Broken Body, Healing Spirit

Lectio Divina and Living with Illness

Mary C. Earle

Jul/2003, 120 Pages, Paperback, 5.5 x 8.5

ISBN-13: 9780819219282



In the summer of 1995, Mary Earle returned from a vacation feeling refreshed and restored from her time away. A few days later, all that changed, when she was rushed to the emergency room with a case of acute and life-threatening pancreatitis. Being ill, she discovered, forces you to learn to live in whole new ways, ones often marked by limitation and fragility.

As a priest and spiritual director, Earle began to explore ways in which her own prayer life might help her build a different relationship with her illness. Using the Benedictine practice of lectio divina, or sacred reading, she began to "read" her own illness, and discovered a way of befriending and helping to heal--if not cure--her body and her life.

In Broken Body, Healing Spirit, Earle introduces this strategy to others who are hungry to find ways of living more fully despite chronic or serious illness or pain. Her practical, step-by-step approach to "reading the text of our illnesses," and learning to listen to what our bodies are trying to tell us will be of help to those who are currently suffering with disease or limitations, as well as to those who are caregivers and counselors.

Mary C. Earle is a poet, author, and spiritual director, who taught at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas. She has written ten books about spirituality. Her titles include Marvelously Made, Days of Grace, The Desert Mothers, and Broken Body, Healing Spirit. She resides in San Antonio, Texas.

"Through her personal struggle with debilitating illness, Mary Earle learned to listen deeply to the language of her body. This moving account, which includes the stories of others dealing with sickness, offers simple yet profound models for prayer based on the ancient Benedictine wisdom of Lectio Divina. Whether readers are facing long illness, dealing with past wounds or recovering from sudden trauma the book will provide gentle guidance that makes prayer possible in hospital, sick room, physician's office or during diagnostic and remedial treatments. By paying attention to physical pain and emotional stress comes the discovery of holy Presence and even joy in the experience of illness. The authenticity of this book shines through its pages to support healing and hope." —The Rev. Elizabeth Canham

"Writing with the authenticity of one who has 'been there,' Mary Earle offers compassionate and practical guidance to those suffering from serious, chronic, and terminal illness. Her adaptation of the ancient Benedictine practice of lectio divina is creative and inviting: through carefully structured exercises the sufferer is led to 'read' not only Scripture but her body and her illness prayerfully. The tone of the book is warm and supportive, always aware of the physical and emotional limitations of the reader. Although it is intended primarily for the person living with illness, Broken Body, Healing Spirit is also a valuable resource for anyone ministering pastorally to the sick." —Margaret Guenther

"Mary Earle's creative use of the spiritual practice of lectio divina invites readers to seek God in times of illness through a careful process of listening that resists easy answers and yet offers life-giving hope. Wise and gentle, this book offers practical guidance to a generation of Christians who live at some distance from both their bodies and their souls." —Frederick W. Schmidt, author of When Suffering Persists

"Mary Earle brings her fine qualities to this book - clarity of mind, depth of spirit and an integrated experience of brokenness. She does all of this with passion, imagination and rare sensitivity." —Philip Newell, author of Echo of the Soul: The Sacredness of the Human Body

"The anecdotes relating to the personal experience of people with debilitating conditions, and the practical exercises, illustrate in a tangible way how to read the text of one's body with scripture, imagery and art and how to build hope when faced with life's challenges...Mary Earle offers hope and healing to sick people, even in the absence of a cure. The application of this non-conventional process might best serve the sick person if practiced as a way of life for Christians whose bodies and souls are fragmented. A valuable resource for counselors and those ministering to the sick." —Bev Harvey, Anglican Journal

"...Providing practical tips for implementing the discipline's practices of silencio, lectio, meditatio, and oratio, she describes a process by which the afflicted person may move beyond explanation for illness to divine encounter, an opportunity to know Christ and the power of his resurrection in the bodily suffering an illness. Earle effectively provides an antidote to the modern tendency to think that being spiritual requires experiences of happiness, peace, prosperity, and good health." —The Rev. John G. Lewis

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