Tag Archives: Scripture

Catholics Can Fall In Love With The Bible

“Okay, take out your Bibles,” a speaker at a Catholic conference directed the audience and then paused. “oh, wait,” he said. “never mind. I forgot you are all Catholic.” The audience laughed. Reading the Bible was not our strong suit; not even among Catholics at a religious conference.

But that story happened 20 years ago. Since then, Catholics stopped laughing and started opening their Bibles. It’s been a trend reflected in increased sales of Bibles and a growth of Catholic Bible studies.

At Ascension Press, publisher of books and parish programs, John Harden, product manager, said that they cannot even keep their newest Bible, The Great Adventure Bible, in stock. After just three months, the first three press runs have sold out, with more than 100,000 now in print. It is based on The Bible Timeline learning system developed by theologian and Bible instructor, Jeff Cavins, with charts showing how the 73 books of the Bible fit within one overarching chronological narrative of God’s loving plan for humanity through salvation history.

“This is a game changer,” Harden said. For him, the Bible itself was a game changer 18 years ago while attending Benedictine College. “I did not see it as relevant in the modern world or even understand what it meant to say it’s the ‘Word of God.’” He credits reading and learning about the Bible with an encounter with Christ and making Him the center of his life.

Scripture Studies Grow

Gail Buckley Barringer, a Methodist convert, also credits the Bible with her conversion to the Catholic Church 25 years ago. “As a Protestant, there were a lot of gaps—questions that Scripture didn’t explain,” she said. “By reading it in light of Catholic teaching and apostolic and oral tradition, everything came together. For example, in John 6 on the Eucharist, Jesus keeps saying: truly, truly my flesh is real food. No Protestant commentary makes sense of that, but when I learned that the Catholic Church teaches that Jesus gave us His Body and Blood, it made sense to me that He said it over and over.”

After becoming Catholic, Barringer attended a Protestant Bible study for three years—the only option then in North Carolina. At the time, there was only one small company publishing Catholic study materials. She created a Catholic Scripture study in 2003 and founded the Catholic Scripture Study International which now publishes more than 30 Bible study programs. And in 2011, St. Benedict Press/TAN books published an apologetics Bible she put together with a host of well-known Catholic Bible scholars which includes articles, faith facts, a section on apologetics, a topical index, and study materials.

The landscape has changed dramatically since Barringer first looked for a Catholic Bible study. Today, there are hundreds of them supplying a growing demand.

Bible Timeline

Jeff Cavins was also in the vanguard of teaching Catholic Scripture studies. After 12 years as a Protestant pastor, he returned to the Catholic faith in 1995, wanting to ignite the same love for Scripture in Catholics he had witnessed among born-again Christians.

“After Bible college, I knew the individual stories, but I wanted to wrap my mind around the whole story,” Cavins explained. When the idea came to him in 1985 to create a color-coded chronological chart based on mnemonics (“memory devices”) to make it easy to understand and remember, he spent the next 48 hours in a whirlwind of activity, not even stopping for sleep. He kept it at his desk for personal use, but whenever staff or other pastors became aware of it, they asked for copies.

“I realized that I had stumbled on a key that got people excited,” Cavins said. He returned to the Church in 1995, and the next year introduced his Great Adventure Bible Timeline to Franciscan University of Steubenville where he taught. That same year, fellow professor Dr. Scott Hahn teamed up with him to film “Our Father’s Plan,” a 13-week series for EWTN Television based on the timeline.

A Wider Catholic Audience

In 2003, while speaking at a conference using his Bible timeline, Matthew Pinto was in the audience, filling his notebook with notes. “Oh my gosh, this could change the Church,” Pinto told him after the talk. As the president and founder of Ascension Press, Pinto, who is also a Legate in the Philadelphia Chapter, had the wherewithal to make Cavin’s Bible instruction accessible on a large scale. Since then, The Great Adventure Bible study program has helped millions of people read and understand the Bible.

“Being in the faith formation ministry, I knew that Scripture was important,” Pinto explained. “There is something in the very DNA written into Scripture that brings about transformation in our hearts and minds.” Catholics often feel intimidated by the Bible, according to him. “But a Catholic literate in the Bible is both an excited Catholic and a contagious Catholic.”

Within the last five years, Pinto said that he has witnessed a push towards evangelization outreach in the Church, as people live as intentional disciples. “They need the practical tool of Scripture to help them on the journey because it is the journey,” he said. “I want people to experience what I have experienced through the Bible. In fact, we are all living the salvation history story right now –from Creation and Adam and Eve, all the way to me sitting in my office today.”

Keys For Catholics

According to Cavins, the biggest mistake Catholics make regarding the Bible is fearing they will misinterpret it. “The Church gives us wonderful guidelines, in the Catechism,” he said. “so, we don’t need to be afraid.”

He pointed out that we can get personal guidance from God using Scripture especially through using the four steps of Lectio Divina: to read, meditate, pray, and contemplate passages. “It’s also a marvelous source for coming to know the theology and the economy of God,” he said. “The economy of God means getting to know the heart of the Father and His plan for your life. Scripture gives us a foundation on which we can trust God.”

Although there are many options today for individual and parish Bible study programs, is it okay to attend a Protestant one if there is not a Catholic one available? According to Cavins, engaging in God’s Word is always profitable, but we need to understand that Protestants and Catholics have different world views. Protestants believe in sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”) — as the only divine means of revelation — while Catholics understand divine revelation includes both Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture.

“Be on guard for others narrowing the scope of revelation through Protestant interpretation,” Cavins said. He suggests engaging them by asking, where did you find that in the Bible, or who told you it only had to be in the Bible? 

“I tell people in my classes, that we did not make that up,” Cavins explained. “The Jews believed in both written and oral tradition taught by the elders; it’s always been that way.” And when in doubt on something, Cavins said to consult the Catechism of the Catholic Church for the certitude of reading the Bible in union with the Church.

 Wherever a person is on his faith journey, Cavins encourages Catholics to simply “jump in” and read the Bible. “God wants you to know Him even more than you want to know Him,” he said. “The only way our life makes sense is in relationship with God’s stories. You’ll find your story in His story.

 PATTI ARMSTRONG is a Legatus magazine contributing writer.

God’s four gardens – cultivated for man’s well-being

We fine three essential elements in a garden: order, beauty, and life. Order sets a garden apart from the wilderness. Its boundaries and design establish it as a specific place unlike any other. Second, a garden has beauty – a diversity of flowers and plants, colors, sizes, and shapes – that pleases the eye. Finally, a garden has life. Plants grow and bear fruit, and animals find their territory a pleasing place to live.

This is what God desired for us in that first garden, the Garden of Eden: order, beauty, and life. Order, not just of the Garden, but of our own lives. He established us in a harmonious (well-ordered) relationship with Him, which bestowed in turn a harmony within ourselves and with others, the integration of soul and body, man and woman, man and creation. Likewise, the beauty of that first Garden was not of the plants and flowers, but of our souls, the surpassing beauty of the only creature created in His image and likeness. And He bestowed life there as well – the unending life with God.

By his sin Adam rejected the Gardener and lost the goods of the Garden. We have lost order, beauty, and life. Rebellion against God has thrown His creation into disarray. We now find soul pitted against body, man against woman, and all creation at odds with man. It has brought the ugliness and horror of sin into the world. Most of all, it has brought death into the world, death in place of life.

In a second garden our Lord began the restoration, the redemption; Jesus went “where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered” (John 18:1; Mt. 26:30; Mk 14:26; Lk 22:39). He entered the Garden of Gethsemane to undo the rebellion of the Garden of Eden. In that Garden He took upon Himself all the disorder, ugliness, and death that sin brought into the world. He who is Beauty Itself became the Man of sorrows. He “who knew no sin” became sin for us (2 Cor 5:21). Life itself became death.

In a third garden our Lord continues His work – by rising from the dead. How fitting that His tomb should be in a garden – to complete the restoration of God’s original plan. Indeed, when she first sees Him, Mary Magdalene takes our Lord to be the gardener (Jn 20:15). And in a certain sense, He is. He rises as the divine Gardener, to restore order, beauty, and life.

He completes His work in a fourth garden: the human soul. He desires to enter our souls by His grace and dwell within as the divine Gardener. He desires to reestablish within us His gifts of order, beauty, and life intended from the beginning – order, to heal that division and discord within us that produces all the division and discord outside of us; beauty, to rid us of the ugliness of sin and grant us the glory of His children; and life, that our hearts become lively and life-giving.

Excerpt by Rev. Paul D. Scalia from Chapter 9 “Feasts,” of his book That Nothing May Be Lost: Reflections on Catholic Doctrine and Devotion (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2017), pp. 175-76, “Four Gardens” section. www.ignatius.com. Used with permission.

FR. PAUL SCALIA, son of the late Judge Antonin Scalia, is Episcopal Vicar for Clergy (Diocese of Arlington). He will be a featured speaker at “Legatus at the Capitol” on May 25.

Scripture 101

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rab-bo’ni!” -John 20: 15-16

Catechism 101

After his fall, man was not abandoned by God. On the contrary, God calls him and in a mysterious way heralds the coming victory over evil and his restoration from his fall. This passage in Genesis is called the Protoevangelium (“first gospel”): the first announcement of the Messiah and Redeemer, of a battle between the serpent and the Woman, and of the final victory of a descendant of hers. Catechism of the Catholic Church, #410

The Son of God…born as gift to mankind

Isaiah prophesied, “A child is born to us, a son is given to us… They name him… God-Hero” (Is 9:5). Christians have long seen in these words a prophecy of Jesus’ birth and an affirmation of his divine identity. Though it took several centuries for the Church to develop her understanding of the relation between Jesus’ human and divine natures, nevertheless, from the beginning she has declared of Christ, as the apostle Thomas declared, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).

The reality that God himself became a man for our salvation — what is called the Incarnation (literally, “becoming flesh”) — is at the heart of the Christian faith. Denial of this truth has been the hallmark of many heretical sects.

Jesus himself declared, “The Father [that is, God] and I are one” (Jn 10:30). When He did, some of those who heard Him picked up stones to kill Him for blasphemy, because they understood (correctly) the implication of what He was saying: He was claiming to be God (see Jn 10:30-33; also Jn 5:17-18).

In fact, virtually every attribute of the Father in heaven — the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who revealed Himself in the Old Testament — was claimed by Jesus for Himself. He spoke authoritatively as God (rather than merely for God). He accepted worship. He forgave sins. He said He was equal to the father. And He claimed that He had existed eternally.

New Testament authors verified His claim: “For in Him,” St. Paul wrote, “dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily (Col 2:9); “In the beginning,” the Gospel according to John announced, “was the Word,/… the Word was God. /… All things came to be through Him,/ and without Him nothing came to be. / And the Word became flesh (Jn 1:1, 3, 14).

EXCERPT FROM Insert M-1 “Why Does the Church Teach that Jesus Is God?”, from The New Catholic Answer Bible – New American Bible, Revised Edition (Our Sunday Visitor, 2011).

SCRIPTURE 101

“The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world knew Him not. He came to His own home, and His own people received Him not. But to all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”
Gospel of John 1: 9-14

CATECHISM 101

The Church calls “Incarnation” the fact that the Son of God assumed a human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it. Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God (1 John 4:2).”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, #461, 463