Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Mount Angel Seminary Holds Symposium on Lectio Divina

Story and photo by Philip J. Shifflet

St. Benedict, Ore. — On Tuesday, March 17, Mount Angel Seminary held its annual formation symposium. This year, Fr. Michael Casey, OCSO, was the keynote speaker. Fr. Casey is a renowned writer on monastic spirituality. He is a Cistercian monk of Tarrawarra Abbey in Victoria, Australia. His books include Seventy-Four Tools for Good Living: Reflections on the Fourth Chapter of Benedict's Rule, Toward God: The Ancient Wisdom of Western Prayer, and Sacred Reading: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina.

From left to right: Rt. Rev. Peter Eberle, OSB, director of Human Formation at MAS; Rev. Michael Casey, OCSO; and Sister Judith Bloxham, associate director of Human Formation at MAS.



Fr. Casey’s symposium was on the practice of lectio divina, and it spanned across three conferences: two morning conferences and an afternoon conference. In the morning conferences, he gave a brief history of lectio divina, which is a slow, meditative reading of Sacred Scripture or other spiritual writings. Fr. Casey spoke of the importance of regularity in one’s sacred reading, the time allocation given to sacred reading in ancient monasteries, and the different types of books that were read by medieval monks. In the afternoon conference, he reflected on what he called the book of experience – the notion that “the full meaning of the Bible is yielded only through a relationship with God.”

Pastores Dabo Vobis, Pope St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on the formation of priests, discusses the importance of the Word of God in the life of a priest: “the priest himself ought first of all to develop a great personal familiarity with the word of God. Knowledge of its linguistic or exegetical aspects, though certainly necessary, is not enough. He needs to approach the word with a docile and prayerful heart so that it may deeply penetrate his thoughts and feelings.”
   
After the community Mass in the Abbey Church, the faculty, staff, students, and guests of MAS gathered in the Damian Center for the beginning of the formation symposium. The two latter conferences were followed by a period for questions. Symposia are a standard part of the formation program at MAS and typically focus on theological or human formation-related issues. Earlier this school year, to celebrate the inauguration of its Master of Arts in Philosophy program, MAS held a philosophical symposium with Prof. William Desmond, in addition to its annual theological symposium, this year with Rev. Msgr. Kevin Irwin.

Mount Angel Seminary, established by pioneer monks, began forming men for the priesthood in 1889. MAS is the oldest and largest seminary in the western United States, and the only seminary in the West that offers both a college and a graduate school of theology.  Since its inception 126 years ago, MAS has educated and formed thousands of priests for service to the people of God in nearly 100 dioceses and religious communities across the country and around the world.

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