April 2011 issue of The Saint John's Bible eNewsletter. Are images missing? View the online version.
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This issue of The Saint John's Bible Newsletter features Seeing the Word, a guided Biblical spirituality process (traditionally called visio divina) that combines the expressive illuminations from The Saint John's Bible with their corresponding Scripture text. Developed by Saint John’s School of Theology • Seminary, the ten Seeing the Word Reflection Guides focus on individual Scripture passages. Participants use them in a guided prayer, reflection, meditation, study, journaling, and discussion process. This flexible, simple, and affordable program is perfect for a wide variety of settings: small faith-sharing groups, Liturgy of the Word services, catechesis, pastoral visits and church programs. Diverse ministry settings, from chaplaincies to retreat centers, have greatly benefitted from the program. For more information, visit www.seeingtheword.org.

Seeing the Word

"I didn’t realize the Bible was this interesting. I think I want to read it!" responded a woman after she attended a workshop on Seeing the Word at a Parish Social Ministry Training in Idaho sponsored by Catholic Charities USA. Her response may be evidence that Abbot John Klassen’s dream is gaining momentum. In the early days of developing The Saint John's Bible, Abbot John hoped that the illuminated the Bible would engage people, especially the young, with the Scriptures in new ways. He saw that The Saint John's Bible would be a means for sharing the Scriptures in a classic Benedictine way: to encourage lectio divina, the slow, meditative monastic method of reading the Bible on a mass scale. He said, "What happens when you read the Word together? Things come out of the text—new, exciting things."

That was 2005. Since the first volume was completed, people have pored over The Saint John's Bible in the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library and in museums around the country. But Saint John’s University sees itself as more than a curator; The Saint John's Bible is not just a beautiful artifact – it is the living Word of God, holding the potential for strengthening Christian discipleship and transforming communities. In Advent, 2010 Seeing the Word (a new program for experiencing visio divina with the The St. John’s Bible) made its way into churches, small faith communities, homes, Catholic schools, monasteries, retreat centers, campus ministries, national conferences and regional gatherings. This summer Seeing the Word will be introduced in China by School of Theology•Seminary student Sr. Mary Mao.

Seeing the Word Reflection Guides use the illuminations of the Bible for intentional reflection on the scriptures. The newly released Seeing the Word Program Manual, written by Barbara Sutton and published by Liturgical Press, provides templates for using Seeing the Word with individuals, small groups, families, liturgies and entire faith communities. The manual includes a DVD with training resources.

Praise of Wisdom, Suzanne Moore
© 2006 The Saint John's Bible

The School of Theology∙Seminary at St. John’s University has a team that is introducing the practice of visio divina and Seeing the Word to parishes. They provide facilitator training for small faith sharing groups, and lead retreats and days of reflection. The team is directed by Barbara Sutton, Associate Dean, Formation and Outreach, and includes Amie Schumacher and Taylor Morgan, Graduate Assistants for the Seeing the Word Project and Kathy Janku, M.A., Consultant to Seeing the Word. They not only preach its value, but practice it: The team comes together and does visio divina as a group, inviting God’s inspiration and guidance. Lent has brought a flurry of activity around Seeing the Word as evidenced by sales and request for consultation, training and speaking on the project.

Parishes in Minnesota are using Seeing the Word in a variety of ways in this Lenten season:

    â€¢    "Wine and Pate" was the theme of a Lenten adult faith
          formation opportunity at Our Lady of Peace parish in
          Minneapolis where parishioners gathered for an evening
          social, viewed images of The Saint John's Bible
          and were introduced to the practice of visio divina.
          Attendees were given the chance to choose Seeing the
          Word Reflection Guides
for their ministries and small
          faith sharing groups at the parish.

    â€¢    St. John Neumann parish in Eagan gathered parish staff
          and key parish leaders to train facilitators for small faith
          sharing groups.

    â€¢    St. Bartholomew parish in Wayzata introduced the
          "Wisdom Woman" illumination to its monthly Heart of the
          Matter Senior Seminar.

    â€¢    St. Mary’s parish in Alexandria is introducing contemplative
          prayer during Lent that focuses on the scriptures of the
          Triduum. They will introduce both lectio divina and visio divina
          in this series using the "Raising of Lazarus" illumination.

Taylor Morgan has developed a variety of resources that can be used by parishes to advertise Seeing the Word programs. Parishes can download the resources from the Seeing the Word website: www.seeingtheword.org.

Seeing the Word is also in use with children. Using "The Transfiguration" illumination, Kathy Janku introduced the visio divina process to fourth, fifth and sixth graders at St. Joseph's School in Waite Park, MN. Kathy said, "Even though the students were all new to this traditional form of prayer, they entered into the rhythm with the ’eyes of faith.’ They quietly and prayerfully listened to the Word of God, meditated upon the Word or phrase given to them. With adult guidance each student shared their word in the spirit of Pentecost. Likewise, they prayerfully gazed at the illumination to see what God wanted them to see. We continued in prayer, in resting with God in contemplation and then discussed what they could do to become Christ-like. Along the way, each —worked with a personal journal, drawing and writing the expression of God’s Word to them. The teachers, too, entered into prayer, each met in a particular way in Word and sacred art."

The Transfiguration, Donald Jackson in collaboration with Aidan Hart
© 2002 The Saint John's Bible

Taylor Morgan also began sharing visio divina reflections via the Seeing the Word Facebook Page. Each week features a different illumination. Linda Choma, Pt. Charlotte, Fl writes "Seeing the Word helps me on a daily basis to enrich my spiritual life. Each day I look forward to prayer and learning experience. Although I went to Catholic School as a child and regularly attend Sunday Mass, I have never had such an engagement with the Scriptures. I have an i-phone and every day I look forward to the new reflection on Facebook. I love to see how others reflect on the illumination; it helps me to open my mind to other’s views. I love seeing the sacred illuminations and I go back to see it again and again. Recently my husband and I went on vacation with another couple. I took some of the Reflection Guides for us to pray. It grounded our day and shaped our Sabbath time away from the busyness of our life. I keep showing my friends the Facebook site. For Christmas, I gave my friends "The Birth of Christ" Reflection Guide. It was a wonderful gift to give and in return I got to hear their reflections. I want to develop my skills of leading visio divina and facilitate a small group of people who will pray together. It fills a creative spirit that was missing in my life."

This year, two "Praying with Imagination" events will be hosted at the Abbey Guesthouse. The first is Sunday, July 24 at 5:00pm through July 29 at 1:00pm. It will be directed by Barbara Sutton and is designed for parish leaders who want to deepen their awareness of using art in their ministry as well as grow deeper in their discipline of visio divina. The second retreat is Monday, October 17 at 9:00 am through October 21 at 4:00pm. It will be directed by Kathleen Cahalan, Associate Professor of the Theology, and is designed for those people who have previously attended a visio divina retreat and would like more time for silence, spiritual teaching, and individual art. For more information on these retreats contact Taylor Morgan at SOTSeeingtheWordGA@csbsju.edu

Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan once said, "How preferable it would be to meditate on the gospel rather than being summoned to live it." Seeing the Word summons people to do both; to live into what they see with the eyes of faith in the illuminated text. This ancient and new practice carries the possibility of evangelization and igniting people’s imaginations with spiritual, theological, and artistic wisdom.

In This Issue

• Seeing the Word

• Upcoming Exhibitions & Events

See the Bible

Print Exhibitions

John Brown University
Siloam Springs, AR
March 31 - May 1, 2011

Westminster Presbyterian Church
Des Moines, IA
April 1 - April 30, 2011

St. Andrew United Methodist Church
Highlands Ranch, CO
May 24 - June 28, 2011

Museum of Biblical History
Collierville, TN
May 31 - July 30, 2011

Find a gallery near you >

Stay in touch

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Seeing the Word

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