The Saint John's Bible October 2009, Vol.1, Issue 8Forward to a Friend
When The Saint John’s Bible was first conceived, a list of vision and values was crafted to define the mission of the project and keep it focused. First and foremost on that list was to "produce a Bible, a work of art, that will ignite the spiritual imagination of believers throughout the world." The Bible does this quite well on its own, but Saint John’s also knew that people would be hungry for more education and how to use The Saint John’s Bible to ignite their spiritual imagination. This month’s newsletter introduces you to Saint John's School of Theology (SOT) and their partnership with The Saint John’s Bible, developing educational tools. You’ll also meet Bill Stott who has a connection with SOT and has been using The Saint John’s Bible as an instrument for inspiration for years.

Holy Reading, Holy Seeing
By Barbara Sutton, Associate Dean,
Formation and Outreach School of Theology•Seminary

"Are there any materials that we can use in our parish?" This is a typical question after group has practiced lectio divina with an illumination of The Saint John's Bible. Like the first disciples, they too want to spread the Good News. The short answer is "Yes. We are developing material to help integrate The Saint John's Bible into the prayer life of a parish community."

Several years ago Br. Dietrich Reinhart, OSB asked the School of Theology•Seminary (SOT) for ways to utilize the richness of the The Saint John's Bible as a spiritual and education resource. In 2005, we convened a conference called “Igniting the Biblical Imagination” that helped us think through this request. We came away convinced that whatever we did had to enable us to serve the evangelizing mission of the Gospel, assisting people to hear the Word of God.

Kathleen Cahalan (standing) with retreat participants Jane Leyden Cavanaugh, Beth Andrews, and Ann Shepherd in July 2008.

Kathleen Cahalan, SOT Associate Professor of Theology, took early leadership on programming. Four years ago she developed and led the first Praying with Imagination retreat for church ministers, artists, and others seeking to integrate imagination and prayer through art. Retreatants spend the morning in visio divina prayer with images from The Saint John's Bible. In the afternoon, they engage in bookmaking projects that combines word and image through watercolor, drawing, and calligraphy. They also meet with artists from the St. John’s community. At the same time Jeff Kaster, SOT Associate Dean For Administration began leading parish groups using the visio divina process.

Illustration by retreat participant Susan Kavanaugh, July 2008.

As this project gained momentum, the School of Theology•Seminary began a collaborative effort with Liturgical Press and the Saint John's Bible Project to develop pastoral resources. The first is entitled: Seeing the Word, a series of reflective guides that includes the illumination, the scripture, exegesis and artistic commentary. This series will be a resource for adult faith formation, small Christian communities, liturgical ministers, catechists, and parish retreats. In preparation for its launch in January 2011, a pilot series is being tested in fifteen Roman Catholic and Protestant parishes across the United States during Lent 2010. Irene Nowell, OSB, an adjunct professor of Hebrew Scriptures and Barbara Sutton, SOT Associate Dean for Formation and Outreach are developing these resources. The second resource is a theological reflection journal designed for ecclesial ministers and those in ministerial formation. It is entitled, Illuminating the Ministry: A Journal Exploring the Call to Ministry, and weaves together Benedictine charisms with ministerial experiences. Each charism is linked to an illumination and related text from The Saint John's Bible. It is the work of seven seasoned ministers. Vic Klimoski, Director of Lifelong Learning, Saint John's University edited the journal. It is being piloted this year with spiritual companioning groups facilitated through the School of Theology•Seminary.

These resources reflect the mission of the School of Theology•Seminary to prepare leaders for the church by equipping them with the best of theological wisdom and ministerial practice. We also hope that our efforts will ignite people’s imagination with the spiritual, theological, and artistic wisdom of the Sacred Scriptures.

SJB helps Stott make connections
through scripture

By Amy Stubblefield

While Bill Stott may have an endless number of diverse interests and areas of expertise—birding, literature and scripture among them—it is easy for him to find a connection between all of them.

For example, what do Shakespeare and scripture have to do with one another? According to Bill Stott: "Everything."

He’s not only a Shakespeare scholar. He is a teacher of literature, history, poetry and ornithology, and has served as President of Ripon College, Vice President and Dean at Georgetown, and Dean of Freshmen at Fordham.

Stott developed a course to teach the Bible in its entirety—"The Power of Story," a four-year, eight-semester class exploring the Bible from beginning to end.  And how does Stott approach such a huge undertaking? Just as he teaches any other kind of literature or poetry—as if it is a living, breathing, organic thing. Perhaps that’s why, when Stott learned about The Saint John’s Bible, he decided it would be the perfect tool for teaching his course.

"This is lectio divina, big time," he said. "Lectio divina" is Latin for "divine reading," an ancient method of prayer which involves studying scripture slowly and meditatively. The Saint John’s Bible truly lends itself to this sort of practice, and helps Stott to approach the Bible as poetry—"It's no problem for a poet to understand the old and new testament. Poetry is a language of comparison and contrast," Stott said. Bill Cahoy, Dean of the Saint John's School of Theology who attended one of Stott's  "Power of Story" sessions, understands his use of The Saint John's Bible as a way to enter into the text and find a personal application for it—a goal Stott hopes all of his students will be able to achieve.

"Bill is passionate about everything that excites him," Cahoy said. "He sees a connection between birding and the Bible—it's about learning to see, learning to pay attention. He gets students to contemplate the image, much like bird watching—it's not about finding the birds, but truly seeing them.  So too with Scripture."

Stott describes the Bible—like Shakespeare, or ornithology—as enactive. He believes it is meant to be experienced as it is taught, and thinks of scripture as "inherently dramatic."

According to Stott, Shakespeare was the best preparation for teaching scripture because Shakespeare’s works were enactive metaphors. "It's appropriate that Scripture be taught as metaphor," Stott said. "Don’t teach scripture unless you teach it orally."

Fr.  Columba Stewart, executive director of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library—permanent home of The Saint John’s Bible—agrees. "The Rule of Benedict instructs us to 'listen with the ear of your heart.' Stott's use of The Saint John's Bible allows us to do this by 'listening' to the Word through images, reading it aloud and truly interacting with the text itself."

"When scripture is read and studied in this way, it actually comes alive, sparking new interpretations and thought. This is exactly what The Saint John’s Bible is intended to do. Bill's "Power of Story" class shows how scripture can shape the way we see our own world."

In This Issue

• Holy Reading, Holy Seeing

• SJB helps Stott make
  connections through scripture

• Upcoming Exhibitions & Events

See the Bible

Print Exhibits

October 2 - 22, 2009
United Methodist Church
Greenfield, Iowa

October 29 - November 28, 2009
Mount St. Benedict Monastery
Erie, PA


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Images from retreat
Praying with Imagination

Illustration by retreat participant Anna Schlemma, July 2008

Illustration by retreat participant Susan Kavanaugh, July 2008

Contact:The Saint John's Bible, Liturgical Press, Saint John's Abbey, PO Box 7500, Collegeville, MN 56321
Phone: 1.800.654.0476 or 320.363.2213

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