September 8, 201909/20/2019
THE YEAR OF PRAYER PART 27: SPIRITUAL READING
“Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
The theme for our Year of Prayer during September is spiritual reading, otherwise known as lectio divina. While the most common form of lectio divina, developed by the early Church fathers, consists of four movements (read, reflect, respond, rest), it has been adapted over the centuries by other groups into different forms. This month we will reflect on two forms: traditional lectio, and Sulpician meditation.
We begin with traditional lectio divina. The first step in this method of prayer, before one even begins, is to prepare oneself to enter deeply into the chosen text. This requires that one first choose a text to pray with, which can be done any number of ways. Some people may choose to read through a particular book of the Bible, reading perhaps a few verses at a time. Some may choose to read the gospel or another reading from the upcoming Sunday Mass. Some may even choose a nonbiblical text by another spiritual writer. Whatever works for you is fine.
Then, once you’ve chosen a text, find a quiet space where you can really focus for an extended period of time, at least 15 30 minutes. Some people actually create prayer spaces in their homes, with religious images, such as a crucifix, and candles. Others may find it enough to simply turn off the TV, phone, and other distractions and sit in their chair in the living room. Still others may want to come to the church, which is open Monday Friday, 8:30 AM 1:30 PM, and before Masses. Again, whatever works for you to be able to truly focus on the chosen reading is fine.
Once you’ve chosen your text and the place where you will pray, the next step is to take some time to relax and focus in that place. Many people find breathing exercises taking a few, deep breaths and focusing on their breathing to be helpful. It is also good to start with a prayer to the Holy Spirit, whether memorized or from the heart, asking God to make his presence in your life known through his word. Do your best to clear your mind of distractions, but, if you find your mind wandering, simply bring yourself back into the prayerful moment by quietly offering a short prayer, which can even be as simple as breathing deeply and saying the name of Jesus. If you still find yourself struggling with distractions, then consider that maybe God is actually calling these things to your mind and turn the distractions into prayer by asking God directly what he’s trying to tell you. Then bring those thoughts with you as you dive into the chosen text to hear God’s answer. That’s how to get started on lectio divina. Tune in next week as we begin our look at the four movements of lectio divina: read, reflect, respond, and rest.
Fr. Marc Stockton