“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.”
In October 2020, the Benedictine community of Christ the King Priory, in Schuyler, Nebraska, blessed The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition in their St. Benedict Center, described as “an oasis of peace open to guests of all faiths.” The Center welcomes group and individual retreats, as well as planned programs and spiritual direction. With beautiful views inside and out, their interactive display of The Saint John’s Bible has become central to their retreats.
The Saint John’s Bible has truly become a lamp for the feet of people of many faiths and a light for their path at the Center. The monks and staff have uniquely engaged the Bible during their retreats to encourage retreatants to fully immerse themselves in the beauty and complexity of the Word through many different retreat types.
The Source of Inspiration for Retreats
“Despite the pandemic and some slow down, people were able to visit the retreat center, and all who visit are guided to the interactive display,” said Father Thomas Leitner, OSB. “The guests, monks, and staff have spent numerous hours in the display area, connecting in their hearts with the beauty and accuracy of the written Word, the richness of the content and meaning in the stunning illuminations.” The Saint John’s Bible has been the source of inspiration during many types of retreats.
Not all recent retreats were able to occur in person. One of these was Listening to God’s Language of Love, a well-attended Zoom retreat in March, co-sponsored by the Tri-Faith Initiative in Omaha, which brings together people from Jewish, Christians and Muslim traditions. Attendants explored the frontispiece of Matthew: the Genealogy of Jesus. They viewed the names of Jesus’ ancestors as written in Roman and Hebrew characters, reflecting that most of Jesus’ ancestors shared the Jewish religion.
The Tri-Faith Initiative Connects Across All Faiths
“It was only on Zoom, but it allowed participants to interact with each other,” said Fr. Thomas. “In this way, people became familiar with each other, built relationships, and worked on overcoming prejudices.”
The attendees also saw how at the base of the genealogy tree, the names Sara and Hagar — the free woman and the slave — stand on the same line as Abraham’s. The name Hagar is written in Arabic as well, and right next to it there is the phrase, “Mother of Ishmael”. Ishmael is considered the father of the Arab culture and the great-great grandfather of Muhammad, the Islamic Prophet. The conversation among the participants was lively and connecting across all faiths, and the St. Benedict Center is hoping to host them again soon.
Silent Retreats Enhanced by Seeing the Word
The St. Benedict Center intentionally makes the Heritage Edition part of their Silent Directed Retreats, where participants meet daily with a spiritual director, attend occasional group prayer services, and are otherwise alone with God in stillness and silence. The group sessions with Seeing the Word teach retreatants how to use the material in their personal prayer.
Frequently, St. Benedict’s uses the Seeing the Word brochures from Liturgical Press in retreats and days of recollection. When retreatants pray with the written and illuminated Word in a group, the way they come together in their faith through sharing their experience is always amazing. Retreatants have dozens of ways to interact with the Heritage Edition no matter the retreat according to Fr. Thomas.
Illuminations Foster Imagination in Prayer
“Saint Ignatius Loyola invites us to use our imagination in prayer while on retreat,” Fr. Thomas said. “The illuminations are a great tool for this because they because stimulate our imagination.”
During one recent weekend retreat, the very rich illumination Sower and the Seed helped participants listen to Christ the teacher and to see Him as the sower who throws out the seed generously, yet whose seed bag never seems to empty. He also equips and empowers His worshippers to continue His work today. Not only do the participants have access to the digital and table versions, retreatants can also visit the display itself. While the Heritage Edition is kept in large cases, the staff periodically turn the pages and allow the retreatants the chance to interact directly with The Saint John’s Bible. The monks choose pages that are relevant to a particular time or season, allowing guests to reflect and imagine as much as they wish in whatever way they wish.
“We are now in the process of further promoting our new displays among church staffs and parish teams by showing them how The Saint John’s Bible has impacted the lives of those who have experienced it,” shared Fr. Thomas. “We also speak with Bible study groups, other faith formation groups, senior groups, youth groups, and students from Catholic and Christian schools. Groups can come just for a tour, or they can design their own unique program. All we ask is that they take an hour during which St. Benedict’s can introduce them to The Saint John’s Bible and invite them to pray with it.”
Any groups interested in organizing a retreat at the St. Benedict Center may visit their website to learn more about the many opportunities. The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition is also available to individuals and groups through “A Year With The Saint John’s Bible” Program. Contact Rev. Dr. John F. Ross, Executive Director, The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Program.