The School of Lectio Divina: An Invitation to Abundance
“Where do I go from here?” This was a question I was asking myself over and over in July 2013. I was stuck and struggling.
Due to some health issues, I had chosen to set aside my work to care for them. As their physical health improved, I was searching for how to pick up my life and move forward. That time set aside for caretaking made it clear that not only was I a different person because of what I had just experienced with this family member, but also that I might be called to walk a new path.
Searching for a New Normal
To support my search for a new normal, I started meeting with a spiritual director monthly. How else might I shake things up, find my way and get moving again?
A friend handed me Listen
, the publication from the Benedictine Center and said I might enjoy taking a class or two there. As I scanned the class list, I noticed the School of Lectio Divina. I had practiced the traditional four-step process of Lectio Divina off and on for years, so I was intrigued. The tipping point was that the School of Lectio Divina included a five-night stay at the monastery. I loved the idea of a retreat away from the stress and pressures of my daily life. I thought it might give me some quiet time to slow down from my frantic search for a new life and reflect on my recent experiences.
What Scripture Passage Has Been on Your Heart?
When I looked up the application for the School of Lectio Divina, one of the questions that gave me pause was “What Scripture passage, if any, has been on your heart or mind?”
As I sat with that question, I remembered the phrase I had received on my yoga mat. For the previous couple of months, I had a daily practice of resting supine on my mat with my palms open and facing up. This body posture seemed to help my heart and mind remember my intent of being open and receptive to God. One day as I was lying on my mat, the phrase “stand up, take up your mat, and walk” came to mind. As I pondered that phrase, I wondered what it might have to say to me. Could this be the text I was being invited to take with me to the School of Lectio Divina? My heart seemed to stir as I reread John 5: 1-9. My text had chosen me.
Making Space for Prayer
As the time for the School of Lectio Divina drew near, I had a strong urge to clean out my house and purge. My family had lived in this house for eight years, longer than I had lived anywhere else. I said to my husband, “We either need to move or get a dumpster.” We had a dumpster delivered to our house within two days. I seemed to need to physically mirror creating space in my heart for transformation and healing.
Arriving at the St. Paul Monastery, I was a little nervous, but I also felt excited to have a chance to focus on learning without having the distractions of caring for others or even figuring out meals. I settled into my room, attended the first class session, prayed with the sisters and let myself be drawn into the silence. At first I was spending every break reading, studying or thinking about my text. I needed the gentle invitation from my Lectio companion to remind me to rest, relax and wait on God’s invitations. I took a few walks around the beautiful grounds of the monastery and the nearby neighborhoods. I napped a couple of times. I even accepted the invitation to draw a little as a way to help me explore the symbolic voice. By the mid-point of the School of Lectio I wrote this in my journal, “I have fallen in love with Scripture as prayer!” It was as if God and I were rekindling an old friendship on a long weekend retreat together.
I was learning anew what it might look like to trust God enough to live a life completely surrendered to God. On day four I wrote, “I’m still noticing new artwork here at the monastery! I think this illustrates wonderfully how sustained Lectio is such a rich prayer practice. It will give God my attention longer to continue to reveal the hidden layers to me when I am ready to understand them.”
What are You Looking for?
At the end of our last teaching session, we were given these questions to help us prepare for our closing gathering: What are you looking for? What did you find? At that time I said I came to listen and I found a love of silence, a beautiful rhythm of work, rest and prayer, and a new desire to practice art as a way of releasing my creative spirit. I was nervous about my ability to sustain these practices at home, but I also felt I had been given some new tools to take a few initial steps and get moving. Some changes I was able to implement quickly. I immediately started to create more opportunities for silence in my life as I turned off the radio in my car for my drive home. As I returned to my daily life at home, I was able to set up a prayer space quite easily because of the purging of my house before I went to the School of Lectio Divina. Passing this prayer closet in my house became a daily reminder to slow down, return to my sustained Lectio passage, and listen.
After experiencing the rhythm of life in the monastery, I began using Give Us This Day
to encourage three times of prayer and Scripture reading daily. While I have not continued practicing art on a regular basis, silence and Lectio Divina have become two personal spiritual practices that keep me grounded and centered.
Called to Abundance and Vitality
As I reflect on the above questions years later, I see more clearly that I came to my first School of Lectio Divina unknowingly seeking relief from a life that was not yet a life of abundance and vitality that I was being invited to live. Through the years of practicing sustained Lectio Divina I have found deep healing from the normal wounds and pains that are common to all who are alive.
Strengthened by my on-going conversation with God through Lectio Divina, I continue to choose to daily get up and walk the journey towards wholeness, healing and life transformation by following Jesus daily.
Sometimes we accept an invitation without any awareness of how important the event will be for our lives. The School of Lectio Divina was that kind of experience for me. I love inviting others to this potentially life-changing retreat. How about you? What might your text say to you over the six days and in the following weeks and possibly months or years?
I invite you to come and see.
With Dr. Kathleen Cahalan
March 27 - April 1, 2020
The Benedictine Center of St. Paul’s Monastery's School of Lectio Divina adapts the ancient monastic riches of sustained lectio divina to contemporary people. Through an intensive retreat experience set in the rhythm of life at St. Paul’s Monastery, participants receive teaching about lectio, spend time meditating on a sacred text significant for them, have the opportunity for individual spiritual direction, and participate in reflective conversation with other participants.
Consider also the Condensed School of Lectio Divina
Jul. 24-26, 2020.