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Catholic Sentinel | Portland, OR Tuesday, August 30, 2016

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Distraction can happen during lectio divina

Deacon Owen Cummings


Q — Your study idea in the Dalai Lama issue was great, but I suggest an article about meditative readings of scripture only. Further expansion on Lectio Divina would be appreciated. I have a Prayer Chair that I try to use exclusively for praying and meditative reading. I get easily distracted and any hints on how to stay on track would be appreciated.

A — It is a delight to respond to this prayerful inquiry. First of all, I think I have commented enough on the various steps of what is known as lectio divina/divine reading: super-slow reading, raising relevant questions to gain further understanding, moving into prayer — adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, supplication/petition, and then contemplative silence.

Holy Scripture is absolutely foundational to the enterprise. Perhaps the best way is to take the lectionary readings for the day and make your own scriptural selection from those readings, being careful not only to choose the gospel reading but also the first reading. Scripture has to be the soul of theology, as we have been taught by Vatican II’s “Constitution on Divine Revelation.”

However, using other sources is entirely legitimate and good. For example, poetry. There are some very obvious poets who spring to mind, for example, George Herbert, Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ, and Mary Oliver. These are just three examples. There are so many more poets who can raise the mind and heart to God. After all, all religious devotions are about increasing and deepening our communion in and with the Divine Communion, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Having a place that you use regularly and daily for prayer is an excellent idea — I take it that is what you mean by “a prayer chair.” Perhaps a small table is located adjacent to the chair, with the Psalms, or the Bible, or other devotional aids within reach.

Getting easily distracted is a common complaint in the practice of lectio divina. What to do about it? First of all, don’t get too disturbed or too panicky! Distraction happens. I have found that when I focus on the distraction happening, deliberately trying to rid myself of it, it simply makes matters worse. It’s much better, at least in my experience, to acknowledge the distraction and let it just flow out of consciousness, as it were, without trying to concentrate on it by way of eliminating it. Just let it move away, and it will. Another suggestion that I would make is not to take too long a time for the practice, at least in the beginning. Begin small, and then gradually expand the time. As you become more habituated to the practice, you will be able to spend longer time doing it, and probably with less distraction, although that can never be guaranteed!





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