So, apparently there’s a bit of a problem with Catholics and the Bible. It seems that most of us don’t read it much, the most we might hear are the readings each Sunday, but really, they often go in one ear and out the other.
On the other hand, our separated Protestant brothers and sisters in Christ, seem to enthusiastically absorb as much of the Word of God as they can! They often have weekly bible studies, Sunday church reading and sermon, listening to recorded sermons, and private DAILY reading of Sacred Scripture, such that they regularly make their way through the whole thing (minus the missing 7 books of course!).
Now, to be honest, this is really bizarre, for several reasons.
1. The Bible is the Catholic Church’s book. The New Testament authors were all Catholic, and the Church, with her authentic divinely-given authority, discerned the canon.
2. Catholics are in full communion with the Church Christ founded. It’s, quite frankly, embarrassing that people outside the Church seem to be better at treasuring and appreciating the precious gift that is God’s written Word.
3. Catholics (should) love Christ with all their heart, mind, soul and strength. Love grows with knowledge. Our primary source of knowledge about the Person of Jesus Christ is Sacred Scripture. As St Jerome puts it, “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”. OUCH. Many Catholics, in my experience, are fairly ignorant of Scripture.
(Obviously we Catholics do also have the amazing privilege of being able to intimately encounter Christ in the Eucharist, but that’s another story.)
So, what is to be done? If you feel you would like to become more familiar with the Bible, get ready. I’m going to list the ways that I have integrated Scripture into my life, which have borne tremendous fruit. Don’t attempt all of them at once- pick one or two, and see how you go. It takes a bit of time to see the benefits, but when you start to absorb parts of Scripture, and make them part of yourself and your prayer, the Holy Spirit works to let you see connections you never even dreamed of! These are possible because the Bible is an organic whole, even though it is composed of many different books from various contexts.
- Read the Mass readings from the Bible itself, rather than a Missal.Get some little sticky tab things. Look up the references for the readings, and mark the places with tabs, so you can flick to them quickly during Mass. Obviously you will need a fairly small bible, you don’t want to be lugging around some massive thing.
This has been the best thing I started doing, I think. It allows you to see the reading in their original context, and helps you remember where you read it-which book, and whereabouts in the book. Otherwise, you simply forget, as in Mass you only get a quick “A reading from the Letter of St Paul to the so-and-sos”, or whatever the case may be. It’s there in the Missal but seeing things in their proper context really really does help. This happens a lot with the Gospels too. I’ll be having a discussion with a Protestant, and I can think vaguely of something I’ve heard that might shed some light on whatever the topic is, but all I’ll know is, “I’m pretty sure Jesus said it, it’s somewhere in the Gospels… no idea where, but it’s there! I swear!”
- Go to Mass more often than just Sundays. If you can, daily! [It’s the single greatest change to my life I have ever made.] Why hello, phenomenal amounts of the Bible I’m now reading almost effortlessly, within a (overall) wonderfully planned lectionary.
- Pray the Rosary with Scripture.
When you pray the Rosary, instead of just reflecting on the mysteries using your memory and imagination, open up the relevant passages! It’s really helpful for concentrating on the meditation too. Most of the time these will be Gospel passages, as these are the most obvious. However, with a bit of research, you can find plenty of other passages from both the Old and the New Testaments that are either foreshadowing or explaining events in Our Lord’s life. Food for thought here is rich.
- Pray the Liturgy of the Hours.
If you don’t know what this is, it’s basically praying three psalms, three times a day, plus a few other small prayers and readings. It is the public prayer of the Church, and when you pray it, you pray it with the whole Body of the Christ, for the Body of Christ, and the whole world. It’s a ridiculously beautiful practice.You might be thinking, “but that’s just for priests and religious, right?” WRONG.
Sure, their lives might be structured best for it, and they have the time to say all of it, and they actually HAVE to say it. However, a fact that I think is little known is the following:
In Canon Law, it actually states that the laity are earnestly encouraged to pray the Liturgy of the Hours (aka the Divine Office). This phrase is also used to describe the degree to which priests are encouraged to say daily Mass!!! (I can look up the references for you if you’re not convinced.)
- Join/ start a Catholic bible study.
These are seriously great. I have attended an Anglican one for the past year, and can only imagine how much better it would be if it were Catholic!
I won’t go into the ins and outs of how you should go about starting one up, that has been treated elsewhere, but I will say this:
you should definitely work with the idea that we don’t read Scripture in isolation. We read it with the mind of the Church, in the Church. Have a solid commentary with you (eg, the Navarre series), the Catechism (the Biblical references index at the back is awesome), some commentaries from the Church Fathers, or St Thomas Aquinas. There are plenty of resources out there to help you see what God is saying without falling into heresy. 😉