Through thick and thin: Pope urges youths to read the Bible


By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis said his Bible is old,
beat up and worth more to him than anything money can buy.

“If you saw my Bible, you would not be impressed,”
he wrote to young people. “You’d say, ‘What? This is the pope’s Bible? A
book so old, so beat up?’ You might even want to give me a gift of a new one,
something that costs 1,000 euro. But I don’t want it.”

Pope Francis wrote about his Bible and his Bible-reading
habits in the preface to the German-language study guide, “Youth Bible for
the Catholic Church.” It was released in late October by the Germany-based
Katholisches Bibelwerk and the YouCat Foundation. Other language versions are
expected in 2016.

The Jesuit journal, La Civilta Cattolica, published an
Italian translation of the preface in early December.

The well-worn Bible has been with Pope Francis for half his
life, wrote the pope, who will turn 79 Dec. 17.

“It has seen my joy and has been bathed by my tears: it
is my priceless treasure,” the pope wrote, and “nothing in the world
would make me give it up.”

Youths and young adults in Germany and Austria worked with
three Catholic biblical scholars to compile the new introduction to reading and
understanding the Bible. The illustrated guide, designed for teens and young
adults, contains selections from every book of the Bible with an introductory note,
as well as commentary on the chosen passages, reflections by the young people
and related citations from saints and popes.

In the preface, Pope Francis urges young people to use the
study guide and to read their Bibles daily. He asks them not to hide it on a
bookshelf where it will gather dust “until one day your own children sell
it at a used book stall. No! Don’t let that happen.”

The Bible is not just a piece of literature, he said. There
are Christians in the world today being persecuted just for having a Bible;
“evidently, the Bible is an extremely dangerous book.”

The pope quoted Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu, who said, “You
Christians look after a document containing enough dynamite to blow all civilization
to pieces, turn the world upside down and bring peace to a battle-torn planet.
But you treat it as though it is nothing more than a piece of literature.”

God speaks through the Bible, the pope wrote. It is not a
book designed for the shelves, but for the hands.

Pope Francis asked young people to read from the Bible each
day and with attention.

“Ask ‘What does this say to my heart? What is God saying
to me through these words?'” the pope counseled.

“I want to tell you how I read my old Bible. Often I
pick it up, read a bit, then set it down and let myself be seen by the Lord. I
am not the one looking at him, but he looks at me. God is truly there,

Pope Francis reassured the young people that it is not
uncommon at all to feel like God is not saying anything. “But, patiently,
I stay there and I wait, reading and praying.”

“I pray seated,” he said, “because it hurts
when I kneel. Sometimes when I’m praying I even fall asleep, but that’s OK
because I’m like a son near his father and that’s what counts.”

“Do you want to make me happy?” the pope asked the
youths. “Then read the Bible.”

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