Lectio Divina as a GROUP EXERCISE


IN the churches of the Third World where books are rare, a form of corporate lectio divina is becoming common in which a text from the Scriptures is pondered by Christians praying together in a group.[1]

       This form of lectio divina works best in a group of between four and eight people.  A group leader coordinates the process and facilitates sharing.  The same text from the Scriptures is read out three times, followed each time by a period of silence and an opportunity for each member of the group to share the fruit of her or his lectio.

        The first reading (the text is actually read twice on this occasion) is for the purpose of hearing a word or passage that touches the heart.  When the word or phrase is found, it is silently taken in, and gently recited and pondered during the silence which follows.  After the silence each person shares which word or phrase has touched his or her heart.

       The second reading (by a member of the opposite sex from the first reader) is for the purpose of “hearing” or “seeing” Christ in the text.  Each ponders the word that has touched the heart and asks  where the word or phrase touches his or her life that day.  In other words, how is Christ the Word touching his own experience, his own life?  How are the various members of the group seeing or hearing Christ reach out to them through the text?  Then, after the silence,  each member of the group shares what he or she has “heard” or “seen.”

       The third and final reading is for the purpose of experiencing Christ “calling us forth” into doing or being.  Members ask themselves what Christ in the text is calling them to do or to become today or this week.  After the silence, each shares for the last time; and the exercise concludes with each person praying for the person on the  right.

        Those who regularly practice this method of praying and sharing the Scriptures regularly find it to be an excellent way of developing trust within a group;  it also is an excellent way of consecrating projects and hopes to Christ before more formal group meetings.  A single-sheet summary of this method for group lectio divina is appended at the end of this article.


Lectio Divina on LIFE


IN the ancient tradition lectio divina was understood as being one of the most important ways in which Christians experience God in creation.[2]  After all, the Scriptures are part of creation!  If one is daily growing in the art of finding Christ in the pages of the Bible, one naturally begins to discover Him more clearly in aspects of the other things He has made.  This includes, of course, our own personal history.

       Our own lives are fit matter for lectio divina.  Very often our concerns, our relationships, our hopes and aspirations naturally intertwine with our pondering on the Scriptures, as has been described above.  But sometimes it is fitting to simply sit down and “read” the experiences of the last few days or weeks in our hearts, much as we might slowly read and savor the words of Scripture in lectio divina.  We can attend “with the ear of our hearts” to our own memories, listening for Gods gentle presence in the events of our lives.  We thus allow ourselves the joy of experiencing Christ reaching out to us through our own memories.  Our own personal story becomes “salvation history.”

       For those who are new to the practice of lectio divina a group experience of “lectio on life” can provide a helpful introduction.  An approach that has been used at workshops at St. Andrews Abbey is detailed at the end of this article.  Like the experience of lectio divina shared in community, this group experience of lectio on life can foster relationships in community and enable personal experiences to be consecrated - offered to Christ - in a concrete way.

        However, unlike scriptural lectio divina shared in community, this group lectio on life contains more silence than sharing.  The role of  group facilitators or leaders is important, since they will be guiding the group through several periods of silence and reflection without the “interruption” of individual sharing until the end of the exercise.  Since the experiences we choose to “read” or “listen to” may be intensely personal, it is important in this group exercise to safeguard privacy by making sharing completely optional.

        In brief, one begins with restful silence, then gently reviews the events of a given period of time.  One seeks an event, a memory, which touches the heart just as a word or phrase in scriptural lectio divina does.  One then recalls the setting, the circumstances; one seeks to discover how God seemed to be present or absent from the experience.  One then offers the event to God and rests for a time in silence.


[1] This approach to group lectio divina was introduced at St. Andrew’s Abbey by Doug and Norvene Vest.  It is used as part of the Benedictine Spirituality for Laity workshop conducted at the Abbey each summer.

[2] Christian life was understood as a gentle oscillation between the poles of practice and contemplation, as described above; however, contemplation was understood in two ways.  First was theoria physike, the contemplation of God in creation - God in “the many:” second was theologia, the contemplation of God in Himself without images or words - God as “The One.”  Lectio divina was understood as an important part of the contemplation of God in His creation. 




 to GROUP Lectio Divina 







(A) Listening for the Gentle Touch of Christ the Word

(The Literal Sense)

1. One person reads aloud (twice) the passage of scripture, as others are attentive to some segment that is especially meaningful to them.

2. Silence for 1-2 minutes.  Each hears and silently repeats a  word or phrase that attracts.

3. Sharing aloud: [A word or phrase that has attracted each person].  A simple statement of one or a few words.  No elaboration.

(B) How Christ the Word speaks to ME
(The Allegorical Sense)

4. Second reading of same passage by another person.

5. Silence for 1-2 minutes.  Reflect on: “What inwardly do I see or hear - what inner sense experience occurs - as I repeat this word or phrase within me?”

6. Sharing aloud:  Briefly:  “I hear, I see...”

(C) What Christ the Word Invites me to DO
(The Moral Sense)

7. Third reading by still another person.

8. Silence for 1-2 minutes.  Reflect on: “God invites me to do/be/become . . . . . . today/this week.”

9. Sharing aloud:  at somewhat greater length the results of each ones reflection.  [Be especially aware of what is shared by the person to your right.]

10.  After full sharing, pray for the person to your right.

Note:  Anyone may “pass” at any time.  If instead of sharing with the group you prefer to pray silently , simply state this aloud and conclude your silent prayer with Amen.




Applying Lectio Divina to my personal Salvation History


Purpose:  to apply a method of prayerful reflection to a life/work incident  (instead of to a scripture passage).


(A) Listening - Gently Remembering
(Lectio - Reading)

1. Each person quiets the body and mind:  relax, sit comfortably but alert, close eyes, attune to breathing...

2. Each person gently reviews events, situations, sights, encounters that have hap­pened since the beginning of the retreat/or during the last month at work.


(B) Gently Ruminating, Reflecting
(Meditatio - Meditation)

3. Each person allows the self to focus on one such offering.

a) Recollect the setting, sensory details, sequence of events, etc.

b) Notice where the greatest energy seemed to be evoked. Was there a turning point or shift?

c) In what ways did God seem to be present?  To what extent was I aware then?  Now?


(C) Prayerful Consecration, Blessing
(Oratio - Prayer)

4. Use a word or phrase from the Scriptures to inwardly consecrate - to offer up to God in prayer - the incident and interior reflections.  Allow God to accept and bless them as your gift


(D) Accepting Christs Embrace; Silent Presence to the Lord
(Contemplatio - Contemplation)

5. Remain in silence for some period.


Sharing our Lectio Experience with Each Other
(Operatio - Action; works)

6. Leader calls the group back into “community.”

7. All share briefly (or remain in continuing silence).


...  .This Webpage was created for a workshop held at Saint Andrew’s Abbey, Valyermo, California in 1989......