being open to dialogue created in mystery

There is much to be learned by reading, reflecting and praying with scripture. Scripture will only come alive for us today, remain relevant in today’s world, (with all its darkness, and all its grace) by us being open to the dialogue that is created in the mystery.

These words were posted by ‘Pati’ in response to comments made on an NCR Today blog post I wrote, Blame Mary for the role of women in the church today.

The post caused a bit of a heated discussion. (I wish that I could call it a dialogue.) The responses on this catholic dialogue blog are almost always well-thought out and respectful. The occasional attacking voice sticks out because it is a rarity.

The National Catholic Reporter discussion boards are a different beast all together. You hear from a diversity of voices, which is wonderful. You also hear from voices that don’t shy from criticizing, judging and condemning others. This is not so wonderful. It is disheartening and depressing.

Pati’s response speaks powerfully to the living and breathing word of God. It speaks of a faith seeking understanding with the holistic approach of mind, heart and soul.  It speaks of going deeper than the black and white world of apologetics, where the words of Scripture and church documents are used merely to defend our own view or condemn the view of another.

There is an inherent laziness in embracing the world of black and white, where right and wrong are clearly laid out and unchanging. It bypasses the need to prayerfully discern God’s word, to contemplate it from all angles, to seek the message for our here and now, to embrace it as a true guide for our actions and not just our words. It avoids the messiness of entering into the many grey areas of life, where the black and white answers lose their clarity and simplicity.

There is also an inherent laziness in arguing merely around opinions. There is always the danger of rationalizing our own thoughts to answer the needs of our own personal agendas. Fruitful and effective dialogue requires careful reasoning and reasonable thought processes from all. And it requires a prayerful and discerning heart.

(See also, An informed conscience…please!)

lectio divina – a dialogue in community

The practice of a group lectio divina opens up the dialogue between person and God to the whole community. As wisdom and insights are shared, the diversity of inspiration is recognized and celebrated. Enriched by this diversity, we marvel at the richness and depth of the Word of God – speaking personally to each of us, in our own place and time.

Here is one example of a group lectio divina format. It works well in small faith communities, RCIA groups, or as an opening prayer to a meeting or gathering. It requires little preparation, though gentle facilitation is sometimes needed so enthusiastic souls don’t jump onto the homiletic or lecture wagon! A wonderful way to end the process is for each participant to say a prayer for the person on their left. The prayers often reflect a real listening and understanding of what was shared. And it’s such a blessing to hear your own intentions offered in prayer by another.

One of my most surprising experiences of a group lectio divina came during a confirmation class for grade seven and eight students. I was invited as a guest to give a presentation on prayer. The class was on a week-night evening, in the church basement. About ten students slouched around the table in varying degrees of consciousness. I recognized the look and attitude – and lowered my already small expectations.

I went ahead and introduced the process and we began. The reading was read for the first time, and a simple word or phrase was shared by all. This was easy and not too threatening. The second reading required them to listen and share on what they saw or heard in that word or phrase…what was God saying to them? One by one they began to share the most wonderful insights. The third reading required them to listen to what God wanted them to DO with the inspiration. What action were they called to? Again, the honesty and depth blew me away. The prayers offered for each other showed that they ‘got it’!

A group lectio divina allows us to spend ‘heart time’ together in a mutual listening to God’s Word. It allows us to balance out the head time that too often rules our religious education classes and meetings. As St. Benedict so wisely teaches, we need both ora et labora….prayer and work.

lectio divina – a dialogue with God

In our fast-paced, cyber-connected world, we’ve grown accustomed to speed reading through mountains of information each day. The competition for our short attention span is fierce. We are no long satisfied with the written word. We need graphics and pictures and links to YouTube videos to keep us interested.

Lectio divina is a counter-cultural prayer form for our over-stimulated minds. The term means holy or sacred reading. Its roots are in Benedictine spirituality. The method is simple and flexible. You begin with the Scriptures, or any other spiritual reading. As you read (Lectio), you stop and focus on a sentence, phrase, word or image that pops out for you. Then you stop and meditate. (Meditatio)What does this word or phrase mean to me? What is God trying to say to me – today, in this place and time? What am I being called to do, to bring this Word of God alive in my actions this day? This leads to a moment of prayer, a dialogue with God. (Oratio) Finally, we take a moment to silently rest in the presence of God. (Contemplatio)

As Catholics, we are used to hearing the Word of God proclaimed in our liturgy and explained or ‘opened up’ in the homily by the pastor. Some homilies are inspiring. Some homilies are mind-numbing, and this is a shame. We cannot and must not depend on one person to give us a week`s worth of scriptural reflection on a Sunday morning.

Lectio divina  nudges us all to slow down, be still and pray with Sacred Scripture.  It opens up a space in our mind and heart for a personal dialogue with God.