Sr. John Dominic In this episode, we’re going to talk about Lectio Divina, the importance of coming to know the person of Jesus Christ through reading Sacred Scripture. [Dr. Healy], I’d like for you to share your thoughts and reflections on that and the importance of Lectio Divina and coming to know Jesus Christ.
Dr. Mary Healy [Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI] wrote the apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini exhorting Catholics to become familiar with the Word of God and to rediscover the ancient practice of Lectio Divina, which many Catholics if they have heard of it at all, think of as something that monks do in monasteries or people who have extra leisure time for prayer. But Pope Benedict says, “No, this is something that all Catholics are called to,” which is very simply, a way of reading Scripture in conversation with the Lord.
Scripture is unlike any other document the Church gives us. We have wonderful documents; we have the Catechism; we have Papal Encyclicals; we have the documents of Vatican II. They all teach the Truth to us in a trustworthy way. Scripture alone is the Word of God authored by God, so when we read Scripture, God speaks to us personally. It’s a Living Word, that has power, unlike any other word. As Pope Saint Gregory the Great said, “The Bible has this quality that a mouse can wade in it, and an elephant can swim in it.” An elephant is a scholar, a brilliant person who has studied Scripture all their life. They can read the same story that they’ve already read a hundred times in the Gospel and find new depths in it. On the other hand, the simplest person, a new Christian, a child, can read a story in the Gospel and understand it in its simplicity and hear God speaking to them as a heavenly Father.
I have a great passion for teaching Catholics Lectio Divina. I’m so thrilled that you’re teaching children how to do Lectio Divina because certainly children are capable of it and called to that intimate relationship with Christ that we’re all called to.
Sr. John Dominic What would you recommend to someone? We’ve got the questions. There’s the artwork that provides a visual so that you can see and imagine the Scripture. From your experience and studies, do you have any tips?
Dr. Mary Healy First, I would say for a catechist or teacher whose aim is to teach children to do Lectio Divina and to get children to fall in love with the Word of God, to begin with your own relationship with the Lord and Scripture. Have your own personal time of prayer in Lectio Divina every day. Make it an unbreakable appointment with the Lord, your Creator, the one Who loves you. Do it on your own and dig into one book of the Bible. Take a little bit every day and meditate on it. Go through the steps of Lectio Divina, and then you have a personal witness to share with the children.
Regarding the children, I would say, have a high level of confidence in their ability to have a personal encounter with Jesus and to hear Him speak to them in prayer. I’ve heard even out of the lips of children amazing pearls of wisdom because they actually are going to the Lord in prayer. They are better at listening than we are. They don’t have as much intellectual noise going on. There’s more purity, so they’re able to hear the Lord better. Make sure you’re giving children an opportunity to have that quiet time with the Lord, whether it means lighting candles, soft music, each child in their own space, in some way freeing them from distractions as much as possible. After you lead them through Lectio Divina and teach them how to do it, ask them to share whatever they’re comfortable sharing about what the Lord has spoken to them, and you might be amazed.
Sr. John Dominic We asked Mary Stuller, an art teacher at St. Michael’s school in Worthington, Ohio how she leads students through Lectio Divina using art.
Mary Stuller I use Lectio Divina: Life in Christ, and we look at that artwork that has been chosen for us to reflect on from the angle of the virtue and from the angle of why is it a sacred art item? Why is it a masterpiece? What’s great about it, and from the angle of art as well. The Lectio Divina: Life in Christ is a wonderful book that we also read together. There are some wonderful questions in every chapter for the students to reflect on that makes them think about why is it important to keep alive sacred art? God creates Beauty. You can look around you and see Beauty in nature or in a painting inspired divinely, to some degree. Beauty, Truth, and Goodness are all tied together. When they experienced Beauty, they are at a state of goodness because Beauty is God, Goodness is God, the Truth that we know that God brings to us about Who He is and what He did for us out of His love, is Truth. It is all tied together.
Dr. Mary Healy Our hope and goal is that each child who was being taught through your series would be a lifelong Catholic who would love the Lord, be a person of virtue and good character, and frequent the sacraments throughout their whole life. Of course, there are many Catholics who go to Mass and receive Jesus in Holy Communion week after week and yet, don’t really know Him personally. As Saint Jerome said, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”
Many Catholics are on a starvation diet of the Word of God, so they don’t know Christ the way they need to, and particularly with children, they have minds like sponges, as I’m sure you know better than I do. They have a tremendous capacity to memorize and retain what they’ve learned. When children begin to learn passages of Scripture by heart at an early age, they get the Word of God in their bones. When the Word of God is in your bones, and you’ve devoured it and you continue to through your life, it remains there and has a way of coming into your mind when you most need it.
A Scripture will float into your mind in a situation of distress or anxiety, not knowing what to do, or trying to counsel somebody who needs help, advice, or prayer. The Word of God comes into your mind when you need it, and you’re able to build somebody up or build yourself up with the Word of God. That begins in childhood. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me.” There was a reason because He knew that He could teach them because they were the freshest ones to be able to teach it. If more children throughout the country will use these beautiful resources that you’ve developed, my job teaching adults and seminarians will be so much better. We’ll be able to go so much deeper into the Word of God because of the foundation you’re laying.
Sr. John Dominic Thank you so much Dr. Healy.