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How to Read the Bible

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The Bible is a Catholic book, but it’s 1000 pages thick and infinitely profound.  As families get ready to get back to school, one of the most common questions I’m asked is, “How should we study the Bible?

Catholic writers and conference speakers say alot on the subject, but the fact that almost no Catholics study the Bible regularly proves that their advice isn’t working too well.  It doesn’t help to send people to papal encyclicals or try and sell books about how to read the Bible.  What Catholic families need is practical help actually reading the Bible, consistently and productively, as a permanent part of their family life and culture.  As the owner of two businesses and father of ten, whose been studying the Bible for over 25 years, I know that most of the talk about Bible reading is inexperienced and unsustainable nonsense.

As families, we need to study the Scriptures daily.  God gave us the Scriptures to supply us with a constant source of direction and encourament as we live the Christian life in a constantly changing world.  St. Paul writes in Romans:

“Whatever was written previously was written for our instruction,
that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope.”

Again, he writes in 2 Timothy:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

Obviously, we’re not supposed to be living the Catholic life on a diet of saint movies and paperback books. We need to make the Scriptures our own.

How the CLAA Can Help

In the CLAA, we publish two programs to help Catholic families actually read and grow in the knowledge of the Scriptures.

If you plan to read Scripture daily with your children, you should consider following the Daily Scripture Reading schedule.  This schedule guides you through the Scriptures over the course of the year, and is aligned with the Church’s liturgical calendar, so you’re not reading about the Crucfixion at Christmas time and the Nativity of Our Lord in July.  A reading form the Old Testament is provided for the morning, a short reading from the wisdom books during the day, and a reading from the New Testament in the evening.    A simple schedule to follow that allows you to work through all of the Scriptures, bit by bit, day by day.  If you miss a reading, as you will, it’s no big deal.  Next year, the schedule will repeat and you’ll get it the second time around.    In our family, we read the Old Testament reading in the morning after Morning Prayer, and both the wisdom and New Testament readings in the evening after Evening Prayer.  That’s not easy, but it’s very good to know, as parents, that our children are hearing the Scriptures morning and evening, every day.  I don’t want to stand before God and explain why my Catholic children were ignorant of God’s word.

While the daily schedule is great for family culture and conversation, there is a need for a more “academic” study of the Scriptures, which can be pursued using our Sacred Scripture courses.  Older students can enjoy the daily reading of the Scriptures with the family, but then, on their own, can study the Bible one book at a time with challenging comprehension questions and assessments to help them meditate on the Scriptures and apply them to their own lives.  If you would like for your children to study the Scriptures privately, as an academic subject, you should enroll them in Sacred Scripture I to get them started in such.

Some Practical Notes

Family life is busy and often unpredictable.  Usually, Mom is the pendulum of the family, who is able to maintain a daily routine that keeps everything in order.  Dad is often in and out or away for work and can’t possible lead a regular routine of family devotion.  If he could, there’d be no need for Sundays.  Mom needs to make family devotion and Scripture reading her own ministry to her family–and this was common throughout history.  As an example, St. Paul says of his disciple Timothy:

“From [your] infancy you have known [the] Sacred Scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

but he also tells us who was responsible for Timothy’s knowledge of the Scriptures:

“I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and that I am confident lives also in you.”

Thus, it was Mom and Grandma that taught Timothy the Scriptures–from his infancy.  We need more Loises and Eunices today!

Many Catholics will say, “I’ve never really read the Bible and don’t feel comfortable explaining it, etc..”  There’s no need to explain it–just read it and leave the explaining to God and the intellectual growth that will come through your children’s study of the Catholic faith and classical liberal arts over time.  Do your job–read the Scriptures, for their power is not dependent on you.  Look at what the Scriptures say about themselves:

“How can the young keep his way without fault? Only by observing your words.” (Psalm 119:9)

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

“Take to heart these words which I command you today. Keep repeating them to your children. Recite them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.”  (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)

To think of how many Catholic children are being raised without any knowledge of or help from the Scriptures is hard to comprehend.  I’ll never understand what Catholics are doing and can only hope to move them to read divine revelation–as if that should even need to be said.

What Bibles are Recommended?

There are, unfortunately, a zillion options for Bibles.  I wish the publishing world was more like Aldi and just had one kind of everything, but it’s a mess.  The bottom line for Catholics is that we’re free to use any Bible version that  has been approved, at any time, by the Catholic Church.  That includes, most commonly, the Douay Rheims, the Revised Standard Version and the New American Bible.

If you’re interested in some recommendations of specific editions that you can buy right now, I can make a few based on my own family’s experience.

  • While young children will just be listening to the daily Bible readings, there’s much to be gained from a good children’s Bible.  The best is the Golden Children’s Bible, which has very nice illustrations. These are nice enough that kids will enjoy them, and cheap enough that they can be replaced every Christmas.  That’s what we do.
  • If children are going to be reading on their own, I recommend the soft cover First Communion Bibles from Catholic Book Publishing Co.  These are affordable yet durable Bibles full of helpful information.  Our kids have loved them and, as the title suggests, we use them as Communion gifts.
  • Teenage and adult readers students should have and read an adult Catholic Bible.  I recommend the New American Bible.  We need to make our Bible a personal possession that’s always at hand, with verses that inspire us underlined, etc.. This makes it worthwhile to invest in a durable Bible and even a Bible cover.

That’s a lot of information, but I hope it’s helpful.   I can speak from experience and say that while my children may bristle at the Rosary or Liturgy of the Hours at times, they all love reading the Scriptures.  I usually need to shut down the questions and conversation that follows because it will go on forever.  I trust that if you make the effort, with God’s sure blessing, you’ll find nothing but good coming from that effort–and you’ll wish you’d done it sooner.

The Bible is a Catholic book, given to and preserved by the Catholic Church.   Let’s make it our Catholic book.

William Michael
Classical Liberal Arts Academy