New book aims to re-kindle biblical meditation

lectiodivina Panel gives presentation on new book “Pray With the Bible, Meditate With the Word” during its launching on Oct. 30, 2013

The American Bible Society has released a new study guide on how to pray Lectio Divina with the hope that the manual's readers will obtain a deeper appreciation for the Word of God.

"It has made me appreciate the Bible much more first of all. I think that for me it's a way of anchoring my prayer in the word of God that is transmitted to us through the Bible," Fr. Stephan Pisano told CNA in an Oct. 30 interview.

Fr. Pisano, a Jesuit priest from California who has been teaching at the Pontifical Biblical Institute of Rome the past thirty years, was one of those presenting on the new book "Pray With the Bible, Meditate With the Word," at the Oct. 30 release.

The book, written by Fr. Gabriel Mestre, is an initiative of the American Bible Society based in New York City, and offers guidelines for using a traditional method of praying with Sacred Scripture called Lectio Divina.

Mario Paredes, rector of Catholic Ministries for the American Bible Society, also gave a presentation at the book release, revealing that the society "designed this book as a tool for our Catholic constituencies in the United States and anywhere else. So people really could go back to learn how to pray with the Bible."

According to Fr. Pisano, the method of prayer for Lectio Divina classically follows a four step process, the first being "the reading of the text, the 'lectio,'" in which a passage from scripture is read.

Next comes the "'meditatio,'" he noted, "which after you have seen what the meaning of the text is, then you ask what does the text mean for me. Then, the third step is 'oratio,' or prayer, what prayers come spontaneously once I have seen the meaning of the text for me."

"The fourth step," the priest went on to say, "is contemplation, 'contemplatio,' that leaving aside all the other considerations, then I let the word penetrate into me and I just rest and stay with it."

The manual was published not because people have forgotten about the traditional method of prayer, Paredes explained, but because "people don't know how to pray with the Bible."

"Unfortunately, in many places around the world and in many cultures," he reflected, "the reading, the prayerful reading of the Bible is something unknown" and the Bible has not had "a central place in the life of our Catholic communities."

Recalling how retired pontiff Benedict XVI was an avid proponent of the practice, Paredes highlighted how "he was a lover of the Bible. He knew the Bible inside out and everything that he says was biblical. Everything that he wrote was biblical."

The rector also observed that "today more and more our Catholic community," both communally and well as individually, "are becoming more accustomed to take the Bible and to pray with the Bible."

When asked if a re-discovery of this form of prayer is passing through the Americas, Paredes responded "absolutely," expressing that "it is our dream that we will take the practice of Lectio Divina through many, many communities around the Western hemisphere."

The new book, written in collaboration with "Libreria Editrice Vaticana," the Vatican Library, has 50,000 copies already printed, and is anticipating to double that number just for the initial development.

So far it has been translated into English, Spanish and Italian, and is currently being distributed in the United States as well as certain countries in South America, and in Rome.

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