Friday, March 19, 2010

Lectio "Rungs of a Ladder"

I was just recently reading The Rule of St Benedict and was struck with its practical wisdom. I know I'm not the first to notice how well it applies to families -- there has been a proliferation of books on the subject, among them one by Fr Dwight Longenecker that is SO on my wish list at the moment. The Catholic Encyclopedia entry tells that the Rule derived from family life in its emphasis on: (1) stability and perseverance in community, (2) cooperation rather than competition in austerity, and the (3) equivalence of the Abbot to a father of a family -- with considerable discretion to exercise authority but also, specific rules to follow and guidance to be sought from other members of the abbey.

In Fulgens Radiatur, Pope Pius XII wrote about the Benedictine order:

The monastic community is so constituted and arranged that it resembles the Christian home over which the Abbot or Superior presides like the father of a family; and all should depend completely on his paternal authority.
So it's not a stretch to draw ideas from the Rule and re-apply them to family life. Some of the details don't apply, of course; a community of adults who are there by choice and a long process of initiation is not the same as a family with children from infancy to late teens.

However, I'm thinking of going through the book at the same time as I go through the rest of DVH's chapter on simplicity. This will probably take me well into the Easter season. I am afraid this is all rather boring but I'm hoping to figure out a way to hit the happy medium with discussing books. My challenges:

  1. When I write about philosophical things, I have such a good time but can easily get ungrounded -- I think von Hildebrand said something about people who over-intellectualize and have a dichotomy between their thoughts and their actual lives.
  2. When I write about someone else's practical wisdom I find it easy to get myself muddled -- not seeing the forest for the trees.
  3. When I talk about something that has worked for me or is working now I feel I am in danger of that old lameness/bragging Scylla and Charybdis. Hard to avoid.

Am I complicating this too much? Anyway, I'm hoping to find a way past the various challenges. One possible way is analogous to the mental prayer format.

  • Considerations
  • Affections
  • Resolutions

Or with lectio divina (reading the Bible prayerfully, a Benedictine distinctive) there are four "moments" or "rungs of the ladder" (this article talks about a book called "Praying Scripture for a Change")

Lectio divina consists of four steps or stages that naturally build on one another: the careful reading of Scripture (lectio ), meditation or a deeper reflection on what emerged during the reading (meditatio ), a dialogue of prayer with God where one expresses the movement of one’s heart during meditation (oratio ), and contemplation “which is the experience of God marked by joy and peace” (contemplatio ). ..

In the last chapter, Dr. Gray adds a fifth “rung” to the lectio divina ladder: operatio (Latin for “work”). In order for lectio divina to “bear fruit that lasts (John 15:16), it must result in a life of virtue. The Word must be “made flesh” again and again in our daily lives.” Our response to God and the movements of our heart that result from practicing lectio divina cannot be in word only.
There is more on the practice here.

Though there is a huge difference between the inspired writings of Holy Writ and even the best writings of a saint, it seems that you could use a somewhat similar process with the writings of the saints. Anyway, it seems to provide a balance -- of "mind, heart and strength" or "head, heart, hands" -- which prevents one from falling into over-intellectualization, content-free emoting, or just doing outward actions without interior recollection.