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:
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.*
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:
1 Samuel 2:1-10