Each issue carries an
imprimatur from the
Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
Reprinting prohibited

The Bible:
A User's Guide

by Brian Singer-Towns, general editor of the Catholic Youth Bible

(A summary of this month's Youth Update)
If you would like to preview a future edition in Youth Update's private online chat room, contact CarolAnn@franciscanmedia.org.

I have been blessed to share my love of the Bible with many young people, who often approach the Bible with some hesitation. This Youth Update addresses your doubts and hesitations so that you, too, can make the Bible part of your life.

Over 250 teens met with 28 bishops at a late 1999 National Catholic Youth Congress in St. Louis. They discussed the topic "Catholic Youth and the Bible." Let me share three of their reasons for reading the Bible—and add one of my own.

1. The Bible helps you find strength to meet the
    challenges of life.
2. The Bible can support you in times of trouble.
3. The Bible offers moral guidance, help about
    how to live.
4. The Bible is one of the foundations for understanding
    our Christian faith.

These three guidelines will help you get started in your Bible reading.

1. Consider the translation or version of your Bible. Catholic versions of the Bible include more books in the Old Testament. Choose a Catholic version so you have access to those books. How will you know a Bible is Catholic? The word imprimatur (im-prim-AH-tur) on the page after the title page is your guarantee that your Bible is an approved Catholic version.

2. Consider whether you want a Bible with only the Bible text or one that also includes additional notes, articles and book introductions. I call the ones with additional material "bridge" Bibles because their articles and notes help the reader bridge the differences between the ancient cultures for whom the books of the Bible were originally written and our world today.

3. Take that new, beautiful, clean Bible and write in it. Get yourself some highlighters and Post-it notes and mark your Bible up as you read. Make the book your own—a useful reference and inspiration.

These three questions will help you figure out your best style for reading the Bible.

1. When will I fit Bible reading in? Do you do better with a daily routine? Many people have found that reading and praying a chapter or so each day gives them a daily spiritual boost. Others—like me—like a longer time once a week or so.

2. What place works best for you? Some people like to read their Bible outdoors in a favorite spot in nature. Others like the quiet and privacy of their bedroom or study area.

3. Do you prefer reading the Bible alone or with a group? Some people find themselves so busy that taking time alone to listen to God's voice is exactly what they need. Other people find that the support and community offered by a Bible study group is important for their spiritual life.

Most methods of Bible study involve three things: studying a Bible passage, praying for personal understanding of God's message, and applying it to one's life. A method I like is the PRIMA process, which is explained in the Catholic Youth Bible. Each letter of PRIMA stands for a step in the process. Since PRIMA is the Latin word for "first," it is also a reminder to put God first in your life.

Pray. Begin with a prayer, asking that your time with Scripture will draw you closer to God.

Read the chosen passage carefully, trusting that God will give you what you need to learn and grow.

Imagine what was going on when the passage was first written. If you can, investigate the historical or cultural situation behind the passage. What message was the author trying to get across? Also, imagine yourself as one of the characters in the story. How would you have felt in that person's place?

Meditate quietly on what you have read, trying to be open to God's message for you.

Apply what you have read to your life. Through the passage God might call you to address a particular issue or relationship. Or you might find needed words of encouragement or comfort. Whatever surfaces for you, make a commitment to carry God's word into the rest of your day, indeed the rest of your life.


Sarah Morin (17), Marie Steiner (17), Leah Theobald (14) and Paul Theobald (16), all from Visitation Parish in Eaton, Ohio, looked over this issue of Youth Update and asked the questions which you will find answered within its pages. Susan Gilmore, parish youth minister, welcomed the group to her home.



How can the Bible help me through situations that people of biblical times never experienced?


Most of the situations we experience today are variations of problems and challenges that people have faced throughout time. For example, Jesus didn't know about nuclear weapons but he does show us how to respond to violence with love and forgiveness. Jesus did not face the problem of AIDS but he does show us how to reach out with compassion to the ill and the outcast. I can almost guarantee that there are stories in the Bible about situations similar to those you are experiencing. Some Bibles contain topical indexes to help you find those stories. Faithful people who turn to the Bible almost always find guidance and support in its pages.


I've heard that all the things recorded in the Bible aren't to be taken literally. Is that true?


This is a good question but a difficult one to answer because it's both yes and no. Yes, the Bible is to be taken literally in the sense that we must apply literary rules in interpreting the meaning of any passage. For example, if we are reading a mythic story, we cannot expect it to teach scientific fact. No, we must not take everything in the Bible as true in the sense of historical and scientific accuracy. The Catholic Church teaches that the Bible's authors—while inspired by God—were still human beings reflecting their own culture and limited knowledge of science and history.


To be a good Catholic, do I have to read the Bible?


There are many good Catholics who do not read the Bible regularly but still live by the Bible's values and teachings. Catholics have many avenues for learning the Bible's values including parents, Sunday Mass and youth groups. But we all can become better Catholics by spending time with the book that is our most direct source for getting to know Jesus!


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