Story by S.L. Hansen
(SNR) - Lectio Divina (“Divine Reading”) workshops will be offered this spring at the John XXIII Diocesan Center in Lincoln.
“Learning to Pray Together with Sacred Scripture” will be held on three consecutive Wednesdays at 7 p.m. beginning April 27.
Five women who are part of a Lectio Divina group will be the instructors. Carleen Barger, Patricia Bucknor and Kim Jansen of St. John the Apostle Parish in Lincoln, and Jennifer Davis and Erin Hammond of St. Teresa Parish have been meeting to pray the
Scriptures together and grow in their faith since last summer.
Jansen and Bucknor had each been practicing meditative prayer on their own for some time when they decided to pray together. Barger, Davis and Hammond joined later.
“Lectio is more intimate than a Bible study,” Jansen said. “In Bible study, you are sharing a little bit of your life, but in Lectio, you are sharing what Jesus is doing in your hearts.”
“We’re vulnerable, but it’s a safe place to be vulnerable,” Davis said. “It has been awesome to see God work in these women’s lives.”
The ladies meet weekly in one home or another to pray the Gospel passage slated for the coming Sunday. They all have children – there are 22 offspring between the five women – and only a handful of the kids are school age.
Babies are passed from lap to lap and assorted toddlers and preschoolers are enticed to entertain themselves for an hour with a movie, a box of dress-up clothes, toys, and the occasional animal cracker. After the kids are settled and any exciting events of the past week are shared, the ladies open with prayer and dive into the Gospel.
“It has enriched the Sunday Mass for me,” Barger said.
The others nod in agreement, adding that it’s not just Mass. The women say Lectio helps in every aspect of their lives.
Hammond related how she used it to help prepare her son for his first Communion.
“I try to teach him, ‘This is how you can take a Scripture and read through it and have a relationship with Christ,’” she said.
“I feel as mothers there is so much pressure to be perfect,” Davis lamented. “This group is what I needed at the right time… I have learned that happy is the new perfect.”
Hammond has also felt herself growing in the joy of the Lord.
“Nothing in my life is radically different than it was since I joined the group last August, but now I feel that joy even when I am suffering,” she explained.
“A lot of it stems from unconditional love,” Barger reasoned. This Lectio group, she said, has brought her, “greater revelations of the Father’s love.”
Bucknor said the Lord uses the other women to speak to her. She recalled a time when Jansen offered a casual thought that immediately clicked with Bucknor. Another time when the Prodigal Son was the Gospel reading, each was given new perspectives.
Jansen, who “grew up in a Catholic bubble” as she put it, had always identified with the older brother. This time, however, she realized that just like the prodigal, she too, was in need of conversion. Meanwhile, Bucknor, who always related to the prodigal because of a rebellious phase during her youth, suddenly understood the older brother’s point of view.
Lectio, Bucknor mused, “has been more relational with me: who I am to God, what He wants from me, not just one day, but forever.”
Though the concept of Lectio Divina can seem a bit intimidating to newcomers, the women don’t want others to let the process keep them from trying.
“It’s not about following the steps, but letting God lead you,” Bucknor said. “It’s listening, it’s prayer, but you don’t get what you think you will get…. It’s best to come with no expectations.”
“You have to be willing to listen and trust,” Davis agreed.
While Lectio Divina can be practiced solo, the women said there are definite benefits to group prayer.
“God uses other people and that’s the beauty of it,” Davis said.
That’s why they are eager to help other people start their own Lectio Divina groups. They have designed the workshops to be very practical.
On April 27, the topic will be, “Getting Started: Falling in Love with Jesus.” Participants will learn what Lectio Divina is and how it differs from a typical Bible study. The women will share their personal experiences with Lectio and demonstrate how a group Lectio session works.
The next week, May 4, will be a hands-on practicum titled, “Diving Into His Word.” This session will focus on the prayer process. Participants will divide into groups, each with a presenter to guide them through Lectio prayer.
The workshop series will end on May 11 with, “Tools for the Journey: Led by the Holy Spirit.” The women will answer questions and provide tips on avoiding common pitfalls. There will be another small group Lectio practice session, followed by quiet time to discern and plan next steps.
Hopefully, several new Lectio groups will start after the workshops.
“Each of us is willing to come alongside [a new group] for a few weeks to get them started,” said Jansen. “I am excited for this opportunity to share how Jesus has worked in my life through praying Lectio in a group setting and to provide direction and encouragement to others.”