Why is the Bible Important to Catholics?

by Susan Ayers

Catholics globally hear scripture readings at daily and Sunday mass. Scripture readings are biblical; therefore, the Bible plays an important role in the life of a Catholic. The importance of scripture is revealed in the catechism of the Catholic Church, which states that the authors of the Bible were divinely inspired. Thus, their writings are infallible and without error. Catholic Popes Leo XIII and Pius XII individually asserted the infallibility of the Holy Scripture.

Word of God

Catholics believe that when they read the Bible, their understanding is inspired by the Holy Spirit. The catechism of the Catholic Church states that "God speaks to man in a human way" through sacred scripture. In order for the Catholic reader to be divinely inspired, however, three things are necessary. People must be attentive to the content when reading scripture, it must be read in the tradition of the whole church and people must be attentive to the "analogy of faith."

Reading Scripture Creates Change

In 1943, Pope Pius XII issued his encyclical, "Divino Afflante Spiritu," encouraging Catholics to take up the practice of reading the Bible. Before this time, reading the Bible was considered a Protestant task and Catholics received their knowledge of scripture from hearing a priest read it from the pulpit. Vatican II reasserted the infallibility of the authors of the Bible and that scripture was inspired by the Holy Spirit. After Vatican II, parishes began holding Bible studies. Fervent prayer and scripture readings lead Catholics to a change of heart, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Tradition

One of the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism is tradition. While Protestants believe that the Bible is the sole source of doctrine, Catholics believe that both holy scripture and the traditions of the church make up the doctrine of faith. The catechism of the Catholic Church states that both scripture and tradition must be equally honored. The Bible itself speaks of tradition. The apostle Paul writes to the Thessalonians and instructs them to uphold the traditions that they were taught either by the spoken word or by letters written by the apostles (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

Biblical Readings in the Mass

The Catholic mass contains three readings from the Bible during the Liturgy of the Word. The first reading is taken from the Old Testament and the second reading is taken from the New Testament. Between the readings, Catholics recite a responsorial psalm from the book of Psalms. Finally, a reading from one of the books of the Gospel is read, usually by the priest, at the mass.

About the Author

Based in Richmond, Va., Susan Ayers is a senior learning associate for a financial organization. She previously developed web-based training for Circuit City and spent a number of years creating eLearning courses for a not-for-profit law enforcement organization. Ayers graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in English from Virginia Commonwealth University and holds a master's in education from St. Joseph's College.

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