The following is a transcript from the Raised Catholic podcast. To listen to the podcast, click here.
Today is episode 6 – Catholics and the Bible
Well hello friends. If you were born and raised Catholic, your relationship to the Bible just may be limited to the readings you hear or have heard at Mass. Certainly, lay Catholics have not traditionally been super encouraged to dig into Scripture on their own without the lens and homily of a priest, but that’s really a shame because not only are you completely capable of the study and interpretation of scripture, there is so much there for you to discover in your growing relationship with God, so before we get much further here, let me quote the most frequently repeated encouragement in the whole Bible and it is this: Be. Not. Afraid.
My first memory of the Bible outside of Mass was as a child every Good Friday. I don’t know how she thought to do this, but on every Good Friday, my mother would gather me and my sisters together from noon until 3 pm and read through part of the scriptures together. We had that day off from school, so we’d sit in the kitchen in our pajamas and have mugs of tea and listen to her read and ask us questions about what we heard. And my memory is fuzzy here, but I’m sure there were years when we sleepily and grumpily sat there and endured it, and probably other years when there was a spark of something that made our mother keep going with that practice, but I definitely got the message from her that a Bible was not a pretty book to keep on a shelf or to display. The Bible was for opening, reading, and thinking about.
What I did not yet understand is the Bible as a living book – how the same readings you’ve heard over and over can speak to you in your present circumstance in a whole new way. Also, I did not know how some specific scriptures could make themselves known to you as “guides” through a particular season of life. I didn’t see the old stories as relevant to my modern life, didn’t know what to do when a passage challenged my thinking, didn’t know how to even approach reading it besides that thing where you send up a quick prayer or question to Heaven and then crack open the Bible and stick your finger on a page to find God’s response to your question. Like, the-Bible-as-fortune teller. Or maybe I’m the only one who ever did that. Okay, moving on.
I’ve heard the Bible described as a “love letter from God” but some of the more troubling passages make it hard to speak of it with such flowery language, like that time in the Book of Genesis when Abraham just about almost killed his son Isaac with a knife. Yikes, that’s a tough one. But in my very first Bible study, decades ago, our friend and parish priest Fr. Joe described the Bible as a collection of books – more like a library, with each book having its own purpose and intended audience within the story and plan of God. That was so helpful, and it gave me a great frame for further study.
So, friend, how can you move forward with Bible reading? I have a ton of ideas for you, but first I want to remind you that perfectionism has no role here. Maybe you’ll start a reading plan or practice and then fall behind with your goal. Maybe you’ll find the whole thing unfruitful and pointless and leave it for a time. It’s okay! Be patient with yourself, one page or day at a time.
And a reminder that all of these ideas and links will be found in today’s show notes, so no need to scribble anything down, but I would like to throw out a few ideas for you here. Maybe you like the idea of structure or themes with your Bible reading. Maybe you don’t want to read chronologically or in book order but really want practical application and community as part of your process. In that case, I highly recommend She Reads Truth and its companion, He Reads Truth, a website which offers free online reading plans and reflections plus an active and engaging online presence. Maybe you want to engage with one short reading at a time and really let it speak to you deeply on your own or in a group. You’d probably love an ancient practice called Lectio Divina. Maybe you like Bible readings and short commentary together presented in podcast form so you can take it on a walk or on your commute. Well, Fr. Mike Schmitz has a crazy popular podcast that will do just that for you every single day. Maybe you want to take on reading through the Bible yourself in the span of one year – there’s a wonderful book just for that called the One Year Bible. In mine, I have scribbled notes in the margins over multiple years, plus lots of underlined words and phrases, and as I look back, these are telling the personal story of how God has been leading me through His Word and helping me grow over time. I have little arrows and notes for my kids there too, and my 20-year-old daughter recently said it will be the first thing she snags after I leave this Earth. What a lovely thing for her to have said, like seriously lovely. That Bible is the last thing I read before I go to bed – it contains an old testament and new testament reading, a psalm and a proverb, and after all these years, it has become part of my own legacy too.
Whatever way you approach the Bible, it’s important to know that it is speaking with a variety of literary forms – history and poetry and prose and letters, and some of it may feel dense or frustrating to read at times. Some of it may not make any sense to you on the day you read it, but there will be a time when a word or a phrase or a story positively leaps out to you and you know in your spirit, that this is for you, personally. It has new color and vibrance. Somehow God’s word has become a beacon or a teacher or comfort or encouragement just when you needed it the most because God loves you without limits and wants to connect with you, His beloved child, and somehow, you’ll know that’s true as you read the words. That’s my prayer for you today, my friend, from the bottom of my heart.
If you have questions or want to reach out and chat on topic, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my blog which is mylittleepiphanies.com. And until next time, I have a blessing for you:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rains fall soft upon your fields.
‘Til we meet again, my friend, may God hold you and your dear ones in the very palm of His hand.
Thanks for listening and I’ll see you next time.