(I was a member of evangelical Protestant churchesfor 46 years. I was received into the Catholic Church on April 10, 2004.)
I agree with Richard Lamb. Knowledge of the Scriptures. I am embarrassed for my Catholic friends who don’t even know which books are in the Old Testament and which are in the New. No self-respecting Protestant will take them seriously.
Of course, I Corinthians 13 says that “Even if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and knowledge…but do not have love, I am nothing.”
So Bible knowledge doesn’t impress me as much as pure and holy love, practical love. But other Protestants don’t think the way I do (that’s one reason I became a Catholic!).
But we shouldn’t be learning the Bible to impress Protestants, we should be learning the Bible because our Church tells us to. The very front inside cover of my New American Bible (St. Joseph) admonishes all the Christian faithful to “learn by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures…For ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”
I’m not really sure how the local parishes could deal with this, though, since learning the Bible is a personal decision and no one can be forced to “learn the Bible.”
Also, my knowledge of the Bible came as a result of a systematic education approach that started when I was a small child, in Sunday School. From 1st grade on, my Protestant Church started in Genesis, and by the time I graduated from 8th grade, I had been taught the entire Bible.
And once I was in high school, we learned the Epistles and some of the other harder books.
(BTW, I’m fairly certain that most Protestant churches don’t do this anymore. In fact, when my older daughter suggested to her Youth Pastor that they do a “Bible Study” for Youth group, he said, “No one would come.” Sad.)
So I’m not sure if it’s possible for an adult to learn in a few years what it took me many, many years to learn.
But you could try!
One thing that Catholics might want to try is reading through the entire Bible in a year. I know that there are little pamphlets out there describing a program that involves about a half hour a day of readings.
It’s not impossible. It only takes about 80 hours to read the whole Bible through. It is NOT like reading the Twenty Volume set of “Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Faith”—now THERES a tome!
I don’t want to sound braggacious, but I am 47 and have read the Bible through at least twelve times. The first time I finished reading it through, I was about thirteen. When my best friend and I were sixteen, we had a Bible Marathon–we started reading in Genesis, taking turns reading a chapter out loud, and we kept reading until we finished Revelation. It took us about 69 hours. If you have the time and liberty to do this, you might want to try it. It was fun.
One of the Protestant churches I was in had a Bible Read-A-Thon as a Youth Group fundraiser. The teens signed up for a half-hour, and then read from the pulpit. The readings were open to the public, and continued all through the day and night. I remember going down at about 5 am (I was nursing a baby at the time) and getting chills listening to a lone teenager reading some ancient Old Testament prophet. I think this is the kind of thing that Catholic youth would really enjoy. (BTW, there was sand volleyball, food, movies, music, etc. for all the other teens who were waiting for their turns to read!!)
Another thing that I think would help Catholics become more Biblically literate is a Children’s Club program. A lot of Protestant churches have “AWANA” clubs (and a lot of Catholic kids go to them). I personally prefer the less-competitive PIONEER CLUBS, which not only offer Bible teaching to little ones, but a more “complete” program similiar to Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts. When I was a Pioneer Club leader, we did so much stuff–camping, cooking, Bicycle Olympics, crafts, field trips, nature lore–it was great fun for the kids and adults, and a great way to teach the Bible without sitting down in a lecture format. Is there anything like this in the Catholic Church? I’ve never seen it at my very large parish.
Also, I think that RCIA should include an “Orientation to the Bible” session. In fact, at our parish, my husband has been asked to prepare this segment of RCIA this year.
And I think that parishes ought to work toward getting not just candidates and catechumens into RCIA, but all members who want to re-learn the basics of their Catholic faith.
I am thrilled that my parish and my diocese offers many opportunities for adult Bible study along with RCIA. We have an excellent apologetics class which leaves my head bulging with knowledge. I am enjoying the Scriptures more than ever since becoming Catholic. A lot of things now make sense to me.