A Catholic Understanding of Scripture Interpretation

By Fr Pat Collins CM, 22 November 2020
Image:Aaron Burden/Unsplash


Sad to say, there are still practising Catholics who rarely if ever read and pray the scriptures.

Only two days ago I heard one of them say that they consider it a Protestant practice in spite of the fact that for many years now the Church has encouraged its members to foster a Bible centred spirituality.

In par. 133 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read, “The Church forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful . . . to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, by frequent reading of the scriptures.” Pope Benedict said in par. 86 of his Apostolic Declaration on the Word of God, “The word of God is at the basis of all authentic Christian spirituality . . . Let Catholics remember that prayer should accompany the reading of sacred Scripture.”

It seems to me that two extremes have to be avoided when reading and praying the scriptures.

On the one hand, we have to avoid fundamentalism. On the other hand, we have to avoid putting too much emphasis on a rationalistic, un-supernatural approach to the Biblical texts.

It could be said that piety without scholarship can lead to naïve forms of subjectivism; while scholarship without piety can lead to lifeless head knowledge; but scholarship informed by heartfelt piety leads to a transformation of one’s Christian understanding and way of acting.

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Fr Pat Collins CM is a speaker, retreat leader and author of many books on spirituality. He is based in Dublin, Ireland.

With thanks to the National Service Committee for the Charismatic Renewal in England, where this article originally appeared.


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