The well in the Church of the Visitation, Ein Karem, from which, according to tradition, St. John the Baptist and his parents drank. Photo by Dan Lundberg (20110225_Israel_0431 En Kerem) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

From God, to God… the Catechetical Way

Entry No. 2

Many years ago, Carmela, a volunteer catechist of our parish, asked me to help her make the Word of God exciting to her students. She believed that if Sacred Scripture is God’s love letter to us, then it must be accessible to all — like a well where we can come often to draw fresh water to quench our thirst. Indeed, she was right!

And because of this, I asked the Holy Spirit, who inspired Sacred Scripture, to enlighten me as I searched for an answer. That summer, I made my annual spiritual retreat. Lo and behold, the retreat facilitator introduced us to Lectio Divina (divine reading). That was the main instrument we used for our spiritual exercises. I already heard of Lectio Divina before that but did not pay much attention to it.

During that retreat, I diligently followed the different steps of Lectio Divina with the intention of discovering its secret. On the third day of the retreat, I began to see and relish its beauty, the beauty of the Word of God. It was like drinking fresh water from a well that I already knew before, but now appears new — the water was fresher and sweeter. I could hear the Lord speaking softly to me. I could feel His presence. I felt inner joy.

After the retreat, I couldn’t wait to share my experience with Carmela. She got so excited with Lectio Divina that she would not let me go until I promised to share my discovery with her fellow catechists.

Now, I wish to share this with you, my readers, that you may also discover the beauty of praying with the Word of God. May you be nourished by it, and in turn enrich your students, so that all may drink from its fountain of living water.

What is Lectio Divina?

Lectio Divina is a prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we open ourselves to what God wants to tell us through the inspired Word. In the 12th century, a Carthusian monk named Guigo identified the essential stages of this ancient practice. Although Lectio Divina is primarily intended for personal prayer, it may also be done in groups while keeping the basic stages — see also the Order of Carmelites website.

Stages of Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina has four stages; however, some spiritual guides would suggest a fifth stage.

  1. READ. I read the Word of God, slowly and reflectively so that it sinks into my heart. Any passage of Scripture may be used, preferably a short one. For example: In the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Lk 15:4-7), this passage particular strikes me, “Rejoice with me, I have found my sheep that was lost” (verse 6).
  2. REFLECT. I think about the text that I have chosen and ponder what God is telling me. For example: I say verse 6 over and over, slowly and prayerfully. God is telling me that I am this lost sheep. Now Jesus, the Good Shepherd, has found me! I feel joy in my heart!
  3. RESPOND. I respond to God in prayer. This response is inspired by my reflection on His word. For example: “O Lord, thank you! You are so merciful. You took the trouble of searching for me. Now you have come to bring home a sinner like me… I have longed to return to you, but I was so afraid. Remove my fear. I want to embrace You!”
  4. REST. I let go of everything now. I simply rest in God. I quietly listen to Him at the deepest level of my being. I allow Him to transform me. Hopefully, this will affect my way of life. For example: I simply rest now and enjoy the embrace of God. His loving embrace assures me of His love – His saving love. I feel at peace. I feel new again!
  5. RESOLVE. I resolve to live in my daily life this loving encounter with God through His Word. I promise to live the Word. Gradually I become God’s living Word myself. For example: I resolve to live my life as a joyful thanksgiving for God’s loving mercy. I, too, will be merciful by forgiving those who offend me.

With the help of the Holy Spirit, we personally encounter the Lord through His Word by journeying through these stages. Now it is your turn to experience it. See the guide in English and Filipino.

What next? In my next entry, I will discuss how Lectio Divina may be used in preparing a simple lesson plan.

See also this Contemplative Outreach Ltd. video featuring Fr. Thomas Keating, OSCO as he talks about Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina.

Fr. Vicente B. Cervania, SDB is a professor of Catechetics at the DBCS Institute of Catechetics and Youth Ministry. He received his Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome.

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