Oct 05, 2022
Dan Riley, O.F.M., ’64, is known for his powerful prayers and reflections, drawing often from the beauty of nature and the strength of relationships.
Now, Fr. Dan, an alumnus of St. Bonaventure University and founder of Mt. Irenaeus, invites others on an ancient journey, seen through the eyes of a contemporary pilgrim, in his first book, “Franciscan Lectio: Reading the World through the Living Word” published by Paraclete Press.
An ancient tradition dating back to the third century, lectio divina has long served as an avenue of contemplative prayer practiced by monastics as they read Scripture. Few authors have attempted to universalize lectio using contemporary language or approach it from a Franciscan perspective.
Fr. Dan hopes to inspire one’s spiritual imagination in “Franciscan Lectio” through story, art, poetry, nature, Franciscan mysticism and Scripture – helping readers to see that all of life is unitive and sacred. He shares his experiences and Franciscan heritage on a journey influenced by Thomas Merton, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare of Assisi, among others.
“St. Bonaventure himself, one of the great teachers, would say, ‘Just look at everything. Let your senses come alive,’” Fr. Dan said.
He uses the style of a memoir to open stories from the Bona’s campus as well as the Mountain, welcoming the reader to reflect on their experience of St. Bonaventure and the world that they are in today.
“I invite us as Franciscan women and men … to experience what’s around you, feel it, sense it, listen, and then begin to reflect on it yourself. Lectio divina is an ancient, wonderful practice and what I’ve done in the writing of this book is to open it up to some personal stories and simple examples that would allow you and I to realize that wherever we sit, there’s a world and a life to read. And the word of God is alive and active not only in our reading, but the word is alive and active in hearing, listening and seeing everything,” Fr. Dan said.
An ordained Franciscan friar for more than 50 years, in recent years Fr. Dan found himself rediscovering the practice of lectio divina, “a wonderful opportunity to read, meditate, pray, contemplate and take forward the Word.”
“Franciscan Lectio,” which the author describes as an interpretive book, is divided into four parts following a model St. Clare offers – Gaze, Consider, Contemplate and Imitate – that readers are invited to explore with their own imagination.
In the book’s introduction, Fr. Dan writes, “Each creature is a vestige of God’s creative action and an expression of God’s loving Word. This is the blessing of Franciscan Lectio. It is truly panoramic at a time when anxiety narrows us. The habits or patterns integrated into a way of life that we see in the way of Francis and Clare and their followers show us that they ran into life, inspiring us to do the same.
“Lectio is about reading or focusing or listening long enough and deeply enough so that beauty, depth, and connectivity emerge. Peace and freedom inspire action and service,” he said.
As SBU’s national alumni chaplain, Fr. Dan is a fixture at alumni gatherings for the university’s more than 31,000 devoted alumni, just as he is a fixture at home basketball games to the current student body. Only more identifiable than his Bona brown baseball cap are his broad grin and distinct laugh.
Fr. Dan graduated from St. Bonaventure in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and joined the Franciscan Order in 1965, professing his first vows in 1966. He earned a master’s degree in theology from Washington Theological Union.
In 1971 he began his first assignment from Holy Name Province – create a campus ministry program at St. Bonaventure. He would go on to serve as the province’s vocation director as well as other assignments in Boston, New York City, Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Washington between 1974 and 1979, before returning to the campus ministry program at Bona’s and later establishing Mt. Irenaeus, Franciscan Mountain Community.
Established in 1984, Mt. Irenaeus is located about 20 miles from campus and welcomes members of the SBU community and visitors of all faith traditions to take time for reflection and renewal in the natural setting of the West Clarksville hilltop. In partnership with the university, Mountain on the Road gatherings of prayer and discussions are held throughout the academic year as an outreach to alumni and friends in various cities across the country. Fr. Dan also shares the peace of the Mountain community with friends online through his spiritual Instagram and Facebook posts and his regular podcast, “Clouds and Sun.”
Fr. Dan and the Mountain will be hosting a number of receptions and book reflections in coming weeks. To date, gatherings in Olean, Buffalo and Rochester have been scheduled. For more details, visit www.mountainonline.org/book. “Franciscan Lectio” is available through Paraclete Press as well as many online retailers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It was released on Oct. 4, 2022.
“Franciscan Lectio” was written with Stephen Copeland, a writer and storyteller who has collaborated on more than a dozen books. He is a regular columnist and feature writer for the St. Anthony Messenger and author of “Where the Colors Blend.” He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and Bible from Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana, and is pursuing a Master of Theological Studies degree from the University of San Diego’s Franciscan School of Theology.
About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure University is a community committed to transforming the lives of our students inside and outside the classroom, inspiring in them a lifelong commitment to service and citizenship. St. Bonaventure was named the #5 regional university value in the North in U.S. News and World Report’s 2022 college rankings edition.