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Praying Scripture with Children

April 6, 2009
“One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt. 4:4)
readingbibleWe sometimes forget that “the Church has always venerated Scriptures just as much as she venerates the body of the Lord” (Dei Verbum (herein DV) 21). I remember many years ago, having a discussion with a classmate about the most important part of the Mass. “It’s the teaching,” he said. “No,” I replied, “It’s Communion,” and so we continued our discussion, he with his “protestant” view (or so I thought), me, with my traditional Catholic one. But if we look at the Mass, it is divided into two equal parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Both are equal.
One of my favourite Scripture passages is from Luke 24: The road to Emmaus. We sometimes tend to focus on how the disciples, “recognised Jesus in the breaking of the bread” (24:35) but I love that Jesus “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures” (24: 27). Jesus used Scriptures; He didn’t just quote Scripture, He interpreted Scripture.
And so, I’d like to offer the following tips to help you, not just read and pray with Scriptures, but to do so with your children:
Read them prayerfully: Fr. Graham Keep (you may know him from In Your Faith) suggests this prayer before reading Scripture: “Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from your bounty, through Christ, our Lord.” Sound familiar? If Scripture is nourishment, then why not approach it as nourishment?
  • Read them frequently: Do you include a short Scripture reading when you pray with your children? The Church offers several daily readings, in the Office of Readings, the Daily Office and the daily readings. Most of us have access to a Missal. Open it up and read the day’s Gospel with your children. Or simply read a Bible story with them. Do this every day.
  • Read them again: Read the same story twice. Here’s a suggestion. Read it once and then ask your kids what one word stuck out for them. They don’t have to explain it, just one word. Or ask them which character in the story they would like to be. Then read it again. See if the word or the character has changed. There are many “lectio divina” style activities that you can do to help bring the readings to life and to help them make sense in your life and the life of your children.
Lastly, there are many resources. If you have a child who prefers comics or graphic novels, try the MANGA Bible. They now have several other publications: The Manga Messiah (the Gospels) and the Manga Metamorphosis (the book of Acts) are two of them. If your teen-age daughter is into magazines, get her the REVOLVE version of the New Testament (published by Thomas Nelson). They also have REFUEL (for Boys) and several others for working Women, for men and for younger children. Just note: These do not include the Catholic Deuterocanonical books, but the translation is generally the same.
Read the Bible. I am a great believer of reading it from beginning to end. But if you think that is too daunting, pick a book and read a chapter every day (a good place to start is the Gospel of Mark). Your children will see you spending time with Scripture and in time, they will learn to do the same.
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