What do Catholics think about the Bible?
We sometimes hear of "Bible Christians" who have the Bible as the sole source of their faith. For Catholics, while the Bible is not the sole source of our beliefs, it is at the heart of our faith. The Bible is NOT optional for Catholics.
"The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures as she venerated the Body of the Lord" (Dei Verbum 21): both nourish and govern the whole Christian life. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 141.
The Church accepts and venerates as inspired the 46 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New. The four Gospels occupy a central place because Christ Jesus is their centre.
Where did the Bible come from?
Many people have written about God's relationship with humanity. Who decided which of these works should be part of the Bible? It was by the apostolic Tradition (those most closely associated with the teachings and life of Jesus Christ) that the Church discerned which writings are to be included in the list of the sacred books. This complete list is called the canon of Scripture. It includes 46 books for the Old Testament (45 if we count Jeremiah and Lamentations as one) and 27 for the New Testament.
The unity of the two Testaments proceeds from the unity of God's plan and his Revelation. The Old Testament prepares for the New and the New Testament fulfills the Old; the two shed light on each other. Both are true Word of God.
How to read Scripture
Reading the Bible is not like picking up a newspaper, a novel or a text book. For one thing, it is a collection of works - some are poems, others letters, others chronicles.
More specifically, the works of the Bible were gathered because we believe the authors are conveying something about God's relationship with humanity. In other words "to interpret Scripture correctly, the reader must be attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm, and to what God wanted to reveal to us by their words." (Dei Verbum, 12), Catechism of the Catholic Church, 109
In order to discover the sacred authors' intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking and narrating then current. "For the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression." (Dei Verbum, 12), Catechism of the Catholic Church, 110
But since Sacred Scripture is inspired, there is another and no less important principle of correct interpretation, without which Scripture would remain a dead letter. "Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written."(Dei Verbum, 12), Catechism of the Catholic Church, 111
Lectio Divina - A prayerful approach
Lectio Divina (Latin, lek-see-o de-vee-na) is the one method of prayer fostered by all traditions of Christian spirituality. Sometimes this method is translated as "meditative reading" or as "spiritual reading". This method would better be called Prayer of the Listening Heart, because many people who first used this method in the early Christian times couldn't read! It goes back to ancient times and was used constantly by the early monks many of whom also couldn't read! The "lectio" of Lectio Divina is a listening with the heart, as one does quite naturally and spontaneously while appreciating a sunset, or when pondering with fondness any touching human experience. One listens with the heart also when one reads slowly, with pauses and 'relishes or drinks in' the words of scripture or any other special writing. By thus listening with the heart, one is led automatically to reflection upon the experience, or writing, or event. From this reflection one is led automatically to respond, and in time one becomes more and more open to the influence of God's Spirit.
Lectio Divina Applied To Reading
The reading is done slowly, pausing periodically to allow the words and phrases to enter within you. When a thought resonates deeply, stay with it, allowing the fullness of it to penetrate your being. Relish the word received. Respond authentically and spontaneously as in a dialogue.
Lectio Divina Applied To Some Remembered Event
Recall the experience and stay with it before God. Let the feelings and thoughts associated with the experience well up in your heart as you ponder to find deeper meaning or understanding or a different way of seeing things. Respond authentically and spontaneously as in a dialogue.