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Mary Queen of Heaven
Father Anthony Taschetta - Pastor
Parish Office Phone: 630-279-5700
Religious Education Phone: 630-832-8962
Preschool Phone: 630-833-9500
426 N West Avenue,
Elmhurst IL 60126
Today is Bible Sunday. At least thatís what my Ecumenical Daily Planner says. Iím sure it was designated so by our Protestant brothers and sisters and not by us Catholics. Why? Because reading and understanding Sacred Scriptures, the Bible, is not our strong suit.
Iím always amazed when a young couple of mixed religion come in for marriage preparation. I marvel at how conversant the protestant is about things Biblical. And when I ask the Catholic (s)he responds with, ďHuh?Ē Now donít get me wrong, this is not to imply that the Catholic partner is not religious. Often they are deeply religious but utterly inarticulate when it comes to talking about their faith and especially the Bible.
There is an explanation for all of this. A few weeks ago I presented all of our RE 6th grade students with a really nice Catholic Youth Bible. Before we blessed them and passed them out one by one, I asked them how much they knew about the Bible? Sadly, they knew next to nothing. Trust me, by the end of the class each could name the four evangelists (thatís a start). I explained to them that the reason Catholics are so ignorant about the Bible is because, well, for the first fifteen hundred years we didnít have access to a Bible. Then how did we learn? Ah, the smells and the bells and the pictures. We appropriate our faith not so much through our head but through our heart and our gut. Thatís the reason itís so deep and at the same time so inarticulate.
I explained to them that something happened five-hundred years ago that truly facilitated the Protestant Reformation. What was it? A number of hands went up. The printing press. Exactly. And what was the first thing Gutenberg printed on his brand new movable type printing press? The Bible! Exactly. And who was among the first to translate the Bible from Latin into German? You got it, Martin Luther.
Gutenbergís invention caused a monumental shift in the world we live in. All of a sudden new ideas could be disseminated and passed along at a rapid pace. Prior to this great invention, the way you received the faith was to look at the stained glass windows and hear the stories of the people in the windows. This is how I teach the first graders when they tour our church. Hereís a window of the creation, and we tell the story. Hereís a window of Jesus rising from the dead, and we tell the story. Hereís one of him walking on the water. The faith was also passed along by ritual actions, images of the Virgin and Child and the smells of the heavenly incense. It is still not a bad way to learn.
But learning how to read changed everything. Now you could read for yourself what St. Paul is writing about. He is the first and among the greatest theologians of our faith. But heís heady. And even though he is describing a profound spiritual experience, he uses the language of the intellect and the head. Now, the new followers of the Reformation are receiving their faith not so much through the gut and the heart but through the head. It is a whole different way to appropriate the faith. Now words and what these words mean become very, very important. And, of course, now we can argue over these words and find ourselves splitting off in many, many denominations over what they mean. And so they did.
The Catholic reaction to all of this was what was called the Counter-Reformation. Because the reformers were insistent that our faith only came from the Scripture and that we are saved only by faith and not by action, the Council of Trent insisted that we were saved not only by our faith but by our actions as well. We quoted the letter of St. James a lot (and Luther wasnít even sure it belonged in the Bible at all). James said show me your actions and I will show you the faith underlying it. And in reaction to ďonly the Scriptures,Ē we said ďno,Ē it was the Scriptures and tradition. The emphasis was on tradition. The Scriptures could come later. Much, much later.
Well, now it is much, much later. Itís time for the Scriptures. And for our Protestant brothers and sisters, surprise surprise, they are putting on vestments, theyíre buying incense, they have rediscovered ritual. And, please God, we are rediscovering the Bible.
Modern Scripture study for Catholics began around 1948 when Pope Pius XII allowed us to begin to interpret the Scriptures in other ways than literal. Our scholars were adopting many of the methods of the great protestant Scripture scholars to exegete (take out) of the Scriptures the great truths that are there.
With the advent of Vatican II, Scripture study groups began to pop up around the Church and they continue to today but not nearly as much as they should be. Almost to the person, all who seriously study the Scriptures as an adult find them life changing. Our difficulty is we still donít think itís important. We still appropriate through the stained glass windows. Thereís nothing wrong with that but we are missing so much by not delving into Godís Holy Word.
Today is Bible Sunday. Everyone owns one. Read it. Study it. And watch your life change.
In Jesus, the Word of God Incarnate,