A New Book Review

The Soul’s Journey: An Artist’s Approach to the Stations of the Cross. Artwork and Text by Kathrin Burleson. Forward Movement, 2014. 94 pages.
A little over half way through her beautiful book Kathrin Burleson mentions that she is a practitioner of lectio divina. This ancient, but still popular, method of meditating on Scripture involves four steps: read the text, meditate on it, pray about it and then keep silence. This would, in fact, be a fruitful approach to reading The Soul’s Journey.
Burleson has created fourteen Stations of the Cross not in the traditional representational way, but with vivid and colorful abstract paintings with the common theme of Light. Each depiction is followed by a brief meditation by a number of “leading theologians, bishops, and priests” then a somewhat longer one by the artist herself. The section is concluded by a brief, “arrow” prayer the theme of which arises from the painting and the meditations.
Just has she has exercised freedom from the usual representational way of depicting each station, so in accordance with ancient tradition she has taken liberty to add and subtract specific Stations (particularly the non-biblical ones) and expanded the material covered. For example, she begins not with Jesus Being Condemned to Death, but with his Agony in the Garden. I found this approach refreshing and helpful.
So I found myself following a kind of lectio approach while working through this material. I would gaze long and intently at the icon-like painting, slowly read the two meditations, offer the short prayer provided, and then sit in silence enjoying the insights gleaned and appreciating in a new way the Passion of Jesus. I would heartily commend this book as a spiritual exercise for Lent – or any other time, for that matter.
I do have to say that I found the insertion of meditations by the “theologians, bishops, and priests” more of a distraction than a help. They were uneven and sometimes even at odds with Kathrin’s meditation which follows. I would much have preferred to leave “the professionals” out and move directly from the painting to the artist’s reflection on it. At the very least, I would have recommended having her meditation first and theirs following.
This should in no way discourage one from buying and treasuring this coffee table book. It is a masterful piece of work and I am grateful for the opportunity to take this Soul’s Journey with a skilled guide.
C. Christopher Epting
Assisting Bishop
Diocese of Chicago

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