Lectio Divina: Encountering God

Lectio Divina

How using the ancient practice can begin or revive a sense of prayer

DePorres Durham, OP

Lectio Divina is a way of praying with the bible.  The word literally means, “Divine Reading”. God speaks to us, and we respond to God.  So, Lectio Divina is not just reading, but rather, reading so we might encounter God, and so doing, responding to God. The roots of Lectio Divina go back to the 3rd century, to Origen.  It is thought he passed this practice of prayer on to Saint Ambrose, who taught it to Saint Augustine.  It was Saint Benedict who formalized it, and it is probably the Benedictines, and their approach to contemplative prayer that caused this practice to survive.

Almost all meditation, even the prayerful meditation of the Lectio Divina, begins by slowing ourselves down.

So just how does one go about Lectio Divina? While people discuss four parts of Lectio Divina, I would suggest there are five.  I add the importance of preparation for the encounter.  We cannot just rush into Lectio, but rather must prepare ourselves for it.  Just as a person might stretch before doing exercise, so too we do “spiritual stretching” by getting ourselves ready.

1) Preparation. Increasingly there is recognition of the power of taking some time to meditate.  Christians have been doing this for centuries.  By taking some time to relax, reflect and focus, the rest of our life can be more peaceful.

Almost all meditation, even the prayerful meditation of the Lectio Divina, begins by slowing ourselves down.  Our lives are quite busy.  Too busy, in fact.  You probably learned the secret to relaxing when you were little.  When you got too anxious, it was likely that some parent or teacher told you to “take a deep breath.” We prepare ourselves by taking a number of deep breaths.

This preparation is known as focused breathing.  Dr. Nick Lazaris suggests the following steps to engage in focused breathing.

6 Rules for Practicing Focused Breathing

1) Prior to practicing, make sure your spine is straight.

2) Inhale through your nose with a long, sustained breath

(not fast, shallow breathing)

3) As you inhale, imagine your lower stomach is filing with air (you are actually filling up your lower lungs)

4) Hold your breath for a count of 3

5) As you exhale slowly through your mouth, for a count of 6, picture tension and anxiety leaving your body.

6) Associate your focused breathing with words such as “Calm”….”Relax”. (Lazaris, 2018)

Do this a few times, releasing stress and anxiety, and filling with peace and calm. Know that this cannot be rushed, but rather, everyone needs time to let go of the stresses of the day and become focused. Since this is prayer, some find it helpful to focus on a word or two.  Often, simply saying the name of Jesus quietly can be a big help.

2)  Lectio (Read). The first step is simply to read the text, or if done in a group, to listen to the person reading it. Either way, the text should be read slowly.  As you read or hear the text, you pay attention to words or phrases that strike you. This is an exercise of listening to your “gut.” This is not an academic study. This is more an exercise of the heart rather than a task of the head. Allow a few moments of silence before reading again.

3) Meditatio. (Meditate). As you read or listen to the text a second time, you are know seeking to pay attention to the experience.  What do you feel as you hear this text again?  What emotions are coming to the surface? Are there other situations or current events that cause you to feel the same way, or is there any connection to them? And reflect on these feelings and your experience.

 4) Oratio. (Prayer). As you read or listen to the text a third time, take a moment to pray about it.  Some find it helpful to journal about it.  For others, it can simply be the case of seeking to make real the words needed to be spoken to God.

The prayer is about listening to God and responding to God. 

 5) Contemplatio. (Contemplate). Contemplation may at first seem to be no different than meditation.  Often the two words are used interchangeably.  But there is a real, if not subtle difference.  Meditation is about discovering the experience and feelings, and reflecting upon them.  Contemplation is about resting in the experience totally, resting in the presence of the Lord.


Lazaris, N. (2018). Focused Breathing Tips for Reducing Anxiety. Retrieved from //www.selfgrowth.com/articles/focused_breathing_tips_for_reducing_anxiety.html retrievewd on January 6, 2018.

Manneh, E. (2017). Lectio Divina: A Beginner’s Guide. Retrieved from //bustedhalo.com/ministry-resources/lectio-divina-beginners-guide January 6, 2018.

The Dominican Moment: November 28, 2017

The DePorres Pages features short prayers from the tradition of Saint Dominic in this new series known as The Dominican Moment. These are short pieces for meditation and prayer. They are either quotes from Dominican saints, (Saint Dominic actually wrote little), or by those inspired by him. At the end of each clip, there are reflection questions to pray about and reflect on during the day.
Today, Saint Thomas Aquinas speaks about the place and value of the Bible.

Resources for Lent – Lectio Divina for Ash Wednesday

Lectio Divina is a form of meditation rooted in liturgical celebration that dates back to early monastic communities. It involves focused reading of Scripture (lectio), meditation on the Word of God (meditatio), contemplation of the Word and its meaning in one’s life (contemplatio) and ends with prayer (oratio). For this Lent, we will have a Lectio Divina resource for the readings for Ash Wednesday and the Sundays of Lent that can be used by individuals or in group settings.

Lectio Divina for Ash Wednesday in English

Lectio Divina para el Miercoles de Ceniza

2nd Sunday of Advent: Time to Get to the Spiritual Gym (December 4, 2016)

2nd Sunday of Advent: Time to Get to the Spiritual Gym (December 4, 2016)
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Anyone who belongs to a gym and exercises regularly knows that gyms will get crowded soon.  People give gym memberships, or others make New Year’s resolutions.  Either way, shortly after the first of the year, the gym is crowded.  But soon, people begin to fade away, the initial resolutions become weak, and the commitment to get in shape is gone.  Our spiritual lives can become like that too.  We have some initial enthusiasm, but without commitment and discipline, we find that we do not remain engaged in growing spiritually.

And so with the start of the second week of Advent, time to get into spiritual shape.  Read the bible.  Pray the rosary.  Seek out adoration.  Find the sacrament of confession.  Read a good spiritual book.  Talk to others.  Share your faith.  C’mon!  It is time for all of us to get into spiritual shape!

Readings for Today

Monday of the First Week of Advent: God wants all to be saved (November 28, 2016)

Monday of the First Week of Advent: God wants all to be saved (November 28, 2016)

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Ever feel left out of a group?  Sometimes we sell ourselves short by thinking we are not good enough, talented enough, smart enough to belong.  But with Jesus, everyone can belong and be saved.

Readings for Today

International Historical Conference on Bible Study and Preaching in the Dominican Order

Bible Study and Preaching in the Dominican Order – History, Ideal, Practice (Bibelstudium und Predigt bei den Dominikanern – Geschichte, Ideal, Praxis) was the title of the Third Isnard Frank Colloquium which took place on 27-29 October 2016 in the venerable Dominican priory of the Austria’s capital Vienna. The conference was organized by the Historical Institute of the Order of Preachers, the local Dominican priory and the Department for Historical Theology at the Faculty of Catholic Theology of Vienna on the occasion of the Jubilee of the Order and in honour of the Dominican friar and Church historian Isnard Wilhelm Frank (†2010).

The theme was chosen with regard to preaching based on intensive study of Sacred Scripture as the reason of being a Dominican. Eighteen Dominican and non-Dominican historians and theologians from nine countries (Austria, Germany, England, Italy, France, Israel, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Belgium) presented in their contributions the current results of their research on various scholars and preachers, treatises and sermons of the long history of the Order from the 13th to the 20th century. The papers as a whole showed that the intellectual and preaching activities of the friars were closely connected to spiritual, ecclesial and socio-political challenges of their time. They strived for a better understanding of the Word of God in order to show the people how they could progress on the road to their salvation. Obviously, there were periods of crises in the Dominican history, but there were always capable friars who tried to get their brothers enthusiastic for the ideal of biblical study and preaching based on the model of St Dominic and on the large tradition of the Order.

Read the rest of the story at: //www.op.org/en/content/international-historical-conference-bible-study-and-preaching-dominican-order

Homily for Sunday, February 7, 2016

Homily for Sunday, February 7, 2016
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It is easy to forget that so much of our relationship with God is not dependent upon us. All we need to do is to place ourselves in the presence of God. By doing so, we both lose those sins and shortcomings that keep us from being the person God has created us to be, and we are able to be sent forth for the mission that God gives to only us. As we move into the season of Lent this Wednesday, let us place ourselves in God’s presence to receive the powerful and life-changing love of God.

Theology 4snackers: Catholic Faith in Small Bytes

The DePorres Pages is pleased to announce a new YouTube feature called Theology 4snackers: Catholic Faith in Small Bytes. It is designed to provide short video clips of various theology topics of interest. The first is posted now and is entitled, “Lectionary – The Bible at Mass.”

Every now and then, new videos will be posted. The idea is to present a simple explanation on a variety of topics and issues related to Catholic theology. So, tune in. And let us now what you think.

Homily for Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Readings for today

Do you like surprises? I suppose a lot depends upon what type of surprise it is. Winning the lottergody might be a surprise we enjoy, notice that we are receiving an audit from the IRS, not so much. Most surprises are not so dramatic. But surprise is a part of our lives. We simply cannot plan for each moment of the day, because life is, by definition, unpredictable.

When we consider faith, it too can create surprises. We may become aware of God’s presence at unpredictable times. We may discover that even though we thought our vocation a “settled” matter, God continues to call us in unpredictable ways. I found this to be true when I moved from a feeling of certainty about being ordained a diocesan priest only to feel further called to life as a Dominican. God’s call is constant in its desire to help us to be led more and more deeply in relationship with Jesus.

But when it comes to the biggest surprise, the Day of the Lord when Christ will return, we need not be surprised. Why? Because as baptized Christians, we are children of the light. God has enlightened us so that we can realize that we are always immersed in the presence and love of God. It does not “catch us off guard” because we have available this life-changing relationship with God.

This does not mean that the awareness and reality of this relationship spares us from all difficulties and suffering. What it does mean is that we are never alone in such difficulty and suffering. And that we may not always know why or how, our suffering has some type of meaning in the larger picture, not because God wishes it upon us, but rather because God can make something good from even the worst events in human history.

We are only caught off guard when we fail to seek the Lord. What keeps us from seeking God? Well, just about anything, really. We can be too caught up in work, materialism, image, avoiding pain or even ministry when its motivation is not about leading people to God. Even good things can become not so good if we are not aware in our lives how this has as its source and purpose this profound relationship with God.

Maybe then, the invitation today is to move more and more into spaces where we can encounter God. Maybe it is in prayerfully asking God to come to us in the reading of the Bible. Maybe it is finding a place in a Catholic church for quiet prayer or adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Whatever it is, know that today God invites you to a deeper relationship.

Homily for Sunday, August 16, 2015

Readings for Today

I suspect all of us have had the occasion to have our eyes tested for vision and other things. It is important, because being able to see clearly is important. Since I have, on both sides of my family, a history of Glaucoma in the family, I get a battery of such tests each year. While they are not difficult or painful tests, they do serve as a reminder of how precious the gift of sight is, and how many threats there can be to seeing well. Having had to use reading glasses for the past couple of years, I am reminded even more often of the importance of being able to see clearly.

Today’s readings show the importance of seeing clearly in another way. That is, just as we may need glasses to see clearly, at the same time, to gain understanding it matters how we see something. Things may not be what they appear if we do not see something clearly. Just as a person may need glasses or contacts to make things visible, so too we learn today that a person needs wisdom to see things clearly.

The “glasses” of faith are used when we engage Wisdom. The definition I have always found helpful for wisdom is this: wisdom is seeing as God sees. The reason I like this definition is that so much of what we do and know in life only really makes sense when we consider how God views things. If we do not consider that human beings are made in God’s image and likeness, it becomes easy to throw them away.

Simply put, as a Christian, we seek to be “people of wisdom” all of the time, seeing the world with the “glasses” of faith. So much becomes possible when we do so. And areas of faith, the way of living life, is only possible in reference to a lived relationship with God. Otherwise we struggle to understand.

This lack of seeing as God sees makes the encounter we read in today’s gospel more clear and real. The words of the gospel take on a greater starkness when we understand their meaning in the original language. The Greek John uses in his gospel can be call “earthy.” What that means is that not all of the vocabulary of John is abstract, but is rather easy to understand.

Take the word “flesh” which we hear in today’s gospel when Jesus says he gives us his flesh to eat. This is no metaphorical word he uses, such as when Paul uses the word body in referring to us, God’s people, as the body of Christ. No, Jesus means flesh, as the Greek work is sarx, which means flesh. That is everything it sounds. Using this word makes Jesus sound irrational at best.

But it is not just the use of the word we translate as flesh. When Jesus speaks about eating, the term used in Greek connotes gnawing, or munching, on the flesh of Jesus. This is quite the experience we are discussing. And so it is not unreasonable to see that many quarrel with these words of Jesus. He is a crazy man, one who might be best to avoid.

Unless we see with the eyes of faith. With faith, flesh becomes the Eucharist, and munching is more than physical. Seeing things in faith, we are then invited over and over again to remember that receiving the Eucharist is something that is meant to stay with us all the day long. The presence of Jesus sacramentally reminds us that over and over again we are invited into the great banquet where Jesus draws us deeper into a relationship of deep fulfillment.

Seeing with the eyes of faith, and thinking of the presence of Jesus as a day long invitation, is also to make the words of the first reading real for each one of us. “Wisdom has built her house.” And that house is nothing less than our hearts. It is the human heart that God chooses as a dwelling, because it it the human heart that is able to be filled with the love of God.

And so it is complete. Seeing the human heart as God’s home, seeing the Eucharist as the invitation to know that God is always present is the powerful reminder that God wants to give each one of us today. Taste, See, Touch, feel the goodness of God. Allow the glasses of faith to open clearer and clearer visions of what God wants us to do.

Even Saint Paul who writes today’s second reading seeks to help us. His commands are easily understood. “Watch carefully how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity.” He invites us to “understand what is the will of the Lord“, and to “be filled with the Spirit.” In many ways we are invited to munch on the word of God as well. Psalms, hymns and inspired songs make for the interaction that is best for Christians.

This is what we do each Sunday when we celebrate Mass. We seek to use Mass as that way we use to see more clearly the things necessary for faith. By centering ourselves here, in this house, we are more able to discover the deep connections that are available to us because of God. Pray, read the Bible, seek the silence, consider in your lives what God wants from you. What awaits when we do is a deep and powerful friendship with the Lord Jesus who changes lives and gives love powerful enough for all eternity.