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Collage as prayer: cutting and pasting my way to God

Sometimes losing our serious adult demeanor for a bit and doing childlike things can take us deeper into our spiritual center than any book on prayer ever could. Case in point: I spent Saturday armed with scissors and a glue stick, cutting and pasting — and praying. Although I’d done collages before on my own, back when I was working my way through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, I had never used the art form as a way to deepen my spiritual life. Until this past weekend when I headed back to the Dominican Retreat and Conference Center in Niskayuna, my new favorite spiritual place, for a six-hour workshop called “Collage as Prayer.” I convinced one friend to join me and then met up by chance with another once I got there. We had a great group of women, probably about a dozen of us or so, led by Sister Ethel. The result? Two collages and a whole lot of insights into myself and my spiritual journey. 

Here’s collage #1. I did this one in the morning, after a short, guided meditation. I followed it up with about 30 minutes of journaling in one of the retreat center’s private rooms — sitting in a rocking chair, looking out at the snow-covered landscape while contemplating my collage and trying to figure out why I cut and pasted what I did. My friend, husband, and middle daughter have all asked if I’m going to frame this one, so maybe I will. I do love it, and it speaks so much to where I am in my life right now:

collage 1

Here’s collage #2, which actually has a back and front. Truth be told, I got so caught up cutting out words and images that spoke to me that I had absolutely nothing glued down on my paper when Sister Ethel gave the 10-minute warning. So this one is not nearly as well-planned as the first. I didn’t have time to carefully place everything where I thought it should go after prayerful reflection. Everything on these two pages landed wherever they happened to fall. I did do a little additional work once I got home just to give each side a more finished look. I also never got around to writing a prayer based on my collage, which was part of our “assignment” at the retreat house. I hope to do that some time this week when I need a few minutes of spiritual quiet time.

collage 2

collage 2 back

Even if you think you aren’t artistic at all, you’ll be surprised at how easily collaging brings out your inner right-brained self. Suddenly colors and words and photos come together, even when you’re not intentionally working toward a specific theme, to form a cohesive whole right before your eyes. Each of my collages speak to me in a different way, including the one I made years ago that hangs beside my desk in my basement office. When I look at it, I can recall where I was at that time in my life. I have no doubt my new collages will do the same when I look back months or years from now.

I may take Sr. Ethel’s suggestion to do this sort of collage prayer on a semi-regular basis, whenever I’m working through something or marking a special or significant event in my life. It’s a great way to see where your head is at — which is often not all where you think it’s at. All you need are some old magazines, a scissor and glue stick, a slice of silence, and a little help from the Spirit. Give it a try and see where you end up.

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9 Comments Post a comment
  1. That looks like a seriously fun exercise. Revealing, too.

    January 14, 2015
  2. Kay Robinson #

    I loved this idea, Mary! I have got started on one for myself – I decided to make a collage of my prayer goals for the year – I will send you a pic when I am done. [ Might take a while!] Thank you for sharing this lovely idea. It’s inspirational to see one’s goals set out pictorially and I am enjoying the challenge and the creativity.

    January 26, 2015
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Kay,

      I’m so glad you liked this idea and gave it a try. My daughters and I worked on a collage this weekend. It was a great way to spend time together. I actually purchased a spiral-bound mixed-media sketch book (cheap at Walmart) so that I can keep a collage journal. I’m working on turning the cover into a collage. As someone who has often felt art-challenged, this is such a fun way to express myself creatively.

      I can’t wait to see a photo of your collage.
      Peace,
      Mary

      January 26, 2015
  3. Mary Ellen #

    Hi Mary

    Thank you for a very good article on collage as prayer. I have tried my hand at collage and enjoyed doing it. Last fall I invited 5th graders and their parents in our Religious Ed. Program to make a gratitude collage. In a couple of weeks I am going to have the eighth graders choose a verse from one of the Psalms and make a collage to go with the verse.

    January 27, 2015
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Hi Mary Ellen,

      I was thinking of trying a collage exercise with our ninth-grade faith formation class. I like the idea of creating a collage around a Psalm. I actually made a collage for my husband as a gift just today. He loves it. It’s my new thing. 🙂

      Peace,
      Mary

      January 28, 2015
      • Mary Ellen #

        Hi Mary
        Definitely try Psalm collages with ninth graders. I used the Grail translation of the Psalms and chose the verses that have the most images in them, God as a rock or spreading wings in protection, etc. I am looking forward to doing this project with our 8th graders.

        Mary Ellen

        January 28, 2015

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