Storytelling: From Ira Glass to Benedictine Monks

At its best life rhymes. Like yesterday. While tuning up for a pair of Storytelling in the Digital Age workshops, two rhymes tumbled out of the interwebs and landed at my feet. More accurately, kindred souls reached across space and time to help me prepare for my storytelling workshops.

Yesterday I gushed about the wonder of storytelling, courtesy of Bob Davidson and Ira Glass. Though I’ve never met either of them in the conventional handshake “Let’s have coffee” manner, I consider them friends, inspirations, mentors. I might miss either of them in passing on the street, but I know Ira Glass’ storytelling voice, cadence and delivery instantly. And Davidson, though a newer “acquaintance” is familiar too. We share the same penchant and respect for wonder, as if our inner compasses orients to W instead of magnetic north.

And then this timely smoke signal from Linda Hollier (@lindahollier).

Six  monks get their Gregorian groove on? That could only mean one thing!

A group of six monks stop by Studio 1A, proving that they don’t just spend their time reading and praying. They perform the song “Alleluia Lustus Germinabit” off of their new album, “Monks in the Desert.” (

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Aside from the unlikely venue, it was the most welcome of surprises to see (and hear) Abbot Philip and Brother Christian, Brother Caedmon, Prior Joseph Gabriel, Brother Pierre and Brother Francis chanting on the Today Show. I think the chant is actually “Alleluia Justus Germinabit” which the Abbot translates in the video as “The Just will Flourish”.

Although I’ve returned from Christ in the Desert with a stash of CDs after each visit, hearing the monks chanting on national television—and receiving the heads-up from a friend who knows my connection to the monastery—resonated deeply.

All the more so when Hollier directed me to Abbot Philips notebook/newsletter yesterday. I’d like to share a few excerpts that rhyme with yesterday’s post about the wonder of storytelling.

In New York, one of the insights that came to me one morning was the absolutely necessity of knowing how to be still inside oneself and to be aware of God’s presence. Life can become so very hectic and full of movement that we can forget what it is to be still and have nothing to do except to be still. Wherever we are and in whatever situation, we can move to this inner space of peace and quiet and refreshment. It takes a discipline to be able to do this… I also begin to consciously relax my whole body. I do this by being aware that I want to do nothing other than relax and still be alert… (Abbot’s Notebook)

The singing underneath. Storytelling springs from silence. This is more important than ever amidst the digital din. And good stories are likewise all the more powerful when they take us by the hand and lead us away from the digital din. Even when they leverage digital storytelling tools to connect with their audience.

Last but not least, I’d like to close by asking you to consider the monks’ exemplary storytelling. Despite the irony of monastics deploying effective transmedia storytelling, the Christ in the Desert monks are master storytellers. Even Ira Glass might be able to learn a thing or two! :-)

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