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Lectio Divina

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There are various ways to pray that we can do on our own. One such way is called Lectio Divina, or divine reading of Scripture. Lectio Divina can also be done with a group. This prayer practice is intended to  build communion with God and increase our understanding of God’s Word. Therefore, it is a great way to prepare for the readings before attending Mass.

To begin, you will need to gather a few items: the scripture readings, (found at usccb.org or in our weekly bulletin), your Bible, (if not accessing the readings online), and a notebook or journal designated for this prayer form.

There are four steps to the Lectio Divina process. To start, you may want to focus specifically on the Gospel. As you become more comfortable with this prayer practice, you can add the first and/or second readings.

Decide on a dedicated time, find a comfortable spot, and get your body and mind ready to pray. Sit down and sit still. Slow your mind and body. Breathe in slowly, hold it, and let it out slowly. Repeat this action a total of three times. You are welcome to close your eyes and put the distractions around you out of your mind in order to focus on the reading.

Read the Gospel passage out loud, even if you are by yourself.

Pause and reflect on a word or phrase that sounds important to you or caught your attention. Write it in your prayer journal. If you are in a group, each person then shares their word or phrase. Do not explain anything. Pause again before moving to the next step.  

Read the same passage again.

Pause. This time, think about how God is speaking to you. What God is saying to you in the passage? Pause again, and then write it in your journal. Again, if in a group, share what you wrote down. Pause before moving to the next step.  

Read the passage a third time..

Pause. Think about how God is calling you to act through that phrase or word. Where is God leading you?  Pause. Write it down in your journal. Share with your group.

You may choose to end with a prayer, continue to do more journaling, or pray in silence.. 

This prayer practice helps us to hear God speaking to us. When attending Mass, it prepares your heart and soul to openly receive what is being proclaimed.

Blessings and prayers on your journey.

Posted by Stacey Irvine

Seeing Scripture

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Have you ever taken time to sit with the Scriptures and contemplate what it would have been like to really be there, to hear it first hand? I had always tried to do that especially when unpacking Scripture with students. It helped in trying to connect with what Jesus was saying by trying to make it more real. I often tried to imagine what it would have looked like, sounded like, felt like to be in that moment.

This became more "fun" as I became older and had a better sense of what the world was like and what people were like in general. I tried to picture what Jesus would have physically been like based on people who live in the Middle East today. Now that I have been to the Holy Land, I have a better appreciation of the landscape of Israel and the challenges this presented in moving from one place to another. I see the Scripture in a whole new way.

Seeing Scripture in a whole new way has now challenged me a bit differently. Recently, I was meditating on the passage of John 21: 12-22, when Peter is depressed and sets out with two other disciples to fish in the Sea of Galilee post resurrection. They are having no luck. In the distance, they see a man on the shore. One of the men recognizes him as Jesus. Peter jumps into the water. He can't get to the shore fast enough. Jesus was preparing fish on an open fire. They sit to eat. Upon finishing eating, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him. For every time Peter responds, Jesus tells him to "feed my lambs", "take care of my sheep", and "feed my sheep".

In the past, this passage didn't affect me much. I knew that it was a conversation between Peter and Jesus whereby Jesus is essentially forgiving Peter for denying him. It is also a commissioning of Peter
as the head of the newly founded Church. Now having been there, and stood upon the rock where this conversation took place along the Sea of Galilee, I am forever changed. Our retreat leader charged those present to think of this passage as the resume for all Christian leaders, for it identifies what is needed to be a leader: Love the Lord greatly, Obedience to the will of the Father, and Focus on what God has given you to do. Truth be told that on the pilgrimage, I struggled to meet this rock. It sits alongside and under the Church of the Primacy of Peter. I couldn't go in. I cried at the doorpost. I imagined what it had to have been like for Peter, for
the two that were with him fishing that day and catching nothing, only to find yourself having breakfast with Jesus on the shore. These men were no longer fishermen, they were fishers of men. They were transformed by Jesus. I truly asked if I have been transformed by Jesus on that day on pilgrimage. Am I willing to go where He is
leading me? Am I ready to be accountable to it? Are you ready to be accountable to where God is leading you?

The Symbolism of Ashes

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The liturgical use of ashes can be found throughout the Old Testament. Ashes symbolized penance, mourning, and mortality. the prophet Daniel wrote, "I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes." -Daniel 9:3. This and other Old Testament examples illustrate a recognized practice of using ashes and a common understanding of their symbolism.

Jesus Himself made reference to ashes: "If they miracles worked in you had taken place in Tyre and Sidon, they would have reformed in sackcloth and ashes long ago." -Matthew 11:21

In the early Church, those required to do public penance had the priest sprinkle ashes on their heads upon leaving confession. Since the Middle Ages, the Church has used ashes to mark the beginning of the penitential season of Lent, as we remember our mortality and sorrow for our sins.

In our present Ash Wednesday liturgy, ashes made from burned palm branches distributed on Palm Sunday of the previous year, are blessed by the priest or deacon and imposed on the foreheads of the faithful, making a sign of the cross and saying, "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel."

 

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