Celebrating National Bible Week 2017

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Little Rock Connections: The Good News for Today
October 2017

Celebrating National Bible Week 2017

Celebrating National Bible Week 2017

By Mary Elizabeth Sperry

The celebration of National Bible Week as an ecumenical endeavor dates back to 1941 when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared the week of Thanksgiving to be the first National Bible Week. In that first year some of the events, scheduled later to commemorate the week, were pre-empted by the attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entrance into World War II. Since that time, one week each year has been set aside to honor the Word of God and its influence in the lives of believers.

The Catholic Church in the United States will celebrate National Bible Week on November 12-18, 2017. (The celebration takes place each year in the week that includes the November 18th anniversary of Dei Verbum, the Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation.) The theme for this year’s celebration is “The Bible: A Book of Faith” in honor of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The resources for National Bible Week will focus on the use of Scripture in the Catechism and on the relationship between Scripture and Tradition in divine revelation. These resources will emphasize the encounter with Christ that lies at the heart of Scripture and the life of faith.

In his apostolic letter to conclude the Year of Mercy, titled Misericordia et Misera, Pope Francis spoke of the essential role that the Word of God plays in helping people grow in faith. He encouraged “that God’s word be increasingly celebrated, known and disseminated, so that the mystery of love streaming from this font of mercy may be ever better understood” (no. 7). National Bible Week fulfills the Holy Father’s request that each particular church set aside a specific time to “renew its efforts to make the Sacred Scriptures better known and more widely diffused” and to “appreciate the inexhaustible riches contained in that constant dialogue between the Lord and his people” (Ibid.).

But what does the celebration of National Bible Week mean on the local level—in parishes, schools, and other faith groups? Simply adding additional activities to an already crowded parish calendar or asking overburdened people to do even more will not achieve the goals that Pope Francis has set out. We don’t need more once-a-year special events for things we forget the other fifty-one weeks. Instead, National Bible Week provides an opportunity to highlight the essential role that Scripture plays in the things we already do. Some examples might include the following:

  • Advertise parish Bible studies and diocesan offerings on the Sunday of National Bible Week with pulpit and bulletin announcements with a special social after Mass that provides an opportunity to get more information or sign up.
  • Invite parishioners to bring their family Bibles to Mass for a special blessing, followed by enthronement at home.
  • Begin all parish meetings with lectio divina using one of the Sunday readings or other Scripture-based prayer.
  • Make sure that the classes in the parish school of religion and/or the Catholic school read from the Bible itself, not just the Scripture excerpts in their catechetical texts.
  • Encourage sound biblically-based preaching at all Masses.
  • Make the resources prepared for National Bible Week available to all parishioners.
  • Invite the parish council or some other group to evaluate how the parish uses Scripture in its ministries (liturgy, catechesis, family, social ministry, etc.).
  • Add a weekly or monthly feature to the Sunday bulletin or parish website to offer Scripture resources, such as references or links to the daily readings, reflection questions, links to Catholic Bible commentaries, basic instruction in forms of Scriptural prayer, etc.

Whatever you decide to do to celebrate National Bible Week, the goal remains the same. In the words of Pope Francis, our National Bible Week observance should be “an opportunity for the faithful to become living vessels for the transmission of God’s word” (Ibid.).

Mary Elizabeth Sperry works for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as the associate director for permissions and New American Bible Utilization. She writes about the Bible and its meaning for people today in numerous periodicals and is the author of Bible Top Tens, Ten: How the Commandments Can Change Your Life, Scripture in the Parish: A Guide for Ministers, and Real Life Faith.

Prepare now for Lent and Easter with our newest volumes of Alive in the Word:

Lent, Season of TransformationLent, Season of Transformation, by Amy Ekeh, invites us to turn over our very hearts to God so that genuine transformation happens within us. Amy is an instructor in the Catholic Biblical School in the Archdiocese of Hartford, a retreat director, and a freelance writer whose work appears in St. Anthony Messenger, The Bible Today, Liguorian, Magnificat and Catechist Magazine. She has also published That Mighty Heart and In Every Life, collections of her blog posts.

Easter, Season of Life and FireEaster, Season of Life and Fire, by Barry Hudock, helps us to explore that “most joyful space” in the church’s calendar, the season of resurrection culminating at Pentecost. Barry is the author of Struggle, Condemnation, Vindication: John Courtney Murray’s Journey toward Vatican II, Faith Meets World: The Gift and Challenge of Catholic Social Teaching, and The Eucharistic Prayer: A User’s Guide and has also contributed articles to America, Commonweal, Our Sunday Visitor, and US Catholic. He serves as Publisher, parish market, for Liturgical Press.

Make National Bible Week, November 12-18, a time of learning and reflection. Take advantage of our National Bible Week free resource, Nourished and Strengthened by God’s Word, to explore what the church teaches about the Bible in paragraphs 101-104 of the CCC. Our thanks for Clifford M. Yeary who wrote the materials for individuals or groups to use.

Haz de la Semana Nacional de la Biblia, 12-18 de noviembre, un tiempo de aprendizaje y reflexión. Utiliza nuestro recurso gratuito: Alimentados y Fortalecidos por la Palabra de Dios.

For more information about workshops, Little Rock Connections, or to offer suggestions, or submit items, please contact:
Little Rock Scripture Study
PO Box 7565
Little Rock, AR 72217

Little Rock Scripture Study

Little Rock Scripture Study, PO Box 7565, Little Rock, AR 72217-7565
Liturgical Press, 2950 Saint John's Road, PO Box 7500, Collegeville, MN 56321
Phone: 1.800.858.5434 or 320.363.2213
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