By Karen Hice Guzmán

Saint Brigid of Kildare: Visio Divina 2021

We’ve developed a tradition here at The Well where each summer we offer something a little different to our audience — something to support the work of rest, restoration, and preparation that we hope is part of the season’s different rhythms. 

This year we are offering our Summer 2021 Visio Divina Series. You can read more about this practice in our introduction to the series. Today, we'll take a close look at a piece by artist Bette Dickinson. 

The image is used by permission and is one of eight images created by artist and colleague, Bette Dickinson, for this year’s Via Divina: The Celtic Way, a digital pilgrimage developed in partnership between InterVarsity’s Faculty Ministry and Study Abroad. We are so grateful that Bette allowed us to share this with you. You can see more of her work at bettedickinson.com and on Instagram.

"Saint Brigid of Kildare" by Bette Dickinson (used by permission)
Liquid acrylic, oil, and gold leaf on clay board​.

Week 2: Saint Brigid of Kildare

This painting features Saint Brigid of Kildare. As the story goes, Brigid went off in search of land on which to build a convent. She found a lovely spot and asked the king if he would give it to her, but he refused. She then asked if she might have the amount of land her cloak could cover. Amused, the king agreed. Brigid invited four friends to each take a corner and walk in different directions to unfold the cloak. When they finished, it covered several acres and Brigid suggested to the shocked king that it was God’s response to his stinginess. Hesitantly he gave the land whose boundary was created by the cloak to Brigid to begin her community. Legend has it this convent was known for its amazing blueberry jam and a tradition grew up to eat jam on February 1, Saint Brigid’s feast day.

You are invited to learn more about Brigid and other Irish saints by taking part in our Via Divina: The Celtic Way. The experience includes eight video sessions with Bette who will guide you through each of her paintings. In addition, there are eight audio guides sharing various spiritual practices, stories of Irish saints, and reflections on various passages from Scripture. Whether you enjoy them while taking a walk or from the comfort of your favorite chair, we are sure you will be challenged, encouraged, and inspired by them. In addition, our team will offer a weekly conversation online to discuss and debrief the experience. To learn more, visit our information page.

Questions for visio divina

  1. As you begin, take a few deep breaths. While we know God is always with us, invite the Holy Spirit to be present and to speak to you afresh in these moments. Spend some time looking at the image. What do you see? Similar to doing Bible study, make as many observations as you can. What do you like or dislike? Why? What questions do you have?
  2. How does the artist use color, light, style, composition, and material? What do you think the artist wanted to communicate? What stands out to you? Why do you think this is so? 
  3. Reflect on Psalm 16. How does this add to what you are seeing? Is there other Scripture that comes to mind?
  4. Spend some time reflecting on the Scripture passage and looking again at today’s image. What is God’s invitation to you? What might you need to see, understand, or believe? How does your current life experience intersect with what you are seeing and reflecting on? How might this image help you pray today? What do you want to say to God? Ask from him? 

Scripture passage: Psalm 16

Keep me safe, my God,
    for in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
    apart from you I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
    “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
    I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
    or take up their names on my lips.
LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the LORD.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Karen's Reflection

I just love this piece. The colors —  the verdant green of the land and the soft blues of the sky — they sing of the loveliness of God’s world. They testify to his beauty and majesty and creativity. What kind of mind thinks up these colors?

The artist uses a glistening gold “wind” in each painting in this series to remind us of the presence and work of the Spirit of God. The gold seems to flow out of Brigid and the cross she holds, encircling the edges of her cloak, marking — and perhaps blessing? — its boundaries before it sweeps across the distant hills. Or is it the other way round? Perhaps the Spirit blows in from the hills and surrounds the community created by Brigid’s cloak and rests at the cross in her hand, reminding us that his work is centered in the Kingdom of Jesus.

I am reminded of the cooperation we are called to have with the Spirit. As we discern where God is at work and where he is calling us, our joint venture between the human and the divine produces hospitality, welcome, community, belonging, safety, shalom.

Psalm 16 speaks of boundary lines. Certainly, Brigid’s boundary lines have “fallen in pleasant places” among the rolling hills in Kildare. Lavished by the abundance of God, she, in turn, provides the same for others — (hu)man and beast. What satisfaction there must be for her in being God’s conduit of generosity and care! Surely her “heart is glad” and her “tongue rejoices.” 

As you think about the work God has called you to, can you think of a time you felt that “this is what I was made for” kind of feeling? When your gifts and passions and energy came together resulting in what you’d dreamed of? Surely this is what Brigid is feeling.

Whether in the lab, classroom, boardroom, or kitchen, infused by the Spirit of God, our work becomes a vehicle through which we further human flourishing. How might your gifts and passions and skills and calling be used by God to bless those around you and the world God has made?

Prayer

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for your providence which has brought each of us to where we are today. Indeed, Lord, apart from you we have no good thing. Fill us anew with your Spirit that we might use all that is within our “boundary lines” to serve your purposes in the world for the sake of your glory, the good of the world, and our joy. Amen. 

Where is God drawing your vision today? Take a photo and share your thoughts using our hashtag — #visiowell — on InstagramTwitter, or Facebook

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About the Author

Karen is the National Director of InterVarsity's Women in the Academy and Professions, and lives in Marietta, Georgia, with her husband and three boys. Except for some years taken off to raise her sons, she has spent her adult life in and around InterVarsity — originally as a student and campus staff member in Michigan and currently in Atlanta. An entrepreneur at heart, she and some student leaders started the grad fellowship at Michigan State and the MBA fellowship at Georgia Tech. She loves to use her gifts of hospitality and teaching to create a welcoming place for people to connect with God and with each other. Although she rarely has time for it, you can find Karen at her sewing machine when ministry progress gets hard to measure and she needs to see tangible results from her efforts. She loves dark chocolate, good coffee, and British television.

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