Wisdom Overflowing

Scripture Study Resources for Catholics

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SCRIPTURE AS A SOURCE FOR SPIRITUAL LIFE
Not everyone who reads or studies the Bible will experience the Bible's texts as offering places or opportunities or themes for spiritual growth. In fact, I think most Catholics today need help with this next step of bringing Scripture into their lives.
We need help because:
  • Most of us have a limited understanding of what spiritual life is, of the many activities and attitudes it includes.
  • It's not always obvious how the various parts of the vast collection of material we call the Bible are actually relevant for our spiritual lives (especially in those older sections!).
  • We know how to read, study, and share; we don't know as much about trusting and perceiving things without words, or opening ourselves to spiritual encounter and challenge.
For all these reasons, I recommend some preparation before you learn ways of praying and reflecting with Scripture. Before you learn those ways (or at least at the same time you're learning them!), get a resource that teaches you about spiritual life; helps you understand how all of Scripture can illuminate and grow your faith, (almost) no matter what kind of text it is; and illustrates how to perceive the spiritual realities of Scripture in approaches that supplement reading and studying.
Here are a few suggestions for this special kind of resource.
RESOURCES: Reflections on
Scripture as a Source for Spiritual Life

Praying the Scriptures

By Demetrius Dumm, O.S.B. Liturgical Press (2003)

The author, a professor of New Testament who deeply knows Scripture, tells us what you might call the "secret" of the Bible for our spiritual lives: "[The hundreds of words of the Bible] are not just for our reading; they are intended to lead us to reality...and all of its implications for the meaning of our own lives" (p. 2). This book interweaves teachings about prayer with teachings about Scripture in a way that illuminates both. In each chapter, he reflects on passages from throughout the Bible as he develops his themes of coming to know God's saving acts; the models for prayer and prayer-into-living we have in the Bible's men and women, including Jesus; and the perfect prayer the Eucharist can be, if we participate rightly. Includes a nice chapter on lectio divina.

A truly beautiful book suitable for advanced beginners and intermediate readers. People who don't know how to get out of "Bible study mode" will really benefit. Written in short sections within chapters so it can easily be used for personal reflection. Also an excellent book for Bible study groups.

NOTE: This book does NOT include discussion questions; however, Little Rock Scripture Study has developed a 7-week, intermediate-level study program for it. See Bible Study Programs.

Flowers in the Desert: A Spirituality of the Bible

By Demetrius Dumm, O.S.B.

Saint Vincent Archabbey Publications (2001)

A book designed to present a more biblically-centered Christian spirituality to Catholics. Here, the author's reflections and teaching follow the order of the Bible's story, from Exodus and Creation through Resurrection, always emphasizing how we participate in and respond to what the Bible and Christian life reveal to us. With themes of God's saving events, our response to those saving events, the journey, prophetic guidance for the journey, letting go, and resurrection as homecoming, this book addresses all aspects of Christian spiritual life.

Another beautiful book that teaches advanced beginners and intermediate readers about Scripture and spirituality. Most suitable for personal use, perhaps coming together with people in discussion groups. Excellent for those who preach and teach the Bible.

Biblical Foundations of Spirituality

By Barbara Bowe, R.S.C.J. Rowman & Littlefield (2003)

A resource that will teach you about spirituality, and biblical spirituality in particular, as well as lead you through the entire Bible using a combination of essential biblical scholarship and sensitivity to the ways the Bible speaks to our faith lives today. The author, who was a New Testament scholar, organizes her presentation around the types of spirituality the Bible presents: meeting God beyond names, and God who hears the cries of the oppressed; prophetic spirituality and Pauline spirituality; the lessons for spiritual living in the wisdom tradition, in the earthly and continuing life of Jesus, and even in the book of Revelation. Each chapter ends with several thoughtful reflection questions.

Excellent for intermediate-level students who have done basic study of the Bible in ministry formation programs or in diocesan Bible schools who want to learn how to deepen their spiritual connection with Scripture. With a qualified leader, the individual chapters could also be used as the basis for parish or diocesan Bible studies oriented to Scripture as a source for spiritual life.

Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality

By Richard Rohr St. Anthony Messenger Press (2008)

A different approach to reflecting on Scripture as a source for spiritual life, that begins where many people today are: with no real understanding of what inner experience of Scripture could be, and therefore no real sense of how God's reality could flow from the Word and shape their lives. Drawing on many contemporary ideas, and without presenting too much explanation of biblical texts, the author reflects on themes from throughout Scripture that connect with a modern Christian spiritual life.

A thoughtful and thought-provoking resource for people with some knowledge of the Bible who would like less traditional approaches to reflecting on Scripture and spiritual life. Suitable for reading groups and personal use.

SCRIPTURE AND SPIRITUAL LIFE


1. Most Catholics today need help with learning to experience the texts of the Bible as potential of spiritual growth.

2. We need to learn what spiritual life is, how the diverse and often strange parts of the Bible might be relevant to it, and how to get beyond reading and study to perceiving, trusting, and opening.

3. Begin your deeper experience of Scripture on a solid foundation

with a resource that reflects on and teaches you about spiritual life and about what the texts of the Bible offer to people of faith.

4. Take your time, trust, and be open.


ACTIVITY

You might get the most benefit from the resources listed here, and get the best foundation for your spiritual development, if you form a group to discuss what you read.

Knowing other people are in the same place you are, or have been in that place and can point a way forward, is a great help for your own development.

Who would you invite to join you?


KEEP LEARNING

"The Bible and Prayer: Themes from the Synod" by Michael D. Guinan, O.F.M. (Catholic Update February 2009)