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We have wrapped up our spring book club event, where we read the Gospel of St. Mark utilizing the Lectio Divina method of scripture reading and prayer. I want to thank everyone who participated and who provided feedback about the experience—we are thrilled with the results! Indeed, we are planning to release another Lectio Divina study journal, this next one on the Book of Acts. The Holy Spirit is alive in our Parish, and the commitment to spiritual reading is just one marker of this reality!

And while many folks have expressed their gratitude for Lectio Divina, we have been just as blessed by people who shared their challenges and reservations about this method of prayer. Like all good things, there are obstacles to the method, especially in the beginning, and indeed one of the chief reasons I think Lectio Divina is to be commended is how much it pushes us to grow in our Faith, to step out of our familiar and domesticated relationship with the Scriptures into a different one where we may hear God’s voice once more. As T.S. Eliot says: “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

Nova et Vetera. Ever ancient and ever new. This is our Catholic Faith, and this dynamic shows itself over and over again. By returning to the sources of our Faith, we learn to breathe new air that we have never breathed before. By doing what our mothers and fathers of Faith did before us, we find a freshness that our own “new ways” have obfuscated or overlooked. Lectio Divina is certainly the way monastic spirituality has read Scriptures for centuries upon centuries, but the Holy Spirit has found new ways to speak to each one of us through this ancient method. How is this so? Let me give you an example to demonstrate this.

I often get asked why Catholics pray “rote” or memorized prayers, both by other Christians, but even by non-believers as well. Is not memorized prayer just a dead ritual? Now I could barrage them with intellectual propositions about the merits of these prayers, or I could pour out the emotional depths of my heart that I have felt when I prayed them. But instead, I try to tell them a story instead, a story from the past that illuminates the present moment.

Sure enough, each of our “rote prayers” have a story behind them: Jesus Christ teaching the Apostles the Lord’s Prayer, the Angel Gabriel declaring “Hail Mary” at the Annunciation, etc. I tell them of the countless generations who said the Memorarae or the Morning Offering, or any of the countless memorized prayers we say. I point out that not only is a Saint behind nearly each one of them in some way, but that billions of our ancestors have said those prayers, and are currently praying them in Heaven. Whenever we say a “rote” prayer, we have thousands of voices joining with us, and even our individual prayers become communal.

So when we say memorized prayers, there is a story behind all of them, and we place ourselves within the great story that is the Communion of Saints. These stories, it seems to me, are worth more than a thousand arguments or a thousand sentiments, and they are stories all of us are capable of telling.  They are familiar, and yet they shine a light on each new situation. To read the sign of the times, we must return to our Tradition again and again. Nova et Vetera.  e story of our Faith is ever ancient, ever new. May God bless us with the courage to tell it in and out of season!

Pax,

Bo Bonner

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