More and more parishes are now offering a Catholic Bible study. Just the term “Catholic Bible study” strikes many people as odd, as if it was a pair of incongruous ideas, kind of like military intelligence, or government efficiency, or Donald Trump humility.
Some Catholics feel Bible study is for other religious groups. “We’re Catholic,” they say, “We have the Mass and the Sacraments. We don’t do Bible.”
Well, actually, we Catholics DO do Bible. In fact, the vast majority of the words spoken or prayed or sung during Mass come straight from the Bible.
One of the most fascinating aspects of a Catholic Bible study is watching people who have never even cracked open a Bible in their entire lives come to reaize they are familiar with the stories and the dialog and the majestic phrases. They’ve been hearing those words all their lives at Mass—they just didn’t know where they came from.
Another great thing about a parish Bible study is that you actually get to learn the names of some of your fellow parishioners. Hey, let’s face it, we Catholics know everybody in the parish — by face. For example, in the supermarket, we recognize someone right away. “Oh, I know her,” we think. “9:30 Mass. 4th pew on the left.” Do we know her name? Of course not.
At Bible study, you will learn, not only the Bible, but other people’s names. It’s terrific.
We should keep in mind the fact the Bible is a Catholic book. In the early years of Christianity, there were many different writings floating around that discussed the life of Jesus and offered instructions on how to live the Christian life. When it was finally determined in the 4th century which of these writings were indeed divinely inspired, and therefore should be included in the Sacred Scriptures, those writing were compiled by, guess who? The Catholic Church. It’s our book!
Unfortunately, there is a persistent rumor floating around that we Catholics are not allowed to read the Bible — or at least we’re not encouraged to do so. This is quite wrong. The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly states, “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” The Catechism also says that all the faithful should frequently read the divine Scriptures.
If your parish does not have a Bible Study, ask your pastor or deacon to start one. But be careful. I did that ten years ago and the pastor promptly put me in charge of it. I’ve been leading our parish Bible study ever since. Not that I’m complaining — even though it kind of sounds like I am. I love doing it. And just last month, the pastor doubled my salary! (Right, two times zero is….)
If your parish currently has an active Bible study, please join it. Despite popular opinion, there is nothing in the Ten Commandments that says, “Thou shalt not go to church for more than one hour per week.” It is perfectly acceptable to offer another hour of your time each week to matters of faith. And the parish Bible study is the perfect activity in which to invest your extra hour.
When you first begin to attend the Bible study it may seem a little intimidating, but I promise, soon you’ll feel much more comfortable. If you’re unsure whether to get involved, just remember what the Bible says: “God helps those who help themselves.” And when you do get involved with a Catholic Bible study, you’ll learn a lot of exciting new things, including the fact the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” is actually not in the Bible.