Journey with the Desert Mothers and Fathers
A Companion Retreat to the Book
Registration Fee: $150 USD
The desert is a place of sparse landscape, where we are stripped down to our essence and confronted with our own deep needs and desires. Naturalist and writer Terry Tempest Williams described its spiritual significance in her memoir Refuge: “If the desert is holy, it is because it is a forgotten place that allows us to remember the sacred. Perhaps that is why every pilgrimage to the desert is a pilgrimage to the self. There is no place to hide and so we are found.”
Join us for a very special journey. We invite you to take a pilgrimage to the desert and in the process journey to your own deepest self. This online retreat invites you to explore and engage with the insights of the desert mothers and fathers of fourth and fifth century Egypt. These men and women of God went to the desert to live out a simple but challenging spirituality that still resonates strongly for us today.
Themes explored include the importance of the cell, the cave of the heart, tears of compunction, radical simplicity, silence and solitude, detachment and inner freedom, boredom and restlessness, elders and spiritual guides, and the importance of daily practice and always beginning again.
We will begin each week with a recording of a session led by Christine Valters Paintner, a scripture reflection from John Valters Paintner, we will cultivate contemplative seeing through short films created by filmmaker Marilyn Freeman, and be invited into embodied exploration with songs and gesture prayers from Betsey Beckman.
This is a companion retreat to the book Desert Mothers and Fathers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings Annotated & Explained (book not included in retreat fee but can be easily ordered from most bookstores)
Cinema Divina | Short Evocative Films Made for Contemplative Practice
“If you are unfamiliar with the work of Marilyn Freeman, you must get acquainted. These films have been transformative for me in the deep spiritual way that I have encountered other artists like Annie Dillard, Mary Oliver, and bell hooks.” Gabriel Molinaro, Songwriter/Musician, Pastor of Sanctuary Church Seattle
Cinema Divina is the creative, contemplative and social practice of media artist and writer Marilyn Freeman who re-imagines the ancient prayer ritual, lectio divina, in a film paradigm to foster intimacy with the Divine. Marilyn invokes a rigorous and devotional process in making short lyrical films—meditations on everyday wonder, gratitude, contradictions, loss, doubt, faith and love—and screens the films in guided contemplative practice for reverent engagement with individual and communal participating audiences.
Six days each week you receive an email with a link to the day’s content. The 7th day is a time for rest and integration. The materials are in written, video, and audio format which you can view and listen to at any time. You have lifetime access to the materials in the course.
Day 1: Recording of hour-long session with Christine
Day 2: Written scripture reflection from John
Day 3: Cinema Divina from Marilyn Freeman (meditative short film practice)
Day 4: Song and Movement experience from Betsey (teaching and dance along videos)
Day 5: Written reflection questions for deeper inquiry
Day 6: Closing Blessing
Day 7: Sabbath rest and integration
- Video and audio recordings of the weekly sessions with Christine Valters Paintner that were originally recorded during a live offering of this retreat in Lent 2021 and may contain some references to that season and time. Written session transcripts are also included.
- Lifetime access to the materials in our private and easy-to-navigate retreat platform on Ruzuku.
- Weekly scripture reflections from John Valters Paintner
- Weekly Cinema Divina short contemplative films created by Marilyn Freeman
- Weekly songs and movement prayers with Betsey Beckman
- Weekly set of extensive reflection questions to deepen the journey
- Weekly blessing to close the week and theme
Your Guides for the Journey
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
Christine is the director of AbbeyoftheArts.com, 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 nine 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
Betsey Beckman, MM
Praise for the Course
Your registration constitutes an agreement with our online program Terms and Conditions below.
You will need to purchase a copy of Desert Mothers and Fathers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings Annotated & Explained (not included in retreat fee)
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.