Praying with John Baptist de la Salle
About this articleThe Feast Day of John Baptist de la Salle is April 7th. John Baptist de la Salle knew the importance of meditating on God's word in Scripture. This article outlines the practice of lectio divina, a meditative studying of Scripture.
In reaction to Martin Luther's emphasis on personal reading of the Bible, the Council of Trent discouraged laypeople from meditating on the word of God. Catholics were told to listen to the preaching of their priests, who would explain the Bible to them. The Catholic Church placed stress on the role of tradition in informing the faithful as to the meaning of the sacred texts. Thus, John Baptist De La Salle's exhortation to his Brothers to study the Gospels daily and to carry a copy with them at all times stood out as unusual in his era.
De La Salle's knowledge of Scripture was profound. Passages from the Bible filled all of his meditations and other writings. He knew that by meditating on the word of God, people encounter Jesus Christ. Upon encountering Jesus, they will believe. In believing and in deepening this belief, they will be so filled with faith that they will spread the Good News effectively and live full lives.
A meditative studying of the Bible--lectio divina--is an ancient form of prayer for Christians. One way of doing lectio divina is this:
- Pick a short passage from a story or chapter in the Bible that strikes a chord with you.
- Read the passage slowly, relishing each word. Let God's Spirit speak to you through the words of the Scriptures you are reading.
- Ponder the passage, letting your mind wander over what you have read. A main idea will probably emerge, some notion that stands out because it relates to your life experience. Spend time thinking about these words; sometimes just repeating them over and over helps.
- Respond to the passage by talking to Jesus. Let the Spirit lead you. Express all your feelings and thoughts. (Many people like to write their responses or dialogues with Jesus in their journals.)
- End the meditation with a concluding prayer.
If you are going to make the Gospels the first and principal rule of your life, you need to spend regular time with God's word. Is there some practical way in which you can spend time every day reading the Good News?
(This article is adapted from Praying with John Baptist de la Salle, by Carl Koch [Winona, MN: Saint Mary's Press, 1990], pages 33-35. Copyright © 1990 by Saint Mary's Press. Permission is granted for this article to be used for classroom or campus ministry purposes. This article may not be republished in any form without written permission from Saint Mary's Press.)