Is Visio Divina New Age?

st johns bibleWe recently had a question from a member of our GracePlace community who is concerned about an upcoming retreat at her parish, which will teach a method of prayer known as Visio Divina, and wondered if this is another New Age prayer gimmick.

I’m happy to report (for once) that Visio Divina is not New Age. In fact, it’s based on the centuries-old method known as Lectio Divina, which is a traditional Benedictine practice of reading Scripture and meditating on the Word. Lectio has four movements – read, meditate, pray and contemplate. Visio has six movements – listen, meditate, see, pray, contemplate, become Christ-like.

Barbara Sutton, Ph.D.

Barbara Sutton, Ph.D.

Usually prayed in a group setting, the first movement – listen – means to simply hear the Word read aloud. Second, the person meditates on what was read. Third, the person looks at a picture from the St. John’s Bible, which is a handwritten and illustrated rendition of the Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition of the bible created by Donald Jackson, official calligrapher of Queen Elizabeth and one of the world’s foremost calligraphers. (A copy of this bible is on display at the Vatican Museum.)  Fourth, the person prays to God, followed by the fifth movement, contemplation in which they reflect upon the movement of the Holy Spirit within them. The sixth movement is to discern what insights this verse may give them about becoming more Christ-like.

This process of prayer was developed by Barbara Sutton, Ph.D., who is the Associate Dean of Ministerial Formation and Outreach at St. John’s School of Theology in Collegeville, Minnesota and also serves as the director of the Seeing the Word Curriculum Project.

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