In his Rule, St. Benedict embeds two of the Church’s great prayer traditions into the daily life of the monastic community – the communal Liturgy of the Hours, and the personal Lectio Divina. These forms of prayer, as well as the Liturgy of the Eucharist, nurture and support the monastic community. They each give us opportunities for encounter and growth in our relationship with God, with Jesus Christ, with ourselves, and with one another as we become the Body of Christ.
“Idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore, the community members should have specified periods for manual labor as well as for sacred reading.” (RB 48:1)
Lectio divina is a form of sacred reading, primarily prayed individually. In his day, St. Benedict prescribed several hours a day for the community members to engage in lectio divina. Today, each sister in our community sets a particular time each day conducive to her schedule.
We believe that as we engage individually in this practice of sacred reading, we will meet God who uses the sacred text (preferably Scripture) to touch, to awaken, to penetrate our hearts. We call on the Holy Spirit to guide us and trust in God’s grace working in us so we can come to know God’s will, receive God’s call to conversion, learn to love. As we are drawn into God’s love, this encounter naturally evokes a response from us like wonder, praise, sorrow for sin, petition, love.
Linger here to learn more about the four steps (though not necessarily linear) in this practice of prayer.
Prayerful Reading (Lectio)
This is a manner of reading unlike our usual way. We read slowly, patiently, and attentively, not to gather information, but to listen for what God wants to speak to us today. We open our minds and hearts to hear a word or a phrase from the reading that stands out or catches our attention.
Now we savor the word or phrase that caught our attention, turn it over and over in our mind, consider its meaning in the context and culture of the time. We then open our hearts to receive it as if it were spoken directly and personally to us today. We ask to be enlightened to its meaning for us, what God desires to share with us, call us to, or reveal to us about ourselves, our situations, or experiences. This period helps us to grow in knowledge of God and of ourselves.
We take time to respond to God in a heart-to-heart talk. God already knows what we need and desire but wants us to share the thoughts and feelings that arose in our hearts. We may express gratitude, praise, love, or cry out in repentance, or with intercessions, petitions. We may write a prayer, a poem, a song, draw an image or journal. In these moments we grow in union with God.
Rest in God
Here we surrender ourselves to rest in God’s presence, held in God’s love, resting in God’s presence. No words or thoughts are necessary. And directed purely by the gift of God’s grace, one may be led into an intimate experience of union with God.