Editor's Note: Yesterday, Fr. Andrew introduced us to the practice of Lectio Divina, and shared it's 4 Stages. Get caught up here
Another way I like to think about the four stages of Lectio Divina, is to think of them like four stages of a meal.
The first stage, reading, is like when you're looking out at your Thanksgiving table. You're checking everything out, looking over everything carefully, and deciding what’s going to be your first bite. Is it going to be the turkey or the stuffing? Green bean casserole or mashed potatoes?
The second stage, reflecting, is when you’re chewing on all that delicious food. You’re just taking it all in, enjoying every bite.
The third stage, responding, is like when you’re telling the cook how good the food is. “Mom, this turkey is amazing! You didn’t dry it out this year! Thank you so much. This makes me want to eat more.”
The fourth stage, remaining, is digestion. You don’t just get up and run from the table. You sit there for a while and let your food digest. Or, at the very least, you retreat to your cathedra: your favorite Lazy Boy recliner and you take your crozier in hand: the remote control, and you enter into a very deep, tryptophan-induced food coma in which you contemplate the deep mysteries of the Thanksgiving meal and it’s sublime, symbolic power as a sign of the Eucharistic feast!
So, how should you pick out your passage of Scripture? I suggest two strategies:
First, you could pray with the readings from the Mass of the day or the upcoming Sunday. You can find these by subscribing to Magnificat, or buying a Weekday Missal or Sunday Missal from a Catholic bookstore, or you can access them on the US Bishop’s website.
The second strategy is that you could pray an entire Gospel, from beginning to end, one small passage at a time. I like the New American Bible, because it’s the translation we use in the Mass and also because it divides the passages up into sections, each with a boldface header; which is a good way to divide up your prayer each day.
For how long should you pray Lectio? When I was in the seminary, I was asked to do an hour a day. This is still what I try to do, I pray with the Sunday readings for about an hour each day in preparation for the homily. I suggest, as you begin, to try to pray Lectio for 20 minutes each day. If you can’t do 20, do 10. If you can’t do 10, do 5. Just start somewhere. Praying with the Scriptures for 5 minutes each day is far better than not praying with them at all.
Where should you pray? Just as we need to carve out some sacred time for prayer, we also need to carve out a sacred space. I have a chair in my bedroom that is for prayer and prayer only. I try not to pray in the same chair I do my business work in or watch the TV from.
I also suggest journaling: writing down your thoughts after Lectio. When my spiritual director suggested I journal, I rolled my eyes. “I don’t keep a diary!” I thought. But, he stayed on my case about it and eventually, I gave in and started journaling. I quickly discovered how valuable a channel of prayer it is. Today, my journaling becomes my homilies.
Interruptions: you’ll need to eliminate distractions as much as possible. Turn of the TV. Turn off the cell phone. If the doorbell rings, ignore it. If you weren’t home, you wouldn’t be able to answer it anyway. Now obviously there will be some interruptions that cannot be ignored. One of your children might fall and skin their knee or the baby might need to be fed or rocked. When important interruptions happen, do the charitable thing and help those in need.
And lastly, the four stages of Lectio Divina are more like guidelines than they are rules. If you do 20 minutes of Lectio, that doesn’t mean you have to stick with an orderly, regimented pace of 5 mins per stage. Nor does it mean you have to follow the stages in order. A conversation is an organic thing. Let your conversation with God happen naturally.
This past Advent, I challenged the parishioners at St. Vincent in Fort Wayne to pray Lection Divina everyday, working our way through the Gospel of Luke together. I asked them to share their reflections by tweeting their thoughts to one another using the hashtag #lectioluke. The response was awesome! If you want to start with Luke, you can still find their reflections by searching #lectioluke.
We invite you to join us! Block out 15 minutes today to pick up and pray with Scripture. Then, tweet! #lectioluke