Christian Meditation is prayer which aims to develop a contemplative way of life.
In the teaching of Christian Meditation to children, as in any teaching of prayer, it is recommended that the teacher be familiar with the practice of Lectio Divina.
It is a practice at the basis of the Benedictine way of life in particular, and of Christian prayer in general. Lectio is foundational to all teaching on prayer.
Because the word became flesh, the flesh becomes word.
Lectio Divina is a method of prayer that involves a slow meditative reading, usually scripture, in search of personal contact with God.
Lectio is an unhurried process to which we need to bring a spirit of attention and faith with a willingness to be changed. We must quieten body and mind to bring our whole person to a single focus. Lectio is a good practice to foster in children as we teach them the process of meditation as prayer. There are four elements in Lectio:
Introduction to Lectio Divina
It is impossible to measure the outcome of faith development within students. Yet the fruits are self-evident. So we can approach our teaching in ways that create the best conditions for our students to develop in all dimensions including the spiritual.
In teaching Christian Meditation to children or young people - as in all teaching of prayer - it is very helpful for the teacher to be familiar with another related form of prayer in the tradition called Lectio Divina.
This is a personal, interior encounter with the Word of God in Scripture that is essential for the development of a Christian identity.
It is foundational to any teaching of prayer. It is useful for teachers to use some of the aspects of Lectio in their work.
Lectio Divina is an attentive, meditative reading of a sacred text, seeking the truth in contact with God.
Lectio is an unhurried process. It is not analysing the text but 'ruminating' or 'chewing' on it.
This approach cultivates a spirit of prayer and faith and so opens us to be enriched and changed by what we find. First we need to quieten the body and mind and bring our whole person to attention. into a single focus. This helps the child or young person to prepare for meditation as 'pure prayer'.
Lectio is still a form of mental prayer. But it opens the door to the prayer of the heart.
What are the implications of these elements in Lectio for teaching meditation to children?
Lectio is a repeated reading of the text. It helps the student to read deeply by listening interiorly to all levels of meaing. This happens through the silence developed by the exercise of attention. It is an ideal way of preparing for the imageless prayer of Christian Meditation. Careful Lectio brings the student to feel that the words of the scripture carry the Word of God into their hearts now. The text may yield something different next time but now it awakens in us what we need to know in this moment. We can teach children and young people how to be receptive to the Word of God as this 'living and active' force. It cultivates a love of sacred scripture in all who feel this. By leading into deeper silence a text of scripture can dispose us to love and trust.
This step is an inward movement, from repletion of the words to a discovery of its meaning for us now. We should let students discover how to allow the Word of God, intimately prayed, to open their hearts. So we can remind them, when they listen to or read scripture before the silence of Christian Meditation, to dwell on the works in leisure. This helps them to discover for themselves that the goal of prayer is not thoughts or images about God but deep intimacy and union with the God who is. As St Catherine of Sienna said, "My me is God nor do I know myself except in Him." The stages of Lectio prepare for the simplicity and stillness of the mantra
This is a stage of prayer with scripture that allows us to rest in complete trust in God's love and concern for us as we are now. At times this might find expression in words but more often as a silent offering of one's self in a deep and peaceful 'thy will be done.' "O god, our hearts are made for thee, and they shall be restless until they rest in thee." (St Augustine). In this stage of prayer the student learns how to entrust all aspects of their lives to God and so to put aside all defences, masks and posturing. This opens a powerful sense of sincerity in their prayer and the many words reduce to the 'one little word' of the mantra.
Here we discover that contemplation - the essence and meaning of prayer - is pure gift, simple grace. We don't earn it and no technique achieves it. But we need to know how to be ready for it. God then takes over. We can teach the young how to get ready by becoming simple, still and silent. "Be still and know I am God."
We need to teach the young that they can discover reality and recognise it. They can live in harmony with it and so make their world a more enlightened place.
Prayer teaches the young that all our actions affect the quality of life and affect the people around us especially those we are closest to. Meditation shows how prayer leads to sensitivity to others and flowers in compassion.
Teaching meditation to the young shows them - through their own experience - what it means to be contemplative in daily life.
To develop this spiritual orientation certain practices - Christian Meditation, Lectio, the Eucharist - assume special value. This lets them discover that being contemplative means having all our actions in harmony with our true centre. We are then less controlled by the ego's needs for security, esteem, affection, power or control. All of life becomes motivated by innner freedom arising from the true self and empowers us to make good choices and act responsibily.
We need to teach our children that they can shape the reality they have received and they are also to influence the way the world is, sounds and feels.
We can teach our children that our actions then affect the quality of life experienced by all with whom we come in contact.
One of the aims of teaching meditation to children is to see that if we become contemplative in our action our motivational centre is now within. Our actions are no longer controlled by our ego needs for security, esteem, affection, power or control. Our activity is motivated by inner freedom and comes straight from the true self, energising us to make wiser choices and to act responsibly.