety of resources including a live session with me that is recorded. Many of you are already joining us and it is a place of true sanctuary and renewal because of the thousands of open hearts gathering together. If you haven't yet registered, you are more than welcome to still join us. You will have lifetime access to those resources.
Another resource we are sharing is Praise song for a Pandemic. It is a poem that came to me early Thursday morning as I took our dog Sourney out and saw the garbage trucks going by and my heart overflowed with gratitude. It felt like a direct gift from the Spirit and seems to be a helpful resource for many. You are most welcome to share it or use it in any context with attribution and you are encouraged to add your own gratitudes to the list. The closing line perhaps best sums it up: "And when this has passed may we say that love spread more quickly than any virus ever could, may we say this was not just an ending but also a place to begin."
I am also thrilled to share several resources that are the culmination of many months of work:
- My newest book Earth, Our Original Monastery will be published on April 3rd (and Ave Maria Press is having a big sale on e-books, you can order this title for $8.99 now and most of my other titles with them – 7 in all – are on sale in e-book version for as little as 99 cents – see list here)
- We have a brand new album out that is the collaboration of many wonderful musicians and accompanies my book above with 14 songs to nourish your intimacy with Earth.
- In October, my second book of poems will be published. At the heart of The Wisdom of Wild Grace (available for pre-order) are 30 poems inspired by stories of the kinship of saints and animal including St. Kevin, St. Gobnait, St Francis, and St Julian.
I plan to host a virtual book and CD launch very soon and will let you know the details.
There are a LOT of other resources in this week's newsletter as well including a meditation on the practice of Sabbath, our newest Monk in the World guest post from Wisdom Council member Kayce Hughlett, and the next in our series on A Different Kind of Fast. Pour a cup of tea and linger over the invitation to pause, to practice stillness for a while, to listen for a deeper voice.
In the meantime, know that we are in this together. My heart is overflowing with prayers for this community and for all who are suffering at this time. Let's draw closer to one another through the remarkable gift of technology.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Photo © Christine Valters Paintner