I’m preparing for a presentation I will give at the Chicago Catechetical Conference this Friday morning – my topic is “5 Steps to Increase Your Students’ Bible IQ Dramatically.” Lo and behold, I find that the bishops at the Synod focusing on Scripture have something to say about the “secret” (I hate when they use that word!) for getting young people to read the Bible. Rather than the “secret,” I think what they are talking about is the “key” and it comes down to the person of the catechist. Surprise! No surprise here. Time and again, we hear that it is the authentic living faith of the catechist that serves as the foundation for any effective catechesis. Here’s what the bishops are saying (from Zenit):
A Secret for Making Youth Read the Bible
Cardinal Bertone Tells How to Spark Interest in Scripture
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 14, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI believes the Bible can be a compass for young people, but his secretary of state says they need to be taught how to appreciate it.
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone spoke about sparking youthful interest in the Bible when he addressed today the world Synod of Bishops, meeting in Rome through Oct. 26.
The cardinal referred to three statements from the Holy Father that indicate his outlook on Scripture: “If the holy Book is consulted with due attention, young believers will find an indispensable guide or compass, and the meeting with the Bible will also become a meeting with Christ.”
But, Cardinal Bertone acknowledged, according to the summary of his statement released by the Vatican, the Bible often does not “rouse particular interest and affection in the young, especially adolescents.”
“Compared to the living testimony of a believer, faith transmitted through the holy Scriptures largely provokes only indifference, indifference which is accompanied by a large dose of ignorance and above all by a great difficulty in perceiving its vital value,” he said. The cardinal cited a 1995 study that showed those who most frequently fail to come into contact with the Bible are between the ages of 14 and 19.
Nevertheless, Cardinal Bertone noted, “many of these young people show a surprising interest in the Bible” when adults who are credible witnesses of Christ present Scripture with their patience and testimony: “In other words, people who, when they say the Word of God, demonstrate it with their own life.”
“If the adult as teacher-friend manages to persuade the youth to open their hearts, then the Scripture will be seen as a gift which brings with it all the qualities of the Word of God according to Biblical codification, with special concern for the youth’s soul,” he added. “In this way young people will grow and appreciate the role played by the young in the Bible, especially in the Gospels […] they will also appreciate the many sporting images in the Bible with their original applications for the virtuous life.”
The cardinal noted the Holy Father’s own summary regarding a pedagogical approach to Scripture: “I think that we should learn to do three things: to read it in a personal colloquium with the Lord; to read it with the guidance of teachers who have the experience of faith, who have penetrated sacred Scripture; and to read it in the great company of the Church, in whose liturgy these events never cease to become present anew and in which the Lord speaks with us today.”