AN INTERVIEW WITH THE FOUNDER OF BEHOLD, KATIE WOLTORNIST
Thank you for taking the time to tell our Catholic Mom audience about your new program called Behold. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to create this program?
Thank you so much for having me! I am a daughter of God and the founder of Behold. I grew up in NJ in a beautiful Catholic family, which has formed so much of who I am today. Other than work with Behold, I am a full-time teacher and artist who strives to find the living God through beauty, truth, and goodness.
I often laugh with the Lord when I reflect on how Behold came into being, as it is something I definitely did not plan for my life. Behold is actually the fruit of my life as a Theology teacher. From my zeal for artwork and beauty, I brought in sacred art for my Freshman/Sophomore Theology class. Before each core lesson, I would bring in a piece of artwork to make the material go deeper for my students. And I saw that it had a deep impact on their lives. From there, I began to use sacred art for my own personal prayer, and I realized it was changing my life as well. Praying with art led me to truly encounter Christ in a personal way, versus just knowing about Him. And I came to ask myself … Why do more people not pray with art?
Previous to my teaching career I interned with the Theology of the Body Institute in Downingtown, PA where I was mentored in prayer and art in a course taught by Bill Donaghy called The Way of Beauty.
From there, I attended GIVEN, a week-long immersion devoted to helping women learn about their gifts. As part of the forum, we all had to come up with an action plan, or a way to give our gifts back to the Church. And my action plan was to form a program on praying with art for women. The program was so immensely beautiful that I knew that we had to make it available to more people.
Could you tell us more about the program itself? Being a program for women, can you tell us what ages and backgrounds are invited to participate?
Behold is a program devoted to promoting women’s dignity by praying with sacred art in communion with one and other. It is based off of Visio Divina, which is a practice long in the Church of receiving God and His Word through the vehicles of Scripture and sacred art. Our program takes this form of prayer, and has adapted it to a group format to foster community amongst women as they come to discover their “feminine genius” and gifts in light of the Gospel. Our program focuses in particular of helping women know of their dignity by encountering Christ in a personal way, through pondering from Mary’s perspective in the mysteries of the Rosary.
We have had women of all ages and vocations participate in our program! We have had college women participate with us, and in the same group, have had grandmothers. It has been so beautiful to have such varied ways of life and ages in our group, as it has led us all to see that God is at work in each and every vocation. Our program is currently formulated to women 18+, and our hope is that we will have a program for younger women down the road as well.
Can you tell us how you’d define what you call the feminine heart?
Oh wow, this is so hard for me to keep short, as it is something I am really passionate about. I call the feminine heart as the gift of living out who we are authentically and who God has created us to be as women. In Genesis, Scripture points out to us that God made us in His image and likeness, and that includes us being made as male or female. Who we are as men or women has a profound impact on how we live out who we are as human beings and live in relationship with others.
Being made as a woman, God has given us each unique hearts to live out being a gift of self for others. Physically, a woman is gifted for a physical capacity to have another human being within her. This physical reality shows an invisible reality to us …Woman has a profound ability to make room for others in spiritual ways. A woman’s heart has a real capacity to be receptive and generous to the gifts of those around them. Our lives are all about relationship and communion, and the feminine heart has a unique way of doing this.
We’ve also heard you use the term feminine genius. Can you explain what you mean by that? How is that awakened in the feminine heart through your program?
The feminine genius is a term coined by St. John Paul II in reference of what gifts a woman can give to the world. I often like to define the feminine genius by looking to Mary. She lived out her feminine genius in the perfect way, and we can be radiant images of the feminine genius to others my modeling after her.
In a woman’s body, the way a woman is a gift in marriage is by her receptivity and a giving of her body in return to that gift of her husband. Likewise, we are called to a spousal relationship with God, and to be a gift of self with those around us. But the first way we do this is by receiving the love of God. In that receiving of God’s love, we can then know our unique gifts as women. Such gifts, St. John Paul II emphasized, are motherhood (both physical and spiritual), sensitivity, generosity, and receptivity. All these gifts are at an interplay with one another and are specific ways that women are gifted to love those around them.
How have you seen the concept of “visio” (seeing) affect women? How do you choose the art that will be prayed with?
I am constantly in awe of seeing the fruits of Visio Divina. Leading Visio Divina groups, I knew that praying with art would help women, but I really didn’t know how beautiful it would be. God continues to surprise me to see how he changes the lives of women through Visio Divina. Right before my eyes, I have seen women accept God’s love for them after a lifetime of struggling with it, acceptance of certain trials in light of His love, or receiving the gift of spiritual motherhood on a new level. It has been unbelievable for me to see how the unpacking of one’s gifts as a woman has enabled them to be more of a witness to God’s love in their own unique way in the world. This program has given women the confidence to do that.
To choose the artwork, I usually pray for guidance of the Holy Spirit. I know that this program is nothing I am doing, and all of what He is doing, and so I try to be attentive to where I think He wants to impact women. I also have prayed on the gifts of the feminine genius, and have tried to find images that show that reality of Mary’s “feminine genius.”
Are there any other aspects of Behold that you’d like our followers to know about? Where can people get more information?
I would like to emphasize for people to know that Behold isn’t just for women … it is for all of us. Yes, our program is devoted to helping women know of their dignity, but praying with sacred art can have an impact on all of our lives.
I would love for people to do the program at their parish. If you or anyone you know would be interested in such a program, we would love to have them be a part of our Behold family! They can get more information at our website http://www.beholdvisiodivina.com/
Also, even if you do not have a group at your parish, we want to foster formation and image reflections through social media. We have a blog with regular reflections on images and the feminine genius, along with instagram and facebook images/quotes. Here are some ways to follow us or contact us.
Our first booklet is expected to be available to parishes by the new year, so keep an eye out for updates!
Katie, thank you for sharing your feminine heart with us, and for letting the Holy Spirit guide you in this most beautiful endeavor to make Him more known and loved through the beauty that lies in the feminine heart. I pray with you for great success and many blessings for all who participate and for all the glory to be given to God through you, Behold, and all the women who are touched by their prayer reflections there.
Thank you! I pray that all people who encounter this interview are able to see their gifts in a deeper way, and look forward to having some of our lovely readers help us in our program and mission!
Copyright 2017 Cindy Costello