Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Way into His Harbor

"Just as at sea, those who are carried away from the direction of the harbor bring themselves back on course by a clear sign; so Scripture guides those adrift on the sea of life back into the harbor of the divine will."  (St. Gregory of Nyssa)

We now know, hopefully, what Lectio Divina is, "how to do it," and what it can mean in our everyday lives.

Now I propose the idea of going through every one of our days, here in the real world where we live, with scripture applied to everything we do.  Servings of scripture for breakfast, dinner, and supper!   Scripture weaving through our work and influencing our recreation!  Scripture comforting our fears and influencing our decisions and lulling us to sleep.....

Such a day would surely be one lived "through the grille."

I, for one, would love to learn to live my days in just this way.  Conversing with God in the silence of my heart, as He brings specific words and verses to my mind.  "In the sacred books," wrote Pope Leo XIII, "the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet His children and talks with them."

"I find myself now practicing Lectio with every Word of Scripture that I read," said our friend Anita recently. "When I prayed 'morning prayer' this morning, I read it so differently than usual - hanging on every word, every image that the divine writer conveyed - I realized I was 'squeezing out the juice.'  Oh my goodness! ...this is GRACE.  I find myself now longing to read scripture, waiting to 'Hear' what He wants me to know...."

I pray that we will each have the gift of longing to read scripture, leaning in close to hear what He wants us to know....


Monday, October 29, 2012

Strength for Everything

As those of you in the path of "Sandy" have prepared and watched and waited and endured, others of us have hunkered down in prayer.  I pray that you who are dealing directly with this trial will know very clearly that Jesus is at your side.

"We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his decree." (Romans 8:28) 

“I am the light of the world.  No follower of mine shall ever walk in darkness; no, he shall possess the light of life.” (John 8:12)

"In Him who is the source of my strength I have strength for everything."  (Philippians 4:13)

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine.  When you pass through the water, I will be with you; in the rivers, you shall not drown.  When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, the flames will not consume you.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."  (Isaiah 43:1-3)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Lectio To Go

If I am to live "immersed in lectio" (i.e. in scripture), I must learn to take it with me wherever I go.  This is obviously a process, an "art" that cannot be mastered overnight.   

Years ago, I learned a way of carrying at least a touch of lectio with me... a way to cart chunks of the Bible around as I work and drive and (especially) face into the storms of life.  In recent weeks, I've been re-learning the value of this "portable lectio."  It does not replace time apart with God, for I need time with my Bible open and with my mind as concentrated as possible.  But I am greedy enough to want scripture with me, wherever I go.  I want God's word to shape me.  To mold my attitudes, soothe my worries and calm my fears.  I want scripture to form my thinking.  I want to carry it with me as much as possible.  So, in addition to taking with me parts of scripture that jumped out at me "this morning," I also memorize.  

Someone asked me, years ago, why anyone would bother memorizing verses of scripture when Bibles were so readily available?  Because, I answered, there may come a time when I might not have ready access to one.  I wasn't necessarily referring to anything apocalyptic, but to any times when I might want to "read" the Bible and wouldn't have one right in my hand.  Like once when I spent an hour in an MRI "tube" with nothing to think about but the blangs and clangs swirling around my head.  I was thankful, then, to have memorized a few chapters of scripture.  I practiced lectio right there, holding a mental, silent conversation with God as I lay in my metal enclosure....

But however does one memorize chunks of scripture?  I have done it the way one memorizes anything:  by repetition, repetition, repetition.  I've done it in small manageable chunks of a sentence or less a day, sentence added to sentences until look!... here's a paragraph...

I began with the first chapter of the Gospel of John, because it so greatly appealed to me.  I figured that if I were ever stranded on a desert island or stuck in a massive storm, this was what I'd want lodged in my head.  I managed to memorize the first 14 verses straight through (don't be too impressed:  it took me all of one summer and into the fall).  I would read my "new sentence"  in the morning, go back to it mentally through the day, look it back up if I got stuck, and recite it mentally as my bedtime lullaby.  I'd go to sleep reciting all of what-I'd-memorized-so-far in my head (silently - without my husband even knowing I was doing this!).  A soothing way to go to sleep...

I haven't memorized a great deal of scripture, but do have enough of a storehouse to keep me going in some of the traffic jams and storms and MRIs of life.

And if I'm ever stuck on a desert island, at least I'll have brought my Lectio-to-Go.



Painting: Charles Sillem Lidderdale, The Fern Gatherer, 1877

Saturday, October 27, 2012

How Do I Meditate With Scripture?

I didn't go in search of a video today.  Perhaps this one came looking for me...?

This is a three and a half minute clip that I find excellent.  It's another from Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction.

I pray that God will help us each to take up His Word and ...


Conversation is welcome in the Parlor

Friday, October 26, 2012

Light in the Shadows

Someone spending these "days" of lectio with us recently said the following:

"If we don't spend time with God in prayer, then we go empty-handed into the marketplace." 

I was reminded of times when I've dashed out without taking time to be with God.  Times when I've decided I was "too busy" to spend even a few minutes with Scripture, too busy to let God feed me with His Word.  I've rushed, malnourished and empty, into the marketplace - bringing nothing with me but my own flawed, weak human nature.

If I spend even a bit of time with God, however, I'm giving the fruit of His Spirit an opportunity to grow.  I am allowing God to strengthen me, causing my life to overflow with goodness that will eventually nourish not just me, but also those around.  It takes time for fruit to grow.  It takes patience to sit through those dark silent moments of prayer when it seems nothing is happening.  

"The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patient endurance, kindness, generosity, faith, mildness, and chastity."  (Galatians 6:22)  We don't have to look far to see that these very things are in scarce supply in our workplaces and malls and media and schools and towns.  There is a fruit shortage right before us, right here today.  And it's severe.

I can do something about it, about the shortage, but I can't do it alone.  I cannot manufacture fruit.  I can only come to God in prayer, reading His Word and letting it become living and active in me (Hebrews 4:12), causing the fruit to grow.

Then I can go nourished to the marketplace, carrying Light into the shadows, sharing what God has planted in the secret of my prayer. 



(Painting:  Petrus van Schendel, Market, in US public domain) 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Lectio, Lived

As I go through my day nourished by the "air of scripture," I find that I haven't made practical resolutions (as quoted from Tim Gray in yesterday's post) as much as I've simply noticed lectio threading through the circumstances of my day.

I cooperate with the threading, however.  I respond.  In my lectio of a few days ago, the following leapt right off the page:  "The light shines on in darkness, a darkness that did not overcome it"  (John 1:5).  This word breathed life into me; it was vibrant and active and real.  My part was to accept and embrace it, and to let it change whatever in me needed changing.  In this case, the change has been in attitude and in time given to prayer.  There is a Light, and His Name is Jesus, and He is stronger than the dark.  I had realized this truth, of course, but in the moment when the words "leapt off the page" at me, I had a sudden, sharp sense of absolutely knowing.  An assurance that His Light is seeking out and chasing away darkness in me, and darkness in the world - even though I may not see how that is happening.  I also knew I was called to pray for the Light of Christ to triumph over specific circumstances in the world around.  So - the fruit of that lectio has been deeper confidence and increasing prayer.

As we become more immersed in Scripture, this is what happens.  We are touched, personally, by the word of God... and we change.

Today one of you shared the following:  "I enjoyed your post on the 20th... I prayed with the scripture verse you had there and never got past the first one (Habakkuk 3:17-19). I was struck by this phrase - 'yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.'  Specifically - 'yet I will ...' In other words, no matter what goes on in my life, I will be joyful and rejoice.  Yet I will... I prayed with that all weekend!  And I needed it today.  I had such a terrible day at work.  I cannot say I rejoiced until I came home and remembered the verse.  THEN I thanked God.  AND rejoiced."

Two examples of words that popped out of the readings and "stuck..." examples of seeing and responding to the world through the will of God.  Do things look dark?   I am assured that the Light shines on in darkness.   Did I have a bad day at work?  Yet I will thank God.  I will rejoice.

It is Lectio, Lived.  



Monday, October 22, 2012

The Very Breath of Home

As we may recall from Tim Gray's summary of the steps of "Guigo's Ladder," Dr. Gray added a fifth step.  This was "Operatio, In which we make operative some practical resolution to bring the wine of God's word to fruitfulness in our life and the world."  (Tim Gray Ph.D, Praying Scripture for a Change, Ascension Press, 2009, p.36) 

Now that we've considered and begun to practice lectio divina, I'd like to take a look at the step of operatio.  It's a tough world, and we know it.  There is much in this world that's in conflict with the will of God, and all we need to do is compare what Scripture tells us with what the world "says" to begin to see this.
In order to face such conflicts day after day, we need to become saturated in God's Word - perhaps as an astronaut is saturated in oxygen.  Like an earthly visitor to the moon, we must carry the atmosphere of our Homeland with us.  We need to have the voice of God breathed constantly upon us, for there are other voices continually exhorting us to live anywhere at all except in the holiness of God's will.    
"Sacred Scripture is the speech of God, and it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit."  (Cathecism of the Catholic Church #81)  
As we go about our day to day lives, we ask the Holy Spirit to breathe His Word upon us.  For, living enclosed within the graces of Scripture, we carry with us the very breath of Home.



Saturday, October 20, 2012

I Answer His Call

To anyone who has been following these posts on Lectio Divina, I offer this suggestion.  Rather than reading about Lectio right now, why don't we drop everything and practice it?  Even if we only have a few minutes, we can pray.  If you need a scripture reading for this, I've copied a few below, so you don't even have to leave this screen.  Or maybe you have your own right at hand.

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no fruit, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights." (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

"Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him." (1 Corinthians 2:9) 

"No test has been sent you that does not come to all men. Besides, God keeps his promise. He will not let you be tested beyond your strength.  Along with the test he will give you a way out of it so that you may be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Step Closer

As we continue praying with Scripture, I believe (no, I know) Our Lord is calling each of us to step closer, closer, closer to Himself.

After the four steps given by Guigo, wrote Tim Gray, "we can add a fifth step: Operatio, in which we make operative some practical resolution to bring the wine of God's word to fruitfulness in our life and the world."  (Tim Gray Ph.D, Praying Scripture for a Change, p.36)  With this in mind, I want to seek God's grace "to bring the wine of God's word to fruitfulness in our lives and the world." 

After all, seeing and responding to all things through the "grillwork of the will of God" (in essence, living Scripture) is at the core of life as a cloistered heart. 

"To wait always upon God's word is to live according to His will.  It is to abide in His love.  It is to walk in His presence... the soul must learn to search for God's love and abide in it.  The soul must learn the mystery of God's presence, must learn to recognize the inflection of His voice."  (Dom Hubert Van Zeller, The Holy Rule, Sheed and Ward, 1958, p. 2)

The next step for us, I believe, is to look toward what it means to pray, work, sleep, speak, act, walk, rest - in the fruits of our lectio.  To live "Scripture, Applied."

To move and breathe in the Presence of God.


Thursday, October 18, 2012


As we spend time with Scripture, listening to God's Word and responding, we are engaging in lectio (reading), meditatio (meditation), and oratio (prayer).  But there is, as we've seen, another step on "Guigo's ladder."  There is contemplatio, "in which we 'taste the goodness of the Lord.'"  

Contemplation is not something we can give to ourselves. It's not achieved through impersonal "techniques" such as trying to "empty our minds."  

We can, however, put ourselves in position to receive contemplation.  We do this by FILLING our minds.  We fill them with Scripture - with the Word of our loving, personal God.  

As we look at the difference between meditation and contemplation, I find the following video (from "Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction") extremely helpful.  I hope you do as well.


Going for This

Since we began this "lectio day," I have been bombarded by distractions.  Many seem to come from inside myself.  I sit with scripture, and often in a very short time all sorts of stray thoughts wander in, pull up a chair, and make themselves at home.  Often these are thoughts of what I COULD be doing instead of "this."

And what, I ask myself, is "this."  

"This" is spending person to Person time with God Himself.  It is lingering heart to Heart with the One Who waits to shower mercy upon me.  It is accepting a peace that passes understanding, and a love that no one else can give.  What could be so enchanting that it takes my attention when I'm in the middle of "this?"  I am sorry to admit that it can be something as inane as a crossword puzzle, wanting to check out the weather report, or wondering if the mail's come yet....

"We somehow assume that contemplation should sail smoothly along in undistracted, uninterrupted delight in God," writes Father Dubay in the book we looked at yesterday. "It will be such in the final enthrallment of beatific vision, but here on earth we should expect a great deal of ebb and flow:  empty feelings mingled with occasional periods of delight." (p. 62)

"One is being led into a perceived contact with God indwelling....  at first it comes bit by bit and will be punctured with distractions (which obviously come from us), but as one grows, this love gets progressively stronger and deeper."  (p. 61) 

"The beginnings of infused prayer ... are so gentle and unobtrusive at the outset that unless one is well instructed, they may go unnoticed."  (p. 64)

When I first read Fire Within (shortly after its publication), I decided right then that I wanted to "go for it."  I wanted to "go for" increasing depth of prayer.  I wanted to go for giving my will and my life over to God, trusting Him to make me into the holy person He wanted me to be... one who would choose to love Him by decision no matter what.  I wanted to go for a life immersed in prayer. 

"Infused contemplation is by no means a dry or sterile intellectualism," wrote Father Dubay, "a platonic gazing upon abstract essences.  Nor is it an oriental, impersonal awareness.  Rather, it is (according to St. John of the Cross) 'a loving awareness of God."  (p. 63)

"One of the most extravagant errors of recent decades among religious men and women is the idea that contemplation is a monastic enterprise, good in itself but the exclusive domain of the cloister...." (p. 65)

"If we keep Yahweh always before our eyes, nothing can shake us."  (p. 66)

"Deepening communion with the indwelling Trinity brings with it a steadily progressive growth in holiness:  humility, love, patience, purity, fortitude and all the virtues."  (p. 71)  

I re-read these words today and realize I cannot stop short.  No matter where I am on the journey at any given time, I can't let a distraction here and a bout of dryness there win the battle.  I want a life immersed in prayer.

I want to go for it.


(above quotes from Fire Within by Thomas Dubay S.M., Ignatius Press, 1989, pages 58-60.  Click this line to read more about this title)

To continue this "Lectio Day," click here

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Taste of Contemplation

One of the things that has struck me from our "lectio so far" is the image of layered lasagna. That, in turn, has drawn me to think about something totally unexpected:  a dish I used to make when the children were small.  It is something my mother served when I was young.  It's called escalloped cabbage. 

In the bottom of a baking dish, I put a layer of crumbled crackers.  On top of that, a layer of cooked cabbage.  I  redo that a few times, just as one does when layering lasagna.   On top is a final layer of crackers, coated with butter - but it doesn't end there.  To make this casserole soft and tasty, I must drench it in milk, digging a fork into the layers in a few spots so the milk can penetrate and soak down through.  Then it is baked.

For lectio to BE lectio, I must begin with a solid base of scripture.  Then comes the layer of prayer.  It can become a back and forth conversation, as we have seen.

We can read, we can pray, we can meditate on God's Word.  But when it comes to contemplation... well, that must be given.  It must be "infused."  Like the milk that softens escalloped cabbage and brings it all together so the dish can be served, contemplation is (in effect) "poured in."  It is something poured into us by God.

Yet pouring milk into an empty dish leaves us with just...  milk.   In order to have a firm, delicious casserole, the layering needs to first be put into place.

"Even though contemplation is utterly divinely given and humanly received, God gives only to the extent that we efficaciously desire, that is, not merely wish something to happen but take concrete means to fit ourselves to receive it."  In his wonderful book Fire Within, Father Thomas Dubay uses the Gospels plus writings from saints Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross to teach about prayer.  He says that for St. Teresa, "contemplation is an experienced, mutual presence, an intimate sharing between friends, a being alone with the God Who loves us.  Hence, this prayer is a mutual presence of two in love, and in this case the Beloved dwells within." 

"This experience of the divine presence involves nothing extraordinary.  It is not a vision, nothing is seen or heard... a deep experience of God can overflow into our emotions, but in its essence it is literally non-sensed.  The new knowing and loving of God are a spiritual reality, not a tangible one.   Repeatedly, Teresa insists that contemplative prayer is divinely produced.  She calls this prayer even in its delicate beginnings 'supernatural,' meaning by this term what we now intend with the word infused.  That is, poured in by God..."

...like milk....?

"In all types of infused prayer there are degrees of intensity, more and less, ebb and flow.  There are dry, dark yearnings; slow and gentle enkindlings of love; ecstatic absorptions and delights; experiences of refreshment, peace, pain, light and insights.  Being in love with God is never boring."


(above quotes from Fire Within by Thomas Dubay S.M., Ignatius Press, 1989, pages 58-60.  Click this line to read more about this title)


Monday, October 15, 2012

In the Vineyard of Prayer

We are still in the midst of our "lectio day," and we have much ahead to ponder.

In his book Praying Scripture for a Change, Tim Gray summarizes the rungs of "Guigo's ladder of lectio divina," helping us "visualize these vital steps to harvesting the vineyard of the divine text."

"Lectio:  In which the words of Scripture are examined closely, their connections and patterns noted.  Similar to how the grapes of a vineyard are examined and collected with care.

Meditatio:  In which the Scripture is squeezed to extract its meaning.  Similar to how grapes are squeezed for their juice.

Oratio:  In which our conversation with God about the Word allows us to ponder it in our heart with a growing desire for the One who has spoken to us.  Similar to how grape juice ferments over time in an oak barrel to produce the sweet wine.  

Contemplatio:  In which we 'taste the goodness of the Lord.'  Similar to how the wine is opened and its sweetness consumed."

Following these four steps and in response to them, continues Dr. Gray, "we can add a fifth step:

Operatio:  In which we make operative some practical resolution to bring the wine of God's word to fruitfulness in our life and the world."  (Tim Gray Ph.D, Praying Scripture for a Change, Ascension Press, 2009, p.36)

We have looked, at least to some extent, into the steps of lectio (reading), meditatio (meditation), and oratio (prayer and response).  In the next few posts, we'll ask Our Lord for the graces of contemplatio (contemplation).

In the meantime, I offer one more very brief video - this from the author of the text just quoted ... Dr. Tim Gray. 


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Gathering Fruits of Lectio

It is hard to put our Lectio into words.  God speaks to us in Scripture, we speak to Him in prayer, and these back and forth encounters weave into and through our everyday lives.

"I must admit," wrote one of you this morning "that when I first heard about Lectio Divina, I was intimidated thinking that it was a practice that only a few could master along with the great saints.  But as I am learning more and more everyday, it can be very simple and maybe even something that I have been doing all along and was unaware.  Maybe it can be as easy as sitting in a favorite chair in peace and silence and feeling the love of God envelop me.. feeling His greatness and my smallness and dependence.  I think this is something that we can all master..."

"We are not always going to have an experience," said someone else; " i.e. the scriptures will not always speak to us at that specific moment... it may even be quite dry. We may find that nothing struck us but a few days later, that particular verse will come to mind. There are times when I read a verse and it does strike me, but I don't have any particular words to say so I will sit quietly in God's Presence.  It will be different for each unique soul."

Others had the following things to say:

"Scripture not just contained in prayer time, but weaving throughout the circumstances of our whole day..."

"Monastic life seems to be simply life itself, lived more intentionally, lived symbolically... it confirms that what has been in my own heart is something real, something that can harmonize with my vocation to married life and motherhood."

"For various reasons (some known to me, some unknown), opening the Sacred Scriptures is a challenge for me...  I do love the Bible and there was a time in my life when my relationship with the written word of God was strong and healthy. This gives me hope for what is to come though I also know that things will necessarily be different now than they were in the past. A renewal of active love for Sacred Scripture seems to be the resolution God is leading me to for the Year of Faith."

"He puts in front of us what we need...whether those words speak to our hearts at the time, later in the day or maybe even a few days later."

"I am happy to learn that I have maybe been practicing lectio on some level, as I have begun my morning with scripture and prayer for many years. In a very loosey-goosey unguided kind of way. But I like the suggestion to re-read scripture several times, pray and reread, and will begin tomorrow."

"My prayer life has been unfolding ten-fold. It's been a quiet, gentle process and feels very natural. I have begun following the Divine Office online with morning prayers and night prayers. I love to listen along to the podcast (especially the night prayers.) It gives me a sense of community, joining the universal church in prayer, while still having that private prayer time I crave."

"I often will find myself drawn to one word or phrase that then becomes my prayer for one day or more. As long as I feel moved to pray it, I do that.  Often that prayer and the need for that prayer is made known, sometimes not. But it is kind of a way of ‘praying without ceasing.’"

"The prayer weaves in and out of my days... "

"Your suggestion of writing down or journaling what we hear in Scripture on a given day is an excellent one.  Our techy gadgets can keep us grounded in Scripture too.  Yesterday as I was praying one of the Offices for the day, a verse from one of the Psalms struck me.  I put it into the Memo feature on my phone and returned to it throughout the day.  It helped to keep that grille work in place!"

"Rosalind Moss once referred to Scripture as God's love letter to us."

"Today's gospel was a huge smack in the head, a good one. It made me realize that even though I stop giving chase to Him (neglecting my prayer life), He never stops His."


There is much more ahead on this topic, so I hope we can keep up prayer that God's will shall be done in it all....


Friday, October 12, 2012

Lectio Lasagna

When I found this video, I knew it had to be the Dinner for our "Lectio Day." 

I pray it will make us hungry for time with God. 

"I myself am the living bread come down from heaven.  If anyone eats this bread he shall live forever; the bread I will give is My flesh, for the life of the world." (Jesus, in John 6:51)

If anyone would like extra portions of scripture to pray with, click on the word "grille" in the line at the very top of this screen.  This will open a page of various passages.


Simply Lectio

What a blessing God has given us in the gift of Scripture.  What a blessing He continues to give as He opens our hearts to His Word, shedding light into all our dark corners, giving us personal love and peace and truth.  

Yesterday I had a touch of "lectio" without a Bible in front of me.  Having spent a fair amount of time with Scripture over the years, I'm privileged to now have some key chapters committed to memory.  Memorization is something I'm glad to have in my "box of prayer tools" when I find myself with time to pray but no access to a Bible.  Like once when I was lying in an MRI tube!

With a bit of time to myself (yesterday) but no Bible at hand, I began praying with lines I'd memorized from John's Gospel.  When I came to John 1:5, where it speaks of the Light shining on in darkness, a darkness that has not overcome it, I felt a touch of peace.  No matter what darkness may seem to be around - in the world, the media, in my life, in the lives of friends or family -  the Light of Christ is shining in the very midst of it.  I was struck by the words "in darkness."  Darkness may indeed be lurking, but His Light is there.  

It was a simple exchange, a conversation between my Lord and me... but lectio does not have to be complicated.  Day to day interactions between loved ones are generally not complicated either; sometimes it's wonderful to just bask in each other's presence.

"Today I sat quiet and just opened up to some scripture," wrote one of our friends who is practicing Lectio with us, "staying with words from a commentary on the scripture that I was reading.... to 'bask in His Love.'  I reflected on these words......so I  basked in His Love.....like a cat basking in the Sun of a Winter Day!" - Anita

"I found myself with a few quiet moments this afternoon," wrote our friend Rose.  "so I decided to try a little lectio.  I found a nice sunny spot on the front porch where I could soak up the sunshine.  I closed my eyes, placing myself in the presence of God, feeling His presence in the warmth of the sun.  I picked up my missal and read the readings for today's Mass.  Nothing in the Epistle struck me; but, oh the Responsorial and the Gospel.  The  Responsorial was the Psalm about 'Lord, you know me.  You know when I sit and when I stand.  You knit me in my mother's womb.'  That was followed by the Gospel story of Mary and Martha.  WOW!  Did all of this ever speak to me right now, right where I stand spiritually.  I felt like God was saying, 'I know all about you.  I know how busy you are. I know all that you do. I know it is good to cook and clean and do all that you do but can't you give me a little Mary time?'  So, I gave God a little Mary time.  And it was wonderful.  I ended my prayer time by taking a nice long walk back to the woods, praying a rosary along the way, singing hymns on my way back.  I arrived back home totally refreshed and ready for two little granddaughters to come play with me for a couple of hours.  What a blessed afternoon. I think I will try to really involve myself in Lectio for the Year of Faith." - Rose 

With these beautiful experiences in mind, I will quote something written on this blog back in March, when I spoke of "the dazzling simplicity of Lectio.  It does not have to be complicated.  It is God meeting man, God speaking to man. It is the written word of God becoming a fresh, vital, personal, breathed-forth-for-me-at-this-moment word of God.  It is loving, intimate, real.  It is when inspired words of God ring from the page or out of the mouth of a reader and are spoken to ME, here and now. It is my response to the Voice of God as I thank, talk with, love, adore."

May He continue granting us graces to thank, talk with, love, adore.


To continue this "Day of Lectio," click here

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Dialogue of Faith

Continuing with our study and practice of lectio, we might find the following article helpful.  Before we look at this, however, I'd like to plug in one extra step that I've found helpful over the years (it's one I was taught to use when praying with scripture in the Ignatian spiritual exercises).

This is:  after the time of reading and prayer, I make a note of what has happened - even if that appeared at the time to be "nothing."  This doesn't have to be long or wordy; it's simply a way to keep track of what verse might have struck me, or how I may have felt drawn to pray, or what things came up between Our Lord and me during this time.  I keep a special prayer journal for such notations, and find that it helps me see patterns as days and months go along.

And now...  something I found on "Zenit:"

In September, 2009, "Cardinal Odilo Scherer recommended to his archdiocese the exercise of prayerful reading of the Word of God.... the archbishop of São Paulo recalled how the synod of bishops on the Word of God, held last October (2008), 'noted with joy that in the whole world the prayerful reading of the Bible -- lectio divina -- is being adopted and is spreading.' 'It is a simple method accessible to everyone, including the most simple,' the cardinal said, explaining that the method 'proposes the reading and acceptance of the Word of God in a context of prayer, as the Church recommends.' Through lectio divina, Cardinal Scherer continued, a 'dialogue of faith' is established, 'in which we listen to God who speaks, we respond with prayer and try to be attuned to him in our lives.'...

The cardinal went on to offer the faithful four easy steps for lectio divina.

First, one reads the passage. 'In this first instance, one attempts to understand the text exactly as it appears, without pretending to extract from it immediately messages and conclusions,' he said.

Meditation on the text comes next, in response to the question 'What is God saying to me, or to us, through this text? Now we really do try to listen to God who is speaking to us and we receive his voice.'

Then comes prayer. In this third step, we respond to the question: 'What does this text bring me to say to God?'

'Let us always remember that a good biblical reading is always done only in the dialogue of faith: God speaks, we listen and accept, and respond to God and speak to him,'  the cardinal explained. The text  'might inspire several types of prayer: praise, profession of faith, thanksgiving, adoration, petition for forgiveness and help.'

The fourth and final step of lectio divina is contemplation. In this step 'we dwell on the Word and further our understanding of the mystery of God and his plan of love and salvation; at the same time, we dispose ourselves to accept in our concrete lives what the Word teaches us, renewing our good intentions and obedience of the faith.'

With these four steps, Cardinal Scherer said experience teaches that it is not difficult to practice lectio divina.

'It's enough to start; it is learned by being practiced,' he said. 

'The preciousness of the Word of God and its importance for Christian life, moreover, well merits an effort on our part.'"                                                                                 (article from Zenit, September 15, 2009). 


A Guest Speaker

As we participate in Lectio Divina, it is vitally important that we remain in line with Holy Mother Church.  With this in mind, we have a "guest speaker," who has something to share from our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI.

This is a brief video, less than three minutes long (as it's more important for us to spend time practicing lectio than hearing or reading about it).

For those of you who do not know him, I introduce to you the author of the acclaimed "Great Adventure Bible Timeline" study:  Mr. Jeff Cavins....



Tuesday, October 9, 2012

God is Calling Me

As we begin our "Lectio Day," I realize that I'm making things terribly complicated.  "I don't know enough about this topic," I decide.  Oh, I know the basic steps of lectio (I remind myself), I can recite the "rungs of the ladder." But what if I get them confused, or don't say enough about them, or say too much, or don't quote the wisest experts.....?

It's okay.  Perhaps one of the first fruits of this, for me, is happening right now, right at the outset, even as I write these words onscreen.

It's okay.

This is God's work, not mine.  He is the One inviting us to open His Word and begin to read.  As we do so, He will take it from there.   He is calling me, He is calling you.  Each one, individually.

He is reaching out to touch my heart. 

Often those in a monastery practice Lectio Divina early in the morning.  We will do that.  We'll also practice it at midday and in the afternoon and at night.. for this is our "Lectio Day."

Begin simply, I feel Him "tell" me.  And so I am going to start with an approach I'm personally very comfortable with, and which is outlined quite nicely in the quote below from Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington.  I might post (briefly) several times a day as we begin this and as I get "acclimated" to the process, so check back when you can!  The more we keep this in the forefront of our minds, the more it will affect our daily routines.  In cloistered heart terminology:  we will be keeping the grille (of scripture) before our eyes.

I will include a few Scripture suggestions at the end of this post... but we can use whatever we wish.   Cardinal Wuerl suggests using the readings of the day.  We will trust God to direct each of us, for He knows our hearts.

Ready to get going?  Here is what Cardinal Donald Wuerl has to say at his diocesan website ( http://cardinalsblog.adw.org/2012/07/lectio-divina/ ) . I shall trust that he would not mind my putting his words directly on this blog, in order to keep us from getting too distracted.

"Choose a text of Sacred Scripture for your prayer. Taking the Gospel passage from the Mass of the day is an effective way of praying with the Universal Church.

Be silent and quiet your mind.  Place yourself in a comfortable position for prayer.

Read the text through slowly and carefully. Select a word or a phrase that makes you stop or strikes you as beautiful, inspiring or challenging. Read the text a second time, again, slowly and with attention.

Repeat the word or phrase.  Think about it in the context of your own life and experience.  Consider that God may be sharing this word or phrase with you as an invitation to conversation or a new awareness of his presence in your life.

Speak to God, offer to God words of petition or thanksgiving.  Share what is on your mind and in your heart as if you are speaking with a close friend or a spouse.

Be silent again and rest in the presence of our loving God. After a few minutes, read the passage a third and final time. Remain quiet.

Close your Bible and move toward the next part of your day, carrying your word or phrase in your mind and heart noticing how it directs and shapes your day.”

Scriptures we could use:
Luke 12:22-32
Philippians 4:4-13


Monday, October 8, 2012

We Rest, That We May Climb

It has been a full day in the monastery.  Now we prepare to "climb the ladder of lectio," toward a deeper immersion in the Word of God.  May we be directed by Jesus, our only Lord. 

 Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake.  Watch over us as we sleep.  That awake, we may keep watch with Christ.  And asleep, rest in His peace......

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To begin our "Day of Lectio," click this line

Come, Author of Lectio

Between supper and night prayer in a monastery, usually there is recreation.  However, in this between-supper-and-night-prayer-post, we'll spend our time talking about "tomorrow."

As we know by now, our next monastic "day" (which may become two weeks long!) is one in which we will pray to be immersed in lectio.  With that in mind, I'd like to take a brief look, in advance, at what my personal hopes are for this. 

First:  what this is not: 

- This is not a book club, where a particular book is discussed.  Yes, I've recommended one, and I'll quote from it because I find it one of the more "reader friendly" titles I've personally discovered on the subject of lectio.  But having and reading this volume is not "necessary" for anyone else.

- This will not be a series of "teachings," although hopefully the quotes I'll use (from several sources) will help us learn more about lectio divina from those who have written about it.

Second:  what I hope this will become:

-  I would love to see us move from reading about lectio divina into practicing it, into becoming comfortable doing so, and even into hungering for it.  Hungering for "lectio" is, of course, hungering for Scripture, and for prayer.

Which is, of course, hungering for God.

- We talk here at The Cloistered Heart about "living through the grille," about developing a habit of seeing and responding to all persons and all circumstances through the grillwork of the will of God.  Our basic grillwork is Scripture.

So:  I see the practice of lectio divina as a builder of our grilles. 

-  The thought came to me to do this in the framework of another "day".. because my hope is that Scripture will became, for each of us, a "grille" which will go with us into every part of every day. 

"The presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church enables all who accept its guidance and live in its communion to read the inspired Scriptures by the light of the same Spirit by Whom they were written.. the written words of the New Testament are ... a place where Christ can still be encountered and where He has promised that His words will transform those who receive them."  (Daniel Rees, Consider Your Call, Cistercian Publications, 1980, p. 262).

We rely on God alone to lead us.  It is the Holy Spirit of God Who inspired the writers of Scripture.  It is the Holy Spirit of God Who speaks the words afresh into my own heart, into my own life, as I prayerfully read them.

This is the basis, the framework, the great bottom line, of Lectio Divina.

Lectio is to be an encounter with the Person of Christ. 

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of Your love.  Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created.  And You shall renew the face of the earth.

To continue our second monastic day, click this line

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Taste of Lectio

As supper begins on our second monastic day, I have an announcement.

It seems we are not finished with our "days."  We shall be having a third, and this one will be all about lectio.  That is:  we'll look at the monastic practice of lectio from as many "angles" as we can possibly manage.  We'll read about it, share the fruits of it in our lives, and most of all - we will hopefully be encouraged toward the practice of it. 

The hope - and certainly the prayer - is that, throughout the routines of our third "day," we will be drawn into an immersion in lectio.  After all, to be immersed in lectio is to be immersed in scripture.  And to be immersed in scripture is to be immersed in God. 

With this in mind, our supper refectory reading is again from Praying Scripture for a Change by Tim Gray.  As I am recommending this book, I hope the publishers would not mind my quoting from it here (perhaps they would consider this a "review").  The book is also available from Amazon.com.

"Some might say 'Lectio Divina was invented by and for monks.  Can it really be practiced by ordinary people living busy lives?'  The answer to such a question is given by Pope Benedict XVI. Since the start of his pontificate in April 2005, Pope Benedict has strongly championed the use of lectio divina for everybody.... Pope Benedict said:  'if lectio divina is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church - I am convinced - a new spiritual springtime.'  In those words, the Holy Father is echoing Vatican II:  'The Church forcefully and specially exhorts all the Christian faithful... to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:8) by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures...  Let them remember, however, that prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that a dialogue takes place between God and man.'..." (Tim Gray, 2009 Ascension Press, p. 37).

"In contrast to meditation techniques aimed at emptying the mind, Christian meditation makes full use of the intellect in an effort to understand God's Word and to hear God's voice (p.62)

''Lectio (Latin for 'a reading') divina ('divine') literally means 'divine reading,' and refers to the reading of Sacred Scripture in the context of personal prayer."  (p. 26)

"A Carthusian monk named Guigo... begins his book (Ladder of Monks): 'one day when I was busy working with my hands I began to think about our spiritual work, and all at once four stages in spiritual exercise came into my mind: reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation.  These make a ladder for monks by which they are lifted up from earth to heaven.  It has few rungs, yet its length is immense and wonderful, for its lower end rests upon the earth, but its top pierces the clouds and touches heavenly secrets.'" (quoted by Gray on p. 27)

"As you practice lectio divina and read and meditate on God's Word, your mind falls in love with the truth."  (p. 96)   

Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

To continue our second monastic day, click this line

Friday, October 5, 2012

My Vespers

While our Sisters and Brothers in monasteries are chanting Vespers (usually between 4:30 and 6:00 pm), we who live out "in the world" may well be in the busiest time of our day.  The world, at Vespers-time, is right in the middle of "rush hour."  It is when many are leaving work, pouring into roads and trains to make the journey home.  Some of us are preparing an evening meal, knowing that growling tummies will not be soothed if we hide away in prayer corners to sing and chant praise.

So we do what must be done.   Many times we're content to be exactly where we are.  Sometimes, however, the grass can look greener inside the monastic fence, and I will admit that "rush hour," for me, is a time when my own grass can seem seriously withered. This is due in large part (for me) to a kind of physical and mental lagginess that tends to hit in late afternoon, and has for as long as I can remember.  It's the time of day when I'm tired, draggy, and most likely to feel - well, grumbly.  Through the years, I've learned that I am not the only person to feel washed out at that time.  Yet this is when people have to get themselves home from work, food must be prepared (sometimes by the same individuals who have just plowed their way through traffic), and children may need a bit of extra referee-ing.

When the body is exhausted and the mind is reeling from a day's work, even the humdrum tasks of late afternoon can seem immense.  "I remember reading," said our friend Rose some time ago,"that obedience to one's superior is more meritorious than all the self-imposed mortifications, fastings and prayers.  Then I realized my superior is really my vocation as a wife and mother.  Therefore, my duties and responsibilities of motherhood must come first.  And, done with the right intentions (as St. Francis de Sales says, 'for the greater glory of God'), all my actions are lifted up in prayer."

Those in a cloister come to Vespers out of obedience.  They gather to pray when they feel like doing so, and when they do not.  

When my day starts to bend toward evening, it is time for a particular kind of "Vespers."  It's a time when I can offer my duties, my care for those around me, any rush-hour hassles I may face, and even my own dragginess, to God.  

By being made into an offering, these can become my evening prayer.

“When you use the analogy of the grille of God’s will and imagine yourself protected by it, you really do see things in a new light. I think a perfect example of this was when I placed myself there on my 40 minute drives back and forth to work, battling very unpleasant traffic. Suddenly it didn’t matter if everyone seemed to try to push me out of the way - I was alone with God and nothing else was of any concern.” (from our friend Jane) 

God “can say to someone driving that car bumper to bumper, ‘I will lead you into solitude and there I will speak to your heart. (Hosea 2:14).’” (Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Poustinia, Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame IN, 1975, p. 22)

"Some people might think it contradictory to speak of 'contemplative' in the same sentence as 'mother of a very large family.' But it is the contemplative spirit that has helped me survive the chaos that is natural when raising a number of children.... The cloister in my heart is a place of refuge.  It is a place where I can retreat from the world no matter where I am; in the middle of a crowded mall, or in a busy grocery store, or in my own kitchen." - Rose


To continue our second monastic day, click this line