Pope Benedict teaches that we can only interpret the Scriptures in the lives of the saints. This observation has transformed my life. I was brought up within Biblical Evangelicalism in which we had long Bible sermons on Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. We had home Bible studies, youth Bible studies, women’s Bible studies and men’s Bible studies. All of us busy interpreting the Bible, “and what does that verse mean to you Mildred?”
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not down on Bible studies and the Catholics could certainly use a few more. Goodness, most Catholics think the Epistle to the Philippians was written to people living in the Philippines, and wouldn’t know their Hezekiah from their Zachariah. So I’m not down on Bible studies, but what shook me up about Pope Benedict’s little saying undermines not only the well meaning, individualistic Bible studies of the Evangelical faithful, but it also undermines the well meaning, individualistic Bible studies of the Liberal elite. The academics with their form criticism, source criticism, historical criticism, linguistic criticism, feminist criticism, metaphorical phantasmagorical criticism etc etc.–all of this is undermined as well.
Again, don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m in favor of good scholarship and the insights that intelligent and conscientious scholars give us on Sacred Scripture, but all of it takes second place to the interpretation of the Scriptures through the lives of the saints.
Take, for example, the two glorious saints Peter and Paul. How can we ever understand the New Testament unless we attempt to understand these two great saints? Only when we study them as people and understand their motivations, their desires, their energy, their faults, their passions and their love and their enormous gift of faith and their magnificent hearts can we begin to really understand the power and the glory of the New Testament in all its magnificent unity and diversity.
The same applies to the whole Scripture. How can we really understand, “Unless you become as a little child you cannot enter the kingdom” unless we stop and consider St Therese, St Gianna, St Agnes and all the other virgin martyrs? How can we really understand the guts and the glory and the beauty and the passion and the pathos of the New Testament unless we study the lives of the saints?
I tell my catechists that they need just three resource books: the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and a good dictionary of the saints. So go for it!