Poetry compilation leads to encounter with God via creation’s beauty

"The Wisdom of Wild Grace" is a compilation of poems by Benedictine oblate Christine Valters Paintner.

Reviewed by Katie Faley

Sometimes beauty is easy to see, and sometimes it just isn’t. Christine Valters Paintner, in her compilation of poems “The Wisdom of Wild Grace,” takes the beauty of creation, the wild world made by the hand of God, and puts it into words.

Even though this poetry does not explicitly note Catholicism, or even God the Father, the beauty of the imagery and words point back to the One who is Beauty. Each creation marked with an imprint of the Creator allows us an insight into the heart of God and draws us closer to Him. These words, rhymes, songs, and psalms truly become an encounter with God.

I often think beauty is one of those forgotten ways to pray. Beauty, especially of the natural world, can lead us to profound contemplation of God as our Creator and Father — if we allow it. But here, Valters Paintner has seen those imprints of the Creator out in the wild and works to reflect that back to the reader.

Valters Paintner, an American and Benedictine oblate now living in Ireland, has been captured by a life inspired by monastic tradition.

IRELAND’S CHARM EVIDENT

Ireland, a country full of half-crumbling monasteries from centuries long-gone, serves as subtle, but no less artful, inspiration for many of these poems it seems. You can practically hear an Irish brogue lilting off the pages. Just like any good storyteller from the old country, Valters Paintner weaves together mystical charm and fanciful imagination throughout her poems.

With some familiar characters such as St. Francis, St. Dymphna, and St. Columba, Valters Paintner creatively imagines the encounter with the Divine through the wild — through a trusty steed, the rising moon, or a tree dying when winter comes.

This collection of poetry is not all just deep, moving pieces of nature with undertones of 6th century hermit life. Turn past the halfway point of the book, and you’ll find poems shaped by classic fairy tale themes such as whimsy and humor. Accompanying a handful of the poems is a collection of painted art, vibrant and reminiscent of ancient works of spiritual enrichment like the Book of Kells. These poems can captivate the imagination of an adult just as well as a child.

Valters Paintner reminds us that sometimes prayer, the spiritual life, and grace are, in fact, wild. We may have to look at the most miniscule or unattractive things to find it, but there is a prayer in there somewhere.

I would be remiss not to note that while I do love to read, I don’t often read poetry. I have the patience for a 500-plus page book on Russian history, but I don’t have the patience for a five-stanza poem. If you are like me in that regard, fear not. This poetry is more than just a delight — it is a deep spiritual enrichment.

I would recommend reading “The Wisdom of Wild Grace” somewhere beautiful and wild.

Katie Faley

KATIE FALEY is a member of St. Mark Parish in Peoria and digital marketing coordinator for the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. She has a master’s degree in theology and theological studies from the University of Notre Dame. Write to her at katiefaleywriter@gmail.com.

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