Stay With Us

Here it is evening. I have just finished evening prayer which closes with the following prayer:

“Stay with us, Lord Jesus,
for evening draws near,
and be our companion on our way
to set our hearts on fire with new hope.
Help us to recognize your presence among us in the Scriptures we read
and in the breaking of bread,
for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.”

           (Evening Prayer, Monday Week IV, The Liturgy of the Hours)
This prayer is reminiscent of the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. “ And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them.” (Luke 24:15) As I reflect over my day, filled with conversations and various activities, I wonder if I had been aware of His presence with me. Perhaps he was there along and my “eyes were prevented from recognizing him.”

But now it is evening, things have quieted down “the day is almost over”. It is time to urge the Lord to “stay with” me as I break open the Scriptures. Pouring over these words I will let him speak to me and set my “heart burning”.

As a Carmelite the Scriptures hold an important place in my daily life and prayer. Secular living does have an impact on the amount of time I can devote to this each day, but even a short amount of time spend in Scripture reading will help to foster love and devotion for the Lord.

Tomorrow I will arise early and go to Mass. There I will meet the Lord in the “breaking of the bread” and in hearing him speak as the priest “opens the scriptures to us” who have gathered to hear Mass. Another opportunity in my day for the Lord to “make himself known” and to be my “companion along the way”.


Whose Mouth Christ Put His Own Words

St. Albert of Jerusalem
The Lawgiver of Carmel
Bishop and Lawgiver of Carmel
Albert Avogadro was born in Italy in the middle of the twelfth century. He became a Canon Regular of the Holy Cross and was elected prior in 1180. In 1184, he was named Bishop of Bobbio and of Vercelli in 1185. In 1205 he became Patriarch of Jerusalem. Sometime between 1206 and 1214 he was approached by the hermits living on Mount Carmel with the request that he would prepare for them a written rule of life based on the traditional patterns of their contemplative communal life.

This Rule inspires Carmelites all over the world. It is one of the shortest of the great rules giving the Carmelites a Way of Life.  It is obvious when reading the Rule that St. Albert lived every moment the Gospel, having internalized it so completely that the words of the Bible are used to express his thoughts. Writing the Rule for the hermits on Mount Carmel, it is quite notable that he relied on the Scriptures.  The Rule is steeped in the Gospel’s message; though there are not any explicit passages quoted, there are many allusions to Sacred Scripture.

As Carmelites, we too should be personally familiar with the Scriptures in our daily encounter with them. Then as St. Albert says of St. Paul in number 20 of the Rule we may have “both the teaching and the example of Saint Paul the Apostle, into whose mouth Christ put his own words.” The sacred texts should be in our minds and expressed in our thoughts and words. As Carmelites our day is filled with opportunities to meditate on the Scriptures: Mass, Morning and Evening Prayer, Night Prayer and the practice of Lectio Divina.

Teach me, O Lord!

Saint Albert,
you have given us a Rule of Life
according to the Gospel
to guide us on our journey
towards perfect love.
Help us always to keep watch
at our prayers, to live in
allegiance to Jesus Christ,
and to serve him
faithfully until death.
Through Christ Our Lord.

Praying with Scripture…more on lectio divina

I have been using the Gospel readings for the day for my lectio divina. The readings of late have been from the Gospel of John chapter 6. The Bread of Life discourse has been a beautiful time of prayer for me.

I also came across a nice little book that I though I would share. It is called WRAP Yourself in Scripture. This little book, by Karen and Lawrence Dwyer,  is a guide for reading, praying and reflecting on Scripture with journaling. I do find that I like to write things down, so the journaling aspect was attractive for me.

The book follows the traditional steps of lectio divina with the added twist of journaling. The advantage to journaling is that you can go back and review what God had inspired and admire what He is doing in your life. The review also helps to impress His inspiration on your soul. I also have found that journaling can help keep me focused. Besides, I seem to need to have something to do with my hands.

The title “WRAP” is an acronym for ‘write’, ‘reflect’, ‘apply’, and ‘pray’. Easy to remember! The book can be found here or here and is reasonably priced.

More on lectio divina

“Seek in reading and you will find in meditation, knock in prayer and it will be opened to you in contemplation (Sayings of Light and Love #158 ~ St. John of the Cross)

Reading, meditation, prayer and contemplation make up the four elements of lectio divina. Lectio divina is the way the early monks and desert fathers prayed. It literally means, “divine reading”.

Reading (lectio) is understood as reading and carefully repeating a short text of Scripture. Take a selection of the Bible, read it and when a thought, word or line stands out or captures your attention pause here to reflect on it, carefully repeating it and dwell on it for a time. If you become distracted, simply return to the repetition. Stay with the text until it is dried up and then move on with the reading until you become engaged in another thought, word or line.

Meditation (meditatio) is making an effort to grasp the meaning of the text and to make it relevant to you personally. The word meditate means ‘to ruminate’, to chew the word. Try to enter into the meaning of the text and identify with it. This is not hard work just make use of the faculties. Simply listen to the words. Let them suggest images, thoughts and reflections. Ponder and perceive the message that lies in the words.

Prayer (oratio) is the personal response to the chosen text of Scripture that was used for meditation. With the help of grace, thoughts move to prayer. This is the response of the heart to ask for the grace that corresponds to the text or perhaps just to draw closer in union with God. Prayer is conversation that asks with love and with the intention to grow in the virtues. In this affective element of lectio the soul desires God.

Contemplation (comtemplatio) is the final element of lectio. It is a loving gaze at length where sometimes, by the grace of God, infused contemplation occurs and the soul is raised above meditation to experiencing the mystery and reality of the Scripture text. The experience is one of peace, harmony and quiet. God’s presence is experienced as a loving awareness where His love is felt and lovingly returned.

In summary, reading seeks; meditation finds meaning; prayer demands; contemplation tastes God.

Praying with the Scriptures

Lent is here. In the days leading up to Lent, I was pondering about what I would do this Lenten season in the way of a spiritual program for myself to use during these forty days as a  preparation for the celebration of Easter. I got to thinking about a previous post, and I began to think about my own fidelity to the Promises I have made as a Secular Carmelite.

One of the things that identifies a Carmelite is their formation in the Scriptures and lectio divina. (Constitutions, 35) Also, I was thinking about my prayer. The Constitutions say in paragraph number 18 that,  “Prayer, a dialogue of friendship with God, ought to be nourished by His Word so that this dialogue becomes that, ―we speak to him when we pray; we hear him when we read the divine word.”

When I was a candidate a copy of the Gospels was given to me, along with the Scapular and the Constitutions of the Secular Order. Then part of what the priest said to me and the other candidates was, “May the Word of Christ dwell abundantly in your hearts.” (Ritual, 23)

Therefore, I decide to renew my efforts at praying with the Scriptures, picking up the practice of lectio divina with more devotion and fidelity. I also decided to use the Gospel readings from the Mass for my daily meditation and reflection. As a lay person I am called to Christ’s mission and I am to proclaim the Gospel which is why I decided to use the Gospels.

Lectio divina is a way to pray with the Scriptures.

Here is a simple way of praying this way…..

~select a passage from the Bible – read it slowly – briefly reflect on a few words that struck you

~read the passage again – briefly call to mind a few phrases that struck you

~read the passage once more – reflect on what this passage is saying to you

~from your heart offer a prayer based on your reflections

Favorite Religious Books

Patricia who blogs over at I Want to See God has tagged me for a “meme”. I had to look up “meme”, not being as computer savvy as I’d like to be.

For this “meme” I am to name my three favorite religious books and then choose five friends to do the same. My thoughts went wild thinking about which three books from my religious book collection would be my favorite. All the titles on my bookshelf passed across my mind, especially those I have read over and over again. All those Carmelite books – how could I just choose three! I mean, St. John of the Cross is my dear favorite, but then I have grown to love St. Teresa of Jesus and have read The Way of Perfection how many times now? Then, of course, there is little St. Therese and her Story of a Soul – who wouldn’t include that as their favorite?

I decided that these and all the other Carmelite writings and books that I own and have read are a given as favorites. Instead of including these obvious ones in this “meme” , I will redirect readers to this page for a list of these and where they can find them. For this “meme”, I decided to include two spiritual classics that were ones St. Therese and St. Teresa had read and gained much profit from in their spiritual lives. For my third book, I chose one that was written by a Carmelite priest.

This first spiritual classic is The Imitation of Christ. This was a favorite of St. Therese. She had it memorized by age fifteen. Her aunt would open up the book and give St. Therese the book and chapter number, and St. Therese would recite the passage from memory!

“I was nourished for a long time on the “pure flour” contained in the Imitation of Christ, this being the only book which did me any good. . . I knew almost all the chapters of my beloved Imitation by heart. This little book never parted company from me,  for in the summer I carried it in my pocket,in winter, in my muff.”        (Story of a Soul)


The Imitation of Christ was first published in the 1400‘s. It is a spiritual classic loved by Catholics and non-Catholic Christians. Each book is relatively short and contains short chapters on various topics pertaining to the spiritual life and the Blessed Sacrament. This book is also in the public domain and can be found in numerous places on the internet.

My copy is published by The Confraternity of the Precious Blood and is a rather small one that does fit in a pocket or in a purse. Although I do not have this book memorized, I do have numerous pages dog-eared and many passaged underlined. I have read and reread it several times by keeping it with me in my purse and pulling it out whenever I found myself someplace where I had to wait: dentist office waiting rooms, in line at the drive-up window at the bank, waiting for children to finish sports practice, etc. I would even take it to the ski hill with me and keep it in my ski coat pocket pulling it out whenever I was alone on the ski lift to meditate on a page or two during the ride up the mountain.

The other spiritual classic is The Third Spiritual Alphabet. This was the book that St. Teresa of Avila was so fond of and mentions in her autobiography (Life, chap 4).  This book is about the prayer of recollection and St. Teresa says she was:

“delighted with the book and resolved to follow that way of prayer with all my might”

It was St. Teresa’s uncle who gave her The Third Spiritual Alphabet by Francisco de Osuna  when she was ill and living at her father’s home. This book is another readable medieval classic from the early 16th century written by a Franciscan, Francisco de Osuna, on the topic of recollection. Each chapter, or treatise, covers a particular topic or point of recollection giving practical advice and quoting from Scriptures. Each treatise can stand on its own, so it isn’t necessary to read the book systematically beginning with the first chapter. My favorite chapters have been on giving thanks, on how we are to control our speech, and on safeguarding the heart. All of which are important if we are to be recollected and focused on God.

The third book that has been a favorite is Divine Intimacy by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen O.C.D. This lovely book, well worth the price if found in hardcover, is based on the liturgical year. Beginning with Advent, the book covers numerous topics on the interior life, virtues, gifts of the Holy Spirit, Mary, and prayer. For each day of the liturgical year, there is a two-part meditation, followed by a “colloquy”.  This book is an excellent one to use for daily meditation and the practice of lectio divina. The liturgical calendar this book follows is the traditional Tridentine calendar; however, you can still use it and follow the Novus ordo calendar with some simple adaptations.

This was lots of fun and I would like to invite the following five friends to join in on this fun sharing their three favorite religious books: cinhosa at cinhosa, Emily at Catholic Poster Girl, Christine at laudem gloriae, Kellie at Faith, Family and Friends, and Julia at The Value of Sparrows.