IT Tests Prayer Ritual

A Benedictine monk dedicated to an ancient art of reflective Scripture reading says the practice is being challenged by the fast-paced and very visual reading habits propagated by information technology.

But Silvestrine Congregation of Benedictines Abbot General Father Michael Kelly osb  also said that the traditional Benedictine practice of Lectio Divina had the potential to connect people with each other and God now more than ever.

“We are very much dependent on the visual or the sound bite, whereas trying to get the awareness of God and entering that relationship with God (through reading Scripture) takes a little bit more time than what we are accustomed to and likewise our relationship with one another is also affected,” said Fr Kelly.

Fr Kelly presented several workshops on Lectio Divina to parishes across the Adelaide Archdiocese in February to mark the Year of Grace.

Lectio Divina, he said, had the ability to reconnect people with a growing need and appreciation for quiet and contemplative spaces without the isolating distraction of iPads, iPhones and iPods. “We see groups of people standing, sitting, each with their own apparatus stuck to their ear. Maybe the Lectio Divina can bring us back to communication, not only with God but with each other.”

Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is slow, contemplative scriptural reading, meditation and prayer, with the ultimate aim being to “simply be there before our God”. It can be performed alone, or in a group – a practice taken up by more and more parishes across Adelaide in this Year of Grace and during Lent.

“It’s very different to the goal-centered approach in most of the things we undertake these days,” said Fr Kelly, who was invited to visit Adelaide by Archbishop Philip Wilson.

Marie Loller, from the Ministry Formation Program, said more than 300 people attended

Fr Kelly’s workshops with positive feedback on the ancient practice and its ability to relax and help reflect.

“The overwhelming response from a diversity of ages and backgrounds was similar – a gentle wonderment that praying with the Scripture is something that all of us can do so easily each day,” she said.

Fr Kelly is a monk of St Benedict’s Abbey, in New South Wales, a graduate of the University of New England, in NSW, and of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. In 2007, he was appointed Abbot General of the Silvestrine Congregation of Benedictines and is based in Rome from where he travels to the congregation’s monasteries in Italy, America, Australia, Sri Lanka, India, the Philippines and Congo (DRC).

His work involves religious formation, lecturing, parish work, economic administration and teaching meditation. He also has published various articles and has interests in the origins of spirituality of Christian monasticism in Egypt and Mesopotamia and the contemporary situation in those regions.

For the free booklet Lectio Divina: Praying Scriptures in Lent 2013, contact Rhonda Andersen on 02 9847 0726.

Caption: THE BOOK: Silvestrine Congregation of Benedictines Abbot General Father Michael Kelly OSB in the sacristy of Adelaide’s St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral.

This article was first published in the April 2013 edition of the Southern Cross.



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