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A Process for Reflection on the Word….”Lectio Divina” as Simple as 1, 2, 3, 4

“Lectio Divina” as Simple as 1, 2, 3, 4

 Brazilian Cardinal Explains Prayerful Reading of Scripture

SÃO PAULO, Brazil, SEPT. 15, 2009 ( ).-

 As Brazil celebrates the month of the Bible, Cardinal Odilo Scherer recommended to his archdiocese the exercise of prayerful reading of the Word of God, and explained how to do it.

In the archdiocesan weekly “O São Paulo,” the archbishop of São Paulo recalled how the synod of bishops on the Word of God, held last October, “noted with joy that in the whole world the prayerful reading of the Bible — lectio divina — is being adopted and is spreading.”

“It is a simple method accessible to everyone, including the most simple,” the cardinal said, explaining that the method “proposes the reading and acceptance of the Word of God in a context of prayer, as the Church recommends.” Through lectio divina, Cardinal Scherer continued, a “dialogue of faith” is established, “in which we listen to God who speaks, we respond with prayer and try to be attuned to him in our lives.”

Step by step

 The cardinal went on to offer the faithful four easy steps for lectio divina.

 First, one reads the passage. “In this first instance, one attempts to understand the text exactly as it appears, without pretending to extract from it immediately messages and conclusions,” he said.

Meditation on the text comes next, in response to the question “What is God saying to me, or to us, through this text? Now we really do try to listen to God who is speaking to us and we receive his voice.”

 Then comes “prayer. In this third step, we respond to the question: What does this text bring me to say to God?” “Let us always remember that a good biblical reading is always done only in the dialogue of faith: God speaks, we listen and accept, and respond to God and speak to him,” the cardinal explained. The text “might inspire several types of prayer: praise, profession of faith, thanksgiving, adoration, petition for forgiveness and help.”

 The fourth and final step of lectio divina is contemplation. In this step “we dwell on the Word and further our understanding of the mystery of God and his plan of love and salvation; at the same time, we dispose ourselves to accept in our concrete lives what the Word teaches us, renewing our good intentions and obedience of the faith.”

With these four steps, Cardinal Scherer said experience teaches that it is not difficult to practice lectio divina. “It’s enough to start; it is learned by being practiced,” he said. “The preciousness of the Word of God and its importance for Christian life, moreover, well merits an effort on our part.”

Filed under: Spirituality

Labor Day and Blessed Frederick Ozanam

Wishing everyone a Happy Labor Day.

It is also interesting this year that Labor Day falls on the memorial of Blessed Frederick Ozanam, the founder of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

In the 1830’s he and a friend began visiting Paris tenements and offering assistance as best they could. Soon a group dedicated to helping individuals in need under the patronage of St. Vincent de Paul formed around Frederick.

In 1846, Frederick, Amelie and their daughter Marie went to Italy; there Frederick hoped to restore his poor health. They returned the next year. The revolution of 1848 left many Parisians in need of the services of the St. Vincent de Paul conferences. The unemployed numbered 275,000. The government asked Frederick and his co-workers to supervise the government aid to the poor. Vincentians throughout Europe came to the aid of Paris.

Frederick then started a newspaper, The New Era, dedicated to securing justice for the poor and the working classes. Fellow Catholics were often unhappy with what Frederick wrote. Referring to the poor man as “the nation’s priest,” Frederick said that the hunger and sweat of the poor formed a sacrifice that could redeem the people’s humanity.

In 1852 poor health again forced Frederick to return to Italy with his wife and daughter. He died on September 8, 1853. In his sermon at Frederick’s funeral, Lacordaire described his friend as “one of those privileged creatures who came direct from the hand of God in whom God joins tenderness to genius in order to enkindle the world.”

Frederick was beatified in 1997.

Frederick’s witness as a lay Catholic engaged in social ministry serves as a model for our own time.  He offered his talents to teach others incorporating the gospel message, as well as living out his witness by serving those, especially as an advocate and with direct material aid to help working class families.

What do you think Frederick Ozanam offers our time?

Filed under: Culture, Personal Reflections, Social Justice, Spirituality


Newsletter n. 222 Verona, 05 June, 2009


Rt. Rev. Giampaolo Crepaldi Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and President of the Observatory

 In his homily at Mass on Pentecost Benedict XVI expressed some very interesting thoughts also from the viewpoint of the Social Doctrine of the Church.

As we know, the Magisterium has always situated environmental ecology within human ecology. The main text in this regard is the paragraph in Centesimus Annus where John Paul II affirms that man needs not only a healthy natural environment, but has an even greater need for a sound human environment where he can grow in the virtues and in openness to God.

He went on to indicate the family as the principal reality at the service of a true human ecology. Ever since then it has become customary in the Church’s social doctrine to link environmental degradation to moral degradation in a systematic manner, since the defiling of nature is always a consequence of lacerations in the human fabric of society.

This is a very important hermeneutic criterion, since proposed quite often on the contrary are technical measures applied to nature in order to avoid ecological disasters, while at the same time acting on life itself or the family. This is the schizophrenia of ecologism, which devotes its efforts to saving seals and not children in their mother’s womb.

Nature is not to be looked upon only as a theatre of our technical endeavors – technology alone will not save us from ecological degradation – but as an instrument of humanization, and when men deface the natural foundations of their togetherness they end up inflicting wounds on the environment as well. Man too has a nature, and the human community has natural bonds, beginning with the ones linked to matrimony and the generation of life.

The worsening of the natural environment is always consequential to the worsening of the human envronment (cf. the book by G. Crepaldi e P. Togni, Ecologia ambientale ed ecologia umana. Politiche dell’ambiente e Dottrina sociale della Chiesa [Environmental ecology and human ecology. Environmental policies and the Social Doctrine of the Church], Cantagalli, Siena 2007).

Now, in the homily delivered during the Mass of Pentecost in 31 May 2009 Benedict XVI raised this subject once again, linking environmental ecology with spiritual ecology. He was talking about tempest and wind as symbols of the Holy Spirit. What air is for biological life – he said – the Holy Spirit is for the spiritual life, and “just as there is atmospheric pollution that poisons the environment and living beings, there is also a pollution of the heart and the spirit, which mortifies and poisons spiritual existence”.

This too is liberty people say, but everything that intoxicates and pollutes the soul also ends up by limiting liberty.

Behold the connection linking spiritual ecology, human ecology and environmental ecology. Without the “powerful wind” of the Spirit human souls become intoxicated and thus the liberty of man is weakened also in attending to nature. Governing nature is a spiritual and moral task before being a technical and material one, and how will man be able to govern nature if he knows not how to govern himself?

 “The metaphor of the powerful wind”, continued the pope. “makes us think just how precious it is to breathe clean air, physical air with our lungs, and with our hearts spiritual air, the healthy air of the spirit which is love”. With this statement about the Holy Spirit it can be said that Benedict XVI closed the circle of the ecology: environmental ecology depends on human ecology, but human ecology depends on spiritual ecology.

Filed under: consumerism, Culture, Social Doctrine, Spirituality

Benedict XVI’s Prayer for Those Fallen in War and for Builders of Peace

The Holy Father lit a votive candle and recited the following prayer for the fallen of all countries in all wars:


“O God, our Father,

endless source of life and peace,

welcome into Your merciful embrace

the fallen of the war that raged here,

the fallen on all wars that have bloodied the earth.

Grant that they may enjoy the light that does not fail,

which in the reflection of Your splendour

illumines the consciences of all men and women of good will.

You, Who in Your Son Jesus Christ gave suffering humanity

a glorious witness of Your love for us,

You, Who in our Lord Christ

gave us the sign of a suffering that is never in vain,

but fruitful in Your redeeming power,

grant those who yet suffer

for the blind violence of fratricidal wars

the strength of the hope that does not fade,

the dream of a definitive civilisation of love,

the courage of a real and daily activity of peace.

Give us your Paraclete Spirit

so that the men of our time

may understand that the gift of peace

is much more precious than any corruptible treasure,

and that while awaiting the day that does not end

we are all called to be builders of peace for the future of Your children.

Make all Christians more convinced witnesses of life,

the inestimable gift of Your love,

You Who live and reign for ever and ever


Filed under: Official Statements, Papal Teachings, Spirituality

Roundtable: Book topic “God and the gods”

Newsletter n. 219

Verona 21 May, 2009

18 May 2009 at 17:00, the Faculty of Social Sciences of the Gregorian University organized a round table for the presentation of the book “God and the gods” written by Rt. Rev. Giampaolo Crepaldi, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and President of our Observatory. Presented below is the full text of the author’s statement.


18 MAY 2009




Rt. Rev.   Giampaolo Crepaldi

Secretary of the Pontifical Council for justice and Peace


With this my book God and the gods published by Cantagalli of Siena as part of the Collection of the Cardinal Van Thuân Observatory I sought not only to analyze some of the classical and current themes of the Church’s social doctrine, but above all offer a perspective, a unitary visio as a basis for their consideration. This book in no way shirks the commitment to tackle even the thorniest issues facing us today – from the right to religious freedom to the human rights of the fourth generation – and at the same time strives to revive fundamental arguments for tackling them in a neither opportunistic nor politically correct manner.

From whence did I draw inspiration? Above and beyond the names mentioned in the footnotes, my considerations drew inspiration above all from my reading of the works of Joseph Ratzinger, theologian and Pontiff. I also acknowledge the substantial debts I owe to Romano Guardini on the theological level, and to Augusto Del Noce as far as philosophy is concerned.

Then again, the judgment about Christianity in modernism offered by the three aforementioned scholars reveals considerable features of convergence despite evident difference. This is especially true as far as one point is concerned: modernism will not succeed in reviving itself without Christianity. This is also the thesis presented in this book.

Modernism had the gall to claim that it invented reason, thereby separating it from a broader context of sense constituted by the faith. But without faith in the Word of God incarnate, the Logos, Primordial reason, even our reason, the reason of modernists, becomes lost as it twines around and around itself. In the book I described some of these processes, especially in the areas of democracy, laicity, human rights and technology. And each time I made an effort to show how human reason on its own does not have to force to remain fully faithful to itself.

When discussing “pure nature” with Franco Rodano, Augusta Del Noce said modernism issues forth from the negation of original sin. It is evidently necessary to speak about a “certain” modernism and not modernism as such, because otherwise the meaning of modernism would have negative connotations alone and it would be transformed from an historical and cultural process into an abstract and unchangeable philosophical category.

I am of the opinion that the final destiny of modernism has yet to be decided and that it can recover from the Pelagianism of its origins, which necessarily turns into Gnosticism. Pelagianism consists in holding that nature on its own is able to attain its own natural ends, but today we witness exactly the contrary: nature on its own can’t even be nature, and becomes transformed into culture, or science or technology.

The Pelagianism of modernism necessarily begets Gnosticism: salvation is immanent to me and I can attain it with that certain science or technique I now possess. But this too is in the throes of such a dramatic crisis since science and technology act in an agnostic context in ethical and metaphysical terms. Technology                                                        professes to determine what man is without having any sense of man. Reduced to “pure technique”, what type of salvation can technology ever deliver?

In his “Foreword” Cardinal Martini says: “At the bottommost root of problems there is always a defect of faith. Halfway through the 19 th century the anarchical socialist Proudhon wrote the following words: ‘The first duty of an intelligent and free man is to constantly eject the idea of God from his spirit and his conscience. Because God, if He does exist, is essentially a foe of our nature, and we gain nothing from His authority. Despite Him we attain science, despite Him we attain wellbeing, society, and each of our achievements is a victory in which we crush the Divinity’. Has this ‘despite Him’ proven to be realistic? Is it really true that man may attain science, wellbeing and society without God? How many presumed victories have turned out to be defeats?”

I would now like to say something about the unitary perspective proposed in the book. This could perhaps be expressed as follows: the vocation of the Logos. In fact, I made an effort to project a non positivistic vision of reality, and, especially in the chapters dealing with anthropology, to show how nothing utters itself alone; each thing or reality or person expresses a sense which transcends it. The aridity of our personal, relational and religious life depends on our mounting inability to make things, nature, persons and life speak. Stemming therefrom is a strong resistance to being grateful, to welcoming reality reading in it an appeal addressed to us, a vocation. The book’s first chapter is dedicated to “the human person between vocation and alienation” and sets the tune for the all the rest, beginning with an excerpt taken from Centesimus annus where John Paul II writes that the identity of a person depends on the response to the vocation of God. If things are naught but what I see of them, they embody no message for me and are just there at my beck and call. Even a love or a child, once upon a time looked upon as an undeserved vocation, or a gift as people say in such cases, cease to be events speaking to me, events abounding with prospects of responsibility, duties to be shouldered and ends to be attained, and turn in to cases to be kept under control by imposing my rationale upon them instead of letting myself be challenged by them. What is not accessible to our grasp thins out until it disappears. The space of what is accessible to our grasp expands to encompass each aspect of life and even life itself, which, however, precisely for this reason no longer reveals itself to us as having a sense because the sense we can give to life no longer suffices. Only the meanings we do not construct ourselves satisfy us because they represent a vocation.

Considerations of this nature also have considerable social and political relevance, and are at the heart of the selfsame social doctrine of the Church. In this book I have tried to capitalize as well on the knowledge of the Church’s social doctrine built up over many years of service to the Church in this field of endeavor. Benedict XVI said it so very well in Deus caritas est : the social doctrine is situated at the point of encounter between faith and reason, or, even better, there where the faith purifies reason. As we know, to purify means to reveal a vocation. The faith enables reason to appropriate itself anew, to fly much higher than before, to discover new lands waiting to be explored. This is the key used to analyze the themes of laicity and religious freedom, which I tackle by drawing on the Decree Dignitiatis humanae as a whole, and not just select excerpts.    

Filed under: consumerism, Culture, Economic Policy, morals, Social Doctrine, Spirituality