Lord, Teach Us How to Pray
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is divided into four parts, which is a reflection of the centuries old division of earlier catechisms: The Creed, The Sacraments, Our Life in Christ and the Commandments and, lastly, Prayer. In this fourth part dedicated to Prayer, we learn about meditation and a form of meditation called lectio divina:
Meditation is above all a quest. The mind seeks to understand the why and how of the Christian life, in order adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking…We are usually helped by books, and Christians do not want for them: the Sacred Scriptures, particularly the Gospels, holy icons, liturgical texts of the day or season, writings of the spiritual fathers, works of spirituality….To meditate on what we read helps us to make it our own by confronting it with ourselves…. There are as many and varied methods of meditation as there are spiritual masters. Christians owe it to themselves to develop the desire to meditate regularly, lest they come to resemble the three first kinds of soil in the parable of the sower….Christian prayer tries above all to meditate on the mysteries of Christ, as in lectio divina or the rosary. This form of prayerful reflection is of great value, but Christian prayer should go further: to the knowledge of the love of the Lord Jesus, to union with him. (CCC 2705-8).
Lectio divina, or “Divine Reading” is an ancient way of prayer. It is meant to foster greater communion with God. In this way, it is a beautiful preparation for worship, as well as a way of giving thanks after worship. It is comprised of four parts: Lectio (reading of a scripture passage), meditatio (meditating and listening to what the Lord wants you to receive from that passage), oratio (conversing with the Lord in prayer), and contemplatio (contemplating or “dwelling” with the Lord in silence).
Today’s Gospel reading is actually a step-by-step example of lectio divina. Our Lord Himself, provides all four parts as He gives and then explains the parable of the sower. The parable has every measure of meaning today as when our Lord first spoke it. The seed that falls along the footpath and is trodden down and eaten by the birds, seed that falls upon rocky ground, seed among thorns, and, finally, seed that falls on good ground that yields a hundred-fold. Of these, our Lord says, “But that on the good ground, are they, who in a good and very good heart hearing the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit in patience.” We must not neglect the importance of the word “patience.” While salvation is the work of God and his grace and mercy, patience and perseverance is our work. Our prayer and worship is meant to strengthen that patience and perseverance. The “good and very good” disposition of the heart along with patience are what God desires when we hear the Word. But each of us has much to do with how our hearts receive the Word of God. If we hold onto pride and unforgiveness, or when we abandon our beautiful faith, then we, ourselves, are often planting the very thorns that could one day choke the Word of God at a time when we might need it most. Or if we “harden our hearts” and do not persevere in prayer, then we risk falling away in difficult times. If we do not prepare ourselves for prayer and worship, we are letting the seed fall on the footpath to be taken away from us before it can have a chance to bear fruit.
God has ordained that our conversion does not take place once in our lives and then we have no more need to be concerned for our salvation. No, like a sower who scatters seed each year, year after year, the fruit is only produced if the soil is prepared and ready to receive the Word year after year. Our task is to never grow weary of preparing our hearts to receive the Word of God that it may bear abundant fruit in the eyes of God. This is what lectio divina is meant to help us do. And countless souls have profited from even the simplest form of lectio divina. Let us ask our Lord to lead us in prayer whether it be with others during the Liturgy or in the silence of our hearts at home.
Stay healthy & safe.
Anna Romano, Liturgy Coordinator