Rediscovering the love of reading (lectio) for our better future

an international on-line open debate around some ideas of Jean Leclercq

The bookL’amour des lettres et le désir de Dieu by Jean Leclercq OSB, published in 1957, offers an interesting perspective on a field which today seems to be as much neglected as it is relevant: reading as intellectual, affective, cultural and spiritual experience. The integrity of this approach is very important in our fragmented modern world, which prefers narrow specializations and alienation, despite the intensified globalization going on around the world. Another precious aspect of Leclercq’s idea is, it offers a fresh look at the past, with the intention of integrating the great but, unfortunately, often forgotten, monastic tradition with our present.

Our times, painfully marked by the pandemic, seem to reveal new perspectives for the culture of reading. The most recent statistics show a great crisis of reading, both in quantity and quality. The domination of images and digitalization have decisively transformed the modern mentality. The global experience of covid-19 put to the test this mentality and now is forcing us to rethink some values and ideas. One of these is the experience of reading. Facing the solitude and isolation of lockdown many people came back to reading, reactivating in this way the experience of monks, whose way of reading integrated both affective, spiritual and intellectual experience. For many centuries this was the basis of the whole spiritual tradition of lectio divina: lectio-meditatio-oratio-contemplatio, where a natural way of reading a Biblical text led organically toward an intimate confrontation with it. From there a transforming movement of spirit emerged, opening to a new perception of God and creation. The natural complement of this experience was the liturgical celebration and everyday life in a community. So, reading could also integrate spiritual and social experience. In this way, the theological dimension, discretely present in the personal practice of lectio divina, can be rediscovered and reinterpreted in the context of modern secularization. The project is proposed by Centre/Centro Jean Leclercq, active from spring 2020 by the Faculty of Theology of Pontifical Athenaeum Sant’Anselmo in Rome and gathering scholars from different universities, all inspired by the work of Jean Leclercq OSB.

The proposed Day of Studies is the first public activity of the Centre. Its intention is to inspire the participants (not only scholars and students) to reflect on reading and its possible role in our times. Thanks to on-line possibilities, we hope to stimulate an interactive exchange of reflection.