Tips for 1st Step of Lectio Divina (“Lectio”)

Lectio is an attentive and prayerful reading of a passage of Scripture.

If we want to hear God in our prayer, the first step is reading well.

What to read?

  • The Gospel passage from the Mass of the day is always advisable.
  • However, any text of Scripture will do – especially one that speaks to your heart right now.

How to read?

  • Tips include: “Trace the sign of the cross on the Scriptures. Kiss the cross you traced. Then begin to read very slowly, vocally (if possible), and gently, coming to an understanding of the words themselves (every word is holy & important) along with the related ideas and images that surface. When a particular passage or word strikes us we pause to consider it more fully. At the first pause, we will then naturally move into meditatio. If you don’t seem to progress in this way, simply stay at each phase until you do. Don’t worry if you don’t progress. The goal is not to fulfill the method, but to honor and seek God” (Dan Burke).
  • Read as if it is your 1st time, last time, and only time.” Read with wonder, with care, with attention.
  • Be inquisitive: Try to recognize details relating to who, what, when, where. Try to discern patterns, understand characters, make connections.
  • The word of God is alive and active” (Hebrews 4:12).
    • Be ready like a catcher to actively receive what’s being thrown at you.
  • Receive God’s Word like the Eucharist.
    • “Brothers and sisters, here is a question for you: Which to you seems greater, the Word of God or the Body of Christ? If you want to give the right answer, you will reply that God’s word is not less than Christ’s body. Therefore, just as we take care when we receive the Body of Christ that no part falls to the ground, so we should likewise ensure that the word of God, which is given to us, is not lost to our souls because we are speaking or thinking about something different. One who listens negligently to God’s word is just as guilty as one who, through carelessness, allows Christ’s body to fall to the ground” (St. Caesarius of Arles).
  • Slow down!
    • Slowing down is a real ascetical practice for lectio divina. 
  • Feel free to stop at any time.
    • In her autobiography, it was said that “St. Catherine of Siena would chew on every single word, and when she found one she especially liked, she would stop for as long as her mind found pleasure grazing there” (Introduction to The Dialogue, 22).
    • “In the point in which I find what I desire there I will rest without anxiety to go forward until my heart is satisfied” (St. Ignatius).
      • Give yourself the freedom to spend all your meditation time on the 1st line of the Scripture passage. Imagine a road with 5 homes and you know your friend is in 1 of them. Why go on to other houses when the friend opens the 1st door?
    • St. Francis de Sales spoke about bees extracting pollen. Stay with the flower until all the pollen is gone.
  • Purposefully: Your goal in reading is not to finish any particular portion of scripture but to purposefully delve into the depths of any passage that will lift our hearts to God.
  • Go back to Scripture if distracted.
    • “Reading is a focusing and centering device in prayer. Whenever a thought, line, or word stands out and captures your attention, stop there and dwell on that text, carefully repeating it over and over, staying with the same text until it “dries up.” Classically, the monk would do this repetitious reading out loud, proclaiming the word to his or her own senses, praying with the whole body. Whenever you are distracted, you simply return to this repetition” (Morello, LD and PTP, 21).
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