It had been a powerful demonstration of faith: they had left their homes in Chile in order to share their witness to Christ and to share their way of living and praying. Part of their work had been to help establish Lectio groups in the College and here, Ludwig Henckel Von Donnersmarck (T) Year 12 writes about his experiences of Lectio at Ampleforth.
We were lucky to have visits from Chileans throughout our time at Ampleforth. I had been told that they would usually come for a six month stay and then return home. In my second year, however, the Chileans came and made a home among us called the community of St Columba. Their house was at the bottom of St Thomas’ drive and they stayed with us in Ampleforth until December 2017. They worked in houses building friendships and helping students to learn to read the bible as a form of prayer, which is called Lectio divina. The idea was to support us as we established our own Lectio groups with friends and to help us become future Lectio leaders: to pass on what we had learnt from them to younger students joining the College.
So what is Lectio? It is a group of people joining together to read a short extract from the bible and sharing what the most striking part for them is and why. These personal shared reflections are known as echoes. Each lectio begins with an invocation to the Holy Spirit and by lighting a candle to symbolise the presence of Christ. Most often, we read the upcoming Gospel reading for Sunday but sometimes we might chose a passage at random. The Lectio ends with shared prayers and shared intentions, as well as the sign of peace.
To be honest, on occasion Lectio can feel time consuming and sometimes not the way you want to spend your free time but its real purpose and the outcomes it achieves are invaluable. The strange thing is that no matter how busy you might feel starting Lectio, finding the space for silence and contemplation always feels calming.
The friendships that you build through Lectio will always be very special friendships because you built them on the base of your faith and in the middle of your friendship is God himself. At Ampleforth we associate Lectio with the Gospel story about the road to Emmaus; in this story two disciples encounter the risen Christ: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
Lectio is also a way of sharing, as well as strengthening, your faith with your friends and your leaders. But much more it helps you to understand the Gospel in a personal way and prepares you for Sunday Mass: it is so much easier to listen to the homily and the Gospel as you have already thought about it, especially after you heard all the echoes from your friends, so that the homily becomes like an extended echo from a priest. Often our own echoes are re-echoed in the words of the homily.
Personally Lectio has been one of the greatest things in the life of my faith. It is not easy for a teenager to show their faith in these modern days. Thanks to Lectio, and the people who showed it to me, I was able to see how many students of my age still take their faith as seriously as I do and are still proud to stand up for it.
I would invite everyone to join a Lectio group or to have the courage to establish one because I can assure you that you won’t be alone. Lectio encouraged me not to be afraid to kindle the flame again, which now more than ever is burning in me for the love I have for Christ. I am proud again to stand up and proclaim my faith, as I know I am not alone.
Recently, our Lectio group in St Thomas’ has discovered a house treasure. It is a beautifully bound bible, an edition of the New Jerusalem Bible, as translated into English by Fr Henry. The bible contains a very special dedication to Fr Henry and lists the boys “who grew up like the New Jerusalem Bible itself under the care of Fr Henry Wansbrough in the years 1969 to 1981.” We have started using this bible for our Lectio readings, which feels like a special connection to the history of St Thomas’.