Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
We are thrilled to start releasing the Monk in the World Video Podcasts today beginning with Day 1 on Silence and Solitude. We will bring you morning and evening prayer for each day over the next seven weeks. Inspired by the principles of the Monk Manifesto we created the 7-day prayer cycle in the spring and released the audio podcasts then. Now we are adding the video versions – created by Betsey Beckman – for those of you who prefer visual guidance and want to dance along with the gesture prayers Betsey has created for each song and prayer response. These video podcasts also include beautiful new blessing videos at the end of each morning prayer created by Travis Reed from The Work of the People from the blessings I wrote for each one. The evening prayers contain poetry videos created by Morgan Creative from the poems included there. Simon de Voil and I take turns narrating the readings, psalms, and community prayers.
I love the Prayer Cycle project because it is rooted in collaboration with many other wonderful souls to bring these prayers to life through the songs we share and prayers we offer. It has long been my dream to create four weeks of Prayer Cycles to share with this community so you can move through a month of praying with us wherever you are in the world. The first one we created was Earth, Our Original Monastery (inspired by my book of the same name) which invites you to cultivate an earth-cherishing consciousness.
These prayer cycles help us to integrate contemplative practices, creative expressions like song, poetry, and dance, with meaningful prayers for the world we live in. And we offer these audio and video podcasts as a free gift of love to you, our dear dancing monks (but we always welcome financial support to help fund all the different parts coming together that need to happen for such an elaborate dream).
We are celebrating shared prayer in a special way this weekend since tomorrow we are also launching our monthly Contemplative Prayer Services. I am joined by Rev. Simon Ruth de Voil for these hour-long sessions to gather together as a community in real time. It seems fitting to launch our first one of this academic year on the Feast of St. Francis, since Francis is one of our patron saints and such a face of being a monk in the world (one of the quotes we love attributed to him is that “the world is my monastery.”) He was a witness to being the face of love in the world. Join us tomorrow to celebrate the wisdom of Francis through song, poetry, reflection, and prayer. If you can’t join us live you can still register and receive a link to the recording once the service is over. There is a sliding scale to help support the work that goes into offering these including a free option so that it may be accessible to everyone who wants to join us.
And finally, we continue our Lift Every Voice Book Club for October with Native: Identity, Belonging, and Rediscovering God by Kaitlin Curtice. (Watch the video conversation between Kaitlin, Claudia, and me at this link).
This is a lovely and gently powerful book which prompted me to think even more about what it means to “live a life of constant decolonizing” as Kaitlin writes about and describes “the process in which my spiritual Potawatomi tradition enhances the celebration of God as liberator and the person of Jesus as a partner in that liberation.” Each voice that we consider through this book club journey offers another strand to weave into the tapestry of cultivating a spirituality which is both internally liberating and also supports the liberation of all people and creation.
Many years ago when I was in college I took a class on liberation theology. I had not been raised in a religious household and ended up at a Jesuit university (Fordham in New York) because of good scholarship support and a strong philosophy program. The class was during my junior year and I was also engaging in lots of service work opportunities including a nonprofit called Bronx River Restoration which provided low-income youth the chance to do needed clean-up work while also learning both ecology and job skills. The college is located in the Bronx and the need all around the campus is great. My liberation theology course gave me language and ways to understand how my longing to serve and be transformed by that service can be integrated into a way of being in the world.
Later I joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in California and worked at a group home for emotionally disturbed teenagers and a homeless shelter for women and children. The motto of JVC is “ruined for life” and it was a powerful experience of deepening into their four tenets of community, spirituality, social justice, and simplicity.
I was reminded of these early formative experiences while reading Native in part because the primary invitation I experienced in its pages are to remember how our freedom is intertwined with the freedom of everyone. When one person or creature is suffering or struggling in some way it means we are impacted. And once our awareness is raised to these issues we can’t unsee it.
One of the things I love about the Rule of Benedict is how much he saw the thriving of each member as essential to the whole. Benedict repeatedly tells us to accommodate the needs and limitations of various members of the community. There is nothing harsh needed, no competition the way we find in the dominant ways of thinking. We live in a culture that has little tolerance for need, for vulnerability, for tending to struggle. Instead of reinforcing the narrative that tells us we must protect what is ours at all costs or that looks with suspicion on anything different, the monk’s call is to live a life of generous openness, of hospitality to the stranger, and of liberation for all.
Kaitlin writes, “my spiritual liberation is tied up with the spiritual liberation of all my relatives who face oppression, whose bodies are policed and told that they are less than – are we not working to be liberated together, and are our spirits not bound together to fight institutional injustices that have existed in America since its beginning?” She is writing about how as an indigenous person, her struggles are intimately connected to the struggles of those who are Black or other communities of color. I encourage you to buy a copy of Native and support writers of color and then listen in to our conversation with the author.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE