focus on Scripture
“There is one particular way of listening to what the Lord wishes to tell us in his word and of letting ourselves be transformed by the Spirit. It is what we call lectio divina. It consists of reading God’s word in a moment of prayer and allowing it to enlighten and renew us.”
Turning to God’s Word Catholic Bible studies focus on Scripture by providing a gateway to lectio divina, the Church’s centuries-old approach to reading and praying about Scripture. Our studies are intended to lead participants to new ways of pondering what personal message God may be speaking to them, and to consider what actions God may be calling them to take in their lives. Samples of our Catholic Bible studies appear on the study directories for the Gospel According to John, the Letter to the Hebrews, the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Scripture and the Rosary, Sing a New Psalm, and In the Beginning: The Book of Genesis.
In his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Guadium (The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis offers practical suggestions for drawing closer to God through reading and praying with Scripture, including the following questions and some pitfalls that can stand in our way.
“Lord, what does this text say to me?
“What is it about my life that you want to change by this text?
“What troubles me about this text?
“Why am I not interested in this?
“Or perhaps: What do I find pleasant in this text?
“What is it about this word that moves me?
“What attracts me?
“Why does it attract me?
“When we make an effort to listen to the Lord, temptations usually arise. One of them is simply to feel troubled or burdened, and to turn away. Another common temptation is to think about what the text means for other people, and so avoid applying it to our own life. It can also happen that we look for excuses to water down the clear meaning of the text. Or we can wonder if God is demanding too much of us, asking for a decision which we are not yet prepared to make. This leads many people to stop taking pleasure in the encounter with God’s word; but this would mean forgetting that no one is more patient than God our Father, that no one is more understanding and willing to wait. He always invites us to take a step forward, but does not demand a full response if we are not yet ready. He simply asks that we sincerely look at our life and present ourselves honestly before him, and that we be willing to continue to grow, asking from him what we ourselves cannot as yet achieve.”
distinguishing features of Turning to God’s Word Bible studies
The questions in a Turning to God’s Word Catholic Bible study stay tethered to the biblical text, which is the cornerstone of keeping a focus on Scripture. This is a departure from a large number of Bible studies in which many of the questions focus on commentary instead of on the biblical text itself. Turning to God’s Word questions begin by examining who, what, when, and where, and the answers to these questions can be found by carefully reading the Scripture passages identified in the bold introductions to the questions. There are no trick questions, and there are no busy-work exercises that ask you to look up a large number of related passages that all say approximately the same thing.
Once the facts are established concerning what’s being described in the biblical text, questions become more subjective. “Why do you think that Jesus uses this kind of language?” “What point do you think it is that the prophet Isaiah is trying to get across?” There are many possible answers to such questions, and no one person’s opinion—no matter how scholarly—represents the only correct answer.
Many Turning to God’s Word study questions are even more personal, as in this example from Lesson 8 of Scripture and the Rosary: New Testament Mysteries, Old Testament Parallels about the Blessed Virgin Mary’s visit to Elizabeth (found in the Gospel According to Luke 1:39–57): “Although Luke records only a small portion of conversation between the Blessed Virgin Mary and Elizabeth, the two women must have talked much more about God’s love during the three months they were together. What do you usually talk about when you spend time with your relatives and close friends? When was the last time that God’s love and mercy were the topics of your everyday conversation? What great things has God done for you?”
Turning to God’s Word authors are happy to discuss questions related to our studies. Communicating directly with our readers can lead all of us to new insights about Scripture. To ask a question about one of our studies, go to TtGW studies, then choose the study that interests you. Click on the link to one of our online lesson study pages, which include supplemental commentary and links to related resources as well as ask-us-your-question buttons that you can use to directly contact our authors. We’ll respond as soon as we can.
approach the Bible as the living Word of God—We strongly encourage every participant in a Turning to God’s Word Catholic Bible study to watch The Bible as the Living Word of God, Matthew Phelps’ video discussion of the practical benefits of Scripture study based on lectio divina. This inspiring talk, which explains the Catholic approach to Scripture in down-to-earth language that anyone can understand, was recorded at our 2015 retreat at Conception Abbey.
high-quality printed materials—Turning to God’s Word Catholic Bible studies have durable laminated covers, wire bindings so the pages lay flat, and cover flaps that can be used to mark your place. The inside pages are printed in color on heavy glossy paper. Every Catholic Turning to God’s Word study is carefully read by three or more professional editors and proofreaders. References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and Scripture citations are diligently double-checked, and differences in the way chapters and verses are numbered in the Revised Standard Version and the New American Bible are identified throughout the text as well as in the indexes.
imprimaturs—Every Turning to God’s Word Bible study is submitted to the authority of the Catholic Church, and all of our studies have been granted an imprimatur by the Most Reverend Richard E. Pates, bishop of Des Moines. Those imprimaturs are your assurance our Bible studies have been thoughtfully reviewed by a designated representative of the Catholic Church to ensure that the work is free of doctrinal or moral error. In addition, Bishop Pates has written a foreword to Scripture and the Rosary: New Testament Mysteries, Old Testament Parallels. (Abbot Gregory Polan, O.S.B., has written the foreword to Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God Through the Prayers of the Church.)
application—The introduction to each lesson in a Turning to God’s Word Catholic Bible study includes comments and questions especially designed to foster thinking about ways the Scripture applies to contemporary life.
religious art—Looking at religious art can reinforce and enhance our understanding of the biblical text it depicts. Most Turning to God’s Word Catholic Bible studies include visual representations of scriptural scenes. Scripture and the Rosary: New Testament Mysteries, Old Testament Parallels features photographs of stained glass windows depicting scenes from the Rosary mysteries. The Revelation of Jesus Christ: The Faithful Witness, Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God Through the Prayers of the Church, and In the Beginning: The Book of Genesis include Tami Palladino’s color illustrations. Tami also created “Right-Brain Reflections,” an online journal of her visual meditations based on The Letter to the Hebrews: An Explanation of the Mechanism of Our Salvation.
vocabulary help—Turning to God’s Word Catholic Bible studies include vocabulary boxes explaining the Greek and Hebrew roots of key words in Scripture. Every week Matthew Phelps writes an e-column about similar translation issues. Links to many of his past columns are included on our online lesson study pages that can be found under TtGW studies. We also maintain searchable online archives on our Lost in Translation page, where new e-columns are posted each week. If you’d like to receive Lost in Translation by email every Tuesday, you can sign up in the right-hand column next to the archives.
indexes—A complete index of all Scripture citations and citations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church is included in the back of each Turning to God’s Word Catholic Bible study to make it easier to search for material about particular passages. A topical index is included as well.
magisterial quotes—Quotations from recent popes and from magisterial documents are sprinkled throughout Turning to God’s Word Catholic Bible studies, offering participants access to comments about Scripture by some of the most deeply spiritual thinkers of our time.
lesson videos—Authors of our Catholic Bible studies record videos for each lesson, reading through the Scripture passages and explaining key points. Most videos run between 10 and 12 minutes, and you have free access so that you can watch them on your home computer at a time that’s convenient for you. You can access videos through our online lesson study pages on the study directories located under TtGW studies. Because Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God Through the Prayers of the Church and Scripture and the Rosary: New Testament Mysteries, Old Testament Parallels emphasize a more personal approach to prayer, only introductory videos of those studies are offered. One Turning to God’s Word Bible study group in California is sharing a video log of their study of Sing a New Psalm: Communicating with God Through the Prayers of the Church.
online lesson study pages—Turning to God’s Word Catholic Bible studies feature online study resources, including links to magisterial documents and supplemental commentary by the authors. To learn what’s been posted about a particular lesson, go to TtGW studies, select the directory for the Bible study that interests you, and scroll until you find the lesson you want. Each online lesson study page includes an ask-us-your-question button that you can use to contact the authors by email with any questions or comments.
other website resources—Don’t forget to check out the many other resources available on our website under study the Bible.
Do you have a good idea about how Turning to God’s Word Bible Catholic studies can be even better? Share what you do to focus on Scripture when reading the Bible and praying. Contact us—we’d love to hear from you.