A Catholic Monthly Magazine

The Word was Made Flesh and Dwelt Amongst Us

by Sue Jones

by Sue Jones

Part 2 of 4

In revitalising old traditions of prayer, and perhaps sowing the seeds of new ones, it is good to remind ourselves about our Catholic understanding of God. If we are at the beginning of nourishing the roots of a new tradition around the practice of Lectio Divina this ought to be done in the Catholic tradition. This new tradition will probably be largely informal, but not perhaps without its own spirituality in the world.

To wonder at the possibility of the laity traditioning their own spirituality through taking up the practice of Lectio Divina is perhaps naïve. Certainly the Church needs some prayerful, contemplative middle ground in which all persons can work through their call to mission and holiness in God, rather than in highly politicised faith environments where God tends to be a bit of a back-bencher, and his plan for the world seems smothered by our plans for the world. 

Today the spirituality of great saints like St. Benedict and St. Ignatius Loyola is well known but once it was new, the start of a new charismatic tradition which outgrew them. These men strike our sensibilities as being persons of prayer. If the laity can tradition the prayerful habit of Lectio Divina, and some have already started, we could have the beginnings of our own spirituality. It will be rooted in the same desire to share in God’s life and revelation that the great saints had, but it will be charismatically different. 

This will be a little spirituality, a spirituality of discipleship cultivated in Love with love, the Christian story of salvation lived over and over by laity who till the soil of Catholic life so that it bears fruit in the world. To dream of what it might look like is to perhaps think of parents of past generations who had the roots of a lay spirituality planted firmly in their humble attitude towards God and prayer and habitual love of the Mass. 

Spiritually nourishing those roots through the habit of Lectio Divina is an individual spiritual exercise, founded in a common story of active Catholic faith. The beauty of lay Catholic spirituality is that it is portable. It is unassuming, a universal sacramentality on the move. Wherever that prayerful person happens to be, there will be a personal, quite ordinary, love of life spirituality at work. Like fragile blossom it wafts around all over the place, our lives giving life to the most humble, poorest, loneliest and most spiritually impoverished people. Most of these people will be those on the edges of family life, our friendships, our Church groups, our work environments, persons not exactly unknown to us but sharing a commonality of life.

Whilst traditions are not fixed in concrete, nor formulated in meetings, growing or traditioning them is somewhat fixed in what Catholics believe and how that belief with its sense of God is lived out in every era. 

The Catholic sense of God comes through our relationship with the created order of the world, which is sacramental and life-giving to those we know and to the stranger we do not. As we love this order simply because God loves it we learn about how to live well within it. The utter goodness of this order is exampled to us by the spousal lives of our parents, from visible, prophetic religious life around us and from priestly life within the parish. Thus the seeds of what it means to be a Catholic are gently sown into the living soil of our lives.

Parents of past generations habitually tilled this soil making these seeds grow and flourish. In this tilling tradition we learn early on that Catholic life is always in a process of becoming sacramental and life giving. Later we find we are always being called to believe more deeply in a personal God who reveals himself to us through prayer, through our growing understanding of the power of love and our sacramental sense of being Catholic in the world. We are not just called into a habit of believing in God and serving others who suffer distortions of Gods’ created goodness. We are called to be holy, to the habit of bettering our love through prayer.

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