Dearest monks and artists,
A year ago the news of the pandemic’s spread around the world started becoming dominant news and countries were shutting down to prevent its rampant spread. We had no idea how the year that followed would unfold and how many hours we would spend in compassionate retreat to protect those most vulnerable among us (perhaps ourselves included).
I awoke early one morning around that time with the thought of hosting a Novena for Times of Unraveling so our beloved community could gather together for nine days in prayer and reflection. I knew the monastic practices we hold so dear could offer much steadying to our hearts.
This pandemic has brought so much loss and grief, so much upheaval in our lives, so much disarray and disorientation. We were all hoping it would be short-lived and hadn’t imagined a year later we would still be in the midst of its demands.
Like every landscape of sorrow, there are also moments of grace that erupt when we pay close attention and hold dear ones close (metaphorically speaking). The grace for me has been to deepen into my sense of Abbey of the Arts as a true community, as a place where many come for their primary spiritual nourishment. In response to this we led the Novena, we created a 7-day cycle of morning and evening prayers (on the theme of Earth, Our Original Monastery), we led a weekly contemplative prayer service during Advent, in addition to offering many online retreats and programs (along with lots of scholarship support for those in need), and we continue to open for ways to bring you sustenance from the contemplative way.
We are already at work on our next 7-day prayer cycle on the theme of becoming a Monk in the World inspired by our Monk Manifesto and the 8 foundational principles we follow together as a community.
We decided to introduce this new prayer cycle to you through another Novena on the same dates as last year – March 17-25 – from the feast of St. Patrick to the feast of the Annunciation. We will be praying with each of the principles below as a way of deepening our commitment to this rule or way of life and listening for how they are speaking to us in these difficult days. Then in April and May we will be releasing our audio podcasts for you to pray with on your own. (The video podcasts will be on their way this fall, but in the meantime you will have the Novena recordings.) We have also created a new Monk in the World album with many of the songs we will be hearing included there.
Monk: from the Greek monachos meaning single or solitary, a monk in the world does not live apart but immersed in the everyday with a single-hearted and undivided presence, always striving for greater wholeness and integrity
Manifesto: from the Latin for clear, means a public declaration of principles and intentions.
Monk Manifesto: A public expression of your commitment to live a compassionate, contemplative, and creative life.
- I commit to finding moments each day for silence and solitude, to make space for another voice to be heard, and to resist a culture of noise and constant stimulation.
- I commit to radical acts of hospitality by welcoming the stranger both without and within. I recognize that when I make space inside my heart for the unclaimed parts of myself, I cultivate compassion and the ability to accept those places in others.
- I commit to cultivating community by finding kindred spirits along the path, soul friends with whom I can share my deepest longings, and mentors who can offer guidance and wisdom for the journey.
- I commit to cultivating awareness of my kinship with creation and a healthy asceticism by discerning my use of energy and things, letting go of what does not help nature to flourish.
- I commit to bringing myself fully present to the work I do, whether paid or unpaid, holding a heart of gratitude for the ability to express my gifts in the world in meaningful ways.
- I commit to rhythms of rest and renewal through the regular practice of Sabbath and resist a culture of busyness that measures my worth by what I do.
- I commit to a lifetime of ongoing conversion and transformation, recognizing that I am always on a journey with both gifts and limitations.
- I commit to being a dancing monk, cultivating creative joy and letting my body and "heart overflow with the inexpressible delights of love."* (*quote is from the Prologue of the Rule of Benedict)
Please join us for our 2021 Novena for Times of Unraveling with a focus on becoming a Monk in the World. I am delighted to be joined by musician and minister Simon de Voil for each day’s live session and my husband John will be sharing written scripture reflections. We will have one or two other guests with us during this time. This is a free offering although we gratefully accept donations to support this work, especially all the work involved in creating the prayer cycle resources. We do plan to continue creating these, ideally we’d love to have four weeks of daily prayer to offer this community. All the sessions will be recorded.
There are two other opportunities this week to join me as well:
Paraclete Press (who published my poetry collections) is offering a free online celebration for St. Patrick’s Day which you can register for here. I will be sharing a few of my poems as a part of this event.
The wonderful folks at the Breath and Clay Conference are hosting their annual event online this year from March 17-21, 2021. I will be leading a one-hour session on Friday, March 19th on The Re-Enchantment of Vision where we will explore the practice of visio divina together. This conference is sliding scale, so pay what you can afford to access it.
I very much hope to see you at the Novena, or perhaps at the Paraclete event or Breath and Clay conference. It will be a full week for me, but one where I get to share the joys of contemplative practice, poetry, music, and art with kindred souls so my heart feels full as well.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Photo © Christine Valters Paintner