On Summer Reading

«Keep the Holy Bible Close at Hand During the Summer Months»

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 13, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis Benedict XVI gave Aug. 3 during the general audience held at Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am very glad to see you here in the square at Castel Gandolfo and to resume the audiences, which were interrupted during the month of July. I would like to continue with the subject we initially began; that is, a «school of prayer,» and today, in a slightly different way, and without straying from this theme, I would like to touch upon several spiritual and concrete aspects which seem useful to me, not only for those who — in one part of the world — are currently spending their summer holidays like us, but also for all those who are occupied with their daily work.

When we have a break from our activities, especially during vacation time, we often take up a book we want to read. It is this very aspect that I would like to reflect upon today.

Each of us needs time and space for recollection, meditation, and calm … Thanks be to God that this is so! In fact, this need tells us that we are not made for work alone, but also for thought, for reflection, or simply for following with our minds and hearts a tale in which we can immerse ourselves, «losing ourselves» in some sense to find ourselves subsequently enriched.

Naturally, many of the books we take up during our vacation are for the most part an escape, and this is normal. However, some people, particularly if they are able to take a more extended time of rest and relaxation, devote themselves to reading something more demanding.

I would therefore like to make a suggestion: why not discover a few of the books of the Bible that are not commonly known? Or perhaps from which we have heard an occasional passage during the Liturgy but which we have never read in their entirety? Indeed, many Christians never read the Bible, and have a very limited and superficial knowledge of it.

The Bible — as the name suggests — is a collection of books, a little «library» [biblioteca] that came to be over the course of a millennium. Some of these «little books» that make up the Bible remain virtually unknown to the vast majority of people, even to good Christians. Some are very short, like the Book of Tobias, a tale that contains a lofty sense of family and marriage; or the Book of Esther, in which the Hebrew Queen saves her people from destruction through her faith and prayer; or even shorter, the Book of Ruth, a foreigner who comes to know God and to experience His providence. These little books can be read in their entirety in an hour. More demanding and true masterpieces are the Book of Job, which confronts the great problem of innocent suffering; Ecclesiastes, which is striking for the baffling modernity with which it challenges the meaning of life and the world; the Canticle of Canticles, a stupendous symbolic poem on human love. As you see, these are all books from the Old Testament. And the New? The New Testament is of course better known and its literary genre is less diversified. But the beauty of reading a Gospel in one sitting is worth discovering, as I also recommend for the Acts of the Apostles, or one of the Letters.

To conclude, dear friends, today I would like to suggest that you keep the holy Bible close at hand during the summer months and in moments of rest, so that you might enjoy it in a new way by reading some of its Books straight through, those that are less well known as well as those that are more familiar, such as the Gospels, but without putting them down.

In this way, moments of relaxation can become not only a time of cultural enrichment, but beyond this, also a source of spiritual nourishment, capable of nourishing our knowledge of God and conversation with Him; that is, prayer. And this seems to be a beautiful occupation during the summer holidays: to take a book of the Bible in order to have a little relaxation, and at the same time, to enter into the great realm of God’s Word and to deepen our contact with the Eternal One, as the goal of the free time given to us by the Lord.

[Translation by Diane Montagna] [The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking visitors present today, including the groups from the United States of America and from the islands of the Caribbean and Mauritius. My special greeting goes to the young people from Australia and the Japanese pilgrims from Nagasaki. During these summer days, many of us find time to enjoy reading a good book. Today I would like to suggest reading through one of the many books of the Bible, as a way of appreciating the beauty of God’s word and thus growing in knowledge and love of him. May the Lord bless you and your families with wisdom, joy and peace!

© Copyright 2011 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[In Italian, he said:]

Lastly, I greet the youth, the ill and infirm, and newlyweds. Dear friends, may the light of Christ illumine your lives and make them fruitful in good works. Thank you for your attention. I wish you a good day.

[Translation by Diane Montagna]
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