Personal Musings: September 2006 Archives

More Thoughts on Lectio Divina

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I think that the best book I ever read on lectio divina is one by Denys Gorce. I read it back in 1972 and I think it was entitled, La lectio divina dans le milieu de saint Jérôme. It left its mark on me. Then there was William of St–Thierry's classic, The Golden Epistle or The Letter to the Brothers of Mont–Dieu, and Guigo the Carthusian's Scala Claustralium, The Ladder of Monks. Sometime later in the 70s, I read the French translation of Enzo Bianchi's book on the same subject, Prier la Parole. It is now available in English as Praying the Word: An Introduction to Lectio Divina.

I find it a little disquieting that lectio divina has become a trendy phrase in some circles. There are a lot of pop–spirituality publications in Catholic bookstores that claim to present an introduction to lectio divina. Most of them, especially those written from outside the monastic tradition, fall short of doing that. Folks use the expression lectio divina without knowing what it really means. I have heard it used to describe reflections on the Word of God in a group, meditative reading of any pious text, and a systematic cover–to–cover reading of the Bible. It is none of these things. So, what is lectio divina?

The primary form of lectio divina is corporate and ecclesial; it is the Church herself hearing the Word, repeating the Word, praying the Word, and abiding in the Word, all within the context of the Sacred Liturgy (Divine Office and Mass). The corporate lectio divina of the Church, be it within the Divine Office or the Mass, has a Eucharistic finality. The movement is always from the ambo to the altar.

The secondary form of lectio divina is solitary and personal; it derives from the first and even imitates its pattern. It prepares one for the Sacred Liturgy and prolongs it.

The solitary and personal form of lectio divina is:

1. A kind of liturgy of the Word celebrated in solitude.
2. Patterned after the Church's corporate lectio divina: the Night Office (Vigils) with its rhythm of reading, responsory, and prayer, and after the Liturgy of the Word of the Mass.
3. Honours the discipline of obedience to the liturgical lectionary.
4. Best done in the same place and at the same time each day.


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My sister, Donna M. Kirby Cable learned today, on the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel, that she passed the Connecticut State Bar Examination. We are all very proud of Donna. Donna is married to Wayne Cable; they have two children: Sean and Lauren. The Cables live in Woodbridge, Connecticut.

A Little Boy and the Statue He Loved

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Michael Dennis Kirby
March 20, 1959 — November 25, 1998

When I was growing up, there was a statue of Saint Vincent de Paul in our home. More exactly, it was in the bedroom of my younger brother Michael, and it was his statue.

Little Michael had shortened Saint Vincent de Paul's rather long name to “Saint-Vincenty.” He met “Saint Vincenty” when he was taken to the Hospital of Saint Raphael in New Haven, Connecticut for a surgical procedure on his arm. He couldn’t have been more than five years old at the time. Saint Raphael’s was staffed by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth (Convent Station, NJ), spiritual daughters of Saint Vincent.

A lifesize statue of Saint Vincent de Paul figured prominently in the hospital. The statue depicted him with three poor children; one child was in his arms and the two others were huddled in the folds of his cloak. For some reason, little Michael was very taken with this saint who loved children, and wanted to have a statue of his own.

Mom and Dad found exactly the right statue at the Saint Thomas More Book Shop on Chapel Street in New Haven, and bought it for him. For many years “Saint Vincenty” watched over Michael from atop a chest of drawers, becoming chipped and battered, but no less loved.

How did a seventeenth century French priest become a comforting presence in the life of a little boy in New Haven, Connecticut? There were, of course, the obvious mediations: the Hospital of Saint Raphael and the impressive statue. But none of this would have happened had Saint Vincent de Paul not opened his heart to the Word of God, to the Charity of Jesus Christ, and to the voices of the little and the poor.

I am thinking today of the important work that my friend Terry Nelson at Leaflet Missal and others like him do. They make images of the saints available to little children, influencing their lives, and stimulating their imaginations with "sacred signs." Every little boy should have his favourite saint . . . and an image of him (or her) close at hand.

Buona festa, Fra Damiano!

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Brother Damiano Maria, O.Cist. of the Abbey of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome celebrates his patronal feast today. Brother Damiano, "truly seeking God" as Saint Benedict says in the Holy Rule, brought his marvelous smile from Zambia to Rome. Together with English Brother Giuseppe–Benedetto, he made simple monastic profession on June 24, 2005. Santa Croce in Gerusalemme is an international monastic community living at the heart of the Church. Its members hail from Italy, Roumania, Mexico, the United States, England, Zambia, and Sweden. A daughter house opened this past August in Guadalajara, Mexico. The monks of Santa Croce combine the liturgical service of the Divine Majesty, lectio divina, and Eucharistic adoration with the pastoral care of pilgrims to the Sacred Relics of the Cross and Passion in the Basilica and other forms of service to the Church. If you are interested in this expression of monastic life or know someone who may be, contact me.


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Joy of wild wind and wetness
Fresh in my face and playing in my hair
And seagulls in the waves
To feed with bits of bread.

Michael Colin Kirby turned three years old on June 2nd and began pre–school two weeks ago. Besides running on the beach, learning about dinosaurs, fishing with his Dad Terence, and spending time with Mom Sandy and little sister Mary, he kisses icons, lights candles, and attends the Divine Liturgy on Sunday with his wonderful godmother Elisa Maistrellis–Ryng.

Saluti da Benevento!

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There is something of a personal connection to San Gennaro. He was bishop of Benevento in Campania during Diocletian's persecutions in the year 305. One of my maternal great–grandfathers, Giuseppe Martino came to the United States from Gioia–Sanitica in the Province of Benevento; his wife, my great–grandmother Rosina Biondi was from Faicchio in the same province.

Giuseppe and Rosina Martino raised their family — my grandmother Adelina was the eldest — in a little white house on Daisy Street in the Highwood section of Hamden. They made their own wine, their own pasta, and their own sausage. They grew their own vegetables. To me, the cellar of that house was a magical place fragrant with dried basilico and other herbs. The wine was kept there too.

The roots of our family's Italian Catholic heritage are soaked in the blood of the martyrs. It grieves me that some of the descendents of Giuseppe and Rosina have forsaken the faith of generations. The joyful transmission of the faith is a sacred responsibility.

Fire for a World Grown Cold

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Never underestimate the effect of an image on the memory and imagination of a child. The image of the stigmata of Saint Francis of Assisi profoundly marked my childhood. Shining with jewel-like colors, a window depicting Saint Francis receiving the stigmata illuminated the south transept of my parish church. Later on, in my missal, I discovered the Collect for the Commemoration of the Holy Stigmata (formerly celebrated on September 17th). It remains, to this day, a prayer that speaks to my heart. My long association with the Poor Clares of Bethlehem Monastery in Barhamsville, Virginia, inspired me to share it with you:

Lord Jesus Christ,
who didst reproduce,
in the flesh of the most blessed Francis,
the sacred marks of thy own sufferings,
so that in a world grown cold
our hearts might be filled with burning love of thee,
graciously enable us by his merits and prayers
to bear the cross without faltering
and to bring forth worthy fruits of penitence:
Thou who art God,
living and reigning with God the Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
for ever and ever.

A Special Day for Little Mary

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Call me a foolish old uncle, but I just can't help it! This is our little Mary. Before Mary's birth on March 17, 2005, my brother Terence prayed "Hail Mary" after "Hail Mary." (And Terence is not the poster boy for piety!) It was then that Terence and Sandy decided to name their little girl Mary. When Terence was a little baby, I — being not only his older brother but his godfather as well — took him to church one day and placed him on the altar of the Blessed Mother, consecrating him to her. Our Lady has looked after Terence! Little Mary too was entrusted to the Holy Mother of God on the day of her baptism in Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church in Hampton, New Hampshire.

Speaking of Maria Bambina . . .

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This is my very own Maria Bambina, my one–year old niece Mary Elizabeth Kirby. Little Mary is climbing into the bird seed barrel while her brother, three–year old Michael Colin Kirby is busy replenishing the bird feeder. Beautiful children!

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

Donations for Silverstream Priory