This book review for The Catholic Company will be cross-posted on the Benedictine Spirituality Forum.
“If [lectio divina] is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church — I am convinced — a new spiritual springtime.” –Pope Benedict XVI (p. 37)
One of the most vital and beautiful aspects of Benedictine spirituality is lectio divina, the prayerful reading of sacred texts. Dr. Tim Gray (a seminary professor and co-developer of The Great Adventure Bible study) makes this ancient practice practical for anyone seeking spiritual growth and holiness in his packed but slender book Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina.
In fewer than 130 pages, Praying Scripture for a Change introduces the concept of lectio divina, and then logically devotes a chapter to each of the five “rungs” of the “ladder” of lectio divina: lectio (read), meditatio (meditate), oratio (pray), contemplatio (contemplate) and operatio (apply). The chapters include “walk-through” examples of the different rungs. This book is an easy read, but best done slowly, doubling back over rich passages.
Passages that struck me included:
- “[St.] Francis is known for his joy and love of God’s creation, but too often people see him as a simple-minded tree hugger. Francis exulted in the beauty of nature because he saw that it, like Scripture itself, is a love letter from our Heavenly Father. … Francis knew how to hear God’s voice in creation because he first listened to that voice in Scripture.” (p. 14-15)
- a detailed analogy of lectio divina to working a vineyard (p. 32-33)
- a practical suggestion to record striking passages of Scripture and frequently return to them during the day’s work, as did the ancient monks (p. 85-86)
The author also helpfully contrasts lectio divina with fad practices of today, like Eastern-style meditation, and Islamic prayer.
I was also impressed by the:
- Imprimatur by Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, well-known to be faithful to the teachings of the Church
- many quotes from Pope Benedict XVI
- use of the trusted RSV-CE translation of the Bible
- author’s use of humor (including citing St. Augustine’s pre-conversion prayer: “O Lord, make me chaste. But not yet.” [p. 18])
For me, the only chapter that was difficult to follow was the one about contemplation, which seemed to jump around. However, I’m not sure that anyone could describe God’s gift of contemplation in linear style, so I appreciate that Dr. Gray tried.
This review was written as part of the Catholic Book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina.