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Catholic contemplative life and devotion

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Lectio Divina

Prayer and action bring transformation of ourselves and society

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We pray for peace to no avail; for a time of healing, but terror comes instead (Jeremiah 8:15)

We religious people are often accused of saying “Our thoughts and prayers are with you,” and then doing nothing to help. Apparently this has sometimes been a problem with us. 

“If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?” James 2:15-16

So we should not pray that mass shootings will end but do nothing to be a part of the solution or a comfort and support to all who are traumatized and grieving. We can’t expect God to do things we should be doing, should we? After all we are his hands and his feet and his love in this world. 

The secular world may mock the power of prayer but prayer is transformative both for us and for the world. 

Another temptation right now besides prayer without action is for us to take refuge in our ideologies. This is normal these days. It happens every time there is a mass shooting, doesn’t it? The same arguments and nobody listens to anyone and nothing changes. We should remember that everyone is heartbroken about the school shooting of little children and their teachers in Uvalde. No one is left untouched or unbroken by this tragedy. This we have in common. 

A challenge I want to issue is to avoid praying without taking action, and for us not to take refuge in ideology but to take refuge in God. This will read like a copout to some but it isn’t. As Fr. Richard Rohr so aptly says, when we pray “Thy Kingdom come,” we are also saying, “My kingdom go.” God is ultimate Reality, and he is Truth Itself. He will not only share his truth with us, he will strengthen us to bear it and lead us into the right actions because we are really asking with open hearts. 

In open-hearted prayer we set ourselves aside. We put away our own agendas and open ourselves to God’s agenda. Not only that, we will see one another there in God too.  As the people of the Focolare movement say, “We can be one with anyone at any time in all things but sin.” With these attitudes of humility, willingness and openness to unity, we will be praying humbly  with love of God and love of our brothers and sisters. This is the kind of prayer that really works, prayer that changes the world and changes us.  

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I suggest an ancient prayer form called Lectio Divina (Holy Reading.) There are five steps to this prayer. 

Let’s try using  Psalm 25 for our prayer today. 

Step One Lectio: First, slowly and reflectively read a passage of the Bible three times, paying special attention to any word or phrase that catches your attention.

Step Two Meditatio: Quietly ponder the word or phrase that stands out to you slowly repeating it in silence. Asking the Lord what he is saying to you in this Word, brought to your attention by the Holy Spirit.   

Step Three Oratio:  When you receive light on what God is saying in your soul through that word or phrase, now respond back to God in prayer, perhaps asking for all that you need to carry out his will, or maybe in praise and thanksgiving; whatever is appropriate.

Step Four Contemplatio:  Rest now in simple love, in communion with him for a time.    

Step Five Actio: Like Mary after the Annunciation, arise with haste and act on what you have received in prayer! (Luke 1:39) Take Jesus, as his hands and feet and heart, into this tragedy in whatever way God has led you to do in prayer. 

Most likely we aren’t going to pray this way once and experience the immediate response from God that we do when we make a phone call. God is usually very subtle and so are the movements of our souls. It takes practice, persistence and grace as well as time before we learn to listen and discern. However, even after a few days with this kind of prayer you will notice a difference.

And don’t forget:

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)

God’s word always accomplishes what God sends it to do.

So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

Even if we feel nothing, we can have faith in the Word of God, and in his purpose. What we are doing is opening ourselves to be “channels of his divine will into this world” (from a prayer by Fr. Adrien van Kaam.)

Over time we will find ourselves transformed, and in a mysterious way, we will have planted the seeds of transformation in the world around us as well.

Our society needs more than assistance, more than laws, more than debate and problem solving, more than access to psychological help. It needs all of these but beneath all of them we need change within.

May the Lord make each of us channels of his peace.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy. 

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive, 
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, 
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

St, Francis of Assisi

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Lectio for lovers; praying Lectio Divina as a couple

In silent open-ness to God, we set aside our own agendas and open ourselves to God’s agenda, which is always love, love, and more love. What could be better than that?

Lectio Divina (Holy Reading) is an ancient Christian way to pray the Scriptures. It involves reading a passage of the Bible, listening to God in silence, responding back to God in prayer, and then resting in silent prayer for a time.

To pray this couple’s method of Lectio Divina, you will need:

Some quiet, private time.
A comfortable place to sit.
A Bible
A note book and something to write with
A quiet timer
Your romantic partner
An open, receptive heart

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Make yourselves comfortable in whatever way you can best

pay attention,

relax deeply,

be near one another.

You might begin, after the sign of the cross, with a vocal prayer to the Holy Spirit. I like this one:

Come, Holy Spirit,

come by means

of the powerful intercession

of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,

Thy well beloved spouse.”

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Step 1: Lectio

Have a passage chosen ahead of time that you both agree on. We usually choose something from the mass readings of the day.

Passing the Bible back and forth to take turns reading, read the passage aloud, slowly and reflectively.

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Of course you could each have your own Bible. But I like the reciprocation in the giving of the Bible to one another, and in taking turns; one listening, one reading.

As you hear the Scripture passage, listen for a word, phrase or sentence that stands out to you. (Don’t worry, one will.)

After the third time reading the passage through, write your word (s) into the note book you have between you.

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The Benedictine monks, who most developed this prayer form, called this note book a “florilegium,” meaning, “book of flowers.” Writing your verse or phrase down will help you focus as you pray, and be fruitful for later perusal, discussion, or future prayer.

This word or passage that stands out as you hear the Word of God, is considered to be the Holy Spirit speaking to you.

He laughs.

“What?”

“It’s just that each of these verses fit each of us so well.”

She laughs, too.

“Yeah, God thinks he’s pretty clever.”

Step 2: Meditatio

You may want to set a timer for this section of the prayer. Try to make it a light, non- jarring sound. I have an app on my kindle with a nice Tibetan bell sound for this purpose.

As to the time duration, agree on it beforehand. Ten to twenty minutes should do it. But even five is OK if that is all the time you have.

This time will be silent. You may want to hold hands, or put your feet together, and close your eyes.

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• Inwardly repeat your word or phrase with expectation. As you ponder it, apply it to your life and relationship with God. Let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to make clear His message to you.

When your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your word or phrase, placing yourself once more in God’s presence.
• Ask the Lord, “What are you saying to me in this word or phrase?”

Sometimes you will want to stop here and discuss, briefly, the fruit of your meditatio together.

Step 3 Oratio

After the timer goes off, take a moment or maybe a few moments to respond with a prayer back to God about what He has lead you to understand or given to you during meditatio.

You might wish to write your prayer response into the notebook and to pray it aloud with your partner.

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Step 4 Contemplatio

This usually means to rest in God’s Heart in silence. I think when praying as a couple, it is good to rest also in one another’s hearts at the same time.

God is love,

and whoever lives in love,

lives in God,

and God in him.

(1John 4:16)

Again, set the timer, perhaps for 10-20 minutes as during the meditatio, and maybe hold hands, close your eyes, place yourselves in the presence of God, and rest lovingly there together.

If it is hard for you to do this, you might choose a prayer word like the Name of Jesus, Mary, or the word, “God,” “love” or “peace,” for your mind to hold onto like a walking stick as it travels in quiet over the next few minutes.

When the time is up, you may wish to pray aloud together the Our Father.

End with the sign of the cross and the kiss of peace.

Blessed are those who hear the word of God

– and cherish it in their hearts

(a responsory from the Liturgy of the Hours)

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*We have found that sometimes adjustments to this method must be made because of time, distance, kids, etc. It can be spread out over days, or sometimes reflections can be e-mailed or discussed in the car. Remember that God cannot be limited by the things we are limited by. He only wants us to be willing, and to try, and He will respond by working His wonders in us. However, I hope you can try praying in the above way sometimes. It is very rewarding and intimate; not to be missed.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly… (Colossians 3:16a)