Monasteries of the Heart

Description of courses available for $75; one-year access

Sacred Moments Lectio with Ordinary Time

Is it difficult for you to feel peace or wonder in the midst of your daily life? Is it hard to find beauty and meaning when the dishes are piled in the sink, or when your neighbors can be heard through the walls? We often think of the sacred as something far-off and mystical, to be found in a cathedral or on a mountaintop, rather than something that even mundane moments may be infused with. Yet Joan Chittister writes that, “Benedictine spirituality… is a life of concentration on life's ordinary dimensions, an attempt to do ordinary things extraordinarily well."

Increase your awareness of the holiness of each day by participating in Sacred Moments: Lectio on Ordinary Time, an eCourse led by Sister Carolyn Gorny-Kopkowski, a Benedictine Sister of Erie and a celebrated retreat leader.

This course will pull you deeper into everyday sacred moments and awaken you to the divine presence in your life through the ancient practice of lectio divina, reflective sacred reading. Sister Carolyn’s sacred text is the ordinariness of our daily lives; as you pray with her reflections and experiment with her suggested activities, you will be guided to more fully embrace the stuff of your own life, and encounter blessings you may never have noticed before.


Thomas Merton and Peacemaking

Is the vocation of peacemaker reserved for a chosen few or is it your call too? The late Trappist monk Thomas Merton believed peacemaking and nonviolence were Gospel imperatives. In this four-week eCourse, best-selling author and peace activist John Dear explores how the writings and mentoring of Merton profoundly influenced the peace landscape of the institutional church and continues to shape it still. More importantly it forces all of us who claim to be followers of Jesus to grapple with the demanding invitation of the Sermon on the Mount. “Thomas Merton and Peacemaking” is a call to active nonviolence for a world in desperate need of creative and courageous alternatives to injustice and conflict. It is also a call to a nonviolent heart.

In this eCourse you will have access to:

  • four videos by John Dear on the peace themes of Thomas Merton
  • reflection questions to help you discern the vocation of peacemaker
  • creative rituals and activities on peace
  • action suggestions to develop a nonviolent lifestyle


In this video clip, John tells us what he will cover in this course. 

When Pope Francis visited the United States and spoke to Congress, he mentioned two Catholics worth emulating—one was Dorothy Day, the other Thomas Merton. This eCourse gives you a glimpse into why he chose Merton.

Who is John Dear? John Dear is an internationally known voice for peace and nonviolence. A long time activist, popular lecturer, and movement organizer, John is the author of 30 books and hundreds of articles, including “Living Peace,” “Jesus the Rebel,” and “The Nonviolent Life.” He was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. A former Jesuit, he was ordained in 1993 and is now a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Monterey, California. Visit John's website.

Lectio Divina A Summer Experience

Lectio Divina, reflective sacred reading, has deep roots in Benedictine spirituality. In this eRetreat you will be invited to use a number of God’s texts—scripture, poetry and yoga—as ways to engage in a lifelong conversation with God. Two sisters and one oblate of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie—Anne McCarthy, Mary Lou Kownacki and Joanne Cahill—will serve as your guides. For this online retreat, you will discover how the wonders of the sacred text, poetry and the physical experience of yoga can stretch the soul.


Sister Anne McCarthy, retreat leader and Monasteries of the Heart staff.



Sister Mary Lou Kownacki, director of Monasteries of the Heart and a writer.



Joanne Cahill, a Penn State University retiree and an oblate of Mount Saint Benedict Monastery.


Lectio Divina: Finding Your Sacred Center

Lectio Divina, reflective sacred reading, has deep roots in Benedictine spirituality. Traditionally, the scriptures were the only text for lectio, but in this course you are invited to use other of God’s texts—nature, photography, and the daily news—as ways to engage in a lifelong conversation with God. Four Benedictine Sisters—Anne McCarthy, Mary Ellen Plumb, Susan Doubet, and Anne Muczynski—will serve as your guides in discovering how the Scriptures, nature, daily events, and the art of photography can stretch your soul.

LEARN MORE: Introduction What is lectio and why is it so essential to Benedictine spirituality? Sister Anne McCarthy, retreat leader, spiritual director and Monasteries of the Heart staff, will present a creative overview of this spiritual practice and lead participants in a lectio using a sacred text and mantra.

Nature How can the natural world be a teacher/spiritual guide for us? Practice lectio with the psalms of nature, Mary Oliver’s poetry, and your own experiences in creation. Sister Susan Doubet, research assistant to Joan Chittister, subprioress and community blogger, will lead this session.

Newspaper Sometimes reading about national and international disasters or local incidents of violence in the newspaper can overwhelm us. Praying with these stories can help center and ground us and find the sacred in every event. Sister Mary Ellen Plumb, teacher, counselor and Monasteries of the Heart staff, will lead this session.

Photography Do lectio with photography as you learn to look at simple objects from different perspectives—in different light, using different speeds. See how God can change your life by using photography to see things differently. Sister Ann Muczynski, behavioral health PTSD therapist and prize-winning photographer, will lead this session.

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Love, Forgiveness and Reconciliation with Joan Chittister

The themes of forgiveness and reconciliation are central to all religions. But how do you integrate these ideals into your personal life? How do you forgive a person who betrayed you? What if you can’t get over the hurt and just move on…even if everyone around you is telling you to do so? In a series of six brief videos Sister Joan explores the difficult, but fundamental summons to forgiveness that can both soften our own hearts and transform the world community. Most of all, she guides us—step by step—through the meaning of true forgiveness, cautioning us to avoid premature or shallow forgiveness. Sister Joan also discusses the true nature of reconciliation and reminds us that it’s only when we have faced and forgiven ourselves that we can extend true compassion. In addition to the videos, the course includes reflection questions, creative experiences and journal prompts.

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Monastic Wisdom for the Workplace with Judith Valente

The workplace is where many of us spend the bulk of our waking hours. How can we apply Benedictine values and practices to the competitive, often cut-throat marketplace? In four audio Judith Valente, award winning author and poet, and a Benedictine Oblate, will reflect on how The Rule of St. Benedict offers timeless wisdom for working people. Valente takes you into the newsrooms where she's worked, the companies she's reported on and introduces you to the working people she's met who live out their spiritual values at work. In the process, you'll gain insight into how to deal with setbacks, disappointments, difficult personalities, taking risks, and coping with change, while working from the heart of Benedictine spirituality. Valente’s recent book is the best-selling Atchison Blue: A Search for Silence, a Spiritual Home, and a Living Faith.

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Nonviolence and the Rule of Benedict with Anne McCarthy

The essential challenge of both the gospel of Jesus and monasticism is to move from fear and violence to freedom and love. How do we structure our lives and our communities to reflect nonviolent love? This course explore answers to those questions through reflections on The Rule of Benedict, the ancient prophets and the gospel of Jesus, contemporary models of nonviolence, and the teachings of both ancient and contemporary monastics. The course includes videos and readings by Sister Anne, discussion questions, and a simple ritual suggestion. 

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Empower Yourself, Empower Others with Joan Chittister

If an organization lasts 1,500 years, as Benedictine monasticism has, you must surmise that the founder knew something about leadership. In this course, Empower Yourself; Empower Others: Six stories of Benedict to unleash the leader in you, Joan Chittister outlines the basic principles of leadership, and, using stories from the life of Benedict, explores if or how he applied these principles and how you can do the same. The course includes six videos by Sister Joan, guided readings, and reflection questions. “It is not necessary to be in an official position in order to be a leader,” explains Sister Joan. “It is only necessary to be brave, to be honest and to be clear about where you are going and why. Leaders inspire people to lead themselves.” 

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Heart of the Rule with Joan Chittister

Does the 1500-year-old Rule of Benedict of Nursia have anything to say to the modern world? You bet it does. In this course, Joan Chittister offers 37 brief videos on aspects of monastic spirituality that can guide you into a new way of seeing and living. Sister Joan offers practical and inspiring commentary on the Rule that, if adopted, can transform both the individual and our modern world just like it did centuries ago. You will consider topics such as prayer, moderation, silence, creativity and zeal with Sister Joan as she makes this ancient document accessible and shows how it can provide a spiritual framework around which to organize your life.

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All You Holy Women with Edwina Gateley

Imagine having a great monastic figure accompany you on your spiritual journey. Imagine, too, that this spiritual giant was a woman. In this eRetreat, best-selling author and poet Edwina Gateley introduces you to five great women from the monastic tradition: Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Brigid of Kildare and Pema Chödrön. Five videos of Gateley reading a poetic reflection on the women monastics are included as well as discussion questions, additional readings from the five mystics, and suggestions for a creative activity and ritual.

A spiritual writer, pioneering missioner and lay minister, Edwina Gateley is in high demand as a speaker and retreat giver.

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