Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Slowing Down

In addition to the Liturgy of the Hours, another prayer form at the heart of Benedictine life is lectio divina. Lectio divina is a slow, prayerful reading of Scripture that incorporates meditation and contemplation. There are traditionally four parts: lectio (reading), meditatio (reflecting), oratio (praying in response), and contemplatio (resting with the words). Benedictines devote themselves to daily practice of this form of prayer.

Lectio divina was the topic of our monastic values class tonight. Our teacher, one of our sisters, shared with us a fifth category that we might consider adding: incarnatio (becoming the word). If we do not allow the words to convert us into more loving, more compassionate people, then what?

Each postulant is paired with one sister in the community to be her lectio partner. We meet once a week and discuss Sunday's Gospel. Throughout the week we pray with the piece of Scripture and bring our reflections with us into sacred conversation. I had my first lectio meeting last Friday; having a conversation partner greatly deepened my insights. It was a wonderful experience.

Now, people who know me probably know that doing things slowly does not come naturally to me, so quieting myself enough for lectio time has definitely been a practice, in more than one sense of the word. But, as God always does provide, I have been given models the past two days.

As I continue exploring the different ministries of our community, I have spent Monday and today at our education center. This is a center that offers programs for refugees from a handful of countries. We help refugees learn English and gain skills that they will need for the workplace, among other things. But, above all, we give them love and a safe environment.

On Monday, I was working with two women from the Congo. They are learning English after never having received any formal education. We worked on pronouncing sentences together and answering simple questions like: What is your name? Where do you live?

The women had a very difficult time pronouncing the sound that the letter R makes. They watched my mouth as I said words with R's in them, and so on. Eventually we were all sitting together, laughing at ourselves and the weird noises we were producing. There was certainly no language barrier involved in the joy we were sharing.

But, as I continued slowly reading with these beautiful women, who were so full of patience and perseverance, I thought, "This is slow, prayerful reading if I've ever experienced it." Perhaps each time I enter into lectio I need to encounter the words anew and let them become part of me, continually learning and growing from the experience as I have been watching these refugees do. God does provide.

Where is God providing for you? What words stay with you, calling you to conversion?

Let us walk in the holy presence.


And because lectio does not happen only with words, here is last night's sunset to enjoy as prayer.