Sunday, December 20, 2009

HOLY POVERTY AND THE HOLIDAYS (Advent reflections for Franciscans based on an article by Br. JR)- LAST PART

The Gospel invites us to poverty and to detachment that Francis took very literally. Christmas is a great opportunity to express to the world that we have found a different path, by simplifying our celebration, our purchasing, and by sharing our surplus with the poorest of the poor. These are not the only days of the year when we observe Holy Poverty. They are special opportunities to ‘preach without words.’

While the world is engaged in the material aspects of these feasts, our focus is on the meaning and message of the day. If we do it right, we will stand out among our relatives and friends, just as Francis stood out from those around him, just as Jesus and Mary did too. We will have preached a good sermon.

May the Peace of the Lord be with you.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year...!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

HOLY POVERTY AND THE HOLIDAYS (Advent reflections for Franciscans based on an article by Br. JR)- Part III

Christmas draws near. It is but proper to meditate on how Francis celebrated Christmas and on his deep devotion to the child Jesus. To remember that he set up the first live nativity scene in history or that he saw the live Christ child in the crib is a moving thought, but these are ordinary meditations for every Roman Catholic.

What is exclusively Franciscan is the poverty that Francis observed as he celebrated the Christian holidays. His joy and his faith always strengthened his resolve to live as Christ said, to empty himself of everything – property, attachments, surplus, sharing with the poor, trusting that Christ would provide from day to day.

As Franciscans, we think ahead toward Christmas and ponder how we will show our gratitude to God for everything that he has given us. We reflect on how much our Heavenly Father loved the world that His only begotten son became flesh and dwelt among us for the sole purpose of dying for us. Let us keep in mind that our celebrations must reflect Gospel poverty, not worldly consumerism.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

HOLY POVERTY AND THE HOLIDAYS (Advent reflections for Franciscans based on an article by Br. JR)-Part II

For the Secular Franciscan, he must gently remind himself that he does not own everything that is within his means, just because he does not live in a religious community. This is not the way of Francis. He did not live in a religious community when he embraced poverty and the Gospel. He was alone. The community came later. The Holy Rule came later. He wrote the rule the manner of life he lived in solitude as a secular man.

Francis designed a simple tunic with a hood and wrapped a rope around his waist. This was the only garment that he kept as his own. He did not possess a closet full of clothing that he never wore. This he had left at his parents’ home or had given away. The only garments he had were what he needed for his daily life and work.

If we are married, have children, older parents or both, charity and justice require that we provide for our families. Providing for our families should not prevent us from practicing real poverty when it comes to ourselves. On the contrary, the family is the domestic Church. Every effort, every talent, and every possession should be spent on making the domestic Church a reflection of Christ’s Mystical Body.

Every cent or material resource that a Secular Franciscan has really belongs to his family and to the poor, NOT TO HIMSELF. Let us observe how Francis returned his clothes to his father while standing naked at the square in front of the bishop’s home. Francis begins his life with Holy Poverty by returning to his family what is rightfully theirs and more. HE KEEPS NOTHING FOR HIMSELF. He is but a good steward.

When the first secular men and women asked to be admitted to the Order, Francis gave them the Rule of Penance. These men and women have stood out through the centuries by their lives of poverty and their generosity toward their families and the poor. They have stood out for their simplicity in entertainment, dress, living conditions and associations. The many Secular Franciscans brothers and sisters who became saints or blessed were committed to poverty as Christ taught it in the Gospel. Their fidelity to this commitment, led them down the road to peace, joy and a deeper relationship with God, just as it did for Francis.

Monday, November 30, 2009

HOLY POVERTY AND THE HOLIDAYS (Advent reflections for Franciscans based on an article by Br. JR)-Part 1

As Advent dawns upon us, we begin to think of the holidays – Christmas is just around the corner. Many are thinking of the gifts to receive, the dinner parties they are going to host, how they will decorate their homes, who to invite, where they are going to travel. This may seem normal, but there is something that must be considered but is often forgotten. Anyone wanting to imitate Francis of Assisi’s Gospel Life must consider his plans to be consistent with the evangelical counsel of poverty as Francis understood and taught it.

Francis’ spirituality is a moral commitment. The Gospel still calls us to ‘leave everything and follow Christ.’ These words moved our holy father Francis to begin a new life, and nothing has changed in 800 years.

The Gospel still says ‘Deny yourself. Take up your cross and follow me.’

This was exactly what Francis and his brothers did. They denied themselves of many things – family, property, comfort, money, and sometimes, food. They worked for what they had. They kept what they needed and the rest were given to the poor. They put their talents to serve the brotherhood and the poor. Nothing was kept for themselves.

The Gospel still says, ‘If you want to be perfect sell all that you have; give it to the poor, then come and follow me.’

This was exactly what Francis and Brother Bernardo did on the town square the day after they heard these words from the Holy Gospel.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fraciscan Prayer - Implications of Franciscan Prayer .. Last Part

How does this theology of the word play out in Francis’ journey of prayer? For Francis, God loves us where we are—with our frailty, weaknesses and insecurities. This is the meaning of his encounter with the God of compassionate love as seen in the cross of San Damiano.

Francis understands that while God is incomprehensible and ineffable, he is at the same time ‘bent over’ in love for us, in and through the Son, Jesus Christ. God is infinite in love and intimate in love, far beyond us yet intensely
By following in the footprints of Jesus Christ, we are led to the Father of incomprehensible love through the Spirit, who joins us to Christ, who in turn leads us to the Father. For Francis, Christ is the center of the Trinity and the center of our relationship to God.

For Francis, prayer is not a flight from the world toward a transcendent God; rather it centers on the mystical body of Christ and our participation in this mystery. God took on our flesh that we might discover his eternal face in ourselves. This is the good news of Jesus Christ and of our lives in Christ. Prayer channels us into the depths of the Christ mystery where the fullness of our humanity—and our happiness—lies.

In her Second Letter to St. Agnes of Prague, Clare directed her toward a relationship with the God of self-giving love. Take some time to meditate on the following words of Clare and consider whether or not your relationship with God is leading you more deeply into the mystery of Christ:

‘Gaze upon [Him]; consider [Him]; contemplate [Him], as you desire to imitate [Him]. If you suffer with Him, you shall reign with Him, [if you] weep [with Him], you shall rejoice with Him, [if you] die [with Him] on the cross of tribulation, you shall possess heavenly mansions in the splendor of the saints and, in the Book of Life, your name shall be called glorious among people.’

Group Sharing II: Guide Questions for Reflection:

-Who is God to whom you pray?

-Where do you find God? In silence? In other people? In liturgical prayer?

-Is God ‘up above’ you, transcendent and distant to you? Or do you experience God’s intimate presence in your life?

-How do you envision the journey to God? Does a ladder, a spiral or another image capture your relationship to God?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Franciscan Prayer - Franciscan Journey

For Franciscans, the journey to God is a journey inward, toward a new relationship with God in which God takes on flesh anew in one’s life. The Good News of Jesus Christ, as the Franciscans understand it, is that we do not ‘go to God’ as if God sat in the starry heavens awaiting our arrival; rather, God has ‘come to us’ in the Incarnation.

‘The eternal God has humbly bent down,’ St. Bonaventure wrote, ‘and lifted the dust of our nature into unity with his own person’ (Sermon II on the Nativity of the Lord). We move toward God because God has first moved toward us: This is the Franciscan path of prayer.

The journey of prayer for Franciscans is the discovery of God at the center of our lives. We pray not to acquire a relationship with God as though acquiring something that did not previously exist. We pray to disclose the image of God in which we are created, the God within us, that is, the one in whom we are created and in whom lies the seed of our identity.

We pray so as to discover what we already have—’the incomparable treasure hidden in the field of the world and of the human heart’ (Clare of Assisi, Third Letter to Agnes of Prague). We pray not to ‘ascend’ to God but to ‘give birth to God’—to allow the image in which we are created to become visible. We pray to bear Christ anew. In prayer, therefore, we discover what we already have—the potential for the fullness of life, and this life is the life of Christ.
Next...Implications of Franciscan Prayer

Monday, November 9, 2009

Franciscan Prayer- Jesus – Revelation of the Father

In his writings, Francis showed less a personal relationship to Christ than to the Father—the source of all goodness and the Most High. Yet Francis realized that the Son is the beloved of the Father; thus the deepest reason for clinging to Jesus is that he reveals the Father. Francis believed that Christ alone is the One in whom the Father takes delight because the Son satisfies the Father in everything.

Instead of relating to Jesus in a personal way, Francis often used the expression ‘Word of the Father’ when speaking about the person of Christ. This is surprising for one who was considered a ‘second Christ’ in the Middle Ages. Yet we have evidence of this understanding in Francis’ writings.

In the second version of his Later Admonition and Exhortation, for example, he states that, ‘Through his angel, St. Gabriel, the Most High Father in heaven announced this Word of the Father, so worthy, so holy and glorious, in the womb of the holy and glorious Virgin Mary’ (4-5).
Francis saw God as communicative and expressive—perhaps like a divine cell phone! The Father’s self-expression is his word. Jesus is the word of the Father. Francis saw a connection between the divine word, which is entirely worthy, holy and glorious, and the Incarnate word, which assumed our fragile human nature.

Francis emphasized to his followers that the word of the Father left his divine riches in order to accept the poverty of humanity. God expresses himself by giving himself away in love. The Incarnation is where the word of the Father ‘descends’ to embrace us in love. This movement of descent, shown to us in Christ, is a daily event that we see and touch in the Eucharist:

‘Behold, each day he humbles himself as when he came from the royal throne into the Virgin’s womb; each day he himself comes to us, appearing humbly, each day he comes down from the bosom of the Father upon the altar in the hands of a priest’ (Admonition One).

The descent of the word into humanity reminded Francis of the humility of God—not simply the humble circumstances of Jesus’ earthly beginnings and life but rather another name for God, who is, above all, love. In his Praises of God, Francis exclaimed, ‘You are love...You are humility.’

Francis called God ‘humility’ because he perceived the love of the Father in the descent of the Son in the Incarnation. In Bonaventure’s terminology, the Father bends low in love to embrace us fragile human beings in and through the Son, the Word of God. The Word incarnate, Jesus of Nazareth, expresses the humble love of God.
Next...Franciscan Journey

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Franciscan Prayer...The Journey of Francis

Disillusioned as a valiant knight after being wounded in battle, Francis had a profound experience of God in the broken–down church of San Damiano, which he visited one day. Face–to–face with the wounded and glorified Christ on the cross, Francis met the God of compassionate love, a God ‘bent over’ in love in the wounds of the crucified Christ.

Bonaventure describes this encounter in his Major Legend (1.6) where he writes: ‘While [Francis] was praying and all of his fervor was totally absorbed in God, Christ Jesus appeared to him as fastened to a cross.’ He indicates that there was no exchange of words. ‘His [Francis’] soul melted at the sight, and the memory of Christ’s passion was impressed on the innermost recesses of his heart.’

This encounter with the crucified God changed Francis in the very core of his being. Bonaventure states: ‘From then on he clothed himself with a spirit of poverty, a sense of humility, an eagerness for intimate piety.’ The expression of God’s self–giving love on the cross, impressed Francis in such a way that he began to change, marking the start of Francis’ spiritual journey.

The God whom Francis discovered in the cross of Jesus Christ was a God ‘who delights to be with the simple and those rejected by the world’ (Thomas of Celano, First Life, 12.31). Impressed by the love of the Crucified, Francis could no longer remain alone in his search for God. Rather, he had to find God in others: his neighbor, his brother and even the tiny creatures of nature.

The necessity of the other for Francis thrust him into radical poverty whereby everything that hindered his relation to the other was stripped away. Seeing God in the wounds of the Crucified drew Francis to a new level of compassion and to sharing his goods, his very self, with others.

Bonaventure writes that ‘to poor beggars he wished to give not only his possessions but his very self, sometimes taking off his clothes...ripping them in pieces to give to them’ (1.6). The encounter with Christ gave Francis a new openness and freedom. Embraced by the compassionate love of God, Francis was liberated within and went out to embrace others in love.

According to Bonaventure, Francis discovered his own identity through encountering the crucified Christ, that is, he discovered his own wounded–ness in the image of the crucified man. This self–knowledge enabled him to go out to the poor and sick.

Describing Francis as the truly humble person, Bonaventure writes: ‘As Christ’s disciple he strove to regard himself as worthless in his own eyes and those of others. He used to make this statement frequently: ‘What a person is before God, that he is and no more’’(6.1).

Naming the truth about himself before God freed Francis to make the journey to the other person and back again. Only in relation to the other did his weaknesses become strengths, for it was in naming his weaknesses that Francis matured in authentic human love.

Because of the mystery of Christ and the embrace of God’s compassionate love in the wounded Christ, Francis grew spiritually as a person, finding his true self to be a relational self. The deeper he grew in relationship with Christ, the deeper he grew in relationship with others.

As Francis deepened his relationship with Christ, the other became less for Francis an object and more a brother. Community became the concrete expression of the Christ mystery for Francis. The deeper he entered into the mystery of Christ in his own life, the more he recognized Christ in the world around him, in his brothers, the lepers, in the sick and in the tiny creatures of creation.

‘In all the poor,’ Bonaventure wrote, ‘Francis saw before him a portrait of Christ’ (8.5). Even animals represented Christ to him. Seeing the birth of a lamb, for example, Francis exclaimed, ‘Alas, brother lamb, innocent animal, always displaying Christ to people!’ (8.6).

Bonaventure highlights the idea that the one who dwells in Christ dwells in the other, because the fullness of who we are in Christ can only be found in the other. The difference of the other, therefore, was not an obstacle for Francis in his search for God but rather a celebration of God. For he found his own identity in God and he found God in the fragile, wounded flesh of his brothers and sisters.

It is prayer, according to Bonaventure, that impelled Francis to see the world with new vision, a contemplative vision that penetrated the depths of reality. The world became Francis’ cloister because he found it to be permeated with the goodness of God. Next....Jesus - Revelation of the Father

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Franciscan Prayer...Francis of Assisi

Francis’ path to God was an inversion of monastic values. Rather than fleeing the world to find God, God is to be found in the world – the ‘cloister’ of the Franciscans.

Francis of Assisi, attained the heights of contemplation through a penetrating vision of creation. With a basic education in reading and writing, Francis came to prayer from a popular and lay experience.

His family belonged to the rising merchant class in Assisi. His father, a cloth merchant, owned a shop in Assisi where Francis apparently worked. He was not only familiar with the daily business of buying and trading cloth, but also came into contact with many different types of people—farmers, craftsmen, artists, bakers—people who worked with their hands and valued the material things of the earth.

The idea of transcending this world to contemplate true reality would have been foreign to Francis’ thinking. Rather, he regarded earthly life as possessing ideal, positive potential as God’s creation. Some regard him as ‘the first materialist’ in the best sense of the word because of the way Francis looked on the material world—not for what it is but for how it is: God’s creation. Next... The Journey of Francis

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Franciscan Prayer...The Monastic Approach

According to the Rule of St. Benedict, a monk must flee the world to seek God because the world poses obstacles in the search for God. The monastic life is a renunciation of one’s will, the place to do spiritual combat for Christ so that one may strive for the Kingdom of heaven.

Monks sought to live the ‘life of the angels’ through the work of continuous prayer that anticipated life in the heavenly Jerusalem. For Benedict, ‘nothing is to be preferred to the work of God’ (Rule, 43.3).

Monastic life has a strong eschatological dimension, a desire for heaven and union with God. The monk strives for the Jerusalem above, the place where far from the world and from sin, one draws close to God, the angels and the saints who surround him. Here on earth, a monk’s life anticipates the life of heaven where the angels already enjoy the vision of God.

Gregory the Great held that the contemplative life is the heavenly life, which cannot be lived perfectly ‘in this world.’ Contemplation is given to monks so that by purity of heart they may anticipate the incorruption of heaven. Gregory claimed that the contemplative life is superior to and better than the active life and thus should be preferred to the active when possible.

For monastic spiritual writers in general, contemplation could only be attained in the monastery because it anticipated union with God in heaven. To strive for such union required listening in silence and solitude, being alone in the presence of the transcendent One. The busy marketplace of the world with its sinful practices hindered the search for union with God.

It is no wonder that, up to the 13th century and the rise of the Franciscans, contemplation for the ordinary Christian was unthinkable. Few were believed to have the grace of this pursuit. With the rise of Franciscan evangelical life, a new path to salvation emerged in the quest for God. Next...Francis of Assisi

Friday, October 2, 2009

Franciscan Prayer

This lecture is based on Ilia Delio’s article, ‘St. Francis Style of Prayer’ appearing on the Saint Anthony Messenger, October 2004.

Introduction: Our Relationship with God

Importance of language to speak to God:

-Distant and remote language = God is distant and remote
-Male language = God is male
-Humble and loving language = God is humble and loving
-Judgmental language = God is judgmental

-The God to whom I pray is the God who directs my life; thus my image of God, the kind of God I believe in, is crucial to the way my journey of prayer proceeds.

Group Sharing 1: Image of God

-Is God interested in me or is He distant?

-Is God primarily a severe judge or savior for me?

-Do I treat God as ruler or lover?

Image of God

In his book The Social God, Kenneth Leech looks at various images of God that have governed Christian belief throughout history. For example, those who believe in a transcendent, spiritual God who does not get involved with the messiness of the world believe that the material world is irrelevant because only truly spiritual activities are important. Prayer to this type of God can be self–centered and present peace, stillness and tranquility as ends in themselves.

Followers of a God who is not passionate about creation and therefore never becomes angry or jealous promote a nice, safe God of love, life and joy. Because Jesus is a nice guy, the reality of the passion and the role of God in our ambiguity, messiness and sin is avoided. These types are like the hippie flower children of the ’60s and ‘70s who always proclaimed that everything is beautiful and ‘all you need is love.’

On the other hand, some people perceive God as a fascist, distant and authoritarian. Prayer is highly structured and a duty—not real communication or personal relationship because God is a harsh judge who uses the world as a courtroom. These people often live in the fear of God’s judgment and eternal damnation (i.e., the pains of hell).

There are many other images but the bottom line is: The way we experience God is the way we experience the world and all that is in it. That is why to talk of a journey or path of prayer means talking about a particular way of experiencing God.

Growth in prayer is the measure of our journey to God. In the monastic tradition, the idea of journey meant that the created world motivates a person to turn inward in the search for God. In order to know true reality, a monk or nun had to transcend this world and contemplate the one above.
next...The Monastic Approach

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Prayer for the Intercession of Saint Francis of Assisi (Br. JNMatias, ofs)

In line with the feast of our Seraphic Father, Francis this October, let me share with you a prayer composed by a Secular Franciscan brother, Br. Jesus Matias, OFS

Prayer for the Intercession of Saint Francis of Assisi

Seraphic Saint Francis
you, who found true heavenly happiness

in the perfect understanding of the Incarnation of our Lord
through your childlike trust in the providence of the Father;

in the perfect imitation of the life and ministry of our Divine Master,
through your patient endurance of daily hardships;

in the perfect reflection of the redeeming Passion of our Savior
through your painful burden of bearing the wounds of the stigmata;

may you intercede for us that we may, with purity of heart
be given the steadfast faith of our Blessed Mother Mary
to persevere in the practice of the holy virtues;

be given the strong love and courage of the saints
to persevere in the mission of the Church to the poor;

and be given the joyful hope of Saint Joseph
to persevere in the lifelong witnessing of the Gospels
which leads to everlasting peace.


Friday, September 18, 2009


I. Private Lectio Divina

1. Choose a text of the Scriptures that you wish to pray. You may go through a particular book of the Bible by the use of the daily readings from the liturgy for the day is commonly done. Bear in mind that whatever you text you choose is the text that God will use to speak to you.

2. Place yourself in comfortable position and silence yourself. Go over the exercise on silence on the previous post.

3. Turn to the selected biblical text and read it slowly. Savor each portion of the reading, constantly listening to that ‘still, small voice’ of a word or phrase. There is nothing dramatic to expect. God is teaching us to listen to Him, to seek Him in silence. He softly, gently invites us ever more deeply into His presence.

4. Take the word or phrase and slowly digest it. Memorize it, repeating it to yourself, allowing it to interact with your concerns, memories and ideas. Note that random thoughts, memories or experiences are parts of you that are to be presented to God along with the rest of yourself. Allow every thought to invite you into dialogue with God.

5. Speak to God. Using words, ideas or images, interact with Him as you would with one who you know loves and accepts you. Offer to Him everything you have discovered about yourself during your experience of meditatio. Experience God using the word or phrase that He has given you as a means of blessing, of transforming the ideas and memories, which your pondering on His word has awakened.

6. Finally, rest in God's embrace. If He invites you to return to your pondering of His word or to your inner dialogue with Him, do so. Learn to use words when words are helpful, and to let go of words when they no longer are necessary. Rejoice in the knowledge that God is with you in both words and silence, in spiritual activity and inner receptivity.

There will be times when one will find it necessary to return to the printed text or to seek a new word or phrase to ponder. At other times, only a single word or phrase will fill the whole time set aside for the whole exercise. Do not be anxious about getting ‘good results’. Lectio divina being in the presence of God by praying the Scriptures.

2. Lectio Divina in Fraternity

(Note: The exercise below, done in a group of four to eight people, is for the encouraging the practice of lectio divina and should not become a substitute for the authentic form of lectio divina which is done in private.)

Listening for the Gentle Touch of Christ the Word (The Literal Sense)

1. One person reads aloud the passage from the scripture twice as others listen attentively to a segment that is especially meaningful to them.
2. Everyone maintains silence for about one to two minutes. Each person silently repeats the word or phrase that had attracted him the most.
3. Each person shares a simple statement regarding the word or phrase that has caught his attention. No elaboration will be made.

Christ the Word is speaking (The Allegorical Sense)

4. Another person recites the same passage read previously.
5. Everyone remains silent for two to three minutes. Each person reflects on the content of this reading and its significance on his life for that day.
6. Each person shares his experience briefly stating, ‘I hear, I see...’

What Christ the Word’s invitation (The Moral Sense)

7. Another person recites the same passage read again.
8. Everyone remains silent for two to three minutes, with each reflecting on what God want him to do for the day or week.
9. At a greater length, share the results of each one's reflection.
10. Listen attentively to the person seated on your right.
11. Silently pray for the person to your right.

2. Lectio Divina applied to one’s personal history
This is a method of prayerful reflection to a life/work incident instead of to a scripture passage.
Listening for the Gentle Touch of Christ the Word (The Literal Sense)

1. Review events, situations or encounters that have happened since the beginning of a retreat/or during the last month at work.

Reflecting (Meditatio - Meditation)

2. Try to remember the ‘peaks’ of such events, situations or encounters and ask yourself in what ways God seems to be present and the extent of one’s awareness was then and now.

Prayerful Consecration, Blessing (Oratio - Prayer)

3. Using a word or phrase from the Scriptures, offer up to God in prayer that incident. Allow God to accept and bless them as your gift.

Acceptance of Christ's Embrace (Contemplatio - Contemplation)

4. Remain in silence for some period.

Sharing Lectio Experiences (Operatio - Action; works)

5. Members of the fraternity share their experiences briefly or remain in continuing silence.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Lectio Divina is an ancient spiritual art that is being rediscovered in our day. It allows the Scriptures to become a means of uniting us with God. In lectio divina we discover our own underlying spiritual rhythm. We experience God between spiritual activity and receptivity, in the movement from practice into contemplation and back again into spiritual practice.
Lectio Divina teaches us about the God who truly loves us. In it we believe that our loving Father continues to extend His embrace to us. In His word we experience ourselves as personally loved by God; as the recipients of a word that He gives uniquely to each of us whenever we turn to Him in the Scriptures.
FINALLY, Lectio Divina teaches us about ourselves. In it we discover that there is no place in ourselves that cannot be opened and offered to God. God teaches us what it means to be members of His royal priesthood - a people called to consecrate all of our memories, our hopes and our dreams to Christ.
In September 2005, Pope Benedict XVI stated:
‘I would like in particular to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of Lectio divina: the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart (cf. Dei Verbum, n. 25). If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church - I am convinced of it - a new spiritual springtime. next post... Exercise:The Practice of LECTIO DIVINA.

Friday, September 4, 2009

LECTURE ON LECTIO DIVINA ...Third Part -The Process of Lectio Divina

Lectio Divina has been likened to ‘Feasting on the Word.’ The four parts are first taking a bite (Lectio), then chewing on it (Meditatio). Next is the opportunity to savor the essence of it (Oratio). Finally, the Word is digested and made a part of the body (Contemplatio).


Lectio is where we read or listen the Word of God, slowly and reflectively so that it sinks into us. This consists in reading the scriptural passage slowly, attentively several times. It is important to cultivate the ability to listen deeply ‘with the ear of our hearts’. We read the Scriptures as the prophet Elijah did, allowing ourselves to listen for the still, soft, small voice of God; the ‘faint murmuring sound’ of God's voice touching our hearts.

Reading or listening to the Word is not like reading or listening to periodicals or pocketbooks. Lectio is reverential listening in a spirit of silence and of awe. We are listening for the still, small voice of God that will speak to us personally – not loudly, but intimately. We read slowly, attentively, gently listening to hear a word or phrase that is God's word for us this day.

Any passage of Scripture can be used for this way of prayer but the passage should not be too long. Many write down words in the scripture that stick out to them or grasp their attention during this moment.


The second stage is meditatio where we think about the text we have chosen and meditate upon it so that we take from it what God wants to give us.

Once we have found a word or a passage in the Scriptures that speaks to us in a personal way, we must take it in and meditate on it. The invitation to meditate on the Word is similar to the manner the Virgin Mary pondered in her heart what she saw and heard of Christ (Luke 2:19). For us today these images are a reminder that we must take in the word - that is, memorize it - and while gently repeating it to ourselves, allow it to interact with our thoughts, our hopes, our memories, our desires. We allow God's word to become His word for us, a word that touches us and affects us at our deepest levels.


This stage is a response to the passage by opening the heart to God. It is not an intellectual exercise, but an intuitive conversation or dialogue with God, where we leave our thinking aside and simply let our hearts speak to God in prayer.
Prayer is dialogue with God, a conversation with the One who has first invited us into His embrace. It is an act of consecration of ourselves that we have not previously believed God wants. In prayer we allow the word to touch and change our deepest selves. God invites us to offer our most difficult and painful experiences to Him, and to gently recite over them the word He has given us in our lectio and meditatio. In this oratio, we allow our real selves to be touched and changed by the word of God.


The last stage of Lectio Divina is contemplation, when we finally rest in the presence of the One who has used His word as a means of inviting us to accept His transforming embrace. We let go not only of our own ideas, plans and meditations but also of our holy words and thoughts. Wordless and quiet, we begin to listen at the deepest level of our being to God who speaks within us with a still small voice. As we listen, we are gradually transformed from within. Once again we practice silence, letting go of our own words; this time simply enjoying the experience of being in the presence of God.

Operatio – the application

Sharing our Lectio Experience with Each Other (Operatio - Action; works)
Obviously this transformation will have a profound effect on the way we actually live and the way we live is the test of the authenticity of our prayer. We must take what we read in the Word of God into our daily lives.
As a contemplative practice, Lectio Divina is practiced to enable the practitioner to creatively engage with scripture on various levels depending on one's educational background and spiritual strengths. The expected outcome will be a deeper knowledge of scripture, oneself, others and God, and to see all these in gradually increasing light of faith. to be continued...

Friday, August 28, 2009

LECTURE ON LECTIO DIVINA ...Second Part -Selection of Scriptures

Selection of Scriptures

Lectio is typically practiced daily for one continuous hour. A selection from the Holy Scriptures is chosen ahead of time, often as a daily progression through a particular book of the Bible.
Selecting a time for lectio divina is important. Typical methods are to pray for one hour in the morning, or to divide it into two half–hour periods, one in the morning and one in the evening. The key is to pre–select the time that will be devoted to the prayer and to keep it. Using the same time every day leads to a daily habit of prayer that becomes highly effective.
The place for prayer is to be free from distractions, isolated from other people, telephones, visual distractions, etc. Familiarity with a location reduces the possibility of distraction away from the prayer. One may wish to pray in an unaccustomed place, for the express purpose of finding a place that will be dedicated to prayer alone and not other daily activities. Some practitioners conduct other devotions, such as praying before the Blessed Sacrament, as a preparation for Lectio Divina.


Prior to reading, it is important to engage in a transitional activity that takes one from the normal state of mind to a more contemplative and prayerful state. A few moments of deep, regular breathing and a short prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to guide the prayer time helps to set the tone and improve the effectiveness of the lectio.
In order to hear someone speaking softly we must learn to love silence. If we are constantly surround ourselves with noise, we cannot hear gentle sounds.
Once the stage is set it is time to begin the prayer. There are four phases of the prayer, which do not necessarily progress in an ordered fashion. One may move between different phases of the prayer very freely as the Holy Spirit guides.
to be continued....

Monday, August 24, 2009



Latin for divine reading, spiritual reading, or ‘holy reading’
Represents a traditional Christian practice of prayer and scriptural reading
A manner of praying with Scripture that calls one to:

o Study
o Ponder
o Listen
o Pray and even sing and rejoice

From God's Word, within the soul.

We gradually let go of our own agenda and open ourselves to what God wants to say to us

Objective of Lectio Divina

-to give rise to a communion with the Triune God
-to deepen the knowledge of God’s Word
-to let the Word of God penetrate us that we may grow in an intimate relationship with the Lord

History and Overview

The monastic rules of Sts. Pachomius, Augustine, Basil and Benedict made the practice of divine reading, together with manual labor and participation in liturgical life, the triple base of monastic life.
The systematization of spiritual reading into four steps dates back to the 12th century. Around 1150, Guigo, a Carthusian monk, wrote a book titled ‘The Monk’s Ladder’ (Scala Claustralium) wherein he set out the theory of the four rungs: reading, meditation, prayer and contemplation.
Guigo described the stages which he saw as essential to the practice of Lectio Divina. There are various ways of practicing Lectio Divina either individually or in groups but Guigo's description remains fundamental. He said that the first stage is lectio (reading), followed by meditation (reflection), then oratio (response) and lastly contemplation (rest)

In the early monastic tradition contemplation was understood in two ways. First was theoria physike, the contemplation of God in creation – God in ‘the many.’ Second was theologia, the contemplation of God in Himself without images or words – God as ‘The One.’ From this perspective lectio divina serves as a training-ground for the contemplation of God in His creation.

In contemplation, we cease from interior spiritual doing and learn simply to be, that is to rest in the presence of our loving Father. Just as we constantly move back and forth in our exterior lives between speaking and listening, between questioning and reflecting, so in our spiritual lives we must learn to enjoy the refreshment of simply being in God's presence, an experience that naturally alternates (if we let it!) with our spiritual practice.

In ancient times, contemplation was not regarded as a goal to be achieved through some method of prayer, but was simply accepted with gratitude as God's recurring gift. At intervals the Lord invites us to cease from speaking so that we can simply rest in his embrace. This is the pole of our inner spiritual rhythm called contemplation.

In lectio divina we offer ourselves to God; and we are people in motion. In ancient times this inner spiritual motion was described as a helix - an ascending spiral. Viewed in only two dimensions it appears as a circular motion back and forth; seen with the added dimension of time it becomes a helix, an ascending spiral by means of which we are drawn ever closer to God. The whole of our spiritual lives were viewed in this way, as a gentle oscillation between spiritual activity and receptivity by means of which God unites us ever closer to Himself. In just the same way the steps or stages of lectio divina represent an oscillation back and forth between these spiritual poles. In lectio divina we recognize our underlying spiritual rhythm and discover many different ways of experiencing God's presence - many different ways of praying. to be continued...

Thursday, August 13, 2009


What Prayer is NOT:

· Not just an activity or obligation
· Not just a mixture of words

What Prayer is:

· Our relationship with God
· An encounter of the Lover and the Beloved.

Intimate Relationship with God:

· Is NOT instant
· Does NOT always go with comfort (‘feel good’)
· Will require a SACRIFICE of both parties at some point
· Needs:

o Time
o Energy
o Very self

Reflections on Prayer:

The more one prays, the more one wants to pray.

· ‘We are like an arrow shot toward a universal God’. (St. Augustine)
· God is the center of gravity that irresistibly attracts us. The closer we get, the more speed we gain.

o The more we love God, the more want to love Him.
o The more we relate to God, the more we want to want to relate to Him.
o Without realizing it, beneath all our dissatisfactions, there is a current toward the Only One capable of concentrating our strengths and calming our aspirations.

The less one prays, the less one wants to pray.

· Begins when we abandon prayer for a variety of valid (sometimes) reasons.
· We then become interiorly distracted, finding a variety of excuses.
· The desire for God diminishes and is replaced by things, people, event, works.

The more one prays, the more God is ‘God is within us’.

· God becomes less of an idea and more of a person.
· God becomes freedom, humility, love, and joy.
· God becomes an irresistible and revolutionary force that draws all things to Himself.
· God completely changes the ‘face’ of the person.

The less one prays, the less God is ‘God is within us’.

· God becomes meaningless and lifeless.
· God becomes an abstract idea.
· God becomes a word that almost says nothing to us.

When one stops praying, God ends up being a nobody’.

· God becomes an insignificant part of our lives.
· God dies; people become atheists.

· People never talk of eternal life or the soul or God.
· People talk of suffering and social injustice.

Notes on Personal Prayer:

Some signs that we lack intimacy with God:

· We seek him only in times of need (A ‘give me, God!’)
· We do much of the talking and less of the listening (God, listen to me.)
· We see prayer as a mere obligation that need to be fulfilled (God, I have to do this!)

Fruits of the Third Mansion (Carmelite Spirituality):

· The Third Mansion is a prayer state wherein the individual has grown a devotion to God, and may be eager to advance more in prayer. However, there is a tendency for people to create a world according to their own devices, playing with God and responding to Him only when it suits them. They invent a thousand and one excuses to rationalize their behavior and they may even convince themselves that their will is God’s will and whatever is not according to their desires is not the will of God. (Source: The Gospel of Contemplation, Sr. Mary Niere, OCD)

Suggestions for personal prayer:

Be properly disposed in prayer. What is said to God and how it is said to Him is important. However a greater concern is the interior disposition of our hearts – hearts that are humble, transparent, sincere, patient, generous, trusting, loving and childlike.

How do we dispose ourselves to prayer?

· Find quality time to pray (i.e., your prayer time)

· We need to realize that giving time to prayer is giving our time to God. Giving our time to God himself is giving presence to him. Giving our presence to God is giving ourselves to him.

· Choose the time convenient for you to be alone with God, when there is less distraction, less noise, less tasks to think of. Many usually choose the evening to be with God.

· Nothing pleases God more when we give our precious quality time, very presence and very self to Him.

· Find a good place for prayer

· A place for prayer can be just about anywhere that you can stay undisturbed. It could be a Church, or an Adoration Chapel. Perhaps it is a quiet place in a park or even a fire escape. It could be a bedroom.

· The prayer place is not chosen so people can see you pray, nor is it a place just to relax. It is a place to be yourself and to lose yourself, to lose track of time, a place to wrestle with the Creator, ‘to feel one's body made a temple of the Holy Spirit’. What matters most is not the place itself; what matters is that it helps you let God BE God and let you pay full attention to the most important of all relationships.

· Persevere in your prayer time

· One of the best things we can give God is our faithfulness in preserving in our prayer times and not to omit or cut them short. If we decide to pray for twenty minutes, we commit ourselves to pray for twenty minutes.

· Faithfulness teaches us how to be humble, knowing that we are not always in control when we pray. When we do not cut short our prayer time due to restlessness, dryness or desolation, then we allow God to school us in other virtues like humility, patience, generosity, trust and love. We learn to live those virtues, because in prayer, that is what we become.

· Learn to befriend silence

· The voice of God is often heard only in a whisper, in a breath of silence. Remaining in silence in God’s presence, open to the Holy Spirit, is already prayer.

· The road to a deeper relationship with God is not one of achieving inner silence at all costs by following some technique that creates a kind of emptiness within. If, instead, with a childlike trust we let Christ pray silently within us, then one day we shall discover that the depths of our being are inhabited by a Presence.

· Beg for specific grace to understand God. Begging in prayer humbles and disposes us all the more to meet God in a more intimate way.

· Pray with the heart and than with the head by choosing the most important matters that are we need to bring to God for the moment. We should never take in too much matter for prayer. Bring to God the experiences that really matter to us and those that really affect us most deeply – our joys, hopes and desires, our hurts, pains and fears. In that, we learn to pray more with our hearts and less with our minds and we allow God to let Him be Himself to us.

· Learn to savor His presence

· If a mere word or a line or a passage or a reflection question or a spiritual exercise touches us deeply, then we must simply stay there, where we focus, dwell and relish and not move on. If something is touching us in prayer, by way of our consolations, then trust that this is exactly where God desires to meet us. Repeating our prayer and staying where we gained fruit is a form of savoring His presence.

· We must not, however seed for consolation (i.e., that good feeling in prayer), but rather seek God Himself and Him alone – the God of consolation and the source of all consoling experiences.

· Keep a journal

o Writing oftentimes can help us pray better and clarify many things to us. Take time to write down on a journal the fruits of your prayer. This can be done during and especially after the formal prayer period.

Final word:

The ultimate success indicator of one’s prayer life is CHARITY. The way we pray should affect and promote the way we love. The way we encounter God in our silent desert should influence and enhance genuinely the way we serve and love our neighbor in the busy market place. And also, the way we love should animate our prayer and help us become better praying people.

Exercise: Practice Silence

(Note: This exercise is meant to aid a person to experience silence so as to be disposed to prayer.)

1. Sit in a chair with your back straight, feet flat on the floor and your hands on your lap. Make sure that you relaxed (i.e., no tense muscles).

2. Close your eyes gently so that you will not be distracted of what you see.

3. Make an act of faith, hope and love in God’s presence (e.g., ‘Heavenly Father, I believe that You are present and I love You. I trust and hope that You will let me experience Your love personally. May I obtain the Grace of Your Love.)

4. Listen to the sounds around you. Just listen without connecting or associating any idea with the sound.

5. Imagine you are looking in front of an empty white board or blank white screen.

6. Together with the rhythm of your breathing, as you breathe in and as you breathe out, pray in the silence the Name of Jesus, gradually lengthening it (i.e., 5 minutes, 10 minutes, etc.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Life of Brother Francis

For starters, I figured that I should give a very short background of the person who started it all: Brother Francis.

Early Years

Francis, was born at Assisi in Umbria, in 1181 or 1182—the exact year however remains uncertain. Francis, whose legal name was Giovanni, was one of several children of Pietro and Pica Bernardone. His father changed his name to Francesco, through fondness for France.

Young Francis also showed little liking for the life of a merchant's career, but indulged in parties and delighted in fine, expensive clothes.


At the age of twenty, Francis went out with the Assisians to fight the Perugians. Defeated, Francis with others, was held captive for more than a year in Perugia. Recovering from an illness he contracted from prison, Francis turned his thoughts to the emptiness of the life he had been leading. He soon began to seek prayer and solitude and had totally given up his wasteful ways.
An encounter with a poor leper, a pilgrimage to Rome, and soon, a vision of the Divine in the forsaken chapel of St. Damiano were all enough to get Francis going – He was resolved to repair the Church – literally.
Francis sold much of his father’s merchandise to generate the needed funds for the restoration of St. Damiano Church. The elder Bernardone was angered at his son's conduct. Having been taken before the bishop, Francis totally surrendered all worldly goods, saying to the elder Bernardone: ‘I have called you my father on earth; henceforth I desire to say only 'Our Father who art in Heaven.’

Francis was known to restore three chapels: San Damiano, St. Peter's, and St. Mary of the Angels at a spot called the Porziuncola and works of charity, more especially in nursing the lepers.

On one February morning in 1208, Francis, hearing Mass, was struck by the Gospel passage which told how the disciples of Christ were to possess nothing for their journey, and that they were to exhort sinners to repentance. Francis took these words as if spoken directly to himself, and soon threw away his shoes, cloak, staff, and empty wallet. Having obtained a coarse woolen tunic, and tied it round him with a knotted rope, Francis went forth at once exhorting the people to penance, brotherly love, and peace.

The Minor Brothers

Francis soon drew others to his new movement Bernard of Quintavalle, and Peter of Cattaneo. They sought to learn God's will in their regard by thrice opening at random the book of the Gospels on the altar. Each time it opened at passages where Christ told His disciples to leave all things and follow Him. ‘This shall be our rule of life’, exclaimed Francis, and led his companions to the public square, where they forthwith gave away all their belongings to the poor. After this they procured rough habits like that of Francis, and built themselves small huts near his at the Porziuncola. When the number of his companions had increased to eleven, Francis found it expedient to draw up a written rule for them. This was the start of the group later known as the Order of the Lesser Brothers.

The Pool Ladies

During the Lent of 1212, Clare, a young heiress of Assisi, moved by the saint's preaching, sought Francis, and begged to be allowed to embrace the new manner of life he had founded. By his advice, Clare, secretly left her father's house on the night following Palm Sunday. Francis cut off her hair, clothed her in the Minorite habit and thus received her to a life of poverty, penance, and seclusion. Clare stayed at Benedictine monastery near Assisi, until Francis established them at St. Damian's. With Francis, Clare would start a movement of the Poor Ladies.

The Brethren of Penance

The year 1218 Francis devoted to missionary tours in Italy. Admiring crowds, unused for the rest to anything like popular preaching, followed Francis from place to place. His exhortations of the people, touched even the hardest, and Francis became in sooth a very conqueror of souls. Thus it happened, in a small village near Assisi, that the whole congregation was so moved, that they presented themselves to him and begged to be admitted into his order. Francis devised another Order, the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, which was a middle state between the world and the cloister. This fusion of the religious and the secular state in the Brothers and Sisters of Penance was one of the greatest achievements of Francis.

Last Days

Early in August, 1224, Francis retired with three companions to a place called ‘La Verna’ to keep a forty days fast. It was here that he received the Stigmata – the visible marks of the five wounds of the Crucified.

After the reception of the stigmata, Francis suffered increasing pains throughout his frail body, already broken by continual mortification. Worn out, moreover, as Francis now was by eighteen years of unremitting toil, his strength gave way completely, and at times his eyesight so far failed him that he was almost wholly blind.

The saint's last days were passed at the Porziuncola in a tiny hut, near the chapel. Francis died on a Saturday evening October 3, 1226.

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