The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Friday, November 7, 2008

God's Word is for all

Among the many good things that have happened recently is the Synod of Bishops that concluded in Rome on October 23. The Synod, called by Pope Benedict XVI to address the Word of God, strongly encouraged all the faithful to read the Bible regularly, making Holy Scripture a part of their daily lives.

Sadly, too many Catholics never open the Bible and, therefore, are ignorant of the very foundations of their faith. The Holy Scriptures were not written for scriptural scholars and the clergy; they were written for all of us. They are a wonderful gift by which God reveals Himself to us and makes His marvelous plan for humanity known to us. It is a plan founded in God's love for us and stretches from the very act of creation to its fulfillment at some time still in the future. The Bible also tells us how God wants us to respond to His love. In other words, it tells us how to live.

While it's wonderful that the Holy Father and the synod's bishops are encouraging all Catholics to read and study the Bible regularly, that's all they can really do: encourage us. The actual work must be done at the parish level where, in effect, the rubber meets the church parking lot. Pastors must actively support those parishioners who take the initiative to start parish Bible Study groups, and they must continue to support these efforts by talking about these programs from the pulpit. Other than the sacraments themselves, I can think of nothing else that will have a more positive spiritual effect on God's people than regular reading and study of Holy Scripture. Bible Study is also an excellent starting point for deepening parishioners' knowledge of all aspects of their Catholic faith; for our faith is thoroughly grounded in Scripture and Apostolic Tradition.

I began a parish Bible Study two years ago and we now offer two sessions that parishioners may choose from. Although it requires a lot of preparation and additional work on my part, it has become one of the most enjoyable activities of my week. If you would like to check out our Bible Study web page, click here.

It won't be easy to spread God's Word to all His People. Our parish has well over 1,000 families and only 30 people attend these Bible Study sessions. In addition to general apathy, there are other obstacles as well.

For example, just to prove that old habits die very slowly, I'll describe something that happened to me this past week. One of our volunteers at the soup kitchen approached me with a question. She attends a local Presbyterian Church and had asked two of her neighbors, both Catholics, if they wanted to attend a concert of spiritual music put on by her church choir. They replied that Catholics weren't permitted to enter Protestant churches. When the conversation somehow turned to the Bible, they also informed her that the Church tells Catholics not to read the Bible. My friend, knowing that I conduct a Bible Study at our parish, asked me if what her neighbors had said were true. I filled her in on the Church's teaching, and explained that her neighbors were grossly misinformed.

Admittedly, both of my friend's neighbors are senior citizens and are probably overly influenced by what they may have heard 60 years ago. But this is less an excuse than it is a sad commentary on how poorly we have catechized adult Catholics over the years. Do they sleep through the Sunday readings and homily? Do they never read the parish bulletin or the diocesan newspaper? Or, perhaps more likely, are they what I call "semi-lapsed" Catholics who might occasionally stop by the church for a Saturday afternoon vigil Mass when they don't have a serious conflict like a late tee-time.

Let's hope and pray that our bishops, pastors, priests and deacons listen to the words of the synod and take the necessary steps to open the Scriptures to God's People.

To get a sense of what happened at the Synod, check out the US Bishops' website.

God's peace...

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