"I’m seeing something that I didn’t make"

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Thursday 16, September 2010 | Category:  

ABBOT Barnabas Senecal, O.S.B.
with some of his photographs
For the 2011 edition of the VISION Catholic Religious Vocation Discernment guide, I put together several articles on members of religious communities who are artists, including photographers (see “Inspired images," “More inspired images,” and “More about the artists . . . .” One photographer who slipped through the net is Barnabas Senecal, O.S.B., abbot of the Abbey of St. Benedict on the campus of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. Like many of the artists featured in the VISION articles, he considers his art to be a spiritual practice.

“Taking photographs reminds me of the positive,” Senecal told Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly (Sept. 10, 2010). “Monastic mindfulness is pursuing what [Saint] Benedict taught about being aware daily of your presence of God with you and in the world. It’s mindfulness of creation and of sharing that with others.

“I am nourished by taking pictures,” he said. “Yes, it’s a spiritual exercise in that I don’t just take a picture and store it. I will reflect on it. Entering into these moments of photography is a conviction that I’m seeing something that I didn’t make, the other person didn’t make. It’s there . . . because it’s part of God’s creation.”

Senecal is also known as the “Singing Abbot” for his fine baritone voice, which he uses not only at abbey liturgies but also at Confirmation Masses he celebrates at the request of Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann throughout the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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