Mary van Balen

Mary van Balen



      Making Old Prayers New

When:  Sunday Feb. 19,  2017   10-11:20am

WHERE: Saint Christopher Catholic Church, Columbus, OH                                           




reading DF&M

Reading Wisdom from the DesertDesert Fathers and Mothers:

CCCOP geraniums

Flowers in October sun

Wisdom from the Desert for Today’s World  with Mary van Balen at Corpus Christi Center of Peace, Columbus, OH.

The day was beautiful and some participants chose to spend their quiet prayer time outside in the garden area. We enjoyed reading from the collections of saying of the desert fathers and mothers and from the ancient Lives of the Desert Fathers. Lots of time to reflect,  pray and share our insights.

Anita made two amazing soups, added salad, bread, crackers, homemade cookies and ice cream for a delicious lunch.

Words spoken and written centuries ago had much to say to us and to our world today.



Sharing notes

Sharing notes




DF&M retreat



Using art and other vsuals

Using art and other vsuals

Room to get away and write

Room to get away and write

Journaling the Journey: A Day of Writing into Prayer with Mary van Balen at Corpus Christi Center of Peace, Columbus, OH. We had a wonderful day writing, drawing, looking close with loupes, Lectio Divina, Visio Divina. Soup was perfect for the cool day. Watch this spot for the next time Journaling the Journey will be offered.

Journaling retreat supplies on table


Let Mary van Balen custom design a retreat for your group. Choose from those below or contact her to discuss the needs and focus of your group.


Mystics in Marketplace

The word “mystic” often conjures images of saints levitating at prayer, healing the sick, or talking to animals. Most people would not place themselves in that category. Yet, none of these experiences are basic reality of being a mystic. What is? A mystic is one who experiences God, and as the documents of Vatican II remind us, all are called to holiness; all are gifted with a relationship with God. As Karl Rahner said, “The Christian of the future will be a mystic or will be nothing at all.”

In this presentation, Mary explores the meaning of “mystic” and ways to nurture the gift of experiencing God that are available to every one. Complete with prayer cards for participants to take home, this talk can be scheduled for a half-hour or longer, depending on the interest and desire of the group.

mary at podiuim 2Making Old Prayers New: A Fresh Look at the Familiar

Often what is familiar is taken for granted. How often do we pray the Our Father or listen to a Scripture reading without speaking or listening with attentiveness? After exploring this thought and the effects of familiarity, I will share different translations of the Our Father and some Psalms and help participants make them their own, first as a group and then by providing time for them to work individually.

After everyone has finished, we will share the “new” prayers and how the process has helped put fresh life into what has become commonplace. The approximate time of this presentation is 2 hours.

Blessings In Disguise: A Celtic Vision of God-With-Us

After looking at definitions of “blessing” I will discuss three characteristics of Celtic spirituality and its vision of God’s presence in every day life. Together we will explore what disguised our blessings and how we might practice to see the blessings around us more clearly. During this presentation I will share a variety of examples of Celtic prayers.

The approximate time of this presentation is 1 ½ hours.

PHOTO: Mary van Balen

PHOTO: Mary van Balen

Reflections on a Monk Bowl

Series of two presentations using the monk bowl as a visual metaphor; good Lenten themes (Either presentation could stand alone)

1. God Is Already Dwelling Within Us
This presentation first looks at three understandings of Grace: Augustine/Luther, Aquinas, Rahner. Building on Rahner’s concept of grace, I use the monk’s bowl as a metaphor for God’s gift to us not only of the capacity for God’s gift of self, but also for the ability to accept that Gift. The talk addresses the need to empty ourselves to make room for God. This can be connected wih Lenten practices. (The talk can be given at other times as well without explicit reference to Lent.)

2. St. Francis’ Bowl was Messy, Too.
I explore the idea of being grateful for everything that is put into the “bowls” of our lives, even for the things we didn’t want or expect. This presentation ends with participants drawing something out of the bowl that will remind them of God’s loveing presence.


Journaling the Journey

Everyone experiences God in the present, not in the past or future. Although this truth is commonly accepted, being attentive to the moment is difficult. This workshop will engage participants in a variety of journaling exercises that will help them become more present to the moment and therefore more responsive to the Divine Relationship that is offered in it. Using the journal to become awake to the extraordinary in everyday life, using a jeweler’s loupe to look closely, and sketching to focus are some approaches that will be used. Participants are asked to bring journals. (Mary uses blank pages, but bring what makes you want to write.)

The approximate time of this presentation is 1 day; morning sessions, lunch, and afternoon sessions. This time frame allows time for participants to engage in the exercises and to share and ask questions after each.

Desert Fathers and Mothers: Wisdom From the Desert for Today’s World

A Quiet Day of Reflection.

The Desert Fathers and Mothers of fourth century Egypt had a great influence on Western monasticism and spirituality through great Latin spiritual writers like John Cassian and St. Jerome. This workshop begins with a short prayer service followed by a look at the historical background of the monastic movement in the Egyptian desert. Three sessions based on life of the desert fathers and mothers follow: I Power of the Word, II Prayer, III Compassion and Service.

Each session follows this pattern: a fifteen-minute presentation on the topic focusing on the desert monks’ lived example. A time of silent reflection (length is flexible, but usually around 20-25 minutes) follows in which participants are free to move about, to find a comfortable place, to read excerpts from sayings of the desert fathers and mothers which are provided in a booklet/handout. Blank pages for thoughts are provided in the booklet for each section. The booklet also includes a section of titles for further reading.

Two sessions are presented before lunch, the third session after lunch with a time for sharing provided after the last reflection period. This has been given with a Mass closing the day.

The approximate time of this presentation is 1 day; two morning sessions, one afternoon session

Mary -- Lectio DivinaLectio Divina: An Ancient Prayer for a Modern World

Pope Benedict XVI has encouraged a return to the practice of Lectio Divina. This presentation outlines the history of the prayer form beginning with its Jewish roots, continuing through monastic forms, the middle ages, and its renewal in modern times. (A twenty-minute Power Point can accompany this section if desired.)

After the presentation and questions, I will lead the participants in a “group lectio,” giving them the opportunity to experience the prayer together. We will share their experience and I will answer questions before the next session.

45 minutes will be given to allow participants to practice Lectio with selected passages from Scripture. We will gather as a group to share the experience, insights, and questions.

The following session will introduce the practice of keeping a Lectio Journal. After this presentation, 45 minutes will be provided for paricipants to practice Lectio with selected passages from Scripture and try journaling with it if desired.

The group will gather again to share their experience of theirLectio Time and ask questions. Participants will leave with a good idea of how to continue the practice of Lectio Divina as part of their prayer life.

The approximate time of this presentation is 1 day; Number of sessions flexible

group mary at podium_2TWO-DAY RETREATS

We Are All Pilgrims: Journeying Together to God

This program consists of four presentations. They can be done in a retreat setting, giving the first on Friday evening, one on Saturday morning and one on Saturday afternoon, and the last either on Saturday evening or Sunday morning depending on plans for reflection, prayer services, and Sunday worship.

Historical aspects of pilgrimage will be combined with less traditional understanding and practice.

Each session provides opportunities for participants to share in a large group. If the groups are large, they can be broken into smaller groups to facilitate sharing.

I use a small notebook for use of participants much as medieval pilgrims had “passports” to be stamped at every stop. I could provide an electronic copy to be duplicated, or if that is not possible, I would have them printed and would be reimbursed for copy costs.