Monday, March 28, 2011


Images of America: Northern Pine County!!!

My co-author, Earl J. "Jim" Foster, and I are proud to announce the publication of our book, Images of America: Northern Pine County.

From the back cover:

"Featuring over 210 historic photographs, Images of America: Northern Pine County guides readers on an exciting journey into the past "as it explores the successes and sorrows, joys and trials of the people of Northern Pine County, Minnesota. Each chapter examines a unique aspect of daily life in Northern Pine County. Readers meet loggers and settlers from the county’s earliest days, catch a glimpse of many towns and villages, and encounter a variety of industries, business, schools, and churches that shaped the county’s economic and social landscape. Life was not easy for the people who called Northern Pine County home. On September 1, 1894, and again on October 12, 1918, forest fires devastated portions of the county, killing hundreds, destroying thousands of acres, and leaving large parts of the population homeless. While photographs cannot capture the heartache of fire victims, they do provide a window into Northern Pine County’s rich history and help tell the fascinating stories of its residents."

Interested readers can find the book on Amazon or email me to request an order form for a signed copy.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Third Sunday of Lent – Gospel Reflections

Today's Gospel reading (John 4:5-42) is a rich and complex text open to a wide variety of interpretations and readings. I'd like to focus this little reflection on conversion, for there are three people or groups of people in this reading that are experiencing conversion to faith in Jesus. Let's take a look at each of them.

The first and most obvious conversion experience is occurring in the life of the woman who meets Jesus at the well. She is a Samaritan and therefore an “unclean” outcast to the Jews. She appears to be unacceptable even to her own people, for she is going to the well to draw water alone at noon rather than with the other village women in the morning or evening as a group. This isn't too surprising, really, for this woman, as she freely admits, has been married five times and is currently living with a man who is not her husband. She is pretty much alone in the world, and she seems to be the last person Jesus would ever approach.

Yet here He is, asking this Samaritan woman for a drink of water. He takes her off guard. I can picture her doing a bit of a double take and staring at Him open mouthed. “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” she demands. The dialogue that follows changes her life. Gradually, Jesus leads the woman from a literal, worldly way of thinking (she misunderstands Jesus when He tells her that He will give her living water; she thinks she'll never have to be bothered with drawing water from the well again) to belief that He is the Messiah, the One Who has come to bring salvation to the world. Along the way, He gently convicts her of her sin, merely telling her the facts of her behavior without adding any accusatory or judgmental language. After all, she knows very well that she has been doing wrong.

To this Samaritan woman, Jesus speaks freely about eternal life, His gifts of living water (the Holy Spirit), and true worship, even going so far as to declare Himself the Messiah, something He very rarely does. And the woman believes Him. She comes to understand what He's talking about, and she responds with action. When the disciples return, she drops everything and runs back to town to spread the news. Remember, the people she is speaking to would have looked down upon her as a sinful outcast, but that doesn't stop her from proclaiming her newly found belief. She even does so in a rather clever way. She gives her neighbors an aspect of her experience and then asks them a question. “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Christ?” Clearly, she is hoping for a resounding “yes,” for that is the answer singing out in her heart.

This brings us to another of the conversions in today's Gospel, the conversion of the Samaritan villagers. On the woman's testimony, the people begin to belief. Her conversion must have shone through her words, actions, and countenance, for they accept her testimony, at least enough to invite Jesus to stay with them. By the end of two days, however, the Samaritans' faith no longer rests on the woman's words. They have experienced Jesus personally, talked to Him, listened to Him, and witnessed His actions among them, and they tell the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

Finally, we catch a glimpse of the disciples' conversion journey in this text. Clearly, they are still on the road to understanding Who Jesus really is and what He has come to do. They are amazed to see Him talking to a Samaritan woman, but they at least have enough sense not to question Him about it. They are, however, still thinking in very literal and worldly terms, for when they encourage Jesus to eat some of the food they've brought back to Him, they don't understand His response that He has food of which they do not know. They just think someone must have brought Him something. He still has to explain to them that what really nourishes Him is doing His Father's will. His hunger and thirst for souls has been partially sated by the Samaritan woman's faith. He has gained one more soul. The disciples still have much to learn, but they are on the way.

We must all take some time now and then to reflect on our conversion experiences, for conversion is a lifelong journey. We are always called to grow deeper in our faith and in our relationship with Jesus and to receive and respond to the love that enveloped the Samaritan woman at the well.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

History Tidbit - Kinney, Minnesota

In 1977, Kinney, Minnesota, was facing a dilemma. Its water system was failing rapidly, and the money to foot the $186,000 replacement bill was nowhere to be found. City officials tried again and again and again to apply for help from all kinds of government organizations but with no luck and no funding. Finally, in a bout of major frustration, the folks in Kinney decided that they would be more likely to get the funding they needed through foreign aid, so they drafted the following letter to U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance:

July 13, 1977

BE IT RESOLVED that the City Council of the City of Kinney, in Kinney, Minnesota, has decided to secede from the United States of America, and become a foreign country. Our area is large enough for it. We are twelve square blocks, three blocks wide and four blocks long. We will be similar to Monaco. It is much easier to get assistance as a foreign country, which we need badly, and there is no paper work to worry about. If necessary, we will be glad to declare war and lose. However, if this is a requirement, we would appreciate being able to surrender real quick, as our Mayor works as a nurse in a hospital, and most of our council members work in a nearby mine and cannot get much time off from work.


Granted, this letter was meant to be more humorous than serious, but the officials of Kinney did have a point to make about government neglect of small town needs.

The new Republic of Kinney received only a nominal amount of "foreign aid," namely, a nice, shiny new police car and ten cases of pizza mix from a Duluth business man, but apparently the townspeople had gotten their point across to powers that be. In November of the following year, Kinney received a grant of $198,000 to repair its water system and take care of a few other necessary projects, and its residents will always have a great story to pass on to their descendants.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Second Sunday of Lent - First Reading Reflections

Today's first reading presents a challenge, both to Abram and to us. God called Abram out of his comfort zone and ordering him to leave his homeland and his family and set off on a God-directed adventure to a new land Could Abram have said, “No, thank You, God”? Certainly! As a human being, he had free will, just like we do. He could have shaken his head, blamed this crazy idea about God speaking to him on his overactive imagination, and resettled into his daily routine. But he didn't. Instead, he decided to have faith in God, in God's message, and in God's plans for him.

God was certainly making Abram's trip worth his time and energy. He gave Abram three promises, which He would later confirm through three covenant oaths (in Genesis 15, 17, and 22). God promised Abram that 1. He would make of Abram a great nation; 2. He would make Abram's name great; and 3. all the communities (or families) on earth would find blessing in Abram. These are pretty spectacular promises. Abram was a basically a nobody, one resident of many in the city Ur of the Chaldeans. He was already 75 years old, and his wife, Sarai, was already beyond the age of childbearing. How in the world was God going to make a great nation, a great name, and a great blessing come from him? Abram must have wondered this as he set out on his great journey, but he went anyway. He took the risk. He chose to act on his faith and to believe God, as unlikely as all His promises seemed to his human understanding.

Abram persevered in his decision, and his risk paid off even though his path was far from easy. In the end, God fulfilled all of His promises in amazing ways. Abram did indeed become a great nation in his descendents, the Israelite people and the Christians; his name is still regarded as great to this day by three religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam; and one of his descendents, Jesus Christ, brought the greatest blessing of all to all the communities of earth, namely, eternal life with God in Heaven.

As we reflect on this reading, we can ask ourselves a few questions and try to answer them honestly.

1. How is God calling us right now? Is He asking us to go outside our comfort zone and take a risk?
2. How are we responding to God's call? Do we believe in His promises? Do we trust Him? Do we have faith? Or do we say, “No, thank You, God”?
3. Have we chosen to take a risk for God in the past? How has it turned out? Have we persevered in our choice?
4. Do we appreciate how God fulfills all His promises?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Prayers for Lent

When we think of Lent, we often think of what we're going to give up as a penance to observe the self-sacrificial nature of the season. We might also think of what we can add to our spiritual lives, like new ways of praying that are specially appropriate for Lent. Below are a few of my favorite Lenten prayers.

1. The Stations of the Cross - As we follow Jesus along the Way of the Cross, we realize more intensely exactly how much He suffered for us during His Passion and death. There are countless versions of the Stations available online or in prayer books. Most parishes also have weekly Stations during Lent.

2. The Prayers in Commemoration of the Seven Last Words Spoken by Jesus on the Cross - The Catechism says that Jesus' last words, spoken while He hung on the Cross allow "a glimpse of the boundless depth of His filial prayer" (#2605). Meditating on these holy words can greatly enrich our Lenten devotions. The Prayers may be found on the Catholic Doors website.

3. Devotion to the Five Wounds - Again, these prayers help us to grasp Jesus' great suffering, which He submitted to out of love for us and desire for our salvation. A prayer and a chaplet in honor of the five wounds may be found on the Fisheaters website.

4. The Fifteen Prayers of St. Bridget - St. Bridget tells us that Jesus Himself revealed these fifteen prayers to her. Jesus told her, "I received 5,480 wounds on My Body during My Passion. If you wish to honor each of them in some way pray the following prayers each day for a whole year. When the year is over, you will have honored each one of My Wounds." They are truly beautiful prayers that merit careful attention and deep meditation, and they may be found at Catholic Forum and in the Pieta prayer book.

5. The Stabat Mater - This is a beautiful prayer that contemplates Mother Mary standing at the foot of Jesus' Cross and joining her suffering to His in her mother's heart. The prayer in Latin and English, along with an explanation, may be found at the Mary Page.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

First Sunday of Lent - Gospel Reflections

In today's Gospel, the Spirit leads Jesus out into the desert for a time of prayer, fasting, and temptation. This sounds a lot like Lent, doesn't it? During Lent, the Church encourages her children to pray more and to deny themselves through fasting, abstinence from meat, and other acts of penance. And, of course, when we commit ourselves to an increase in good actions, temptations are sure to extra hour of “interesting” television instead of praying the Stations of the Cross, a delicious-looking hot fudge sundae even though we're trying to give up sweets as a form of penance, temptations run rampant.

When Jesus finishes His forty days and forty nights of fasting in the desert, He is hungry. This shouldn't be any major news. After all, Jesus was human, just like us. He got hungry and thirsty and tired just like we do. He was probably feeling a bit weak because while He may not have gone without food completely, He certainly ate sparingly.

The tempter, or devil, took this opportunity to pounce on the “vulnerable” Jesus and offer Him three significant temptations. We might ask ourselves why in the world Jesus would have even let the devil try to tempt Him. He could have merely flicked the enemy away like an annoying little gnat. St. Augustine tells us that Jesus allowed Himself to be tempted for our sake, so that we might attain victory over our own temptations. Listen to what Augustine has to say:

“[Jesus] made us one with Him when He chose to be tempted by Satan....In Christ you were tempted, for Christ received His flesh from your nature, by His own power gained salvation for you...If in Christ we have been tempted, in Him we overcome the devil. Do you think only of Christ's temptations and fail to think of His victory? See yourself as tempted in Him, and see yourself as victorious in Him. He could have kept the devil from Himself; but if He were not tempted He could not teach you how to triumph over temptation.”

So Jesus accepts temptation for us so that He might gain victory for us over temptation and show us how to conquer during our own bouts with the enemy.

The devil tempts Jesus in three ways. First, he asks Him to use His miracle-working power to turn stones into bread to satisfy His hunger. Second, he invites Him to throw Himself off the top of the Temple. Third, he offers Him all the kingdoms of the world if only Jesus would bow down and worship him. Let's take a brief look at each of these three temptations (of course, there are countless possibilities for interpretation and reflection here, so we will merely scratch the surface).

When the devil tells Jesus to turn stones into bread, he is really asking Him to use (or misuse) His power for selfish, materialistic reasons. He's asking Jesus to put Himself first, to use His divine power to satisfy His human hunger. Are we sometimes tempted to misuse our divinely-given talents and abilities? Do we act selfishly and put ourselves and our wants and needs before the wants and needs of others? Are we too focused on material things? Do we let our hunger and thirst for possessions rule our lives?

After Jesus shoots him down with a strong reminder that people don't live on bread alone but on the words of God, the devil tries again. He takes Jesus up on the Temple and invites Him to jump, reminding Him (in the language of Scripture) that God had promised angels to support Him. Essentially, by jumping off the Temple, Jesus would be making God prove Himself. He would be testing God, challenging Him, really, to keep His promise. This is, of course, very stupid and very insulting to God, Who is more powerful than every human being combined and then some and certainly doesn't need to prove Himself to anyone. By performing such an challenging action, a person would be actually be implicitly claiming to be greater than God, Who would be called upon as a mere servant Who must do His creature's will and save him from falling into the deep and breaking every bone in his body. Do we do the equivalent of this sometimes when we get ourselves in messes of our own making and then expect God to come and pull us out? Do we test God by demanding signs from Him? Do we expect Him to jump at our every whim and serve us? Do we want Him to do our will instead of lovingly accepting His infinitely-superior will?

Finally, after Jesus once again shoots down the devil by refusing to test God, Satan tries one more strategy. He takes Jesus up on a high mountain, shows Him all the kingdoms of the world, and tells Him that it would be very easy to be the ruler of them all. All He would have to do is bow down and worship the devil. This is, of course, the worst kind of idolatry and denial of God. Most people don't go that far, of course. They don't actually worship the devil, but they do create idols for themselves. Do we “worship” power or money or possessions? Do those things hold a higher place in our lives than God does? Do we ever perform immoral actions to attain the idols in our lives?

At this point, Jesus does flick the devil away like the annoying gnat he is. “Get away, Satan!” He commands. “The Lord, your God, shall you worship and Him alone shall you serve.” The devil leaves immediately, for even he doesn't dare disobey a direct order from the Son of God, Who has so thoroughly vanquished him in his attempts at temptation. We are left to contemplation angels ministering to Jesus and to reflect on our own temptations and struggles.

Lord Jesus, strengthen us to resist the devil and to conquer all the temptations he throws at us. Help us to follow Your example and share in Your victory. Amen.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lectio Divina - Part 10

The Practice of Oratio
          In oratio, we allow the words of the text we have read and meditated on to flow back to God in prayer. If we are practicing our lectio divina with the correct dispositions (or at least trying to), we have already been praying during lectio and meditatio by simply placing ourselves in the presence of God and lifting up our gaze and our hearts to the One Who is mediated to us by the Scriptures. (47) The oratio, however, is a special time of prayer in which we freely and spontaneously use our chosen passage to compose our own Biblical prayers. We run to meet God with words “nourished” by the Scriptural text while we express to Him our blessing and adoration, praise, petition, intercession, and thanksgiving, which spring from the reflections of our meditatio. (48) We acknowledge the value of His words, and we realize our total dependency upon Him for all we have, all we are, and all we pray. Turning again to the story of Zacchaeus as an example, we may practice oratio by thanking the Lord for coming into our hearts at baptism and for staying with us throughout our lives. We may ask Jesus once again to remain in our hearts forever and to forgive us for whatever would block Him from staying with us. We may intercede for a friend who, like Zacchaeus at the beginning of the passage, has not yet found God or who has lapsed from the Church, or we may simply praise and bless Jesus for being the Son of Man and the Son of God. Again, the possibilities are endless, but essentially, during oratio, we pray to God by echoing His words back to Him and bringing before Him all that we have discovered in our reading and meditation. (49) This prayer strengthens our relationship with the God and imprints His words more deeply into our minds and hearts as we rush to meet Him, responding to what we have heard Him say, like a child imitates the words of his or her father. Then, after we have prayed, after we have followed our hearts and cried out to God, after the words that we have internalized have poured out of us back to their Author, we may return to the Scriptures for further nourishment, for additional reading, for more meditation, or if God wills, we may be swept up into the fourth dimension of lectio divina, the contemplatio.

The Practice of Contemplatio
          The word “practice” is not particularly accurate when we are speaking of contemplatio, for this dimension of lectio divina differs from the other three in that it requires no effort from us at all. We do not “practice” contemplatio; we accept it as a gift from God. Moreover, when we attempt to define contemplatio or describe its effects, even the most articulate of us find that words fall short of properly capturing this experience. We can say, however, that contemplatio is a “very highly personal experience of God” in which the soul stands in a joyful silence in the presence of the Lord, (50) Casey adds that contemplation is “a change in consciousness marked by two elements...there is a recession from ordinary sensate and intellectual awareness is being possessed by the reality and mystery of God.” (51) In contemplation, we do not think, and we are not aware (or at least not as aware) of the sensory world around us. In the deepest, most hidden part of our souls God is touching us, and we are standing within His embrace, just looking at Him, feeling Him, enjoying Him, and receiving Him. We are in the midst the greatest possible intimacy with God on this side of Heaven. In fact many Fathers and theologians have called contemplatio a foretaste or prelude of Heaven, of the beatific vision. (52) In contemplation, then, we glimpse eternity; we are caressed by God.
          Are we swept up into contemplation every time we practice lectio divina? Certainly not! God decides when He wants to give us this gift. Lectio divina helps us to prepare our hearts to partake of this intimate union, to receive God, but just going through the “steps” of lectio, meditatio, and oratio will not automatically lead to contemplatio. Our relationship with God is deepened and strengthened in each dimension. We reach up to Him. He touches us. But contemplation will elude us if we have not properly prepared our minds and hearts, cultivating the proper dispositions, or if God chooses to withhold the fullness of His presence for a while in order to increase our desire for Him, to teach us to repent of our sins and correct our faults, or to preserve us from the dangers of spiritual pride. (53) We must not become discouraged, however, for while we cannot reach contemplation on our own, we can continue to prepare for it as best we can by reading God's word, meditating on it, and offering to God our sincere and heart-felt prayers . We would also do well to remember that there are levels or gradations to contemplation. Most people will never experience the deep ecstasies or rare mysticism of the saints, but all Christians have the opportunity to reach “astonishing intimacy” with God, to look at Him in wonder and admiration, to sit with Him in peaceful silence. (54) We are, after all, His children. If we are baptized and in a state of grace, His is present, indwelling the deepest part of our souls, the hidden soul that is beyond our senses, beyond our intellect, beyond our emotions, but still very real and still filled with the God Who waits there for us to seek Him, as we do in lectio divina, so that He can draw us to Himself in a relationship of greater intimacy than we could ever imagine.

          We have covered much ground in this two-part introduction to lectio divina. We have defined the practice, examined its dimensions, and analyzed its “what,” “who,” “why,” “when,” “where,” and “how.” Along the way, we have seen how lectio divina is ultimately about encountering God in the “love letters” of Sacred Scripture and about building, deepening, and strengthening our relationship with Him through reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation. We have learned that lectio divina can be a “source of life and renewal” for us if we approach it with the proper dispositions. (55) All that remains now is to open our minds and hearts to God in His Word and begin practicing lectio divina, If we do, we shall discover riches beyond all telling, guidance for our journey, light for our lives, and most importantly, God Himself.

47. Masini, 51; Casey, 61-62.
48. Masini, 63; The Catechism of the Catholic Church, (accessed 27 June, 2009).
49. Masini, 61-64; Magrassi, 112-115.
50. Masini, 93.
51. Casey, 39.
52. Magrassi, 104.
53. Guigo II, 77.
54. Magrassi, 116-118.
55. Casey, 98.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Lectio Divina - Part 9

The Practice of Lectio
          We may now turn our attention to the actual “work” of lectio divina. We will examine some essential elements in the practice of each of the four dimensions, lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio, focusing especially on how everything we do as part of lectio divina can draw us closer to God.
          Lectio, or reading, initiates lectio divina. We begin by choosing a Biblical text. We may, as Masini suggests, follow the liturgical readings, perhaps concentrating on the daily Gospel or psalm. (33) Magrassi, too, proposes that we follow the liturgical cycle both to prepare for and continue our “liturgical hearing” of Scripture, but Casey advises us to choose one book of the Bible and commit ourselves to working through it from beginning to end in order to preserve what he calls “the integrity of the text.” (34) We might also select texts along a particular theme, like sacrifice or love, or simply choose a passage that attracts our attention and touches our heart.c(35) More advanced practitioners of lectio divina may find appropriate lectio material in other sources, like liturgical texts or the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, but beginners should generally remain within the Sacred Scriptures, for there they are certain of meeting God Himself. (36)
          With a chosen text before us, we may now begin lectio divina. We should start by offering a prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to guide us in our reading and open the Bible to us so that we can encounter God and enter into dialogue with Him. We may compose a prayer of our own, thereby taking ownership of the process of lectio divina from the very beginning, or we may use a pre-written prayer, being careful to make the words our own as we recite it. If possible, the prayer should be said aloud to bring our minds to attention, to focus us upon the task at hand, and to to connect us with God.
          We will then begin to read our chosen text slowly and attentively, savoring each word and allowing the text to imprint itself on our minds, to present its images, and “to trigger memories and associations” (37) We must remember that we are not reading merely for information or enjoyment. We are reading to meet God, Who is present in a real but mysterious way in each word of the Bible. If we find it helpful, we can read the text out loud, for vocalizing employs more of our senses and opens new “points of contact” between the words and our psyches. (38) Some authors further suggest writing the text longhand as a way to assimilate it more deeply. When we've read the text through once (ten to twenty verses or fewer are enough to capture a passage without overwhelming us), we must return to the beginning and start over, this time reading slowly and attentively until something in the text, a word, a phrase, or an image, catches our attention. At this point we are ready to move into meditatio, to begin “chewing” the text we have just read. It is worth noting, however, that a few repetitions of the passage may be necessary, especially for beginners, to discover the “trigger” that will lead to meditation. There is nothing wrong with this. Patiently and calmly reading and re-reading the Scriptures is a prayer in itself because, as we do so, we place ourselves in the presence of God, Who is meditated through the written word. (39) Further, human beings by nature require repetition. The more we read, hear, or experience something, the better we understand it. This holds true for the Bible, too. The more we interact with the text, the more we repeat it, the more it becomes part of us. We must also mention that during lectio we should take time to make sure we understand (at least in part) our text's “literal sense,” that is, its literary and historical meaning or “the meaning the sacred writers really intended, and what God wanted to manifest by means of their words.” (40) We might, for instance, look up any words we do not know. We might examine a few commentaries to familiarize ourselves with the historical context, literary genre, and theological importance of the passage. We might also think about how the words and phrases are put together grammatically to tell a story, present a prophecy, or compose a poem. If we are curious, we might even look up a few words in their original language to appreciate their range of meaning. (41) Our goal is to gain knowledge about our passage, for the more background we have, the more likely we will be to accurately hear the message God is giving us through these human words of Scripture. Further, if we put in a little work, a little effort, we will quickly come to feel like this is our own special text, one that God has spoken directly to us.

The Practice of Meditatio
          We have now read our selected text, probably several times. We have studied it a bit, too, and perhaps even applied ourselves to some background information concerning it. We have listened to God speaking to us through these words, which have probably become quite familiar to us. Now we must uncover the depths of meaning concealed within this passage. We must practice meditatio, the dimension in which we get to “the heart of the matter,” as Guigo says, and “examine each point thoroughly.” (42) We “chew” or ruminate on the text we have read, re-reading it again and again as we go along, but now pondering each word, phrase, or image that presents itself to our minds as a point of interest. We may begin by asking questions of the passage, or of a particular portion of it, as we try to discover what it tells us about God and how it might apply to our lives and to the life of the Church as a whole. (43) For instance, if we were meditating on the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector in Luke 19:1-10, we might be “caught” by the very first verse, “He [Jesus] came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.” (44) We may wonder, “Why was Jesus in Jericho in the first place?”; “”Where was Jericho, and did it have any special significance?”; Why did Jesus intend to pass through and not stay?”; “What happened to make Him change His mind?”; “Why was it important for Luke to tell us this?”; “How does Jesus 'stay' in the Church?”; “Has He ever come to me only to 'pass through' because I did not, for whatever reason, allow Him to stay with me?”; “What must I change about myself, and ask Jesus to help me change, so that He will remain in me?” The possibilities are endless. We should spend as much time as we need to answer the questions raised by the text, perhaps even returning to commentaries and reference books to assist us in clarifying points that we cannot puzzle out on our own. We should also pay close attention to the imagery, the word pictures, of the text, especially if it is a poem or a narrative. We might think, for example, of Zacchaeus sitting up in his tree craning his neck to see Jesus. After we chuckle a bit (yes, there is humor in the Bible), we might ask ourselves whether we would be willing to look foolish to others in order to see Jesus.
          “Why must I do this,” a beginner in lectio divina may ask. “The Bible is the Word of God, right, so why should I put in all this effort? If the Holy Spirit guides me in lectio divina, shouldn't He just give me something to meditate on?” The Holy Spirit does indeed guide our meditation, and He does mysteriously lead us to particular images and words and suggest questions for us to ponder. He even performs the role of “exegete,” helping us grasp the message of Scripture. (45) But in doing so, He uses our minds, and He encourages us to use them, too! God has given us wonderful gifts, our reason, our intellect, our imagination, our memory. He wants us to exercise these as we ponder His Word, which itself is His gift to us. We must remember, too, that the Bible is both human and divine, and therefore, Scriptural meditation requires both human effort and divine guidance. (46) Meditatio may be intimidating at first, particularly to those who do not have much experience with the Bible, but if we come to the text with the proper dispositions, especially commitment, discipline, perseverance, and love, our meditation will grow and blossom into a greater understanding of the Sacred Scriptures, an awareness that we can and must make the Bible our own, a conviction that God is offering us a unique and personal message through His Word, and a desire to return His words to Him in prayer.

33. Masini, 80.
34. Magrassi, 106; Casey, 5.
35. Masini, 80.
36. For a detailed explanation of practicing lectio divina using the texts of Tradition, see Casey, 103-131.
37. Casey, 83.
38. Ibid.; Masini, 81.
39. Masini, 53.
40. Casey, 63; Second Vatican Council.
41. Ibid., 65-66.
42. Guigo, 70,
43. Magrassi, 91-97
44. Luke 19:1 NAB (New American Bible).
45. Masini, 10.
46. Magrassi, 54.