When Pope Benedict XVI convenes the World Synod of Bishops on the Bible Oct. 5, he will have several items on the agenda, including discussions about the importance of the Scriptures in the life of the church and in the daily life of Catholics.
Most parishes have Bible study groups to help us do that. Some Catholics also are rediscovering the ancient prayer method of “lectio divina” as a way of delving into the Scriptures and allowing God to speak to us.
Archbishop John Nienstedt leads “lectio divina” sessions at the University of St. Thomas, an activity he first started with young people in the Diocese of New Ulm. He wrote about this sacred reading of Scripture in his column in The Catholic Spirit last October, and he encouraged priests throughout the archdiocese to convene small “lectio divina” prayer groups.
The pope wants the church to devote more of its resources to helping us better understand the Scriptures, and he also wants more of us to read the Bible on a regular basis as a way ‘to let it keep us company and guide us.’
Given the goals of the upcoming World Synod of Bishops, the process of “lectio divina” bears repeating. Here’s how Archbishop Nienstedt explained it:
• Each month a different member of the group selects the Scripture passage to be used and leads participants through the process.
• The leader begins with a prayer to focus and calm participants down.
• The leader reads the Scripture passage the first time slowly and reverently. Everyone is attentive to any word, phrase or image that strikes him or her.
• The leader pauses, then reads the passage again.
• After the second reading, the leader stops and asks if there are any questions with the text, anything that is not clear or not understood.
• The leader reads the passage a third time. Again, each person focuses on a word, phrase or image that stands out.
• All go separately to a quiet place to “ruminate” for 20 minutes or so over the word, phrase or image and its meaning. This “rumination” can lead to meditation (How does this passage speak to my life?), or to contemplation (resting with the Lord in that word), or “oratio” (expressing a prayer of praise, thanksgiving or petition). Then each person writes down his or her reflections.
• The group reassembles and all have a chance to share their reflections. No one is forced to share.
• The leader concludes with a summary prayer of praise and/or thanksgiving.
“My goal is that this prayer becomes a daily routine for each participant,” Archbishop Nienstedt wrote.
This fall, if you aren’t already involved in a Bible study or “lectio divina” group, join one or ask your pastor to start one. You’ll grow closer to God and the Word he wants to share with us all. Catholic Spirit