“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word,
@@and my Father will love him,
@@@@and we will come to him and make our home with him." John 14:23


Lectio Divina with a group with Learning Disabilities

The following is a method or model for doing lectio divina with a group of people with learning disabilities. It is based on the experience of one of the leaders of a lectio divina group for older teenagers and young adults with very severe disabilities. Whilst trying to help those who would like to start out along this road it is not expected that all needs and capacities will be anticipated here.

There is no reason why not to found a lectio divina group amongst people with learning disabilities. People with disabilities have everything that is required to do lectio divina and usually are better able than able-bodied people to approach it with the simplicity and humility that it requires. Lectio divina is not an academic approach to the Word but is about listening to God’s teaching and putting it into practise in one’s life. The leaders simply need to be imaginative and adaptable in order for the experience not to be patronising.


Choose a short reading, no more than say 8 verses, preferably a gospel reading until the group has plenty of experience of lectio divina.

Two leaders should work together in a group for people with learning disabilities. The dynamic is likely to be difficult otherwise.

Always begin by saying in a few words what lectio divina is and hence what it is that we do and why we do it, i.e.:

Lectio divina is the search for God in his written word and a search after his message to me here and now.

Being a fast learner isn’t useful in lectio divina because it doesn’t depend on our ability. We are able to hear God through reading the Bible because it is the Holy Spirit who is teaching us. Therefore we always begin by asking the Holy Spirit lead us and change us.
By searching for God in this way you come to know and to love him more, and such contact with God makes you more and more able to serve God by loving others in the way that Christ loves them. 
It needs us to listen deeply so we do it with periods of silence. This lets you first understand what the text says and then really listen to what God says to you personally through it.
When we have listened to the reading in silence for a while we can then reply to God. We call the reply an “echo”. The echo can be words, pictures or they can be actions or they can be silent prayers of thanksgiving, saying sorry, praising, petitioning. 
Each person's response to the word of God is personal and different. This means that if our echoes are out loud we don’t speak for anyone else, only for ourselves. That means that we don’t say things like “this means we should…” but something more like “I thank God for so and so…” or “I think God is trying to get me to be a bit more…”

You don’t have to say all this every time but it is a good text to use if the group doesn’t meet regularly. Depending on the understanding of the group and how it advances you can start using your own words but these words here are a good starting point. If it is an irregular meeting, it is a good idea to say all the above in some way or another. The time taken is worthwhile. Take time to allow questions to be asked.

Do not hurry this beginning and ensure that enough time has been allowed.

Once everyone is ready, make an invocation of the Spirit:
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful
and enkindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created
and you will renew the face of the earth.

Read the reading right through at the beginning.

Allow a couple of minutes and then read it through again.

After the period of silence invite each person to make an echo.
If the leaders are aware that the group needs it then they can ask questions which help the
members to listen and to pray, e.g. “What does it make you think/feel…”, “Are there times in your life when you have an experience like X in this reading…”

The Echo

The way in which the echo is done is very much dependent upon the membership of the group, bearing in mind the considerations mentioned above.

A useful tool is a stone or something tactile that can be passed from one person to another.
When someone wants to make an echo they receive the stone. They don’t need to say anything but while they have the stone they can make their prayer response to God.
This is especially useful in a group where some or all of the members can not speak.
The stone means everyone focuses their own efforts to accompany the prayer of the person with the stone. It means that the empathy of the group members for each other becomes more tangible.
If physical disability prevents anyone from holding the stone, one of the leaders can move to help them hold it in their hand. There are surely many different ways in which the listening and the prayer involved in lectio divina can be intensified.

Once everyone who wants to has made their echo, read the reading once more.

Then say together:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning,
is now and forever shall be, world without end. Amen.

The group members can make petitions for themselves and others at this point.
In the practice of the group upon whose experience we are drawing, the work of the members is prayer. They are all too disabled to work physically but they are able to work considerable things by their prayers. People deliver written petitions to the group leaders which are kept in a little box. At the meeting the box is opened by one of the leaders and the petitions are read out one by one. Then the box is passed around the circle and each person holds their hand on it and prays for the people concerned. Because they have a regular meeting time, people who get to know about the group know that if they write down petitions they will definitely be prayed for within a week. The missionary sense of the community is very strong and they pray very hard.

Finish with the ‘Our Father’ and the sign of the Cross.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Page last updated on 16 February, 2015