Monthly Archives: July 2008

Pope Benedict on Prayerful Scripture Reading

“I invite you – and so I conclude – to welcome into your hearts the teaching of this great master of faith. He reminds us with deep delight that in the prayerful reading of Scripture and in consistent commitment to life, the Church is ever renewed and rejuvenated. The Word of God, which never ages and is never exhausted, is a privileged means to this end. Indeed, it is the Word of God, through the action of the Holy Spirit, which always guides us to the whole truth (cf. Benedict XVI, Address at the International Congress for the 40th Anniversary of Dei Verbum, L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 21 September 2005, p. 7).

“And let us pray to the Lord that he will give us thinkers, theologians and exegetes who discover this multifaceted dimension, this ongoing timeliness of Sacred Scripture, its newness for today. Let us pray that the Lord will help us to read Sacred Scripture in a prayerful way, to be truly nourished with the true Bread of Life, with his Word. “

-Benedict XVI, General Audience, 25 April 2007.

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The 33 Doctors of the Church

Who are the 33 doctors of the Church? Well, I was wondering too, so here they are:

1. St. Athanasius
2. St. Ephrem
3. St. Cyril of Jerusalem
4. St. Hilary of Poitiers
5. St. Gregory Nazianzen
6. St. Basil the Great
7. St. Ambrose
8. St. Jerome
9. St. John Chrysostom
10. St. Augustine
11. St. Cyril of Alexandria
12. St. Leo the Great
13. St. Peter Chrysologus
14. St. Gregory the Great
15. St. Isidore of Seville
16. St. Bede the Venerable
17. St. John Damascene
18. St. Peter Damian
19. St. Anselm
20. St. Bernard of Clairvaux
21. St. Anthony of Padua
22. St. Albert the Great
23. St. Bonaventure
24. St. Thomas Aquinas
25. St. Catherine of Siena
26. St. Teresa of Avila
27. St. Peter Canisius
28. St. Robert Bellarmine
29. St. John of the Cross
30. St. Lawrence of Brindisi
31. St. Francis de Sales
32. St. Alphonsus Ligouri
33. St. Therese of Lisieux

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World Youth Day TV coverage online

The World Youth Day events are going strong this week. They opened on Monday with Mass with Cardinal Pell of the Sydney Archdiocese on Tuesday, July 15. They close with the finale events: vigil with Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday and mass with him on Sunday. But if you’re thousands of miles away from Australia and would like to see some of the action, there’s a few places to view the television coverage.

First, take a look at:
The Official World Youth Day Video Site
You can find video of all the major events with little or no commentary (a relief), but it’s not live.

Then, see
the EWTN coverage.
EWTN has live coverage of the major events.

Third, see
the Vatican Radio website for live TV coverage.

I’m sure that there are other sites broadcasting video in other languages. If I find them I’ll let you know. Of course, you can get video snippets from the major news sources like the AP and Reuters, but they’re not going to be bringing huge amounts of coverage.

Also, take a look at the Pope’s first address to the youth today where he speaks about the evils of modern culture. You can find the text of all the Pope’s WYD speeches here.

UPDATE: You can get the audio of the Pope’s speeches at World Youth Day through one of the podcasts I mentioned below: http://www.radiovaticana.org/rss/rss.xml

Thanks to a reader’s comment, you can also find TV coverage of World Youth Day at popeinaustralia.com.

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The Pope’s Podcast

Did you know the Pope Benedict had a podcast? I didn’t, not until last week anyway. Vatican Radio has had a long history of great broadcasting since its founding in 1931 under Pope Pius XI. But who knew they could do RSS with the best?

So here’s the nitty-gritty on the Pope’s podcast: There are actually two. The first podcast is the complete audio of the Pope’s Wednesday audiences and Sunday Angelus messages. Now the Pope has a habit of giving his audiences in 5 or 6 languages, so you have to fast forward through to find the English. But Vatican Radio has already done the work for you in the second podcast, which is their English language programming. On Wednesdays they include only the English portion of the Pope’s audiences which is usually 2-3 min.

I subscribed to both. The first one keeps about 10 episodes live on their server, so does the second one, but you have to pick through them to find the Pope’s voice. NOTE: The first podcast is also carrying the Pope’s addresses at World Youth Day, which he gives in English first.

Here’s the Pope’s rss podcast links:
Number One:http://www.radiovaticana.org/rss/rss.xml
Number Two: http://www.radiovaticana.org/RSS/inglese.xml

Vatican Radio also maintains a site of recent mp3’s of the Pope’s voice. This contains mainly the same things as on the podcast, but some additional material like speeches and other things. Also, Vatican Radio puts up podcasts in some 9 languages, so if you happen to want to know what’s going on at the Vatican, but want to hear it in Swedish just to spice things up, you can.

Pope Benedict mp3’s:
http://www.vaticanradio.org/en1/indice.asp?RedaSel=43&CategSel=16
All Vatican Radio Podcasts:
http://www.vaticanradio.org/en1/rss_feeds.asp

Oh yeah, and you can also watch TV of Papal liturgies at the Vatican Radio website:
Live Video: http://www.vaticanradio.org/en1/video_ctv.asp
On Demand Video: http://www.vaticanradio.org/en1/video_menu.asp

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Historical Christian

I just added a link to the Catholic blog “Historical Christian” by Aimee Milburn, a friend of mine from Denver. She writes very frequently (and very intelligently). Find meditations on what it means to be Catholic in our era and a detailed dialogue with Cahtolic Tradition. You won’t be disappointed by this veteran blogger. Try it. You’ll like it.

Find an mp3 talk by Aimee called “What is the Catholic Gospel?” here.

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Lectio Divina Methods

I’ve been writing Lectio Divina meditations for almost two years now, but I’ve come to realize that there are LOTS of different methods for actually doing Lectio Divina. Pope Benedict has been talking about it quite frequently, telling us that it is good to practice it. But how are we supposed to actually do it?

The Catechism gives it a glib couple references, which aren’t all that enlightening (CCC 1177, 2708). The Wikipedia article is pretty lame, but at least it gives the four movements of Lectio Divina. Ok, did you know that Lectio Divina had movements? What’s Lectio Divina anyway? What if I don’t even know what “lectio” means? Whoa, whoa, I’ll attempt to give you an introduction here that will make some sense and help you actually sit down and pray with the Bible, instead of just reading it. That’s the point, isn’t it? The Bible is God’s Word, but so often we just read it as if it were a novel or a newspaper. Lectio Divina is all about reading the Bible with the knowledge that it is God’s word and not just some book.

Part 1: What is Lectio Divina anyway?
Lectio Divina means “divine reading.” It is an ancient Christian practice of reading the Scriptures with prayerful attention. It is not a Bible study method, but a prayer method. This is important. With Lectio Divina we’re trying to reap the spiritual fruits of the Scripture, to “squeeze the juice out” as Pope Benedict is fond of saying. We are not trying to gain archaeological information or just simple knowledge. With Lectio Divina, we are using the Scripture to draw closer to God through reading and understanding the Bible. It is a perfect example of what St. Augustine calls “credo ut intellegam, intellego ut credas.” That is, “I believe in order to understand, I understand in order to believe.” With Lectio Divina we do a bit of both. We start with the premise that this is the Word of God (I believe). Then we read the Bible with full attention (I understand) and faith (I believe). We think about what we’ve read (I understand) and then we use that new understanding to draw closer to God in prayer (I believe). I’m basically assuming here that you’ll be doing Lectio Divina individually. It can be done in a group, but it’s not very common.

Part 2: What are the “movements” in Lectio Divina?
Lectio Divina has four “movements.” We’re not talking about physical movement here, but interior, spiritual movement. So what are the movements called? Lectio, Meditatio, Oratio and Contemplatio. Ok, in case you hadn’t guessed it, you can basically add an “n” to the end of every word to magically turn it from Latin into English. But if you’re talking to your friends about Lectio Divina, cut off the “n”, you’ll sound smarter. :) So that leaves us with “Lection, Meditation, Oration, and Contemplation.” Let’s take each one of these apart

Movement 1: Lection
Lectio or Lection is the most basic part and the first step in the process: Read! Doesn’t sound too hard, just actually read the text of the Bible on which you are going to be meditating. There are couple important pieces here. Don’t pick something uber-long that you’ll never get through. Pick something manageable, maybe between a verse and a chapter. You can also do your Lectio Divina in bite-size chunks, so if you want to do one verse at a time that’s okay, just make sure that you’re getting something like a complete thought. That is, it might be confusing and unhelpful to meditate on “sons of Magbish, one hundred and fifty-six” (Ezr 2:30 NAB). On the other hand you could probably meditate for a long time on “and the Word was God.” (Jn 1:1) So pick what you read carefully and make sure it’s not too long or too short.

And when you do sit down (or kneel or stand) and read it, read with full attention of your mind and heart. Read it patiently, not with the rush to finish, but enjoy it, savor it. Remember, this is GOD’s word, it’s not just another book. Keep that in mind, that in some way, God is actually speaking to you through what you are reading. This is very important. Read it with greater attention than you would read the line in the newspaper that shows how much your mutual fund went up or down. Read it with more attention than you would a passionate love letter from your significant other. Read it with more attention than you would that line of information on ESPN’s website about how your team did last night. Read it with your mind so you understand it. But read it with your heart too, so you get it, so it sinks in, so it makes a difference.

Movement 2: Meditation
Meditation is the next step after reading. Now meditation can vary from a very simple exercise, to a very complicated one. If it is helpful to you–and only if it is helpful–you can do a bit of studying on the verse. You can look up cross references, read footnotes, read the comments I write, read the places where the Catechism uses the passage. But don’t bog yourself down with too much. The point is not to indulge in information overload, but to grow spiritually. Keep that in mind while you study. But, you need not do all this. And don’t do it if it doesn’t help you pray.

Ok, so after you’ve done your studying or not, meditate! Well, ok, but what does that mean? It means to think deeply about the passage at hand. Ruminate, digest, absorb, remember. Think about what the passage means–to you, to God, to the world. Think about how it affects everything: behavior, politics, religion. Think about how it makes a difference, about the fact that it is something that God is saying. Think prayerfully–this is where “meditation” is a little different than just “thinking.” Go back and re-read it if you need too, but focus on meditating, the kind of deep spiritual thinking that you do when you learn something that profoundly changes your life, when you encounter God in a new way, when you begin to pray. Once the meditation is in full gear, you’re ready to move to the next movement: Oration.

Movement 3: Oration
Oration is a fancy word for “prayer.” This is the point where you transition from meditative thinking into the realm of prayer. Oration is a conversation with God–that’s what all prayer is, right? So go from meditating on the passage to actually talking with God. Ask him questions, tell him things you would only tell your closest friend (or maybe not even). And listen to him.

This kind of prayer requires that your heart not be flailing around in the turbid waters of regular life. This is NOT the time to think about the grocery list or the car payment or the kids’ lunches or clipping your toenails. This is God-time. It is His and He gets it. It is about having a real conversation with God, a real back-and-forth, a real question and answer time, a real meeting of the minds. Pray. Pray about what you learned, pray about what you read, ask God to reveal it to you more. Ask God to reveal himself to you more. Pray out loud or pray quietly, but pray. Seek God through His Word. This is the time to really benefit spiritually from the Word. Open your heart to Him and let Him transform you.

Movement 4: Contemplation
Contemplation is the final stage of Lectio Divina.
You’ve gotten past the reading and thinking, the meditating and even the prayer conversation. Now you’ve come to the wordless prayer of Contemplation. Now, it is important to remember that Contemplation is not a technique. It is not like a push-up or a sit-up. It is a relationship. Think of it in the same way you think of those quiet moments with your significant other when the love-experience is so intense that words have stopped and you’re just looking into one another’s eyes and knowing one another in way that is too deep for words. That’s what contemplation is like. You find yourself caught up in God’s love, His life, His being. All of the details and fine points of life fade into the background as you just soak in the Father’s presence, as you stare into the eyes of Jesus. Contemplation of this kind is an experience of love, a foretaste of heaven, a window into eternity.

Don’t become overly concerned if this last stage is difficult to get to or doesn’t really feel like anything. The spiritual doctors of the Church have written a lot about contemplation and if you want a good understanding of it go read some St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Francis De Sales or St. Therese of Liseux.

Now that you’ve completed one Lectio Divina, you can either be done or you can go on to the next verse and keep going. Just keep this rhythm of the four movements in mind. Lectio Divina is life-transforming because it is a way to connect to the life of Jesus and the realities of His Word.

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