The fourth task of catechesis according to the General Directory of Catechesis is teaching to pray.
The Word of God – Pastoral Applications: Lectio Divina
Catechesis presumes conversion and conversion presumes that one has heard God’s Word and responded to it. Therefore a key element of catechesis for any age is the opportunity for reflection on the Word of God, particularly the Sunday Gospels. This is how we begin to see that God is directly involved in our lives and intimately connected to our everyday experiences.
Our religion textbooks usually use Scripture to fit the topic of a lesson to be learned. There usually are exercises, questions, and an activity to reinforce the points of the lesson.
This approach can be used effectively to teach doctrine, but it has significant limitations if our goal is to help those entrusted to us to apply the Word of God to life.
Lectio Divina or “holy reading” is a slow, prayerful way of meditating on Scripture and applying its insights to one’s life.
How can we use this method for ourselves and our students?
We can simplify the method into three steps and models anyone can follow.
This is best suited for older children and adults who have 30 minutes or more for reflection:
Step one: God’s Word
• Read or listen to the Scripture text.
• Reflect on words, phrases, or messages that capture your attention.
• Imagine yourself in the scene and feel what it is like to be present.
Example: Read the story of Jesus and his disciples caught in a storm (Mt 8: 23 -27) What is it like as you imagine yourself in the boat? What do you say to Jesus when he asks why you are afraid?
Step two: My experience
Choose several verbs from the passage that captured your attention. Insert them into these questions: (a) When did I/have I ……? What was it like? (b) To whom or with whom did I ……. and how did it feel? (c) Who……………to me? How did it feel?
What insights have I gained from this reflection?
Example: What is it like for me to be afraid? What are some storms I have faced in life? Who has helped me calm those storms? How has my faith helped me?
Step three: My response
What will I do in response to my reflections?
What needs to change in my life?
What needs to be added to my life?
How am I called to be a better disciple in light of the Scripture story and my reflections?
Example: How can I bring the calming peace of Jesus to those who are afraid? How can I learn to trust more in Jesus’ loving care?
This model can be used even if older children and adults have just 15 minutes. It is also effective within Liturgy of the Word with children.
Step one: What did I hear?
Example: In the story of the Last Supper, I imagine myself at the table. What thoughts, ideas and feelings do I have as I see Jesus breaking the bread and serving it to me? What do I say to him?
Step two: What does the story mean to me today?
Example: When have I felt as bread broken in my life? When have others broken themselves as bread for me?
Step three: What is the story asking of me?
Example: What is Jesus asking of me today? How can I be bread for those who hunger for friendship, food, shelter, forgiveness, and so on?
This model is suitable for very young children but can be used by all.
Step one: What did I hear?
Step two: I wonder what this story can mean?
Step three: What can I say to Jesus for this great gift?
(The substance of this article is from an article by Joyce M Kelleher in Catechist magazine of April/May 2010).
Lessons on this topic can also be found in the catechetical textbook for Forms Four/Five Young disciples in mission produced by the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office.
Fr Michel de Verteuil’s Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels is an excellent resource.