Pope Benedict as Bible blogger?

VATICAN CITY — The Synod of Bishops on the Bible heard an unusual suggestion Tuesday morning when a Hong Kong observer asked Pope Benedict to start up his own daily blog on Scripture.

Agnes Kam Leng Lam, president of the Catholic Biblical Association of Hong Kong, said people need to experience Scripture in small but significant doses.

“To put it in a nutshell, I’d like to suggest to you Holy Father to start a multi-language blog to shepherd today’s world by scriptural verses, daily verses,” she said on the synod floor. The pope’s blog should include simple reflections that relate Scripture to real-life situations, she said.

Lam included advice that’s probably good for any blogger: “Remember, brief texts, Holy Father, and plentiful images, and this will be very attractive to the young generation and to today’s people.”

The talk apparently provoked a positive reaction and some laughter, but the pope, who was presiding over the Oct. 5-26 assembly, didn’t say whether he’d be blogging anytime soon.

CNS Bible Blog: Judith, Chapter 10 – Hanging on to tradition

By Uta Sievers
Special to Catholic News Service

Today, I sat down again with the Book of Judith and started reading Chapter 10. Following the method of “Ignatian contemplation” (a way for reading and praying with the Scriptures that has been used by Jesuits since the 16th century), I took a step back inside the story as Judith.

Uta Sievers

When the Assyrian soldiers grab my bare arms, I feel fire run through my body. I shrink back but see the necessity of going through this. I feel shame at the humiliating smiles, at their obvious enjoyment of having me in their hands. Disgust at their dirty hands on my skin. The eyes of men who are trained for war, not for love. Their smelly bodies rub against me as they push me forward to take me to Holofernes. Beauty can be such a trap.

I manage to tell the story of my treason convincingly, and there is a reason for it: I am still angry at the Elders in my town, who almost mistrusted God. Silly people, my Israelites! I feel I could almost do it, lead the enemy into the heartland of Israel. But that’s not God, that’s me, the Jonah in me. All I need to do now is get through to Holofernes, and any story will do.

As I am escorted through the gaping crowds of soldiers, I feel lightheaded. I know what God is doing here by way of me, Judith: crossing all the boundaries of what’s permitted for a woman, a stranger, an inferior human being. It’s so outrageous that they decide not to harm me … for now.

I have five days. Four and a half now. I feel my way through those days, doing things almost in a trance, following the master plan. I reconnect every night with the one who is in charge here. Oh, how I long for my nightly prayer sessions. To feel clean once again inside and out after washing myself in the fountain. To share my fears with the one who knows them already, and who even knows the outcome of our plan. To find strength and answers. To be safe from the inhabitants of the camp, one night at a time.

As I step out of the story, I pray for the men and women of all faiths who hang on to their traditions and customs in the midst of adverse conditions because that is where they find meaning.

Better homilies, better readers: That’s the ticket

VATICAN CITY — The need for better homilies and the importance of lectors carefully, slowly and clearly proclaiming the word have been insistently recurring themes at the world Synod of Bishops on the Bible.

Auxiliary Bishop Anton Leichtfried of Sankt Polten, Austria, told the synod yesterday that for too many Catholics, going to Mass is like standing near a train station: every once in a while, a train whips by — the Sunday Scripture readings.

A Franciscan Friar at Rome's Termini Train Station (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

A Franciscan Friar at Rome's Termini Train Station. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

“The readings of the Sacred Scripture will pass quickly by the ears and eyes of the faithful who cannot get on board and stay on board,” he said.

Bishop Leichtfried asked the synod to suggest that all Catholics read at least the Gospel for themselves before going to church. And that those who preach really take on board the fact that their Sunday homily is probably the only Biblical reflection most Catholics will hear all week.

CNS Bible Blog: Judith, Chapter 8 — Fighting for right

By Uta Sievers
Special to Catholic News Service

I sat down with the Book of Judith and started reading Chapter 8. Following what is often described as an Ignatian method for reading and praying with the Scriptures, I took a step inside the story. (At the end of this post, you will find a video with Jesuit Father James Martin, associate editor of America magazine, giving a step-by-step explanation of Ignatian contemplation.)

Uta Sievers

I am Judith. Sadness has been with me for the last three years and four months. The man I love, my husband, has died unexpectedly. Too soon. I now live in a tent on the rooftop of my house. It’s hot in there. I pray, I fast. My sadness is physical. My clothes are black. They cover my pain. Now I have so much time for myself. Time to spend with God.

I pray, I fast. I ask. I listen. The moment will come. God has planted a forest of fast-growing nurture-trees within me. I have enough energy to explode.

Something in me calls me with a low, gentle voice. I am prepared.

I explode in bursts: first, when the Elders make plans. Oh, the anger! I knew anger could be good thing. It got me into doing my own planning. And then I told them: “You can’t play with God like this! You bet your lives and those of your people on him interfering in the next five days. Are you mad?? God will act when the time has come, and there is no way for us to know when that is. I know you wanted to protect the people from the worst when you told them not to surrender the city but wait for another five days. That was the right direction. No good will come from us surviving in slavery, while the enemy gets to Jerusalem and destroys the temple. Not surrender, but action will save us. I am going to try something…. Just let me do my thing and you’ll see.”

When did I know what to do? Much earlier. On my rooftop. The knowledge flowed through my body day in and day out, through my prayers. It felt very natural. That was then, this is now. I rise, I get angry, I act. God is here.

As I step out of the story, I pray for all those who feel called by a small, gentle voice to stand up for what is right.

The Road to Emmaus: The synod’s favorite Bible story

By a huge margin, the Bible story quoted most often during the first week of the world Synod of Bishops on the Bible has been the story of the disciples meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus, said Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, who is briefing English-speaking journalists on the synod speeches.

The Emmaus Icon commissioned by Father Rosica. (CNS photo by Father Thomas Rosica. Used with permission)

Anytime the word “Emmaus” is mentioned in any language or anytime there is a reference to Luke 24:13-35, Father Rosica’s ears perk up. He did one of his post-graduate projects on the story. And, while in Jerusalem in 1990, he commissioned Benedictine Sister Marie-Paul of the Mount of Olives Monastery to paint an icon of the story’s two main scenes.

The reason the story keeps coming up at the synod is because so many bishops and other synod members see it as the perfect example of what the church must do with the Scriptures: discuss them with the faithful, explain them and let them lead people to recognize Jesus.

Father Pasual Chavez Villanueva, superior general of the Salesians, told the synod this morning that the story give precise instructions for how to evangelize the young, emphasizing that it is Jesus who evangelizes through his word and that evangelization takes place by walking alongside people, listening to their sorrows, and then giving them a word of hope and a community in which to live it.

Father Chavez told the synod that today’s young people definitely share with the disciples “the frustration of their dreams, the tiredness of their faith and being disenchanted with discipleship.”

“Young people,” he said, “need a church that walks alongside them where they are.”

Church teachings in your pocket

VATICAN CITY — The U.S.-based Apostolate for Family Consecration is offering bishops attending the world synod on sacred Scripture a free MP3 video player preloaded with commentaries on church teaching.

a logo from the Apostolate for Family Consecration

A logo from the Apostolate for Family Consecration.

The black, pocket-sized video player has more than 45 hours of Cardinal Francis Arinze giving colorful commentaries on Scripture, catechetics, and Vatican II teachings. The Nigerian-born cardinal is prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

The gift is part of an wider initiative the international lay movement is promoting during the monthlong synod. They have invited synod bishops to attend a one-and-a-half-hour presentation Oct. 8-10 to hear and ask questions about the movement’s catechetical materials and formation programs.

Apostolate members came to Rome after visiting Hong Kong and Myanmar, where they spoke with church leaders about offering catechetical training to local Catholics and bringing their materials into local dioceses so as to help families bring Scripture into their daily lives.

If you feel left out because you are not a synod bishop, not to worry: many of the apostolate’s materials are available for free online, and videos and audios are easy to download onto your own MP3 player at the apostolate’s Web site, www.familyland.org.

Worth a look during the synod

As you follow the world Synod of Bishops on Scripture at the Vatican this month, here are two Web sites that might be worth your time:

– On our synod page we’ve posted a link to a new slideshow of photos by David Maung, who spent a day inside a Mexican prison following the ministry of the Missionary Servants of the Word.  As one of the captions in the photo slideshow notes, nuns from the Missionary Servants offer Bible study several times a week to the prisoners. We hired David to illustrate a synod-related story on how organizations like the Missionary Servants of the Word might be an example for the church as it seeks to find fresh ways to make the Bible important in Catholics’ lives.

– Chris Gunty, associate publisher of the Florida Catholic, which serves most of Florida’s dioceses and its one archdiocese, has launched a new blog on the synod aimed particularly at “what the synod means to you and me.” The latest post (as of this writing) tells how one parish found blessings for its members by organizing a way for the parish to read the Bible in manageable chunks rather than all at once.

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