Last week’s column discussed the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. This week, we will pick up on two common devotions in the Church, the rosary and lectio divina, a prayerful reading of the Bible.
The rosary was developed during the High Middle Ages as a way of praying the Hail Mary 50 or 150 times to match the practice of monks and nuns praying either 50 or 150 psalms as part of their vocation. Gradually, these groups of prayers were organized into the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries, which reflect the early life of Jesus, His sacrifice on Calvary, and then the Resurrection and its effects. In 2002, St. John Paul II built upon the ancient tradition and proposed adding the Mysteries of Light to meditate on the public life of Jesus from His first miracle at the wedding of Cana to the Holy Eucharist He gave us on the night before He died. As St. John Paul II pointed out at that time, in praying the Rosary, we are not merely repeating prayers, but rather, through the prayers entering (with the help of Mary) into contemplation of the mysteries of our salvation. The prayers are a path that brings us each day into the realms of divine wisdom.
Another source of divine wisdom is the Sacred Scriptures. And another common Catholic devotion is lectio divina, which is Latin for divine reading. With lectio divina, one selects a book of the Bible (perhaps a Gospel or a letter of St. Paul) and then meditates on each passage in succession very prayerfully. One carefully reads a specific passage (e.g., a portion of a psalm or a paragraph of an epistle). Then one prays over that passage, mediating upon it and open to insights from the Holy Spirit about its meaning. One then reads the passage again, and prays over it contemplatively, trying to gain a sense of God’s presence and to see how the passage impacts one’s life. One continues praying over the passage, speaking to God from one’s heart about one’s life, petitions, concerns, or anything else. And then the next day, or other time at prayer, one moves onto the next passage, eventually completing the book. In this calm, unhurried approach to Scripture, the Word of God sinks in and enlightens our path to salvation.