Visio Divina: A New Prayer Practice for Encounters with God
by Karen Kuchan, PhD
New York, NY: Crossroad, 2005
Reviewed by Laurie W. Basile
I might forget the biblical theology that under girds the practice ofVisio Divina. I might even forget the easy-to-follow directions on how to facilitate this type of prayer with another person. But I’ll never forget the gentle, strong, compassionate voice of Karen Kuchan as she spoke in her book Visio Divina: A New Prayer Practice for Encounters with God of the power of Visio Divina to heal painful memories and transform souls. Her ardent belief grounded in her own personal history, and in her spiritual directing experience is that love can and does find us “right in the midst of our mess, accepting us, healing us and empowering us to love” (p. 87) witnesses to her sure clear vision of the process of Christian transformation.
Kuchan, founder and president of The Incarnation Center for Spiritual Growth, in Pasadena, California, USA, gives the name Visio Divina to “a unique prayer practice with its roots both in the richness of the Catholic contemplative tradition and a biblically based understanding (1 Cor 12, Eph 4) of the role of the Spirit as mediated by the charisms of grace that facilitate healing of the soul” (p. 12). The “contemplative nature of Visio Divina encourages us to sink into God’s presence within, allowing thoughts and emotions to be released which interfere with experiencing union with God” (p. 27). We then ask to see where God is present in these thoughts, feelings and images and what God wants us to know through them. Through this process we encounter the unconditional love of God. Afterwards we reflect analytically on the prayer experience to come to a deeper understanding of our inner motivations and desires and the wounds that block the free flow of grace.
Written from a Christian perspective with appropriate biblical passages that speak to the psychological processes going on in transformation, Visio Divina can be used by spiritual directors, pastoral counselors, soul friends and others in the helping professions. The book is filled with both practical tips on how to facilitate Visio Divina and ample real-life stories of transformation from the lives of those who practiced Visio Divina while in direction with Kuchan. Their honest reflections on how this prayer practice transformed their lives speaks to the power of this prayer form.
“Until the source of the hurt and neglect is healed, it is hard to change the behavior. In Visio Divina God reveals those places of hurt and neglect and enables us to know God’s presence at the places where those experiences shape our behavior and limit our ability to love and be loved” (p.16). I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking healing or a personal encounter with the unconditional love of God.
Laurie Basile, MATS, is a spiritual director and retreat leader living the last two years in Paris, France. She is involved with multicultural contemplative prayer groups and has recently begun walking Le Chemin de Saint-Jacques de Compestelle (Camino de Santiago) starting from Vezelay, France.