I was thrown off by the question when it came, following my talk on lectio divina (the prayerful reading of Scripture) to a group of young adults: “Why should I do lectio divina instead of, for example, the Rosary? What does lectio do, that the Rosary doesn’t?”
The answer is rooted in the reason we pray in the first place: to connect with God. To be with him and come to know him. We pray because God invites us into relationship.
If God were a person asking to know me, we could friend each other on Facebook. We could go out to dinner, go for a hike. We could text or talk on the phone, visit each other’s families. But never would I choose just one of those. It’s the combination of many interactions that builds a relationship.
Lectio divina and the Rosary add different dimensions and depth to our relationship with God. They span time and space, drawing us into spiritual “rooms” where we can be with and come to know him.
The Rosary is like a time capsule.
The rosary takes you back in time to first-century Israel. It lands you in Nazareth, Bethlehem, Golgotha, the Upper Room. It puts you in the care of Mary, who walks you through the central events of our salvation. She takes you by the hand as you move along the beads, directing your attention to the Word who took flesh through her.
The Rosary helps us see. It makes us spectators and even participants in those key events, helps us enter their significance. With it, we can take our hopes, fears, pain and uncertainties to the foot of the Cross, to the all-powerful One who loves us.
Lectio divina also takes us somewhere else.
While the rosary might place us in the crowd along the Via Dolorosa to contemplate the Passion, for example, lectio divina pulls us to a place of quiet conversation where we can hear God speak into our own life and situations. The Church tells us,
In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly
to meet his children, and talks with them.
Read that again, if you haven’t before: Sacred Scripture – the Bible – is a place where God meets us for a loving conversation. It’s a spiritual family room, a place of encounter where God uses the words of Scripture to touch our hearts and lives.
Lectio divina helps us hear. When I use lectio divina to pray with Scripture, I’m not studying God, I’m listening. He’s in charge of the conversation. As I slowly read the Bible, he brings a word or phrase to mind. He shines it like a flashlight on my life, makes it personal to me. He gets involved with things that matter to me; plants his word in me like seeds with the potential to grow and blossom.
Because they both are ways to pray, the Rosary and lectio divina have much in common. But they aren’t interchangeable. Here are three ways to look at how they complement each other in their different strengths (recognizing that the list is not exhaustive, and both do other things as well):
1. In the Rosary, I go to meet God. With lectio divina, I let God into my personal space.
2. The Rosary helps me to see. Lectio divina helps me to hear.
3. In the Rosary, God says “look what I have done!” In lectio divina, he says “hear what I have to say to YOU.”
It’s not an either-or, it’s both-and. The Rosary tells his story; lectio connects it to our lives:
- “I know the plans I have for you,” Sarah, God tells me in Jeremiah 29:11.
- “I won’t let you be tried beyond your strength,” he says in 1 Corinthians 10:13.
- “Remain in my love,” he says in today’s Gospel (John 15:9).
All of these are things I know and can do because of the God who sent his Son to die for me, who sent his Holy Spirit, who did those things immortalized in the meditations of the Rosary.
 Dei Verbum, 21.
Looking for more?
- My favorite book on the Rosary is by Roman Guardini: “The Rosary of Our Lady.”
- The “Take it to Heart” tab on my website explains Lectio Divina and provides links to resources
- Search my blog with the tag “Lectio Divina.” A good place to start is a 4-part series called “Flourishing in Drought,” especially Part 4: Soaking in the Word. There you’ll find instructions for praying with Scripture using lectio divina along with a journal template.
- I’ve written two prayer journals that introduce praying with the Psalms using lectio divina. They are available in paperback or e-book from Amazon.com. Click on the pictures below for more information.
© 2014 Sarah Christmyer