What Sustains Me: Lectio

By Joan Chittister 06-25-2009

Editor's note: In "What Sustains Me," an article in the July issue of Sojourners magazine , we asked social activists from John Perkins to Bishop Vashti McKenzie to share how they stay refreshed while working for social justice. Below is the response from Joan Chittister.

There is one and only one spiritual discipline that fuels everything I do. It is what the Benedictine monastic tradition calls "lectio" or the sacred reading of scripture. Daily reflection on the laments of the psalmist, the continual cries of the prophets, and the life of Jesus who walked from Galilee to Jerusalem "healing the sick, raising the dead, and contesting with scribes and pharisees" for their sake stretches my soul beyond my own boundaries to hear the voices of those who wait to hear our own on their behalf.

Then, every day I am reminded that the work is not over, the struggle for justice is still unfinished, and those who have been left out of the plans and designs and discussions of the designers still wait for us to speak.

This daily reading and reflection on the scriptures reminds me always what my life, what the Christian life, is really meant to be about.

This discipline of 'lectio '-- of sacred reading -- is built into the Monastic schedule twice every day of our lives. It forms the backbone of the community prayer at least three additional times a day. It is the cement of all the passages, chapters, and topics of the Rule of Benedict. It is, in other words, the very breath we breathe.

And eventually, slowly, unerringly, over time, like water on a rock, it begins to seep into the monastic soul. It becomes the sacred song of the heart. It changes us so that somehow, someday, we will find the courage and the character and the energy to go on trying to change the world around us.

And is it worth it? Indeed. Surely if the people will lead, eventually the leaders will follow.

portrait-joan-chittisterJoan Chittister is a Benedictine nun, founder and executive director of Benetvision, and co-chair of the Global Peace Initiative of Women. Click to read more about the spiritual disciplines of social activists.

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