These are days of crushing anxiety. The stack of paralyzing medical, social, political and environmental issues weigh heavy on the heart and soul. St. Paul famously wrote: “Be renewed in the mind of Christ.” How is that renewal to come? Perhaps for some of us ‘renewal of the mind’ comes through the eye.
To that end, I’d like to spread the word about a wonderful and timely book written by a wonderful friend who has also served as my spiritual director for roughly 20 yeas —Br. Ignatius Feaver. His book is Holy Seeing: A Visual Invitation to Prayer published by Novalis.
A few years ago, I led a retreat on ‘Grief and St. John of the Cross’ at the Sisters of St. John the Divine Anglican convent in North York. At the close of the retreat one of the retreatants, Katherine Lochnan, came forward to introduce herself to me. During the conversation she expressed her gratitude for the time we had spent together, and as an expression of her gratitude offered me two tickets for an upcoming art exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario entitled Mystical Landscapes.
To make a long story short, Mystical Landscapes became a blockbuster exhibition, eventually travelling to the Musée D’Orsay in Paris. Between the two venues the show was eventually seen by hundreds of thousands of people. The subject matter of the art, the universal nature of the numinous (meaning, having a strong religious or spiritual quality), as portrayed by a stunning, world- class collection of art, had clearly struck a nerve.
To my great delight and surprise, Br. Ignatius was an important contributor to the exhibit! Br. Ignatius wrote a lucid reflection on the work of Charles-Marie Dulac for the magisterial catalogue. And to my further surprise, another dear friend, Dr. Rebekah Smick, also contributed an enlightening essay on ‘protestant mysticism’ — not a phrase we hear all that often. I had not realized the personal connections to this remarkable exhibit when Katherine offered the gift of these tickets!
Such is the quiet, providential work of God!
Allow me to quote a few words of review of Br. Ignatius’ book Holy Seeing: A Visual Invitation to Prayer: “I encourage all who respond to the invitation of this beautiful book of Visio Divina (Holy Seeing) to draw aside with reverence …We need guidance on how to stay attentive in this present moment, which can be a daunting task … be still and gaze upon his exquisite drawings, ponder the meditations and open to the silence that knits you into the Divine in the present moment of your life.” (Maureen McDonnell, Professor of Pastoral Theology, Regis College, retired.)
If the visual arts call to you as a pathway to the life of renewal in the mind of Christ, Holy Seeing: A Visual Invitation to Prayer could open to your eyes to the life already stirring within your soul.