Chanelle Robinson

Catholics reclaim sacred Scripture

By  Chanelle Robinson, Youth Speak News
  • November 14, 2014

As a young girl, I would sometimes accompany my grandmother to church on Sunday, which always meant attending Sunday school. I always looked forward to Sunday school because the lessons were centred on Bible stories and candies were awarded for memorizing Bible verses. In my youth, believing was joyful and it always included the Bible. 

In most Protestant traditions, having faith is inseparable from an understanding of Scripture. As a young Catholic adult, I realize that the relationship of Catholics with the Bible is different. Many of my Protestant friends claim Catholics don’t read the Bible, which in their eyes somehow hinders the authenticity of our claim as Christians. 

To debunk this myth and reconnect with the Bible, I enrolled in a six-week Bible study course at my local parish. To my surprise, I was the youngest person in attendance. The second youngest person was 72. This meant that everyone in the room except me could remember a time before the Second Vatican Council. 

One by one in the circle, we started to talk about our personal experiences with the Bible. Most people openly admitted that they do not read it. Growing up they were well versed in the Baltimore Catechism, a text that predates our current catechism, but knew very little about the Bible. The general consensus was that it was a forbidden book, a Protestant book, and something that “only a priest could interpret.” They felt discouraged from reading this holy book. 

As young adult Catholics, we descend from a generation that feels disconnected from the Bible and whose parents often feel the same way. 

One of the things I learned during that first Bible study session was how to create a balance between Scripture and tradition. 

In a sense, the Christian understanding of Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit and shaped by our tradition. Each Gospel, epistle and poem reflects the theological beliefs of a certain Christian community in a particular time. Early Christians practised rites and believed certain claims about Jesus before the New Testament was compiled. In a similar way, the Christian Bible helped to advance theological developments, after it was fully composed. 

Scripture and tradition are mutually informing. When we emphasize one over the other an imbalance occurs that can be detrimental to our faith. Both are equally important. 

I am sure that many Catholics know every mystery of the rosary. But I wonder how many Catholics can name the first five books of the Bible in order. 

Despite our emphasis on the tactile, we often shy away from engaging with Scripture, which is the palpable remembering of humanity’s encounter with God. If we prioritize tradition over and against Scripture, we risk forgetting the importance of Scripture, how Scripture tells us our story and gives us meaning and a sense of identity. 

On the other hand, some Protestant groups who interpret the Bible literally discourage young Catholics from studying the book. They frighten us. No one wants to be associated with people picketing on street corners with Bible verses taken out of context to oppress a marginalized group. Perhaps the hesitance young Catholics have towards Scripture comes from a fear of being categorized by a bias against Christianity. 

In my own life, sometimes I’ll give myself “Bible challenges,” like 31 days to read Proverbs. I’m not always successful. Some of my friends are more ambitious and try to read the Bible in an entire year, but rarely read beyond Numbers. I advise you to read at your own pace. 

Cyclical lectionary, small group gatherings, Visio Divina, and Lectio Divina are a few positive ways to read the Bible — imagine the passage and read it again. Focus on the sensory experience or the one word that stands out to you and make Scripture come alive. 

What we learn from our Protestant sisters and brothers is that as a Catholic family we need to reclaim our sacred Scripture. 

(Robinson, 21, is a fourth-year Catholic Studies for Teachers student at King’s University College.) 

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