Catholics don’t read the Bible

(Image source: https://stmargaretmary.org/holy-week-schedule ) 

Happy Easter, I hope you are enjoying the festive season, which is a very special time for Christians to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus.

As a Protestant I used to believe that Catholics don’t believe the Bible.  Otherwise, how could they believe all that stuff the believe about Mary?

This season is a great example of how my understanding was wrong.  The sacred Triduum along (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday), as well as Easter Sunday, contain so many scripture readings.  And that’s on top of the 134 or so verses used in the standard liturgy of the Mass every time.

Here’s the list:

Holy Thursday

  • Old Testament: Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14
    • Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 116: 12-13. 15-16. 17-18
  • New Testament: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
    • Gospel Acclamation: John 13:34
  • Gospel: John 13:1-15
Good Friday
  • Old Testament: Isaiah 52:13-53:12
    • Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 31: 2+6, 12-13, 15-16, 17+25
  • New Testament: Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9
    • Gospel Acclamation: Philippians 2:8-9
  • Gospel: John 18:1-19:42
Easter Sunday – Easter Vigil (Saturday night)
  • 1st Old Testament: Genesis 1:1-2:2 (or 1:1,26-31a)
    • Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 104: 1-2, 5-6, 10+12, 13-14, 24+35 or Psalm 33:4-5, 6-7, 12-13, 20-22
  • 2nd Old Testament: Genesis 22:1-18 (or 22:1-2,9a,10-13,15-18)
    • Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 16: 5+8, 9-10,11
  • 3rd Old Testament: Exodus 14:15-15:1
    • Responsorial Psalm: Exodus 15:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 17-18
  • 4th Old Testament: Isaiah 54:5-14
    • Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 30:2+4, 5-6, 11-12a + 13
  • 5th Old Testament: Isaiah 55:1-11
    • Responsorial Psalm: Isaiah 12:2-3, 4b-d, 5-6
  • 6th Old Testament: Baruch 3:9-15, 32-4:4
    • Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 11
  • 7th Old Testament: Ezekiel 36:16-17a, 18-28
    • Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 42:3, 5, 43:3, 4 or Psalm 51: 12-13, 14-15, 18-19
  • New Testament: Romans 6:3-11
    • Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 118:1-1, 16-17, 22-23
  • Gospel:
    • Year A: Matthew 28:1-10
    • Year B: Mark 16:1-7
    • Year C: Luke 24:1-12
Easter Sunday – during the day
  • 1st Reading: Acts 10:34a, 37-43
    • Responsorial Psalm: 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
  • Second Reading: Colossians 3:1-4 or 1st Corinthians 5:6b-8a
    • Gospel Acclamation: 1 Corinthians 5:7b-8
  • Gospel: John 20:1-9 or Luke 24: 13-35

Depending on the readings chosen, Catholics that attend all four services will hear up 372 verses, on top of the antiphons (assume another 3 verses) and the standard 134 verses alluded to / referenced during Mass, for a total of ~509 verses.

But wait, there’s more.  Catholics that attend Palm Sunday the week before will hear an account of Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, as well as another Passion account from one of the other Gospels as follows:

Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter):

  • At the Procession:
    • Year A: Matthew 21:1-11
    • Year B: Mark 11:1-10 or John 12:12-16
    • Year C: Luke 28-40
  • Old Testament: Isaiah 50:4-7
    • Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24
  • New Testament: Philippians 2: 6-11
    • Gospel Acclamation: Philippians 2:8-9
  • Gospel:
    • Year A: Matthew 26:14-27:66 or 27:11-54
    • Year B: Mark 14:1-15:47 or 15:1-39
    • Year C: Luke 22:14-23:56 or 23:1-49
The biggest of these options would be another 156 verses, bringing the total up to ~665 verses of scripture.

Granted, these are bigger services than normal, but it goes to show that Catholics do read the Bible.  If the assumption is that they don’t read the Bible because they don’t carry a Bible to Mass, I would suggest it is because:

  • Catholics are usually provided a copy of the readings for the day in their bulletin, often transcribed in full.
  • Catholics used to use Missals and often still do, which contain all the readings used for church services.  This practice started when Latin was used and people carried a copy of the verses in their vernacular language to Mass.
  • As per Romano Guardini’s observation pre-the Vatican II Council in the 1960s, when the Mass was approved for use in the vernacular, most people would actually listen rather than read along if the readings are said in their language, as ‘faith comes by hearing.’
If the assumption is because their theology doesn’t appear to line up with Sacred Scripture, we can address that in coming articles.
For Reflection:

How many verses of scripture has your church used during these 3-4 days of Holy Week / Easter?

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