Start Praying Lectio Divina

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Pope Benedict XVI encourages us to go deeper in our prayer life by using a classical methodLectio Divina.  The retired Pontiff strongly exhorted followers of Christ to utilize the Word of God as fertile ground for delving into the depths of prayer.

Our intention in this short article is to offer the steps the Holy Father suggests and a touch more to motivate us to never tire in growing in our union with God through a deeper prayer life. Prayer has no limits given that prayer is union with an eternal and infinite God!  Here are the steps…..

A.)  Lectio— Take in your hands the text you have chosen to meditate upon and then read it. However, before reading invite the Holy Spirit, known as the Interior Master, to help you in prayer. Then the prayer of the young Samuel can be yours: “Speak, O Lord, for your servant is listening.”  What a privilege you have—that God now wants to speak to your heart!

B.)  Meditatio— Now we want to apply the use of our memory and understanding to understand what God is trying to say to us though this text. Rejoice in the fact that God right now has a special message He wants to communicate to you through this reading and meditation! Be open to God; think and pray. Be bold enough to ask the Lord: “Lord God, exactly what is the message you want to communicate to my heart and life right now?”  The Holy Spirit hears you and will respond!

C.)  Contemplatio-– Now utilize another mental faculty that God has endowed you with and that is the use of your IMAGINATION!   We all have an imagination—maybe a very vivid imagination. However, the imagination is like a two-edged sword; it can be used for good or for evil. For evil, as a married person, it could happen day-dreaming about a past girl-friend, thereby committing adultery of the mind, leading to adultery of the heart. The imagination used for good might be to imagine walking side by side with the Good Shepherd (Psalm 23/John 10) and contemplating the loving gaze of the Good Shepherd peering into your eyes, hearing His gentle and reassuring voice, and experiencing His strong but loving embrace around your weary shoulder. In sum, our imagination must be trained for the pursuit of good.

D.)  Oracio-– Now we have arrived at the very heart of the essence and purpose of Lectio Divina and prayer itself—oracio, meaning prayer. When the mind or imagination sparks an idea that descends to the heart, it is time to open up in prayer. This means, now open up your heart and talk to the Lord in the most simple, trusting and intimate way. Our Lord is a great God, but He is never too busy for us and always ready and willing to listen to us whenever we decide to talk to Him.  This conversation with the Lord can be a few minutes, a half an hour, an hour— whatever length the good Lord inspires in the depths of your heart.

E.)  Accio-– Authentic prayer must be brought into the reality of our lives.  The woman Doctor of prayer, Saint Teresa of Avila, made this acute observation. The acid test to prove that prayer is indeed authentic is by the manifestation of how prayer has affected our lives. Jesus Himself reminds us that we can tell the tree by its fruits. A good tree will bring forth good fruit; a bad tree will bring forth bad fruit.  A person who is truly praying with sincerity, honesty, rectitude of intention, and love for God will bring forth fruits or virtues in his/her life.  From the tree of his life will blossom and flourish the following: faith, hope, love, humility, purity, meekness, patience, obedience, self-control, mortification, and fortitude. Our Lady is our example at all times. In the Annunciation we contemplate Mary in prayer as a contemplative. In the Visitation, after Mary finishes her prayer, she hurries to bring the fruits of her prayer in service to her cousin Elizabeth! May Our Lady’s example motivate us to be “Contemplatives in action.” 

F.)   Transformacio— Indeed if our Lection Divina is true, authentic, the “Real-thing” then there will be a gradual transformation in our daily lives! There is a saying: “Tell me with whom you associate and I will tell you who you are.” Another one of those timely proverbs of the past hammers it home: “Birds of the flock stick together.” Our aim should be to implement the words of the great Apostle Saint Paul:“It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”  This is the ultimate goal of Lectio Divina and all authentic prayer— the imitation of Jesus Christ, the following in His footsteps, and the transformation into His very essence and being.

What are you waiting for? Why not start today your own Lectio Divina! Choose your text, read, meditate, contemplate, pray, live out and allow God, through the working of the Holy Spirit, to transform you into the saint that God has made you to be!

image: Shutterstock 

Fr. Ed Broom, OMV

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Father Ed Broom is an Oblate of the Virgin Mary. He blogs regularly at Fr. Broom's Blog.

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  • NYCFiredog

    Brilliant! I wish I was taught this when I was younger. Thank you Fr. for feeding Jesus’ sheep.

  • http://renewthechurch.wordpress.com/ Thomas R

    Hello Fr. Broom,

    I am always interested in hearing about lectio divina, and encouragements for Catholics to apply this ancient discipline in their prayer. In reading your article, I see that you have changed the traditional sequence of steps, in particular you have reversed the positions of meditatio and oratio. In Pope Benedict XVI’s exhortation to the Church Verbum Domini #87 (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_ben-xvi_exh_20100930_verbum-domini_en.html ), he lists the traditional sequence oratio, meditatio, oratio, contemplatio. And of course the ancient (~1150 AD) reference to the traditional method of lectio divina, Guigo II’s Scala Paradiso, or The Ladder of Four Rungs (http://www.umilta.net/ladder.html ) lists the same way as the Pope.

    So I am very interested to learn how you came to the sequence that you have. Is this the way it is taught in some formation programs, or seminaries? Is it a method that you have come to yourself? If you can, I’d be grateful to hear your ideas on the process of lectio – it is a very helpful method, I do believe. Thank you in advance for any comments.

    I’ll paste below a portion of the above-referenced Scala Paradiso, which in a way explains the reasoning for the sequence as traditionally practiced – oratio, meditatio, oratio, contemplatio – in case that is helpful to you or to any other readers.

    ++++++ beginning of quote from Scala Paradiso:
    Understand now what the four staves of this ladder are, each in turn. Reading, Lesson, is busily looking on Holy Scripture with all one’s will and wit. Meditation is a studious insearching with the mind to know what was before concealed through desiring proper skill. Prayer is a devout desiring of the heart to get what is good and avoid what is evil. Contemplation is the lifting up of the heart to God tasting somewhat of the heavenly sweetness and savor. Reading seeks, meditation finds, prayer asks, contemplation feels.

    That is to say ‘Seek and you shall find: knock and the door will be opened for you’. That means also, seek through reading, and you will find holy meditation in your thinking; and knock through praying, and the doors shall be opened to you to enter through heavenly contemplation to feel what you desire. Reading puts as it were whole food into your mouth; meditation chews it and breaks it down; prayer finds its savour; contemplation is the sweetness that so delights and strengthens. Reading is like the bark, the shell; meditation like the pith, the nut; prayer is in the desiring asking; and contemplation is in the delight of the great sweetness.

    Reading is the first ground that that precedes and leads one into meditation; meditation seeks busily, and also with deep thought digs and delves deeply to find that treasure; and because it cannot be attained by itself alone, then he sends us into prayer that is mighty and strong. And so prayer rises to God, and there one finds the treasure one so fervently desires, that is the sweetness and delight of contemplation. And then contemplation comes and yields the harvest of the labour of the other three through a sweet heavenly dew, that the soul drinks in delight and joy.

    The first degree is for beginners, the second for those profiting from it, the third for those who are devout, the fourth for those who are holy and blessed of God. The four degrees are so bound together, and each of them so ministering together to each other, that the first as reading and meditation helps only a little or nought all, without those that follow it, such as prayer and contemplation.
    +++++++end of quote from Scala Paradiso.

    Also – if it could help any who are wanting to apply this ancient method – I have written a brief e-book on the method of lectio, Encountering Christ in Holy Scripture with Lectio Divina (http://www.renewthechurch.com/Renew_the_Church%21/Encountering_Christ_-_Lectio_Divina.html ).

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