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Abide in Beauty: Monthly Visio Divina

On the last Sunday evening of each month join us for Visio Divina by Zoom. We will facilitate an hour of praying with art using visio divina. You will be introduced to a work of art relevant to the liturgical season and be guided on a path of prayer to draw us closer to the sacred. 

April 30, 2023 – Supper at Emmaus: Caravaggio (link to video-large file)

May 28, 2023 – Pentecost in Art

June 25, 2023 – Our Lady of Perpetual Help (link to video-large file)

July 30, 2023 – Jesus in the House of Martha and Mary

August 27, 2023 – Jesus the Teacher

September 24, 2023 – The Call of St. Matthew: Caravaggio

October 22, 2023 – The Sermon on the Mount: Jan Breughel

November 26, 2023 – The Annunciation: Tanner

December 3, 2023 – The Dream of St. Joseph

December 10, 2023 – Census at Bethlehem, Pieter Breughel the Elder

December 17, 2023 – Adoration of the Shepherds, Domenico Ghirlandaio

CONTACT: Saint Monica Institute
PHONE: 416-708-9806

Begin with Beauty: An illustrated talk for parishes and other faith communities. 

This presentation reflects on the importance and value of beauty in our spiritual lives and our practices in ministry. We follow the call of Pope Francis to attend to the way of beauty and the advice of Bishop Barron to begin our catechesis with beauty. This talk will be supported by powerful images that evoke God’s beauty and explain the prayer form called visio divina that extends lectio divina into the realm of sacred art and care for creation. 

This presentation would be suitable for adult parishioners. It can be offered online or in person. Time 60- 90 minutes. For details contact Les by email.

Surrounded by Grace: The Visual Language of the Church: A two-evening parish reflection series

The first evening considers the ways that we have used images in prayer to help us draw closer to the sacred. We pray with these powerful images using visio divina and consider how we can use this spiritual practice in our daily lives.

The second evening explores the visual language of your parish church. We consider the architecture, stained glass, statues and other sacred images around us. How is God reaching out to us through those beautiful parts of our sacred environment.

This presentation would be suitable for adult parishioners. It is offered in person.

Time 60 minutes. To view a sample, see the two evenings recorded at Our Lady Queen of the World in January 2023.

Available: Immediately. For details contact Les by email.

The Way of Beauty: A Parish Mission

A three-evening mission focussing on praying with art (visio divina) in the context of the liturgical season. It follows the pattern of the two-evening offering, Surrounded by Grace but uses illustrations from the relevant season in the liturgical year. 

The first evening considers the ways that we have used images in prayer to help us draw closer to the sacred. We pray with these powerful images using visio divina and consider how we can use this spiritual practice in our daily lives.

The second evening looks at various art related to the liturgical season and at ways we can enrich our experiences of this sacred time with sacred art.

The third evening explores the visual language of your parish church. We consider the architecture, stained glass, statues and other sacred images around us. How is God reaching out to us through those beautiful parts of our sacred environment? Particular attention will be paid to those parts of the parish church related to this season. Available: September 2023. For details contact Les by email.

Parish Missions

Les Miller will facilitate Parish Missions using visio divina of different art works. The first evening introduces the community to Visio Divina. The second evening emphasizes how art can be used in one’s prayer life during this liturgical season. The third evening looks at how your parish church has a sacred language in its architecture, stained glass, sacramentals, and furnishings that are profound opportunities for prayer. These missions are offered in person or online and can be adjusted to fit the needs of the parish.

November and December: 

A Journey Through Advent with Mary and Joseph

Using sacred art, scripture, song and poetry we walk through Advent to Christmas through the eyes of Mary and Joseph. We contemplate the sacred presence with the aid of sacred art such as Tanner’s Annunciation, de Champaigne’s Dream of Joseph, Breughel’s Census at Bethlehem and Ghirlandaio’s Adoration of the Shepherds

The Beauty of Advent 

The last three Popes have encouraged us to walk paths of beauty to draw closer to God. Advent is a time of quiet preparation filled with beautiful symbols and images. We contemplate the art of Advent to ready ourselves for celebrating coming of Christ. The first evening looks at visio divina, the second evening looks at Advent art. The concluding evening looks at the images and symbols of Advent that teach us so much about Christ.

January and February: 

Mary as a Guide to Holiness

Throughout the Liturgical Year we celebrate the presence of Mary as a guide to holiness. We look at depictions of Mary and the different ways in which she leads us to holiness. We draw on artists such as Raphael, Sassoferrato, Caravaggio and Tianna Williams.

Saints for Black History Month

We focus on Tianna Williams depictions of St. Josephine Bakhita, St. Martin de Porres and Servant of God Thea Bowman to guide us through a three-evening exploration of the gifts of Black Saints. To be offered with Tamika Royes.

February to April: 

A Lenten Pilgrimage Guided by Sacred Images

We contemplate depictions of key scriptural passages in the first part of Lent: Christ in the Desert, The Parable of the Prodigal Son and the Transfiguration. 

The Art of the Scrutinies

The three scrutinies of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults provide rich sources for reflection for all. Parishioners. We look at sacred art depicting the Woman at the Well, The Man Born Blind and Lazarus.

The Artists’ Holy Week

In preparation for the week leading up to the Crucifixion, we contemplate through the lens of the artist The Entry into Jerusalem (various), The Washing of the Feet (Brown), The Last Supper (Da Vinci), the Arrest of Jesus (Caravaggio), The Passion (Memling) and the Crucifixion (various).

April to June: 

The Art of the Easter Season

The fifty days of Easter offer many subjects for visual contemplation using visio divina. Subjects of the art include The Incredulity of Thomas, Divine Mercy, Supper at Emmaus, Breakfast on the Sea of Galilee, Ascension, Pentecost. 

The Emmaus Journey

The account of the Journey to Emmaus and the supper shared by the travellers has intrigued many artists. We look at different portrayals of this Easter journey to open different ways of praying this encounter.

September and October: 

The Vocation of the Catechist

Artistic presentations of the catechist and the catechist’s vocation are contemplated over three evenings. Connections with Jesus the Teacher lead us into a deeper connection with our ministry. Art works include Caravaggio’s Calling of St. Matthew, Von Uhde’s Let the Children Come to Me, Meunier’s Catechism Lesson, Monet’s Waterloo Bridge, and Renoir’s On Leaving the Conservatory.

The Season of Creation

We celebrate the Season of Creation (September 1 to October 4) by meditating on paths to the Creator through images of creation. Insights from Laudato Si’, the life of St. Francis of Assisi, and the presenter’s Northern Light will guide our pilgrimage through creation over three evenings. Our purpose is to nurture a spirituality of Care for Creation that supports the ecological conversion that St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict and Pope Francis have called for.

September to November 

Virtues of Simplicity, Gratitude and PeaceIn Gaudete et Exsultate Pope Francis called us to walk in ways of holiness with renewed vigour. We look back on the images of saints and sacred art to contemplate these virtues in our own pursuit of holiness. 

St. Josephine Bakhita: A Visio Divina

Come and celebrate the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita and learn about some of the lesser known Saints through the lens of Visio Divina. This is a way of reflecting and praying to draw us closer to God through the lives and struggles of the Saints. We will be paying emphasis on St. Josephine Bakhita and other Saints from marginalized communities around the world. A brief presentation of Visio Divina and discussion to follow, all are welcome to learn and pray. The event took place on February 8, 2023. It was facilitated by Tamika Royes and Les Miller. If you are interested in bringing this event to your parish or school please contact Les by email.

Surrounded By Grace January 22 and 23, 2023. Join us at Our Lady Queen of the World Parish in Richmond Hill for a two-evening meditation on the ways God communicates to us through beauty. The first evening explores the ways that we have used images in prayer to help us draw closer to the sacred. We pray with these powerful images using visio divina which is a way of praying with art. We further consider how we can pray with art in our daily lives.

The second evening explores the visual language of the parish church. We consider the architecture, stained glass, statues and other sacred images around us. How is God reaching out to us through the beauty of our sacred environment?

While the two evenings are being hosted by Our Lady Queen of the World, it is also sponsored by the St. Monica Institute, the new lay formation initiative of the Archdiocese of Toronto. Surrounded by Grace is intended for catechists and teachers who want to add to their repertoire of teaching techniques. They would also be for anyone who is seeking a new (yet old) form of prayer to enrich their spiritual lives. These sessions are particularly useful for parishes looking for ways to revitalize congregations after the challenges of the last three years.

Surrounded by Grace: Visio Divina Sunday January 22, 2023.

Visio Divina Links and Resources..

YouTube Video of the presentation: Surrounded by Grace: Visio Divina

The Visual Language of Our Lady Queen of the World Church (pdf booklet)

YouTube video of the presentation: Surrounded by Grace: The Visual Language of Our Church

Advent Beauty: Gifts of Comfort, Peace and Hope. This series has three sessions focussing on three Advent gifts. It uses art, music and insights drawn from Northern Light and Word Made Flesh 2021. The Advent Retreat was first held at Our Lady Queen of the World in December 2021. See the videos on YouTube: December 6 | December 7 | December 8. The retreat begins with Mass every evening.

Finding Hope in Dark Times Finding Hope in Dark Times” consists of five sessions that look at how Visio Divina, Creation, Creativity, Beauty and Justice are sources of hope in challenging times. Click here to see videos of previous presentations.

The Art of Catechesis Explore the spirituality of catechesis through the lens of great visual artists. Contemplating visual art leads us into some of the rich themes outlined in the new Directory for Catechesis. Way follow the path of beauty to gain a deeper understanding of how our vocation as catechists draws us closer to the sacred. This presentation has also been adapted for Catholic teachers in The Art of Catholic Education. (1 to 3 hours)

Northern Light Book Walks Les will lead hikes through different parts of the Canadian Landscape that will include stops for contemplating creation. He will include reflections and prayers from Northern Light as well as give insights into the ecology of the places to be explored. The hike length will vary from 1 to 4 hours.

The Via Natura. Let’s explore the Via Natura together. The Via Natura pulls together traditions of finding the sacred in creation with contemporary forms of spiritual practice to ground practical strategies for healing our beautiful yet broken planet. You’ll look at some of the insights from Les’ book Northern Light (September 2020) as well as having the chance to practice his approach to prayer..  

Length: 60 minutes to 1 day       Audience: All

Visio Divina is sacred seeing and is similar to Lectio Divina. We explore sacred and secular art to deepen our spiritual practices. Visio Divina is also a useful tool to nurture our sacramental awareness, our ability to see God’s grace in our everyday lives. Finally we explore how Visio Divina supports ecological conversion in Canada. WFMP Slides

Length: 60 minute presentation, ½ day or full day workshop, 1 to 3 day institute or retreat.

The Sacred Layer How can we respond to Pope Francis’ call for ecological conversion in order to promote new patterns of thinking that will help make planetary survival possible? The sacred layer is a way of understanding creation and our activity as sacred moments and places. We explore how we can become citizens of the sacred layer.

Length: 60 or 120 minutes. York Catholic District School Board Area 2 Slides

The Art of Discipleship Our Catholic school system helps to guide students along their paths of discipleship. We teach most profoundly through our own Christian example. There are are a variety of ways of following Jesus taken by the disciples. Using examples from scripture, art and everyday life we take stock of our own faith journey.  Christ the Teacher Schools Supporting Resources

Length: 60 or 120 minutes

Visio Divina in Our Parish Church is a follow-up session to Visio Divina. We pray with the visual symbols and sacred architecture within our own parish churches. Our Church environment is a visual sermon, always preaching if we have the eyes to see. This sessions awakens parishioners to the visual beauty through which God speaks in our spiritual home.

Length: 30 to 60 minute presentation Audience: Parishioners, students

Our Lady Queen of the World What We See In Our Parish Church

Family Prayer during Advent  The Advent season offers families many different paths to renew our family prayer. This presentation looks at the gift of family prayer throughout the liturgical year with an emphasis on Advent. Length 30 – 60 minutes. Links: The Liturgical Calendar | Advent | Christmas Tree Symbolism| The Advent Wreath | Jesse Tree | The Nativity Scene | Advent Art | Slides from the presentation at St. Anthony Roman Catholic Church Toronto.  Audience: Parishioners

Practical Approaches to Refining Your Catechesis The successful catechist pays attention to the different gifts and circumstances that the learner brings to each session. Learners vary according to first language ability, religious affiliation, background knowledge, learning strengths, and behavioural standards. This complexity poses both challenges and opportunities for the catechist. This workshop provides practical ways of helping catechists increase their repertoire of strategies for negotiating our realities. We will be drawing upon the best of educational and catechetical thinking so that you will leave with new tools for your ministry. It explores ideas presented in Five Core Methodologies for Catechesis. See also resources found on the CARFLEO site: Catechetics | Liturgy | Sacraments | Hyperlinked External Resources

Length: 60 – 120 minutes  Slides: Practical Approaches to Refining Your Catechesis Audience: Catechists

Ambassadors for Christ. Some of us are called to nurture our vocations as Catholic Educators through board Faith Ambassador programs. This presentation explores successful practices of nurturing adult faith within our schools.

Length: 45 minutes to half day  Audience: Educators

The Visual Language of  Our Churches. Our Churches speak God’s language of beauty, in their art, architecture and symbolism. This mini-pilgrimage through your parish Church will help parishioners, catechists and teachers connect more deeply to the spiritual treasure that lies close to home.

Length: 45 minutes to half day.  Audience: Parishioners

Our Lady Queen of the World RCIA

The Joyful Classroom If we are people of joy then we will be better Catholic teachers. This session helps us to be more attentive to joy in our teaching. We will also consider ways of making our teaching even more joyful. The session is intended for all educators and is a positive way to enhance Catholicity in our schools. Participants will be engaged through art, story, music, and guided meditation.

Length: 30 minutes to a full day workshop. Audience: Educators

The Path of Questioning Questions about faith are opportunities for spiritual growth. Knowing how to appropriately respond to these questions is essential for Catholic educators. A further skill lies in the ability to generate and nurture these questions. Attentiveness to questioning becomes both an important pedagogical and spiritual practice. How do we find God in our questioning? How do we respond to challenging questions? How do we create a climate of hospitality for questions? How do we answer questions when we feel we disagree with Church teachings?

Length: 30 minutes to a full day workshop. Audience: Educators and Parents

Driven by Injustice, Drawn by Beauty: A Spirituality for Catholic Educators We can’t give what we haven’t got. Tom Groome tells us that the heart of Catholic education is the heart of the Catholic educator. If our hearts are dried out by the stresses and strains of our life, we can’t be life-giving to students. This session explores ways of rediscovering and rekindling our vocations as Catholic educators. Rediscover what motivates us to be Catholic teachers.

Length: 60 minutes Audience: Educators

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