Action Alert!

Pope calls Catholics to read Scripture regularly

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Oct 05, 2020

Just days before Pope Francis promulgated his new social encyclical, he penned an Apostolic Letter, Scripturae Sacrae Affectus (Devotion to Sacred Scripture). This is a fairly brief text in honor of St. Jerome on the sixteen-hundredth anniversary of his death. It has the clear purpose of stimulating a far greater Catholic involvement with the Word of God.

The Letter provides an overview of the life and work of St. Jerome, who devoted himself to study of the sacred text, and who provided the first comprehensive translation in Latin. The Pope offers St. Jerome’s example of constant reading and study of Scripture, along with devoted acceptance of the authority of the See of Peter as the rule of Faith, to encourage a greater devotion to the Bible at every level of the Church. It was, after all, Jerome who said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

Pope Francis notes that many Catholics believe they cannot read Scripture fruitfully because they lack the education and tools for doing so—rather like the eunuch who needed the help of St. Philip (as recounted in Acts 8). As important as this education and these tools are—and the Pope is right to encourage a far richer and more fruitful Scriptural education—Francis stresses that the interpretive key is always the person of Christ, especially in His incarnation, death and resurrection. Therefore, any Catholic can grow in his appreciation of Scripturet—even without greater initial instruction—by reading prayerfully in the light of Christ.

For this reason, Pope Francis laments that so few Catholic families develop the habit of reading and reflecting on the sacred text with their children in the home. I agree, and I will close this brief discussion of the Apostolic Letter with a suggestion of my own: Begin all reading of Scripture with the prayer, “Lord, by this reading of Sacred Scripture, may I know you better and love you more.” Without denigrating the use of other sources for fruitful study as each occasion demands, I believe all of us will find that, from this simple starting point, our engagement with Sacred Scripture will develop a life of its own.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Oct. 06, 2020 10:53 AM ET USA

    Besides prayer, faithful Catholic commentaries are indispensable. The problem today is that _good_ Catholic commentaries are expensive and hard to find. Fortunately a precious few orthodox Catholics are publishing Catholic commentaries that merit the name "Catholic". Among the best modern commentaries is "A Catholic Commentary to the Bible: Old Testament". A New Testament commentary is in the works. Check out Ratzinger. The older ones are still the best: Haydock, Aquinas, Augustine, patristic.