Following is my April Catholic Post column that appeared in this weekend's print Post. I loved the idea of a Bible that makes lectio divina practically effortless, and I also point readers to a great book for an introduction and "why you should" consider lectio. I invite your feedback here or on Facebook or Twitter.
Here’s the problem for a book reviewer: how do you review the Bible?
Potential review: I laughed, I cried, I was moved.
Pros: I love the author.
Cons: it’s really, really long.
Cue The Catholic Prayer Bible: Lectio Divina Edition, published by Paulist Press and edited by Lawrence Boadt, CSP. This well-designed Bible makes lectio divina—“divine reading”--doable for the average Catholic.
So I confess that this isn’t really a review of the Bible as text, but rather showing how this edition of the Bible is built on the ancient Christian practice of lectio divina, a prayerful way to read (lectio) the Divine Word of God.
I’ve seen lectio divina broken into various numbers of steps, from four to seven, but Fr. Boadt provides four: Read, Reflect, Pray and Act.
Fr. Boadt recommends sticking with an entire book of Scripture and not just jumping around, but I’m grateful to see that he’s not recommending that one read the Bible start to finish. I tried that way back in my 20s when a Protestant friend gave me a schedule for reading the Bible in one year. I got somewhere into Numbers before I gave up, an utter failure.
I hope that increased maturity, and the accountability of having to write about it here and on the blog, will help me to be better about making Scripture reading & prayer part of my day. But it’s The Catholic Prayer Bible itself that makes it much more achievable.
The Catholic Prayer Bible is simply laid out. The Scripture itself takes up two-thirds of the page, with a small box of lectio divina reflections for each of the four steps (Read, Reflect, Pray, Act) in a small dark red box on the remaining third. There are short prompts for each of the steps. For instance, in John 13:1-30, where Jesus washes his disciples’ feet, the “Act” step is: Perform some humble service for another, especially someone who is dear to you.”
I love how The Catholic Prayer Bible makes it painless and even easy to jump in, right now, to incorporate lectio divina into a busy life.
The Scripture readings are short, bite-sized portions, no more than several dozen verses. It’s not an overwhelming amount of text to “get through” through before praying and reflecting.
The Catholic Prayer Bible helps slow fast readers down. I’m a fast reader in general; that’s helpful as a book reviewer. But when reading Scripture, I find it difficult to just slooow down and savor. Having just a few verses to read, reflect, pray and act on makes that “slowing down” much easier.
The “Act” prompts, in particular, helps the reader come away with a specific resolution to bring into everyday-ness. Even when I found the “Act” suggestion unhelpful or not relevant, it prompted me to make a resolution of my own to bring Scripture into my life.
If you want more of the “how-to” and why of lectio divina, as well as a beautiful, easy-to-read history and reflection, consider the recent Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina. The book is by Dr. Tim Gray, best known for partnering with Jeff Cavins in developing The Great Adventure Bible Study series.
Gray says, “If you have trouble praying, then welcome to the human race.” Praying Scripture for a Change offers reasons and practical tips of how lectio divina can work to help us get over our natural inclinations not to jump into prayer. This book inspired me to consider deeply why it’s important to let God speak to me through Scripture.
Reading Praying for a Change will give you the desire to incorporate lectio divina into your prayer life. Using The Catholic Prayer Bible will make it easy for you to start. Then, prepare to reap the real spiritual and temporal benefits of this ancient practice.