Susan Klemond is a freelance writer living in St. Paul, Minn., who writes news and feature articles for the Register, OSV Newsweekly and the Catholic Spirit, the diocesan paper for St. Paul-Minneapolis. She also has worked in marketing, editing and magazine production. She thinks about St. Peter’s exhortation to ‘always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.’ While some days it’s probably better that no one asks, she keeps working on it.
After lighting the candles on their Advent wreath, the Salomon family asks God to illuminate one of the season’s Scripture readings which together they will read, meditate and pray on through the ancient practice of lectio divina.
“I think it will be good to be tied into the liturgical calendar to make Advent a little more meaningful,” said Vince Salomon, who with his wife Rachel started the family prayer in their Willard, Missouri, home two years ago. While the family normally does lectio divina together a few times a week, they are trying to pray more often this Advent.
“We’re hoping to find something to help make Advent a time of preparation,” he said.
It’s no small feat for a family of eight—including six children ages 7 to 16—to find time together regularly to enter more deeply into the Scriptures in a way that the youngest to the oldest appreciate.
Even though busy schedules limit how often they can pray together and the 20-30-minute prayer may be interrupted by uncontrollable laughter or the family dogs wrestling on the living room floor, family members said the prayer has helped them gain a greater understanding and appreciation for the Word of God which sometimes speaks to them in their own circumstances. Occasionally there’s a little pushback but mostly everyone is glad to pray, Vince said.
“I like understanding things I never thought of before in the Scriptures,” said 13-year-old Diego, who also thought lectio divina will help him get ready for Christmas. His brother Roman, 9, said, “I like how we have some quiet time to meditate.”
Salomon introduced his family to lectio divina after experiencing it at a meeting two years ago. He saw it as not only a way for the family to delve deeper into Scripture, but pray together while each person has their own experience of prayer.
“I was very encouraged and thought would be a good way to introduce Scripture to the kids and also to have time when we could have some silence during the contemplation.” It’s also a way to calm everyone down after animated dinner conversation.
Lectio divina became part of western monastic life in the sixth century. St. Benedict included the practice in the Rule he established for his monks.
The Salomons start their prayer by reading the passage, either a daily reading or one or more of the readings for the upcoming Sunday. Then the family spends time discussing the passage, asking questions and even reading different versions for greater understanding. After that, one family member prays a vocal prayer based on the reading, meditation and any family intentions. Then everyone silently contemplates the passage
Vince usually leads the prayer, though sometimes the children choose the reading. He keeps a record of the readings, meditation and prayer.
Adapting a method developed for monks more than 1,500 years ago for use by a large family has taken a little time but Salomon said he especially appreciates how they enter into the five minutes of silent contemplation at the end of the prayer practice. “When we do have those times of silence together it helps the Scripture to really sink in and the whole family to learn to love Scripture.”
The Word of God sometimes sheds light on family affairs, Vince said. “When we pray we let the Scripture plus experiences, whatever happens to be going on with our family at the time, form together and become something that we pray about. A lot of times we find the Scriptures that we read are very pertinent to the things going on in our family.”
Lectio divina also has helped the family enter more fully into Sunday Mass, Vince said. After praying together about the Sunday readings, “When we got to the Gospel reading or the first reading, whichever one we did [at home] I remember some of the kids looking up at us almost like when you hear your song and your ears kind of perk up and you think, ‘wait a minute--I know this, I know the words and I know the meaning of it.’”
The family Scripture study and prayer have encouraged some of the children to read Scripture on their own, Vince said. “I think that’s definitely helped to get their interest in it.”
Bianca, 14, now reads Scripture on her own, and thinks the Lord sometimes speaks by helping her develop special attachments to particular Scriptures. “You feel like you could just go back and look over it again and again.”
Resources the Salomons recommend
- Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina. By Tim Gray
- Praying with Scripture – Lectio Divina. A prayer card produced by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, containing a basic pattern of Lectio Divina and more than 70 beginning Scripture passages