It was said of at least two of the saints that they knew the Old and New Testaments by heart. One of these was Saint Lawrence of Brindisi and the other was Saint Mark the Ascetic. It is recorded the biography of the former that a fellow friar once asked him what would happen if the Protestants took over Christendom and burned every Catholic Bible. To which he replied that he could write the whole Bible from his memory. Saint Mark, who had the same gift, was a disciple of Saint John Chrysostom.
Well, our own Brother Francis knew the four Gospels by heart — three of them in Latin and one in Greek. He achieved this by reading the scriptures every day, even as he performed manual chores. After his duties were over, he would take a walk in the woods and repeat what he had memorized earlier. It was surely the Providence of God that Brother’s principal duty in the religious community was to do the laundry.
It is a praiseworthy thing to read the scriptures, but there is no canonical indulgence for just reading, the indulgence is given to those who meditate on the scriptures, even for fifteen minutes at a time.
In order to understand the scriptures, one needs a good Catholic teacher, who was himself taught by another Catholic teacher. Teacher to student, generation after generation, cultivating the word of God in the soil of the intellect. Pope Benedict XVI is such a teacher. His insights into the scriptures, which he shares with the Church on a regular basis, are doctrinally profound and, at the same time, clear and digestible. Brother Francis was certainly such a teacher. His expositions of so many books of the Bible are as fecund as they are erudite.
Another way to understand the sacred text is to read the commentaries of the saints, especially the doctors of the Church. Saint Jerome’s admonition still reverberates sixteen centuries after he uttered it: “Ignorance of the scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”
Saint Jerome (c. 341-420) is both a Father and a Doctor of the Church; and he has, through the centuries, been a great light and inspiration to the whole world. We are convinced that we need him now more than … Continue reading →