This document can be downloaded from www.chch.catholic.org.nz/karlschultz 1
Cutting Edge Catholic Spirituality From Ancient Times
Rediscovering Lectio Divina (Holistic Spiritual Reading)
Karl A. Schultz
Genesis Personal Development Center
3431 Gass Avenue
Pgh, Pa 15212
(412) 766-7545 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Since Vatican II, there has been a rediscovery of an ancient model for holistically praying
Scripture known as lectio divina or divine reading. Lectio divina is rooted in principles used by
the ancient Hebrews to interpret the Old Testament and the accompanying oral traditions. It was
natural that the early church would use inherited methods since they identified with their Hebrew
ancestors (cf. Heb 11).
Lectio divina has been enthusiastically recommended by Pope John Paul II, Benedict
XVI, the Pontifical Biblical Commission, and the Catholic Catechism (nos. 1177, 2708).
Lectio divina is commonly described as being composed of five stages: reading/listening,
meditation, prayer, contemplation, and action. Its dynamic activities and holistic nature are such
that it fosters personal growth and healing while deepening our spirituality. Following is a
general description of the practice of lectio divina:
I take a short passage of Scripture, perhaps from the lectionary, the Liturgy of the Hours,
a psalm, or a biblical book I am working through, and read it slowly, whispering it aloud if not
obtrusive to others. I look for a word, phrase, image, or experience that speaks to me, and
internalize it through repetition. I consider how this message applies to my life and the changes
it calls forth in my actions and attitudes.
After I encounter God’s word, it is natural that I interact directly with Him. I tell Him
how I feel both about this word and my life in general. I oscillate between these active
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communications and a receptive or listening mode, where I am simply present to God. I ask the
Holy Spirit to open my heart and mind to His presence and activity in my life. To dispose myself
to a greater internalization of God’s gifts, I linger with Him as I would an intimate friend. To
soothe my irritations and anxieties, I dispose myself to God's consolation, the indescribable
peace mentioned by Paul (cf. Phil 4:7).
To make a transition from prayer to action, I make a gentle resolution to apply what I
received in lectio divina into practice. I then close with a prayer, whether in my own words or
from Scripture (e.g., a Hail Mary or Lord’s Prayer, or part or all of a psalm).
For Catholics, God's word is not exclusive to the Bible. It is present pre-eminently in
Jesus (cf. Jn 1:1-18), and is also found in church teaching, tradition, the sacraments, nature, and
human beings, particularly those in pain (cf. Mt 25:31-46). I don't need to wait until my prayer
time to engage in the activities of lectio divina. The following are a sample of daily
opportunities for holistically experiencing God's word: relating openly with another person,
experiencing some aspect of nature, and reflecting or journaling on God's involvement in my
The fundamental attribute of lectio divina is its Spirit-driven nature. There are no rigid
rules or compulsive techniques. Just as human intimacy must be natural and dialogical, so
intimacy with God must flow freely and peacefully. We begin by acknowledging that we do not
know how to pray, and thereby invite the Spirit to intercede for us (cf. Rom 8:26-27.) We
practice trusting God at the controls without abandoning our responsibilities.
People who pray are already practicing some form of lectio divina. Knowledge of its
objectives, components, and flow enables us to avoid sloppiness and complacency and offer
ourselves to God and each other more completely.
This document can be downloaded from www.chch.catholic.org.nz/karlschultz 3
Karl A. Schultz is the director of Genesis Personal Development Center in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania. He is one of the world’s most prolific speakers and writers on lectio divina. He
has written twelve books on lectio divina and its various applications. His website is
karlaschultz.com, and he can be contacted at email@example.com.