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“The Bible is so constructed that a mouse can wade in it and an elephant can swim in it,” says St. Thomas More. This Year of Faith, let’s teach about the Bible.
Bridge the Gap
We’ve made progress since the Second Vatican Council, but Catholics still sell themselves short because Protestants can quote the Bible, chapter and verse. We must never grow weary of repeating that the Bible was copied by monks by hand for 1,500 years, and that chapter divisions were not put in until 1228 and verse numbers not until 1550, after the invention of printing (inserted by a printer, not a clergyman).
This time period coincided with the Reformation. Protestants were saying, Scriptura sola (“Scripture alone”), and Catholics were insisting, “Scripture and Tradition.”
Our Tradition has always included art, mosaics, stained glass, music, and statues in teaching the Bible. In fact, modern theater sprang from medieval “mystery” and “morality” plays performed on the church steps as catechesis. Catholics have always known the stories, the quotes of the Apostles and Jesus, and the Bible’s symbolic language. We still teach this way.
What we need to change is our inferiority complex about
chapter and verse; we were on the job 1,500 years before chapter and verse! We need
to get this information out to all Catholics, and we need to accept the fact
that we’re talking about two different methodologies, not “knowledge” of the
The Mass as a Bible Study
Every Mass is a tapestry of Bible quotes and prayers. Especially because of changes made in Mass prayers and responses that were implemented a year ago, this Year of Faith is a perfect time to study the prayers to appreciate how many of them come from Scripture. Catholics “eat” the Bible (see Jeremiah 15:16) in bite-sized pieces Sunday after Sunday. If we need to find chapter and verse, we use a concordance.
Familiarize Your Students
Growing familiar with the Bible is the bottom line.
Hold up a Bible and show your class that the New Testament is only the last fourth of the Bible. The Old Testament is three-fourths of the Bible. If they’re looking for a Gospel, they’ll flip toward the back of the book.
Be sure students can find the Bible’s table of contents; this page is their ever-present friend for life. Show older students a concordance and demonstrate how to use this wonderful resource.
*Simply browse. Have students read their “birthday passage” in different books. For example, April 20 (4/20) would be chapter 4, verse 20. If the passage is insubstantial or unavailable, hunt in the general vicinity for something interesting. Then do the same thing in other books. Simply browse.
* Read an entire book of the Bible. Turn to 3 John (check the table of contents) and watch the class read (only 15 verses). They’ve read an entire book of the Bible! Then have them read the Letter to Philemon. (Read the intro notes of this book ahead of time; the kids will have questions.) Or have them read the Letter of James—only five chapters.
* Read several translations of the same story. Read the King James Bible, Today’s English Version, or the Message Bible, as well as the New American Bible. Discuss differences.
* Draw a Bible passage. Make a simple shape lightly in pencil (a spiral, a triangle, a Chi-Rho), then use pen to write the words of a passage (something from Psalm 22, for example, or a quote from one of the accounts of the nativity) along and around the shape. Erase the underlying pencil. (Art gum erasers are great.)
* Check favorite hymns and songs. Look below the music scores in your hymnal to see if there are Scripture references. For example, “On Eagle’s Wings” is based on Psalm 91. Compare the song’s words with the Bible itself. Are they close? You and your students will realize that you know far more Scripture “by heart” than you realize.
Page McKean Zyromski, a catechist for 45 years, has
been a contributor to CATECHIST since 1983. She lives in Painesville, OH.
You may contact her at pagezyromski.com.