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The Love of Thousands: Honoring Angels, Saints, and Ancestors ~ An Online Companion Retreat to the Book

with Christine & John Valters Paintner, Betsey Beckman, and guest teachers

Forum facilitators: Melissa Layer and Aisling Richmond

January 15-April 20, 2024

Weekly live webinar on Mondays | 7-8 am Pacific | 10-11 Eastern | 3-4 pm Ireland/UK*

*2-3pm Ireland/UK due to Daylight Savings happening March 10-31, 2024

Program Description

The infinite community and the love of thousands who shimmer beyond the veil between worlds can help sustain us in dark times.

We can often feel alone and isolated in our individualistic culture. The frenzy of working long hours and keeping up with all of our commitments can mean there isn’t time to cultivate our relationships with others. In addition we are encouraged to bear the burdens we carry on our own and not show signs of vulnerability or ask for help. This is an exhausting way to live.

The support we need to thrive in life comes not just from people who are living in this physical world alongside us but also from those who have passed beyond the veil, such as saints and ancestors. Jewish, Islamic, and Christian scriptures also reveal to us a long tradition of encounters with angelic beings who bring messages and protection.

Angels are those spiritual presences who act as guardians (Eden), appear in dreams to offer a calling (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Mary, and Joseph) or new name (Isaac), who wrestle with us (Jacob), who ask us for hospitality (Abraham, Sarah, and Lot), and who minister and tend to us in the wilderness (Elijah and Jesus). We will begin our own retreat by asking the angels to support and minister to us as we listen more deeply for our authentic calling.

In the Christian tradition saints are those wise and well ancestors of spirit who have passed through the veil in a state of vibrant wholeness. Not everyone who dies is a well presence and so we look to the saints to be able to call upon those who lived lives transformed by their intimate and abiding connection to the sacred and deep rootedness in Love.

Christian tradition also has a vibrant practice for honoring our ancestors of blood and bone, those beings who walked this earth, struggled with life, celebrated, grieved, and whose choices brought us into being. Our ancestors, just like human beings, have varying degrees of wellness upon death and can continue to heal even after they have passed on. We can do the inner work needed to heal the wounds we inherited and we can open to the blessings they bestow upon us.

We will be standing on the threshold between worlds, courting connection with all those well and wise ones who dwell beneath the surface of everyday awareness. In Celtic and many other indigenous traditions, the belief is that we are part of a great communion of beings who live in the Otherworld. Angels, saints, and ancestors are sacred presences we can call upon and develop intimacy with, just like any human friendship. By cultivating this practice of connection, we are nourished with tremendous resources of emotional and spiritual support for the challenging times of our lives. It is an act of humility to yield our own agendas and need to carry everything ourselves and ask others to journey alongside of us and support us into our own vibrant wholeness.

You will need to order a copy of The Love of Thousands: How Angels, Saints, and Ancestors Walk With Us Toward Holiness in addition to registering for the program.

Weekly Rhythm of Content

*artwork above by Elise Ritter (used with permission)

Mondays: Live Zoom session with Christine including teaching, meditation, sharing, and questions.

Tuesdays: Scripture reflection from John 

Wednesdays: Visio divina with Elise Ritter’s art

Thursdays: Pre-recorded conversations with fourteen guest teachers*

Fridays: Dance prayer videos with Betsey 

Saturdays: Closing blessing video and reflection questions

Sundays: Time for rest and integration

There is also a facilitated discussion forum you can participate in at any time, day or night, to share questions, challenges, and graces from your experience of the retreat.

*Many of the guest teacher conversations include bonus meditation experiences from the teacher.

We will turn on closed captioning during the live Zoom session (which you are able to turn off in your settings if you find distracting) as well as provide a video recording with closed captioning available and a text transcript of the session.

The program will be recorded for those who pre-register but are unable to attend at the scheduled time or who want to view again. You will be sent a notification when this is ready to view.

You have lifetime access to all online programs.

Weekly Themes

Week 1

Calling on Archangels

Week 2

Encountering Your Guardian Angel

Week 3

Wrestling with Angels

Week 4

We Are All Called to Be Saints and Mystics

Week 5

Embodied Love

Week 6

Saints and Pilgrimage

Week 7

Blessings of Our Ancestors

Week 8

Intergenerational Wounds and Our Responsibilities

Week 9

Grieving Our Losses

Week 10

Ancestral Pilgrimage

Week 11

Cosmology, Myth, and Song

Week 12

Becoming Wise and Well Ancestors

Week 13

Ancestral Earth and Deep Time

Week 14

The Love of Thousands

Your Guides for the Journey


Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE

Christine is the director of, a virtual monastery exploring contemplative practice, creative expression, and ways to nourish an earth-cherishing consciousness. She is a spiritual director, teacher, pilgrimage guide, and author of numerous books on spirituality and the arts. Her deepest belief is that the earth is the original monastery–a wisdom guide and mentor in living a soulful and vibrant life. Visit the “About Christine” page for more information.


John Valters Paintner, MTS

John Valters Paintner is the online prior for Abbey of the Arts, where he assists his wife Christine in ministering to global community both online and through in-person programs. John was a youth minister and pastoral associate for four years before becoming a high school religion teacher for twelve years. He has a Masters of Theological Studies from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. His love for the Bible, particularly the Hebrew Scriptures, emerged when he taught the “Old Testament” at an all-boys high school. John is also a lover of the art of story-telling and has written dozens of short stories, one-act plays, and short films in a variety of genres.

Betsey Beckman, MM

Betsey Beckman, MM is nationally acclaimed as a spirited dancer, storyteller, teacher of SpiritPlay and dancing Spiritual Director. With her extensive repertory of sacred storydances, she is regularly featured as artist/presenter at national conventions as well as local churches. She earned her Masters in Ministry degree from Seattle University, her certificate in Movement Therapy from the Institute for Transformational Movement, and is a certified InterPlay leader. As dancer, choreographer, author, mother, wife, teacher and spiritual director, she is passionate about living life fully and fostering creativity in all those with whom she shares life and ministry. Betsey’s publications include books (she is co-author of Awakening the Creative Spirit: Bringing the Expressive Arts to Spiritual Direction), recordings, and The Dancing Word series of DVDs on embodied prayer. She offers the gift of playful improvisation whenever possible.

Forum Facilitators

Melissa Layer

Melissa Layer, MA, LMHC honors the unfolding journeys of our wild and precious lives as compelling invitations for creative, integrative meaning-making in BodyMindSpirit.  Her sacred calling and formal training as a psychospiritual therapist, hospice grief counselor, and spiritual director have taught her about the potency of thin places in thresholds and dark nights of the soul.  Cultivating curiosity, Melissa offers expressive exploration of the Great Mystery through journaling, collaging, poem-making, dreamwork, visio and lectio divina, creation of rituals and altars, and engaged encounters with nature.  Like the honeybee for which she is named, she claims her role as “a bee of the invisible…passionately plundering the honey of the visible in order to gather it in the great golden hive of the invisible” (Rilke).  Melissa offers a compassionate, attuned presence and deep listening with the ear of her heart from the Pacific Northwest in Washington, where the Salish sea meets the evergreen forest. Visit Melissa’s website here>>

Melissa Layer Head Shot

Aisling Richmond

Aisling Richmond is a Somatic Therapist and transformative guide who is deeply inspired by nature and the wisdom of the soul. Aisling is currently undertaking a PhD in Psychology and Transformative Leadership to work with cultural change. She shares a home with her partner in the rugged wildness of Donegal, North West Ireland. Aisling works as a therapist, supporting people to resolve trauma and life challenges through body-psyche-soul wisdom. She also mentors people in finding their deep soul purpose, and teaches a rich range of transformative programs online.  Aisling is passionate about soul centred living, where nature and the feminine are deeply valued. Having worked collaboratively with many organisations including Amnesty International, Aisling has also been a guest lecturer with both Galway and Limerick Universities. Visit Aisling’s website here.



Guest Teacher Conversations

Elizabeth Klein
Dr. Elizabeth Klein, assistant professor of theology at the Augustine Institute and author of Angels and Saints: Who They Are and Why They Matter
Jamal Rahman

Imam Jamal Rahman, Sufi Interfaith Minister and author of numerous books including The Fragrance of Faith: The Enlightened Heart of Islam

Richard OB loose

Richard Bruxvoort Colligan, musician and composer of progressive community songs for the global church

Beverly Lanzetta

Beverly Lanzetta, theologian, contemplative scholar, and author of numerous books including The Monk Within: Embracing a Sacred Way of Life

Carl McColman

Carl McColman, spiritual director, retreat facilitator and author of numerous books including The New Big Book of Christian Mysticism


Carmen Acevedo Butcher, teacher, author, and award-winning translator of many mystical texts including The Cloud of Unknowing and The Practice of the Presence


Mary Earle, Episcopal priest, poet, spiritual director, retreat leader, and author of numerous books including Celtic Christian Spirituality: Essential Writings

Lindsay Sudeikis

Lindsay Sudeikis, spiritual director, Ancestral Lineage Healing Practitioner, and Theology Educator


Catherine Dunne, psychotherapist, an Ancestral Lineage Healing Practitioner, and a Movement Medicine Teacher

Zari Weiss

Rabbi Zari Weiss, spiritual director, teacher, writer, and Rabbi in the Jewish tradition

Lydia Violet

Lydia Violet, musician, composer, scholar, teacher, social justice advocate

Patrick Reyes

Patrick Reyes, theologian, executive leader, host of Sound of the Genuine podcast, and the author of The Purpose Gap and the forthcoming Pedagogy of the Ancestors


Alana Levandoski, singer songwriter, recording producer, folk opera composer, and essayist


Justin Coutts, Celtic scholar, contemplative leader, and writer


Your registration constitutes an agreement with our online program Terms and Conditions below.

We offer a sliding scale of 3 fees for payment. The reduced fee is for those who need financial assistance and the sponsorship fee helps support our ability to offer scholarships. In an effort to keep this program accessible, please carefully consider both your own resources as well as honoring the expense, time, and energy required to run these programs and keep our work sustainable. Thank you!
Please be careful to enter your correct email during registration.
All prices displayed in USD.

REduced Fee

Regular fee


4 monthly payments of $60

Sponsorship fee

If you need a different payment plan or a greater scholarship to make this program accessible, please get in touch with us.

Purchase the Companion Book

The book is not included in the registration fee. You may purchase the book at the links below or at your local book seller. Thank you for your support!

Terms and Conditions

Please consider your purchase carefully and review the many free materials we have on our website to make sure the program will be a good fit or get in touch with any questions.

We ask that you honor our work by not sharing the program materials with others who are not enrolled.

Please contact us for permission to quote in settings beyond the program

These videos are made available to registered participants and may also be included in future versions of the program including self-study. If you choose to speak during a recorded gathering, you are giving us your consent to record that contribution. If you prefer not to be seen or heard, you can of course switch off or mute your camera or microphone at any time. Chat sessions are recorded and posted as well. Participation in the chat function is also giving consent to their recording. Breakout groups are never recorded.

If you choose a payment plan and stop payment before fulfilling the commitment without contacting us to make other arrangements, your access to the program will be removed.