Catholics reading the bible?

One focus of the Synod of Bishops that was just held in Rome was scripture. I know when I speak to most of my contemporaries, they are unfamiliar with reading the bible everyday or even in study groups. The usual reading of scripture takes place in an academic setting….from a historicist approach I am sure. Daniel Cardinal DiNardo is one of the few church leaders on advancing the reading of scripture for Catholics. But what better way to understand our faith, but from the inspired Word of God. Here is the latest column from Galveston-Houston’s shepherd:

November 7, 2008

A Shepherd’s Message

By Daniel Cardinal DiNardo

Dear Friends in Christ,

As I mentioned in an earlier article, I was in Rome for three weeks in October for the Synod of Bishops. Four Bishops from the United States were elected to this year’s Synod: Francis Cardinal George of Chicago; Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C.; Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tuscon; and myself. The theme of the Synod was “The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church.” Beyond the 250 Bishop delegates, there was a large number of invited consultants and experts, leaders of various international ecclesial movements of renewal, and guests from other Christian denominations. There was a special invitation to the Archbishop of Constantinople; he came and addressed the bishops from the point of view of the Orthodox Churches. In addition a representative of the Jewish community also came to the Synod and spoke to the assembly. Since this was my first participation in a Synod of Bishops my impressions were colored by this newness to the rules and procedures for such a consultative body. The Holy Father calls the Synod together (usually every few years), and he presides over the Synod. The recommendations are delivered directly to him and he is the one who both receives them and works on them and later publishes a letter in which he indicates the recommendations he has accepted or the decisions he has made about the pastoral life of the Church in light of what he has heard from the Synod Fathers. The Synod is an action of collegiality; it is mutual hearing of bishop to bishop and of the bishops together giving consultation to the Holy Father.

May I first acknowledge that I was impressed by the global character of our Church; there were bishops from every part of the world. Secondly, I was also impressed by the quality of the interventions of the bishops. Almost 80 of them had studied at the Biblicum in Rome, the University dedicated to the Word of God and Scriptural studies. The interventions made you aware of the richness of faith throughout the world and the genuine difficulties some parts of the Church face in letting the Word of God to be heard and internalized by God’s people. Thirdly, the wonderful exchanges during the coffee-breaks were a great way to meet and appreciate the shepherds from almost everywhere on earth. I also met extraordinary religious and lay people, experts and renewal groups, who manifested their enthusiasm for the Sacred Scriptures and their desire to see their love be imparted to those they serve and all others that they meet. The Synod then was a wonderful experience for me. (It was also exhausting; we met six days a week for three weeks morning and evening.)

Though the expression “Word of God” is much larger than the Scriptures, the biblical writings are the privileged witness to the event of God’s Word “speaking” in revelation to humankind. They form a most precious part of the dialogue of God with us. It would not be surprising, then, that the Synod, looking at the Word of God made flesh in Jesus Christ, centered much of its attention on the Bible.

For this article I want to mention one simple fact that became a crucial point of discussion. The Bible is translated now into 500 languages. But there are 7,000 languages on earth. There were extensive pleas from the bishops of Asia and the Pacific Region to train more scholars to translate the Bible into more languages. In some regions, the Word of God in the Scriptures is not heard because there are no translations. It was a surprise for many of us, a challenge to be met, and one of the many great aspects of the Synod that proved to be an education for us all. In the course of the next few months I will have other things to say about the Synod.

It is good to be back in Galveston-Houston