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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Not Just A Protestant Thing




Now [those in Berea] were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. (Acts 17:11)


I first met Tania in 2011. Sixteen at the time, she and her family attended the same parish in Tacoma, Washington as my wife and I. Her mother and Tania also attended the Bible study I led at the church. But I became more closely acquainted with her after she asked me to be her confirmation sponsor. I agreed because I sensed she wanted to know God – not just know about God.

My wife and I met with Tania many times over the next several months to discuss the lessons the parochial vicar had assigned the confirmands from their textbook. I also assigned her additional readings and memorization work from the Scriptures to supplement what she was learning in the confirmation class.

After her confirmation, Tania asked if we could continue our Bible study lessons. For the next year and a half Tania, my wife, and I met about once a month. We studied Romans, Colossians, Galatians, and St. John’s gospel. She also memorized dozens of additional Scripture texts. I felt it a great privilege to watch her grow in her faith.

Tania is now a student at a Catholic college in the Midwest. In a recent email she told me she was attending a campus Bible study. Part of her letter read: “One of the girls teasingly called me a Protestant because I have various scripture passages memorized that I [brought] into the conversation.”

Though pleased to know Tania is still studying and memorizing Scripture, her classmate’s comment stirred a different emotion. In the ten years I’ve been in the Catholic Church I’ve often heard from young and old alike the same seriously flawed message: Catholics don’t need to read the Bible – and we certainly do not need to memorize it. That’s what Protestants do.

How tragic that such a dreadful delusion continues to circulate in the Church, a delusion that leads so many Catholics down the wrong path – especially since the Church teaches quite the opposite. For example, here are only a few statements in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that illustrate her judgment about this matter:  

. . . [T]he Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord's Body. She never ceases to present to the faithful the bread of life, taken from the one table of God's Word and Christ's Body. (paragraph 103)

In Sacred Scripture . . . the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them." (paragraph 104)

The Church "forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful. . . to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ. (paragraph 133) 

The Church often looks to the Blessed Mother as a model of holiness and humility. Equally important, we ought to emulate her devotion to Sacred Scripture, for we know the Mother of God was very familiar with God’s word. For example, her Magnificat is only ten verses (Luke 1:46-55), but in it the Virgin quotes or alludes to no less than thirteen Old Testament Scriptures: 

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.*

Regular reading and memorization of Scripture is unquestionably not just a “Protestant” thing. Rather, it is most certainly, a “Catholic” thing.

I hope Tania’s college classmate – and everyone reading this sentence – will take seriously the Church’s admonition about the surpassing value of regular study and memorization of God’s word. If we do – and only if we do – we will learn the Scriptures truly are a lamp to our feet and a light to our path in this darkened world. (Psalm 119:105)


* Here are the passages Mother Mary quotes or alludes to in her Magnificat:

Genesis 17:7
Genesis 17:19
1 Samuel 2:1-10
Job 5:11
Psalm 34:2
Psalm 35:9
Psalm 138:6
Psalm 103:17
Psalm 98:1
Psalm 118:15
Psalm 107:9
Psalm 132:11
Habakkuk 3:18


3 comments:

Barb Schoeneberger said...

I think that our pastors have fallen down on the job by not encouraging CCD teachers to link Catholic teaching with the Bible. No greater help to a continuing love affair with God exists than reading and meditating on the Bible. Also, not only Mary studied the Bible, Jesus started Scripture study at the local synagogue in Nazareth as all the rest of the young Jewish boys of His time.

It's because Catholics don't know our heritage, and because we're too accustomed to thinking that once a week at Mass is enough in practicing our Faith that we say stupid things. The Bible is all the Protestants have. We have not only the Bible but the sacraments as well. Why are we shutting the Bible up in a trunk in the attic, as it were? And who are we to look down on Protestants? No greater way of evangelizing exists than to be able to approach a non-Catholic through what he values most. But we are clueless, for the most part, about evangelization.

Rich Maffeo said...

Barb, I have repeatedly said and written the same thing for at least ten years. But you have said it better than I ever have. Thank you for your encouragement. It is nice to know other Catholics are seeing and feeling the same thing.

Rich Maffeo said...

Barb, I have repeatedly said and written the same thing for at least ten years. But you have said it better than I ever have. Thank you for your encouragement. It is nice to know other Catholics are seeing and feeling the same thing.