How does one get comfortable reading the Bible?
For many Catholics, this is an important question–and real barrier to reading the Scriptures for personal study and prayer.
For those with experience in evangelical-leaning Protestant congregations, it’s easy to take for granted the environment we were surrounded by. As a teenager and young adult in fundamentalist Baptist congregations, I recall nearly everyone who was a regular bringing a Bible to service. And, there were services beyond Sunday morning (aka Sunday Night Church and Wed Night Service) to add extra “repetitions” to the weekly routine of hearing the Word preached. Opening the Bible to read on one’s own then, did not seem foreign or unapproachable [even though we were reading the King James Version (exclusively)]. Most of this is just the fruit of familiarity, of being able to find the right book, know some favorite passages, highlight what one wants to remember, etc…practices that are certainly not opposed to anything in the Catholic tradition.
Jeff Cavins has done a remarkable job putting together some resources to help Catholics get on the Bible-reading path–to take the unfamiliarity out of opening the Bible, and beyond that, help us understand the continuity and “big story” behind the Canon of Holy Scripture. His title, “Great Adventure” speaks to the idea of an underlying thread, of God revealing God’s story…bit by bit. However, there’s definitely a start-up expense involved, and with tight budgets, sometimes an ordained, paid, or volunteer minister just needs to create his/her own resources…
I’ve been “reading” stories from the Bible more and more with my (almost) 10-month old son. And by “reading,” I mean, he flips the pages of The Jesus Storybook Bible rapidly (too fast for me to read a whole page) and randomly–skipping lots of sections, sometimes going forwards, sometimes going backwards–while I do some quick lectio divina based on whatever images or topics are on the pages we flip through.
It’s actually a useful prayer aid for me 🙂 For one, I don’t have to choose how long to pray–it’s however long his attention span lasts (which is sometimes longer and sometimes shorter than my prayer attention span). Secondly, The Jesus Storybook Bible‘s subtitle is Every Story Whispers His Name. And the author really does it, gently weaving hints, foreshadowing, and inklings of God’s marvelous plan throughout the entire text.
So here’s my idea (and I don’t mean this in a condescending way) for parishes on a budget, using a copy of a children’s storybook Bible like The Jesus Storybook Bible might be a great springboard for developing an in-house Bible study program–not by sharing the children’s Bible itself with adults direclty! (because that would come across as condescending), but using the “Every Story Whispers His Name” approach to providing an introduction to the Bible as a whole (through select stories) in order to build the comfort, familiarity, and foundation for future, more in-depth and detailed Catholic Scripture study. Consulting a children’s Bible like The Jesus Storybook Bible could be a great way to build an outline for a year-long curriculum.
Just a thought. 🙂