September 22, 2019 - Pastor Message10/15/2019
THE YEAR OF PRAYER PART 29: SULPICIAN MEDITATION
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today” (Deuteronomy 6:46).
Continuing this month’s reflection on spiritual reading, we look this week at the method known as Sulpician meditation. The “Sulpician” part comes from its origin with Father JeanJacques Olier, the founder of the Society of Priests of St. Sulpice. Father Olier (16081657) was the pastor of St. Sulpice Parish in France. Seeing the need to better train men for the priesthood, he established the Society of St. Sulpice to staff seminaries with qualified priest instructors. A crucial part of their qualifications was a healthy spiritual life, and Father Olier established this method of spiritual reading to help cultivate that. So fruitful did this method prove, that Father Olier also introduced it to his parish, and it became a part of the spiritual life of his parishioners as well.
The “meditation” part comes from the use of our mental faculties to enter into the mystery of God contained in the selected text. Unlike Eastern meditation, in which the goal is to remove all thought from ones prayer, Christian meditation calls us to use our Godgiven gifts of intellect, emotions, and imagination to place ourselves in the presence of God in his word. Sulpician meditation is a simple, three step method of spiritual reading meant to facilitate this. Modeled on the Old Testament Shema above, from the book of Deuteronomy, it invites us to encounter Christ, the living Word of God, in God’s written word, and to invite him into our lives. The three steps are: Jesus before my eyes; Jesus in my heart; Jesus in my hands.
Like lectio divina, what follows presumes that we have removed any distractions and placed ourselves in a space and time where we can give God our full attention. Having done so, and having selected our reading, in the first step Jesus before my eyes we then read the selected passage slowly, simply seeing at this point what is happening. What is God doing in this reading? We then pause to adore and praise God for his saving work with his people.
In the next step Jesus in my heart we begin to process the selected text. What does this passage mean for me in my life right now? How is God calling me to deeper communion with him through this passage? It may help to read the passage again, pausing at any words or phrases that stand out and grab our attention. Sit with those words and phrases, letting them soak in and stimulate any thoughts or emotions. Let your encounter with God in his word stir your heart.
In the final step Jesus in my hands we ask God to guide us to respond to his word. If all we do in spiritual reading is experience some nice thoughts or feelings, our prayer is incomplete. Every encounter with God compels us to action. What action is God’s word, which we’ve just read and reflected upon, calling us to in this encounter? How is he calling me to put that word into action right here, right now, in my life?
This concludes our exploration of spiritual reading, but there are many other ways to approach this prayer form as well. That’s one of the beautiful gifts of our Catholic faith, that it embraces so many different forms of prayer. Whether lectio divina, Sulpician meditation, or something completely different, do some research and find the one that works best for you.
Fr. Marc Stockton