The "Rule of Benedict," written by Saint Benedict of Nursia in the 6th century, prescribes a method of prayer containing four stages, or steps. This method of prayer is called "lectio divina," or "holy reading," and it is structured around reading the scriptures to gain an understanding of how God speaks to the individual. Originally written for monks, lectio divina is practiced by Catholic and other Christian individuals on a regular basis.
Lectio, or reading, is the first stage of prayer. The reading is most often passages from the Bible, but it can also be works by Christian authors such as John Wesley or Brother Gregory. In this stage, practitioners do not simply read the text, they concentrate on the words and savor them. If a phrase or sentence speaks to the reader, he or she is encouraged go over it and repeat it out loud or meditate upon it until the meaning is understood.
Meditatio, or meditation, is the second stage of prayer. In this stage, practitioners build on the previous stage and meditate on the passages they have read that were particularly meaningful to them. They are encouraged to silently reflect on until they are committed to memory, and encouraged to contemplate why these passages were meaningful and how that resonance may relate to their lives.
Oratio, or prayer, is the third stage. In this stage, practitioners are instructed to stop thinking about God's word and the passages they have just read, and instead open their hearts in response to what they havestudied and contemplated. Through prayer, practitioners speak to God and ask for grace and absolution through the heart's desire for these things, in order that the words read and meditated upon can effect a change in the reader.
Contemplatio, or contemplation, is the fourth and last stage of prayer. In this stage the practitioner simply rests in order that he or she may sense the presence of the divine and contemplate the significance of his or her faith.
- Diocese of Joliet: Catholic Prayer Traditions for the Catechist
- The Order of Carmelites: What is Lectio Divina
- El Carmelo: Lectio Divina, Framework of Teresian Prayer
- The Order of Saint Benedict: Christian Authors: Seventeenth to Twentieth Centuries
- The Order of Saint Benedict: Saint Benedict of Nursia
- Catholic Resources for Bible, Liturgy, Art and Theology: Methods of Praying with the Scriptures
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