The Church “forcefully and specially exhorts all the Christian faithful . . . to learn ‘the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ’ (Phil 3:8) by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures…. Let them remember, however, that prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that a dialogue takes place between God and man. For ‘we speak to him when we pray; we listen to him when we read the divine oracles.'” 4 (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2653)
The spiritual writers, paraphrasing Matthew 7:7, summarize in this way the dispositions of the heart nourished by the word of God in prayer: “Seek in reading and you will find in meditating; knock in mental prayer and it will be opened to you by contemplation.” 5 (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2654)
These four steps cited in the Catechism section on prayer–reading, meditating, mental prayer, and contemplation–form the four steps of what is called lectio divina (which literally means “divine reading”). It is an ancient process of praying with Sacred Scripture. In an address commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Vatican II document on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum), Pope Benedict XVI said regarding lectio divina, “If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church – I am convinced of it – a new spiritual springtime.”
In brief, the four steps are:
1. Reading (lectio) — close reading of Scripture with attentiveness of soul (not study or skimming)
2. Meditation (meditatio) — the mind searches out the knowledge of hidden truth in Scripture
3. Prayer (oratio) — the lifting of the heart to God in response to what has been found in meditation
4. Contemplation (contemplatio) — God raises the soul to himself; tastes the joys of communion with Him
To understand what these four steps mean, and how to put it into practice, you can read Dr. Tim Gray’s explanation of lectio divina.
Another option is to watch Dr. Tim Gray explain the process of lectio divina below:
4 DV 25; cf. Phil 3:8; St. Ambrose, De officiis ministrorum 1, 20,88: PL 16, 50.
5 Guigo the Carthusian, Scala Paradisi: PL 40, 998.