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Birthing the Holy: Wisdom of Mary

A Self-Study Online Retreat

Registration Fee: $120 USD

Program Description

Join us in celebrating Mary and the sacred feminine. This retreat is a companion to Christine’s book Birthing the Holy: Wisdom from Mary to Nurture Creativity and Renewal (book recommended but not included with registration fee). In her book, Christine explores 31 of Mary’s names and titles as poetic and mythic ways of entering into the gifts she offers to us and invites us to consider within ourselves.

The exploration begins with a weekly webinar recording with Christine where she introduces the theme for each week, gives an overview of the names of Mary, then invites us into a contemplation with one specific title each week (Queen of Angels, Star of the Sea, Our Lady of the Underworld, Theotokos: God-Bearer) to draw us more deeply into relationship with that aspect of the sacred feminine. There will be time for meditation and personal reflection.

During the rest of the week we will be sharing scripture reflections on Mary’s life written by John Valters Paintner, Polly Paton-Brown will be sharing creative and non-traditional ways of praying with the rosary, art-inspired prayer experiences flowing from the extensive Marian imagery at the Chartres Cathedral in France will be led by Jill Geoffrion, and Betsey Beckman will be offering her gifts of prayer-dances.

Supplies: You will want to have your own rosary. You can often find them very reasonably priced in charity and second-hand shops.

Please keep in mind that these recordings were originally done for our Advent retreat and there may be an occasional reference to the season of Advent, however the materials are applicable any time of year.

What's Included

4 weekly webinar recordings with Christine (incudes audio and video formats)

8 scripture reflections with John (written format)

4 videos of creative and non-traditional ways of praying with the rosary with Polly 

4 videos on art-inspired prayer experiences with Jill

4 videos of prayer dance with Betsey Beckman

Rhythm of the Week

Day 1: Recorded webinar with Christine Valters Paintner (75 minutes of content)

Day 2: Praying the Rosary with Polly Paton-Brown (video)

Day 3: Scripture reflection by John Valters Paintner (written)

Day 4: Praying with Art with Jill Geoffrion (video)

Day 5: Dance Prayer with Betsey Beckman (video)

Day 6: Scripture reflection by John Valters Paintner (written)

Day 7: Sabbath day of rest and integration

Please keep in mind that these recordings were originally done for our Advent retreat and there may be an occasional reference to the season of Advent, however the materials are applicable any time of year.

Weekly Themes

Week 1

Queen of Angels

Week 1

Mary helps us to remember that we are not alone because of her abiding presence with us and even more so the presence of thousands of beings who want us to live fully into our holy nature.

Week 2

Star of the Sea

Week 2

Mary as Star of the Sea is the inner archetype that is connected to our passion and purpose in life, as well as the part we can connect to for inner guidance when the outer circumstances of our lives feel unsteady or rocky.

Week 3

Our Lady of the Underworld

Week 3

Mary as Our Lady of the Underworld can help us rediscover our own power and wholeness in the face of disorientation and disintegration, and to not resist the call to surrender and to instead release that which no longer serves us.

Week 4

Theotokos: God-Bearer

Week 4

Mary as Mother and God-Bearer supports us in giving birth to what is gestating within our own bodies and spirits.

Your Guides for the Journey

Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE

Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE is the online Abbess for Abbey of the Arts, a virtual monastery and global community integrating contemplative practice and creative expression. Her programs draw on the wisdom of the desert, Celtic, and Benedictine spiritual traditions as well as the joy of the expressive arts, embodied practice, and Earth-cherishing wisdom. Christine is the author of numerous books on spirituality and creativity, including three collections of poetry. She lives on the west coast of Ireland with her husband John and dog Sourney. Find out more about her here.

m_John headshot 2

John Valters Paintner, MTS

John studied education and earned a teaching certificate in his home state of California.  John later went on to earn a Masters in Theological Studies at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley.  After working in parish ministry for several years, John returned to the classroom, teaching high school religion for twelve years. He now works as Prior of the Abbey of the Arts alongside his wife of twenty years, Abbess Christine. Visit the “About John” page for more information.

Polly Bio

Polly Paton-Brown, MA, UKCP

Polly Paton-Brown MA UKCP worked for many years as a psychotherapist and trainer in the field of trauma. More recently, Polly’s focus has been on helping people explore their spirituality and prayer,  using creativity and connection with nature. Polly has a particular passion for creating healing dolls as a portal to transformation. Always a lover of nature, horses and creativity Polly now integrates all of these into her practice. She has trained in Nature Based Practice and Eco-pychology, Environmental Arts, Expressive Arts and Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy. She is a licenced facilitator of Chakradance,  The Art of Allowing , Creative Awakenings and the  Wild Soul Woman Programme. With roots in the contemplative and monastic traditions, Polly also draws wisdom from other spiritual paths such as Druidry and Sufism. She is passionate to help those wounded by the institutional church restore their image of God and themselves. Visit Polly’s website.


Jill Geoffrion, PhD, DD

The beauty of the Chartres Cathedral inspires Jill to use her gifts and training in service of all those seeking to experience deep and transformative Divine Love through this medieval building and its imagery. Jill’s most recent book, Visions of Mary, Art, Devotion, and Beauty at Chartres Cathedral, explores the ancient imagery and modern interpretations of the over two hundred Marian images in the cathedral. Whether on-site or on-line, Rev. Jill Kimberly Hartwell Geoffrion, PhD, DD combines stunning images and historical research to create contemplative prayer experiences. Like crossing the threshold through the doors of the cathedral and discovering a magnificent universe, the contemplative prayer experiences Jill offers can open vast inner worlds of faith and beauty.

See to learn more about Jill’s ministries on four continents where she often serves in places of acute suffering. Follow links to her art-based prayer blogs and sites on labyrinth prayer and the Chartres Cathedral. Her professional photography graces each page.


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), producing the Abbey of the Arts CDs, and The Dancing Word series of DVDs on embodied prayer. She offers the gift of playful improvisation whenever possible. Visit Betsey’s website.

Praise for the Course

The invitation to know the Mother more deeply and have her show me the way forward in my life is alive, as is my exploration of the rosary. Blessings to you and the beauty of your spirit.
Nancy Caroll
Thank you Christine and the Abbey team for this meaningful experience. Your sessions have helped me “incubate” a personal writing project that’s been simmering on the back burner. The retreat has given me confidence to bring it to the front burner.
Melissa Draut
The blessing of this Abbey retreat was to be offered so many creative, experiential ways to be in connection with Mary, with the Divine. So fulfilling!
Diane Costello
I just love Betsey's music and dance. It's a way of freeing the body with music and movement and getting closer to God. Thank you Betsey and colleagues -- the videography was very well done.
Marie Gibson


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

All prices displayed in USD.


Registration Fee

If you need a different payment plan or a 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

Some self-study retreats include video or audio recordings of sessions that were recorded in a live community offering of the retreat and may make reference to forums or other modes of sharing. Please disregard these as self-study retreats do not have these available.

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.