Category Archives: Lectio Divina

Steps of Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina chart.jpgPope Benedict reviews “… the basic steps of this procedure. It opens with the reading (lectio) of a text, which leads to a desire to understand its true content: what does the biblical text say in itself? Without this, there is always a risk that the text will become a pretext for never moving beyond our own ideas. Next comes meditation (meditatio), which asks: what does the biblical text say to us? Here, each person, individually but also as a member of the community, must let himself or herself be moved and challenged. Following this comes prayer (oratio), which asks the question: what do we say to the Lord in response to his word?

Prayer, as petition, intercession, thanksgiving and praise, is the primary way by which the word transforms us. Finally, lectio divina concludes with contemplation (contemplatio), during which we take up, as a gift from God, his own way of seeing and judging reality, and ask ourselves what conversion of mind, heart and life is the Lord asking of us? In the Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul tells us: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (12:2). Contemplation aims at creating within us a truly wise and discerning vision of reality, as God sees it, and at forming within us “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16). The word of God appears here as a criterion for discernment: it is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). We do well also to remember that the process of lectio divina is not concluded until it arrives at action (actio), which moves the believer to make his or her life a gift for others in charity” (Verbum Domini, 87).

Lectio Divina in Verbum Domini

In the Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini released today, I immediately started reading the document for what the Pope had to say about lectio divina. You may recall the Pope’s remarks for the 40th anniversary of Dei Verbum in 2005, he said lectio divina will bring about a spiritual springtime in Church. His words were:

“the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart (cf. Dei Verbum, 25). If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church –I am convinced of it– a new spiritual springtime.”

No less than 16 times does His Holiness use the words lectio divina.

Here are some points of interest in Verbum Domini regarding lectio:

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46. Listening together to the word of God, engaging in biblical lectio divina, letting ourselves be struck by the inexhaustible freshness of God’s word which never grows old, overcoming our deafness to those words that do not fit our own opinions or prejudices, listening and studying within the communion of the believers of every age: all these things represent a way of coming to unity in faith as a response to hearing the word of God.

48. The interpretation of sacred Scripture would remain incomplete were it not to include listening to those who have truly lived the word of God: namely, the saints. Indeed, “viva lectio est vita bonorum.” The most profound interpretation of Scripture comes precisely from those who let themselves be shaped by the word of God through listening, reading and assiduous meditation. It is certainly not by chance that the great currents of spirituality in the Church’s history originated with an explicit reference to Scripture.

82. Those aspiring to the ministerial priesthood are called to a profound personal relationship with God’s word, particularly in lectio divina, so that this relationship will in turn nurture their vocation: it is in the light and strength of God’s word that one’s specific vocation can be discerned and appreciated, loved and followed, and one’s proper mission carried out, by nourishing the heart with thoughts of God, so that faith, as our response to the word, may become a new criterion for judging and evaluating persons and things, events and issues. Such attention to the prayerful reading of Scripture must not in any way lead to a dichotomy with regard to the exegetical studies which are a part of formation. The Synod recommended that seminarians be concretely helped to see the relationship between biblical studies and scriptural prayer.

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86. The Synod frequently insisted on the need for a prayerful approach to the sacred text as a fundamental element in the spiritual life of every believer, in the various ministries and states in life, with particular reference to lectio divina.

Devote yourself to the lectio of the divine Scriptures; apply yourself to this with perseverance. Do your reading with the intent of believing in and pleasing God. If during the lectio you encounter a closed door, knock and it will be opened to you by that guardian of whom Jesus said, ‘The gatekeeper will open it for him.’ By applying yourself in this way to lectio divina, search diligently and with unshakable trust in God for the meaning of the divine Scriptures, which is hidden in great fullness within.

For this reason, the privileged place for the prayerful reading of sacred Scripture is the liturgy, and particularly the Eucharist, in which, as we celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ in the sacrament, the word itself is present and at work in our midst. In some sense the prayerful reading of the Bible, personal and communal, must always be related to the Eucharistic celebration. Just as the adoration of the Eucharist prepares for, accompanies and follows the liturgy of the Eucharist, so too prayerful reading, personal and communal, prepares for, accompanies and deepens what the Church celebrates when she proclaims the word in a liturgical setting. By so closely relating lectio and liturgy, we can better grasp the criteria which should guide this practice in the area of pastoral care and in the spiritual life of the People of God.

87. The documents produced before and during the Synod mentioned a number of methods for a faith-filled and fruitful approach to sacred Scripture. Yet the greatest attention was paid to lectio divina, which is truly “capable of opening up to the faithful the treasures of God’s word, but also of bringing about an encounter with Christ, the living word of God.”

Lectio Divina will bring about a new spiritual springtime in the Church, Benedict recommends

On the occasion of the 40th anniversary Dei Verbum in 2005, Pope Benedict made what I think is a brilliant claim that lectio divina will be instrumental in bringing a new era in the Church. The Pope said:

In this context, I would like in particular way to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of “Lectio divina”: “the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart” (cf. Dei Verbum, 25). If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church — I am convinced of it — a new spiritual springtime. (16 September 2005)

How to do lectio divina

My friends at St Louis Abbey posted this cheat-cheat on doing lectio divina encouraging us to dig deeply into this very necessary form of prayer. All good things are derived from the daily practice of lectio divina. As the monks will tell you, lectio is not only for monks but for the entire Church.


Lectio divina is a way of getting in touch daily in a personal way
with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; it is a way of getting in touch with Jesus Christ our Lord and our brother. It is away of reading centered on God and, if you do it with faith you will be able to hear what he has to say to you here at this moment.  It is a way of reading which is slow so that the words are savored in meditation. It moves from the literal meaning to what only the Spirit can make clear to you. It calls for action by your involvement and for passive surrender as it draws you into the heart of God. It is disinterested; the text must be read for its own sake and not for the achievement of having read it.

Lectio is a way of experiencing Jesus Christ. You will encounter him personally in the sacred scriptures because he is there hidden in the pages of your Bible and you ought to believe in his presence with greater assurance than if you could see him with your eyes.  He has the same power there as he revealed in the gospels and he cures you of your physical and moral ailments, brings his light to your everyday life and leads you to eternal life.

Your encounter is with the Word who loves you unconditionally and is ever present and real in your life. From all eternity God has had a plan for the whole course of your life, your personal fulfillment, your vocation, your happiness. You will surely stray from the right path and become alienated from your true self through serving other gods, if you do not allow him to reveal himself to you daily through his word. It is in
your Bible that the true story of your life is written. If you don’t at once
understand what you read, then have confidence that the Lord will reveal it to you in his own time, because no word comes form the mouth of the Lord without achieving in you the work he intended. If your thoughts and imagination get in the way of your prayer, then fling them immediately before Christ.  Make no attempt to master them by your own strength, but try to turn back to your prayer.

You ought to do lectio every day, even if it is only one single verse of the Bible, because, “It is not on bread alone that man lives but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)  Your reading of the word of God should be deliberate, moving slowly from verse to verse, from word to word, watching for the context, paying close attention to each passage, looking out for the answers that are there in sacred scripture itself and the echoes they evoke, watching the notes and marginal references and always treasuring silence so as to make space to listen. You should know that the word you hear is directed to you personally and individually. When you read the word of God, it
speaks to you; when you pray, you speak to the word and so turn your prayer into conversation.

Your prayer may be simply staying with the word in silence, or it may be a thanksgiving, or a petition, or praise, or blessing, or contrition, or intercession, or one single word on which you pause and then repeat at will, or it may be a prayer of inspiration. If you are taking part in shared lectio, the way to share what the scripture has said to you is by means of a personal comment spoken in the first person singular and applied to your own life, or else it may be a prayer out loud offered directly to God.

José Manuel Eguiguren Guzman of the Manquehue Movement, Chile; translated by Abbot Patrick Barry, OSB

Daily Rule of Prayer: Mass, adoration, lectio divina…

For the most part, the time for priestly and diaconal ordinations have come and gone. Where I am for the summer, a newly ordained priest is due to arrive in a few days. Having heard plenty of ordination homilies over the years none are as insightful as Benedict XVI’s especially when he proposes a plan to be spiritually fit. Of course, all what is said is not restricted to priests but applicable to the laity as well. All of us reading this post are familiar with all the points made about developing a prayer life and seeing them together constitutes a serious plan. Father Mark draws our attention to one item that is near-and-dear to many of us: lectio divina. I am re-posting a portion of my friend Father Mark’s recent May blog entry because I think it’s helpful.

What is Father Everypriest’s daily Rule of Prayer according to Pope Benedict XVI? Let’s consider the elements of the Rule in the order in which the Holy Father presents them.

1) Daily Holy Mass. Daily. Not 6 days week, not 5, or 4 days a week, but daily. The liturgical cycle in its hourly, daily, weekly, and yearly rhythms is given us precisely to facilitate our “abiding” in Christ hour by hour, day by day, week by week, and year after year. Integral to the liturgical cycle is daily Holy Mass. The Eucharistic Sacrifice sends the divine lifeblood coursing through one’s spiritual organism. Without daily Mass, the priest will succumb to spiritual anemia.

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2) The Liturgy of the Hours. The Hours give rhythm and grace to daily life. They are a school of discipline (discipleship), a supernatural system of irrigation channeling grace into every moment of the day, a privileged way of offering thanks in communion with all who, “in heaven, on earth, and under the earth,” confess the Name of Jesus and bend the knee before Him. A priest who loves the Divine Office will enjoy an interior life that is sane, and sound, and wholly ecclesial. Fidelity to the Divine Office refines the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, sharpens one’s discernment, and imparts to everything the priest does a certain Eucharistic and doxological quality.

3) Eucharistic Adoration. Are you surprised? Eucharistic adoration has known a kind of springtime since The Year of the Eucharist (2004-2005) that was also the year of the death of Pope John Paul II and of the election of Pope Benedict XVI. Two Americans known for loving their brother priests and ministering to them tirelessly –Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen and Father Gerald Fitzgerald of the Holy Spirit– insisted on a daily hour before the Blessed Sacrament as a sine qua non of priestly spirituality. The priest who adores the Blessed Sacrament exposes his weaknesses and wounds to the healing radiance of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus. Moreover, he abides before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus as the representative of his people: of the sick, the poor, the bereaved, and of those locked in spiritual combat. The priest who looks to the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, and draws near to His Open Heart in the Sacrament of the Altar, will, just as the psalm says, be radiant, and he will not be put to shame.

4) Lectio Divina. Again — a monastic thing? No, a Catholic thing. The quality of a priest’s preaching is directly proportionate to his commitment to lectio divina. Neglect of lectio divina leads to mediocre preaching. Opening the Scriptures is like opening the tabernacle: therein the priest finds the “hidden manna” his soul craves. The four steps of lectio divina can be accommodated to any length of time: 1) lectio, i.e. the Word heard; 2) meditatio, i.e. the Word repeated; 3) oratio, i.e. the Word prayed;

4) Contemplatio; i.e. the indwelling Word. Lectio divina cannot be occasional;
it is not a random pursuit. Learn to say, “I am not available.” Get over feeling guilty about taking time for God!

5) Holy Rosary. Yes, the daily Rosary. It’s a spiritual lifeline that has saved many a priest from spiritual shipwreck. The brilliant and holy exegete and founder of the École biblique in Jerusalem, Father Marie-Joseph Lagrange, was observed praying fifteen mysteries of the Rosary each day, and asked, “Why, Father, do you, a great exegete, need to pray the Rosary?” “Because, ” he answered, “it decapitates
pride.” I would add that not only does the Rosary decapitate pride; it decapitates each of the seven capital sins: pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. With the passing of the years I have come to appreciate the profound wisdom of an old Dominican priest to whom I used to make my confession years ago. Invariably, after confessing my miseries, Father would ask, “Do you say the Rosary, son?” And invariably I would reply, “Yes, Father.” And then he would say, “Aye, then you’ll be alright.” A priest who prays the Rosary daily will be alright and, almost imperceptibly, will grow in purity and humility.

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6) Meditation. Meditation can mean many things, even within our Catholic tradition. It is integral to the prayerful celebration of Holy Mass and the Hours. “it nourishes Eucharistic adoration. It is the second “moment” of lectio divina. It is the soul of the Rosary. In my own experience, meditation is related to “remembering the things the Lord has done.” Saint Gertrude the Great, a model of the mystical life grounded in the liturgy, used to say, “A grace remembered is a grace renewed.” Understood in this sense, meditation, by recalling the mercies of the Lord in the past, infuses the present with hope, and allows the priest to go forward with a holy boldness.

Is it necessary to set a period of time apart for meditation as such? That depends on whom you ask. The Carmelite, Jesuit and Sulpician traditions would hold fast to some form of meditation as a daily exercise. The monastic tradition has, on the whole, taken a more supple approach to meditation. It is a daily practice, but one diffused in every form of prayer, including the liturgy itself. One learns to pace one’s prayer, to pause, to breathe, to linger over a phrase, a word, or an image. Whether one espouses the Ignatian way or the monastic approach, meditation is an integral to every priest’s daily Rule of Prayer.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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