The Catholic Church on Reading the Scriptures


If you think the Church has nothing to say about Scripture, you couldn’t be more wrong. The Church has spoken often and forcefully for 2000 years about the centrality of Scripture in the life of the Church and for the individual Christian. The Church even attaches an indulgence to those who read Scripture meditatively and with devotion for 15 minutes a day! The following is just a snippet of the volume of writing, from Popes, Church Councils, and Catholic Saints, that have been written through the centuries. We’ll be adding more volume and variety as time permits:


The Catholic Church On Reading The Bible
A quick synopsis from various sources

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraphs 101—141
From the US Catholic Bishop’s website

Providentissimus Deus (On The Study of Holy Scripture)
Encyclical by Pope Leo XII, 1893

Divino Afflante Spiritu (Inspired By The Holy Spirit)
Encyclical by Pope Pius XII, 1943

Dei Verbum (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation)
Vatican II document on Scripture, 1965

Verbum Domini (The Word of God)                                                                                                                             Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation by Pope Benedict XVI, 2010


“But for the searching and right understanding of the Scriptures there is need of a good life and a pure soul, and for Christian virtue to guide the mind to grasp, so far as human nature can, the truth concerning God the Word. One cannot possibly understand the teaching of the saints unless one has a pure mind and is trying to imitate their life…Anyone who wishes to understand the mind of the sacred writers must first cleanse his own life, and approach the saints by copying their deeds. Thus united to them in the fellowship of life, he will both understand the things revealed to them by God and, thenceforth escaping the peril that threatens sinners in the judgment, will receive that which is laid up for the saints in the kingdom of heaven.”   —St. Athanasius

“Just as at sea those who are carried away from the direction of the harbor bring themselves back on course by a clear sign, on seeing a tall beacon light or some mountain peak coming into view, so Scripture may guide those adrift on the sea of life back into the harbor of the divine will.”  —St. Gregory of Nyssa

“A man who is well-grounded in the testimonies of Scriptures is the bulwark of the Church.” —St. Jerome

“For if, as Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”  —St. Jerome

“Our whole business therefore in this life is to restore to health the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen. …To this end is directed the whole aim of the Divine and Holy Scriptures, that that interior eye may be purged of anything which hinders us from the sight of God.”  — St. Augustine

“He is a Christian, a true Christian, who subjects himself to the rule of the one and only Word of God.”  —Origen

“For Christ’s Word in the first place cleanses us from errors, by instructing us (cf. Titus 1:9)…secondly, it purifies our hearts of earthly affections, filling them with desire for heavenly things…; finally, his Word purifies us with the strength of faith, for “he cleansed their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9).”  —St. Thomas Aquinas

“The person who thirsts for God eagerly studies and meditates on the inspired word, knowing that there he is certain to find the one for whom he thirsts.”  —St. Bernard of Clairvaux

“Cultivate a special devotion to God’s Word, whether studied privately or in public; always listen to it with attention and reverence, strive to profit by it, and do not let it fall to the ground, but receive it within your heart as a precious balm, thereby imitating the Blessed Virgin, who “kept all these sayings in her heart.”  –St. Francis de Sales

“A good way to advance in sanctity is to read Holy books, Holy Scripture, the Fathers of the Church and the Lives of the Saints. It is important to take time out of our busy schedule for God.”  –-Mother Angelica

“One must humbly acknowledge that a whole lifetime is necessary to study the Word of God and to acquire the wisdom that leads to love.”  —Cardinal Robert Sarah

“[Sacred Scripture] is truly divine, because it belongs to God truly and genuinely: God himself inspired it, God confirmed it, God spoke it through the sacred writers (Moses, the Prophets, the Evangelists, the Apostles) and, above all, through his Son, our only Lord, in both the Old and the New Testament.”  —Pope St. John Paul II

“Let us take up this book! Let us receive it from the Lord who continuously offers it to us through his Church. Let us devour it, so that it can become our very life. Let us savor it deeply: it will make demands of us, but it will bring us joy because it is sweet as honey. Filled with hope, we will be able to share it with every man and woman we encounter along our way.”   —Pope St. John Paul II

“Each member of the faithful should grow accustomed to reading the Bible daily!”  —Pope Benedict XVI

“I would like in particular to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of Lectio divina: “the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to Him with trusting openness of heart”. (cf. DV n. 25) If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church — I am convinced of it — a new spiritual springtime.”  —Pope Benedict XVI

“So you have something divine in your hands: a book like fire! A book through which God speaks. So notice: The Bible is not meant to be placed on a shelf, but to be in your hands, to read often—every day, both on your own and together with others.”  —Pope Francis