By Claire Giangravè
ROME (Crux) – It’s no mystery that Protestants often embarrass Catholics in terms of mastery of scripture. While a Lutheran, for example, could be found reciting the entire Book of Deuteronomy, many Catholics would struggle to distinguish certain scripture verses.
But a new Bible hopes to bridge the gap by making it more accessible to the ordinary faithful.
“Many Catholics that I meet feel that scripture is kind of inaccessible to them. They don’t feel like scripture is something they can pick up every day and read and have a conversation with God through it,” said Bible scholar Mary Healy in an interview with Crux.
“But this Bible is going to help people do that,” she said.
The Great Adventure Catholic Bible, published by Ascension Press, utilizes color coding, maps, timelines, articles and charts to make the Gospel more accessible for those who wish to become better acquainted with scripture.
The new publication features a mechanism that highlights the 70 key events in the Bible and places them in a chronological order so that readers are always aware of where they are in the narrative.
“I think this Adventure Bible is a whole new level of helping Catholics feel at home in the word of God,” said Healy, who teaches Sacred Scripture at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, said. “It’s a very exciting resource because it helps Catholics really understand the big picture in salvation history.”
Healy was a general editor on the Bible, making sure that the multitude of features it contains is accurate and in line with the best Biblical scholarship, while at the same time accessible for Catholics who are approaching the holy text for the first time.
“As Catholics we’ve not had a culture of studying the Bible. Many Catholics were brought up with the idea that reading the Bible is something more Protestant,” she said.
“That’s actually a tremendous distortion that would have horrified St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas, any of the fathers of our church or theologians of our history, who recognized scripture as the word of God and the soul of theology,” she said.
According to the scholar, the Second Vatican Council has encouraged a shift in this trend, leading many more Catholics with a greater hunger for the word of God.
“It takes time to develop a culture of love and study of scripture and thankfully that’s happening now,” she said..
“The resignation is my way of trying to express my great and abiding love for you the people of this archdiocese.”
Healy serves the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity at the Vatican, since she is a member of the Pentecostal-Catholic International Dialogue. In 2014, Pope Francis appointed her as one of the first three women to serve on the Pontifical Biblical Commission.
“My work on the biblical commission has deepened my sense of the incredible richness and treasures of the Bible,” she said, adding that the presentations made by the experts on the commission specialized in various fields have opened her eyes to the “treasury of insight, wisdom and connections” that the Bible has to offer.
In many ways this Bible answers Francis’s call to bring the word of God to the outskirts of society, by removing the layers of complexity and formality in order to begin a dialogue with those who feel the most distant from the Church and from God.
“Scripture is deeply connected to evangelization, because if we are to have a compelling message to bring to others we ourselves must also be immersed in the word of God,” Healy said.
“If I’m weak in my knowledge of the Bible, I’ll be compromised in my ability to bring the good news to others.”
The biblical scholar also explained how access to the Scriptures makes it easier to communicate some of the most complex aspects of Christianity, starting with sexuality, human dignity and relationships. These topics, she said, are very difficult to digest for people today, but the word of God is the most compelling tool at the Church’s disposal.
In a world today where it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish facts from fantasy, The Great Adventure Catholic Bible offers the possibility to go directly to the source with a plethora of tools that make the text more accessible, comprehensible and relatable.
“In our world today, there is a plague of misinformation, of fake news, but more importantly of deceptions about who we are as human beings, about the meaning of life, about who God is,” Healy said.
“False narratives,” she continued, convince people that life has no meaning by reducing the human experience to a cloud of atoms with no moral rules or boundaries.
“The time is ripe for Catholics to boldly, unabashedly, joyfully propose once again the glorious good news of Jesus Christ, and to do it not just repeating formulas from the past but to do it in a way that answered the needs of our contemporaries,” she said.