Last night during prison ministry my fellow volunteer, Dave, had an idea. We tried lectio divina which I think, for most of us, was a first.
Lectio divina is a method of prayer involving the meditation upon certain words or phrases from Scripture. Here is an explanation: "First one goes to a quiet place and recalls that one is about to listen to the Word of God. Then one reads the scripture passage aloud to let oneself hear with his or her own ears the words. When one finishes reading, pause and recall if some word or phrase stood out or something touched one’s heart. If so, pause and savor the insight, feeling, or understanding. Then go back and read the passage again because it will have a fuller meaning. Pause again and note what happened. If one wants to dialogue with God or Jesus in response to the word, one should follow the prompting of one’s heart. This kind of reflective listening allows the Holy Spirit to deepen awareness of God’s taking the initiative to speak with us."
Dave provided us with a handout explaining the method which emphasized that not only is there no perfect way of performing this method of meditation and prayer, but that one should not expect a mighty revelation or fireworks of divine revelation. It's just another way to get closer to God and to hear His voice.
We looked over the readings from Sunday, 7/26 and took about ten minutes to quiet our internal minds, read the passages, select words, and reflect. Interestingly enough, most of us went to the second reading, which is from my beloved St. Paul in Ephesians 4:1-6:
Brothers and sisters:
I, a prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:
one body and one Spirit,
as you were also called to the one hope of your call;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all.
There's a lot of good stuff in there.
One inmate focused on the words "gentleness, with patience," stating that she knew she could work on both those things more actively in her life. Another chose "bond of peace." This was significant; he began a conversation about the bond of peace we all feel in meeting with each other each week, the unique and holy nature of the time we spend together, and how it helps keep him in a state of grace as he continues his week. But more importantly he asked the question, which I have also often wondered after Mass is over or leaving a Theology on Tap event, etc.: how does one maintain that bond of peace longer and more permanently? As soon as a person or event comes along to disrupt the flow, then one must seek it out again. You know what I mean. I have a feeling that is a much larger conversation for another time.
I chose "bearing with one another through love." If I could get this right, I think my life would be dramatically different. The one first and foremost we should be bearing with through love is ourselves: forgiveness, gentleness, patience and understanding that you are growing and bound to make mistakes. And secondly, bearing with others in love. Seeing Jesus in every person we meet, and not just when they're being nice. How different I would be if I were less likely to criticize others, condemn, gossip or feel bitterness. These are all behaviors that hold me back from real joy and freedom. I am thinking a lot about that.
I enjoyed using lectio divina prayer, and it reminded me of composition of place (Ignatian prayer that involves using all the senses and imagination to place oneself in a particular setting, as in being literally in the presence of Mary holding baby Jesus, or hearing Jesus give a sermon, and so on) in that it is one more tool to get closer to God, get beyond the prayer routine and open our mind to God's voice. It is also an opportunity not just to ask, as we have a habit during prayer, but to listen.