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“ … Monastics should have specified periods for manual labor, as well as for prayerful reading (lectio divina).”

Hélène Mercier, OSB

Rule of Benedict, Ch. 48, 1

L

ectio divina as St. Benedict envisioned it 1,500 years ago, was to be a personal practice that, in addition to Liturgy of the Hours, would provide daily nourishment for his monks. Today, lectio divina as a personal practice continues to be the sustenance par excellence for growing in the knowledge and love of Christ. Through the daily reading of Scripture the deepest longings of one’s heart are brought forth and expressed to God. St. Benedict insisted that all his monks learn to read no matter what their status in society was before their arrival at the monastery. To offset the scarcity of books, monks, in addition to learning to read, memorized texts of the Bible.

For a variety of reasons the practice of lectio divina fell into disuse as a personal practice from the Middle Ages until the Second Vatican Council. “Lectio divina failed to lead the faithful in the pews to the deeper spiritual meaning of Scripture and its transformative power.” (Maria Tasto, The Trasnforming Power of Lectio Divina, p. 8). Monastics, invited by the Council to return to their sources, reclaimed the tradition of

lectio divina. Then like the iconic phoenix, lectio divina as practiced in Benedict’s time was resurrected. Since the late 1960s the practice of doing lectio became a sine qua non for women and men living the professed monastic life.

As modern people, the practice of lectio is quite challenging and it may take a monastic many years before he or she is comfortable with the practice. Most of us read quickly each day from several sources in order to learn or gather information: newspapers, magazines, online news, books, documents related to our work, novels, etc. Yet by its very nature, the reading of Scripture for lectio divina is done slowly and deliberately, pausing when a word or phrase strikes us, letting it sink in. Lectio is meant to be transformative rather than informative. To set all other priorities aside and take 20–30 minutes each day to read, reflect, respond and rest in the Word of God takes discipline and commitment in our desire to let that Word transform our hearts little by little, day by day. Lectio divina is all about listening with the ear of our heart.

Yet by its very nature, the reading of Scripture for lectio divina is done slowly and deliberately, pausing when a word or phrase strikes us, letting it sink in.

12 BENEDICTINE Sisters & Friends

Benedictine Sisters and Friends, Spring Summer 2016  
Benedictine Sisters and Friends, Spring Summer 2016  

Published by the Office of Mission Advancement, Saint Benedict's Monastery, St. Joseph, Minn. The purpose of Benedictine Sisters and Friends...

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