Join the Advent Lectio Divina Challenge: 15 minutes a day in God’s Word for 30 days

Father Timothy Hepner invites an "army of pray-ers" to join him in meditating on Scriptures for 15 minutes a day in the Diocese of Peoria Advent Lectio Divina Challenge. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

By Father Timothy Hepner

Lots of people talk to God. But how often does he speak back?

How many of us, like Mary, actually believe in a God made flesh who is intimately involved in our lives, rather than just “the man upstairs”? How many of us dialogue with Him each day, sharing our hearts with Him and receiving what He has for us – personally, in our particular circumstances?

“Mary kept all of these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

“Mary conceived the word of God in her heart before conceiving him in her body. . . . She kept God’s truth in her mind, a nobler thing than carrying his body in her womb.” (St. Augustine)

There is a method that can help you spend all of Advent intentionally focusing on Jesus, so that, come Christmas, he will be made flesh in your everyday life. It’s an ancient method of prayer that has been exploding in the Church in recent years, mostly thanks to Pope Benedict XVI who said that this method is “truly capable of opening up to the faithful the treasures of God’s word, but also of bringing about an encounter with Christ, the living word of God.”

He was speaking of lectio divina, a practice of meditating on Scriptures which facilitates conversation with God.

My goal is to gather an army of pray-ers across the diocese from Nov. 25 to Dec. 25. I am deeply convinced this will transform the Diocese of Peoria. I will pray with you, and I will remind you. — Father Hepner

Mary must have spent those last few days of her pregnancy intently focused on the Word of God within her womb. So we, as the Church, can spend the days before Christmas intently focused on Jesus, the Word, in Scriptures. I want to make that possible for you. Let me first tell you briefly how to pray lectio, then I will give you a game plan for doing so, along with others throughout the Diocese of Peoria.


Lectio divina is not an exact scientific method, but more of a structure that enables us to hear the Word of God and dialogue with Him. It begins with reading a Scripture passage, preferably a few verses of one of the Gospels. We read it carefully once through without overthinking or analyzing. We simply note the words, phrases, or images that jump out at us.

The second step is to reflect. What thoughts, feelings, or desires does this passage elicit within you? Does it seem challenging, difficult to understand, inspiring, or hopeful? Hone in on the words or phrases that arose when you first read it. Slowly re-read it if needed.

Next, we respond to God. Share what’s on your heart, without holding anything back. If I’m convicted of a lack of faith, I ask for more. If I’m consoled, I thank Him. If I’m discouraged or prayer is dry, I tell Him this, too. The only requirement is that I’m authentic.

Finally, if the Holy Spirit leads me into it, I can rest in Him. This is the pinnacle of lectio, and it is a gift that we don’t always receive. It is the point in which we stop “doing” and focus more on “being.” Like Mary, we become simply receptive to the gift of His presence, without striving. If we’re not led to this point, it’s OK. Without being discouraged, we return to the previous steps. Read, reflect, respond, rest. Simple, yet so profound.


Do you think you can do this for 15 minutes a day for 30 days? If that seems daunting, remember that 15 minutes is barely more than one percent of your day. And you won’t be doing it alone! My goal is to gather an army of pray-ers across the diocese from Nov. 25 to Dec. 25. I am deeply convinced this will transform the Diocese of Peoria. I will pray with you, and I will remind you.

If you go online to and give me your contact information, I’ll send reminders as frequently as you like. We can even start a Facebook group to share our experiences. I’ll also send you a list of easy passages to pray with, as well as some books to help, if you’d like. Though the best thing to do is just cut out this article, stick it in your Bible, and place your Bible somewhere you’ll see it when you wake up in the morning.

But be careful. Because if you commit to this, your life will not be the same. Jesus will be part of it.

Father Hepner

Father Timothy Hepner is vocation director of recruitment for the Diocese of Peoria. Ordained in 2012, he resides at St. Mary Parish in Bloomington.

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