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 a prayer partner

St. Benedict`s Monastery, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Sr. Grace Kowalski, OSB, of St. Benedict`s Monastery in Winnipeg, Manitoba, introduced me to lectio divina prayer many years ago. She was always extolling its simple method, its personal dialogue with God, and the need for a regular, daily practise. An excellent teacher, her enthusiasm and passion was contagious. I quickly fell in love with this prayer form. But, discipline and I are pathetic partners. As with Lenten penances, I start out with good intentions but my energy fizzles a short distance from the start line.

But Grace had an idea. Why don`t we share our daily lectio reflections and prayers via email? I was intrigued. I was already using the computer for studies and communicating around the world. I knew the power of the internet for sharing ideas and forming friendships. Why not use it for sharing prayer?

And so it began. Grace sent an email with a simple line or phrase from the daily readings. Sometimes she explained her reflection in a sentence or two. And then she shared a prayer. This was simple. I could do this! The daily prayer sharing began. Our styles were different. Too often, I rambled on at length. Grace had a poet`s heart and economy of words. She loved the Psalms, and her prayer often focused on a single word or image. In a few lines, she unpacked the ordinary and showed the deep wisdom within.

I slowly began settling into the daily routine. I likened it to having a jogging partner. If you run by yourself, it`s easy to roll over in bed and grab a few extra winks. One missed day turns into another. And, before you know it the discipline is lost.  But, if you know that a friend is waiting at the door with her sneakers on, there`s an extra incentive to get up and going. I knew that when I turned on my computer, Grace`s email would be the first message in my inbox. And, I better have a prayer to respond with!

Grace died almost two years ago. I still miss her terribly. For many weeks, I dreaded turning on my computer – knowing that her daily emails were no longer coming. Yet, I know that her prayers continue. I was asked to prepare the Intercessory Prayers for her funeral. I didn`t know how I could do this -so, I didn`t. I let Grace pray for us. I went back to the computer and collected some of her prayers, and together we prayed her words…simple words that soared from a listening heart.

(tomorrow – lectio divina – a dialogue in community)

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.