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Spirituality and the Arts in the Benedictine Tradition

Voila! A Benedictine wisdom school for contemplatives who want to venture deeper into the arts and artists who want to venture deeper into contemplative prayer. The five-day teaching retreat will offer a rare, hands-on opportunity to explore the deep, mutually nurturing relationship between spirituality and the arts at the heart of the Benedictine Monastic tradition.

Join with fellow artists and contemplatives in an artistically thriving contemporary Benedictine community to explore the secrets of why, for more than fifteen hundred years, the Benedictine tradition has offered such a hospitable environment for music, architecture, drama, scholarship, and the visual arts, and why it continues to do so in our own times. How do artistic creativity and deep contemplative silence engage and complete each other? Is there a secret here that could perhaps restore balance and harmony in our own lives and in our fractured world?

Come explore these questions “on location” as you participate in the daily cross-pollination of this “wondrous exchange” (in the words of an ancient Benedictine hymn.) Grounded in the steady Benedictine rhythm of Prayer and Work and four daily periods of silent meditation, Bonnevaux offers a unique laboratory to hone your own skills as a creative or performing artists while exploring the delicate balance between personal creativity and the deeper creativity of silence, prayer, and self-surrender. Daily morning teaching will explore spiritual and historical aspects of the topic, including the “yoga” of chanting and psalmody, objective versus subjective art, “handling your muse” (i.e., dealing with the temptations of ecstasy and vainglory), getting to know some hidden gems of Benedictine liturgical arts while creating a few new ones of your own! Afternoon lab sessions will offer hands-on guidance in sacred chanting, drama, and movement under the guidance of experienced contemplative artists.
The seminar will be led by The Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault, who for nearly half a century has inimitably combined her love of contemplative spirituality with her equally deep love of the arts. An internationally acclaimed writer and retreat leader, she has been at the forefront of the Christian contemplative renewal, carrying forward the lineage of Thomas Keating and Centering Prayer. Wearing her other hat, she is a recognized medieval scholar and musicologist, who has performed extensively with various choral and collegium musicum groups as well as founding her own medieval drama company to help contemporary audience experience the lost liturgical arts.
Cynthia will help us collectively explore the principles of successfully melding contemplative reverence with creative energy in a successful liturgical performance and will be joined by Giovanni Felicioni who will lead us deeper into how the art of embodiment sustains these explorations.
This seminar is suitable—and warmly welcomes!!—both accomplished artists and those more timid about their performance skills. It is also suitable for those who do not consider themselves artists at all but simply want to learn more about the Benedictine tradition. There is something to learn, and something to share for everyone, with the main goal of helping us all to be more responsive and creative participants in the “wondrous exchange” that awaits us every time art and silence flow together into the ocean of God.

This retreat is both for the beginning and ongoing meditators. There will be four periods of meditation a day to accommodate your level of practice. Mornings will be in silence through breakfast and lunch, with the afternoon opening to times of rest and solitude and a convivial dinner where you can get to know your neighbour.

This event takes place at Bonnevaux and offers an opportunity to discover the rich cultural and historical French and European heritage of the 12th-century Abbaye de Bonnevaux, as well as to explore the varied and natural beauty of the land which we cultivate as a model of ecological responsibility.

Cynthia Bourgeault

Cynthia Bourgeault is a modern day mystic, Episcopal priest, and theologian. For thirty years she worked closely with Fr. Thomas Keating as a student, editor, and colleague and has taught and written extensively on Centering Prayer. She is a core faculty member at the Center for Action and Contemplation and founding director of an international network of Wisdom Schools. In addition to her work on Centering Prayer, she is the author of numerous other books on the Christian Mystical and Wisdom tradition, including The Wisdom Jesus, The Meaning of Mary Magdalene, and her most recent, Eye of the Heart: A Spiritual Journey into the Imaginal Realm.

ArrivalTuesday 27 February 2024, check-in: 13h30 – 15h30
DepartureSunday 4 March 2024, after lunch (15h00)