The Importance of Lectio Divina

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There is a way to approach Lectio Divina that can make it more meaningful.

Why is Lectio Divina , also known as Benedictine prayer, important for all of us, not just Benedictine monks?  For me, Lectio helps me work on me every day in relation to living the Gospel, as well as living as a Benedictine monk.

Explaining what Lectio Divina is, as well as what it can be for everyone, can answer this question for you, like it has for me.

So what is Lectio Divina?

 “[L]ectio divina, or sacred reading, [is a] dynamic process [that] involves four elements which weave together like a braided river to connect us with God.” (Pickering, 2008, p. 28)  The first step of this process is Lectio, which is a “[s]low reflective reading aloud of a few verses of scripture or other spiritual literature.” (Pickering, 2008, p. 28)

Bible readings are an important part of Lectio Divina. (Photo by Josh Applegate for Unsplash)

The second step is meditatio, or meditation, which is “[a] thoughtful consideration of how these words relate to our current circumstances.” (Pickering, 2008, p. 28)

In the the third step, we use the process of oratio, or oration, meaning “[d]iscoveries, emotional responses, movements of the heart and will, questions or doubts are shared with God.” (Pickering, 2008, p. 28) 

For the last, all-important  step, we employ contemplatio, or contemplation, which is when “[t]he person at prayer stills his or her activity and ‘contemplates.’  Th[e] use of the word ‘contemplation’ relates … to a state of resting in God, all our striving set aside, allowing ourselves to be open to meeting the One who created us [and the wonder of this love].” (Pickering, 2008, p. 28)

This is the process of Lectio I follow in the morning before starting my day. Going through Lectio helps ready me for whatever happens each day.

Lectio is practiced differently in Group, where the logistics and dynamics are different, due to the fact that it occurs at a different time and multiple individuals are involved.    Most students perform Lectio once a week on Mondays in Group, which occurs midway through the day. ( Lectio should serve as a time that allows Group members to stop whatever else they are doing and focus on what they are being. That is what this prayer period should provide. 

When we do Lectio in Group on Mondays, we usually use the Gospel reading from the previous day as the central point of discussion. Personally, the reading that I use for Lectio each day is the Gospel reading of the day, not the Gospel reading of the previous day.  To strengthen your eventual discussion, it really helps  to think and talk about your current circumstances before starting Lectio. This works better than simply waiting til reaching the second step of meditatio, or meditation. Doing so ahead of time gives you more space to think about your current circumstances.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of Lectio in a Group is the third step of oratio, or oration. This phase is obviously different in a group setting since sharing is done with each other, not just God. What’s the best approach for a student? There are no right answers. Share what you want and/or need to share without worrying about what others will think. If you would rather do this privately, then mention that to an adult.

The last step, contemplatio or contemplation, may be easier to attain if a Group concludes with a prayer. Contemplation may be difficult if you quickly move out of Lectio and are distracted by the noise of the everyday.  By ending Lectio in prayer, you naturally pave the way for a state of contemplation. This is something my Group does and a practice I follow when I conduct Lectio on my own.

This process of Lectio is also useful in spiritual direction.  “[I]f [spiritual directors] want to help people ‘listen to their lives’ [they] can encourage them to apply the Lectio Divina model prayerfully to the key moments of their daily experience.” (Pickering, 2008, pp. 73-74)  This would start by using the key moments of your daily experience as the “reading” for Lectio, followed by meditating on what these experiences mean. You would then talk to someone about it, and later reflect on what both of you said.  

As a monk who has recently learned about spiritual direction, I would also say that consciously marking each step of Lectio conveys the deeper meaning of what Lectio is and how Lectio can help you.  Letting all of this happen, with help from the Holy Spirit, is also important in these processes.  But you can only be helped by Lectio if you do it.  Allowing the process to happen, without worrying about whether you are giving “right” or “wrong” answers, is important.  Remember all of this whenever you do Lectio.

Reference:

Pickering, S. (2011). Spiritual direction: A practical introduction. London, England: Canterbury Press.  

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