Father Joaquin Mestre, a priest of the Archdiocese of Valencia, Spain, and expert in the Sacred Scriptures, shares this analytical article with Exaudi’s readers on September, as the month of the Bible.
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When I was asked to write an article on “September, Month of the Bible,” the first thing I thought was that I didn’t know “that September was the month of the Bible.”
As it’s taken for granted that, at this stage of one’s life, one must know certain basic things, be ashamed, silenced my doubts, and accepted the task, trusting that I would find on the Internet sufficient material to correct my lacunae.
In an attempt to document myself somewhat I found numerous Web pages stating: “The Church celebrates in September the month of the Bible,” but no official document was quoted to back this up. I also found others with Saint John Paul II’s phrase: “During the month of September we, Catholics, must dedicate it to stimulating knowledge and the spreading of biblical texts with greater emphasis,” without mentioning when and where he said it. The grammatical incoherence of the phrase made me suspicious of what later I verified: the affirmation does not come from any official text of John Paul II, but from a badly done cut and paste of a blog of religious divulgation.
May the above serve as a mere anecdote of something more important and sadder: that pious credulity — so widespread in the Catholic world — that enables the constant spread on the Internet and social networks of phrases falsely attributed to Pope Francis, to Mother Teresa or to Augustine of Hippo.
Even graver is the irresponsible tendency to use the expression “the Church says,” “the Church celebrates,” or “the Church believes” to introduce affirmations without any official backup that makes it possible to recognize them as something that the Church says, celebrates and believes. To the confusion proper to the culture we live in, we Catholics contribute with a hazy knowledge of our faith.
Therefore, it’s very necessary that the Church dedicates a month — September or any other — to the Bible, because ignorance of the sources of our faith is an irresponsible and suicidal lack of love.
The renewal that Vatican Council II intended stemmed from the desire to return to the sources. The Council was the fruit of the confluence of the Biblical, Liturgical, Ecumenical and Patristic Movements — Movements all of which intended to know the origins of the life of the Church, to help her to be faithful in the present time to the same mandate of Christ, proclaimed in the 1st century: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation (Mark 16:15). All renewal requires to distinguish what is fundamental from what has been adhering, with the passing of time, to be able to discern what should be preserved and what should be updated. Urgent, therefore, is the task to know and understand what we believe, to be able to “serve” it worthily to the men of today.
Going back to the issue of “September, Month of the Bible,” it seems to be an initiative attributed to the Archdiocese of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, which in 1971, celebrating its 50th anniversary, accompanied the Pauline Sisters in an initiative to promote knowledge of the Bible in the month of September. Helped by the fresh airs of the Council, the idea spread to other dioceses of Brazil and of Latin America and also to other Christian Confessions.
The suitability of the month of September, to encourage the approach to the Bible, stems from the fact that <in this month> important events are celebrated in the biblical ambit.
In the first place, the death of Saint Jerome, who, at the request of Pope Damasus dedicated himself to the translation of the whole Bible into Latin, the common language of the Roman Empire; Jerome had to learn Hebrew to guarantee the fidelity of his translation to the original texts.
Moreover, on September 28, 1569, the “Bible of Oso” was published in Switzerland, the fruit of the work of Casiodoro de Reina — the first full translation of Sacred Scripture into Spanish, in an effort to foster its reading by those who didn’t know Latin, or Greek, or Hebrew.
Both Saint Jerome as well as Casiodoro, punctilious translators, are two distinguished names in a long list of Christians that have recognized the importance that all the baptized be able to access, in the most immediate way possible, that fundamental source of our faith, which is the Bible. Pope Benedict XVI with Verbum Domini, and Pope Francis, with his dedication of the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time to the Word of God, are the most recent papal examples of this same love of the Bible.
“Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ,” said Saint Jerome (In Is., Prologue: PL 24, 17). May this affirmation suffice to encourage us all to approach with veneration knowledge of the Scriptures and of the authentic Christian Tradition, both this month of September as well as the rest of the year.
Our faith merits from us a greater endeavor than quoting irresponsibly what “The Church celebrates” or “the Pope says.” The New Evangelization doesn’t need hollow repetitions of stereotyped formulas, but faithful and mature witnesses that the Word was made flesh and dwells amongst us.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the beautiful initiative of the Archdiocese of Belo Horizonte. It’s an optimum moment for each one to receive, according to his/her possibilities, that precious torch and to receive and transmit with all care the treasure of the written Word of God.
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester