How to Read the Bible – A Three Step Plan

How do you read the Bible? Today is the feast day of Saint Jerome, who once quipped, “Ignorance of  Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

Ignorance of Scripturesss

It’s a running joke that if you want to find a Bible verse, you ought to ask a Protestant and not a Catholic. Protestants read the Bible. Catholics not so much.

This raises the question:

Why Don’t More Catholics Read the Bible?

I think the answer lies in the fact that we Catholics go to Mass. The Holy Mass has at least two Bible readings every time. If you pray the Breviary or Liturgy of Hours, multiply that several times.

Joe Catholic says to himself, “Why should I study the Bible? I go to Mass. I hear it there. Check and check.”

There is something beautiful in this. For Catholics, Bible reading is liturgical. Hence, Bible reading remains chiefly a community experience.

Three Step Plan to Kick It Up a Notch

It’s good to listen to the readings from the Bible at Holy Mass. However, we also need a personal (even private) encounter with God in the pages of Sacred Scripture. All of the saints breathed Sacred Scripture. Scripture served as the grammar for their souls. They couldn’t communicate without it.

Here are some basic spiritual needs that you have every single day of your life:

  1. Praise – Voicing your delight in God and His provision for your life. Gratitude destroys discouragement.
  2. Wisdom – You need practical advice to navigate the complexities of life.
  3. Challenge – You need to be lifted higher. You need to grow in your faith. You need to be inspired. You must be an intentional Christian.

So when you wake up tomorrow, do the following:

  1. Read a Psalm. Start with Psalm 1. Make it your anthem of praise for that day.
  2. Read at least one Proverb. Proverbs are the wisdom morsels of your day. There are 31 chapters. Why not read one chapter every day during the month. Oct 1 is Provers 1. October 31 is Proverbs 31. You get the idea.
  3. Read a chapter of the one of the Gospels. This is your challenge. Your Savior challenges you in the four Gospels. He calls you to be not merely a nominal Catholic but a disciple. You cannot seriously read the Gospels and stay lukewarm. Christ speaks in a way that cannot be ignored.

“But I’m so busy. I don’t have the time!”

What? You’re too busy. Sorry, you just got served a yellow card:

yellow card

That’s a yellow card. You’ve been warned…

Doing these three readings will take you only 3-5 minutes. That’s the time of a commercial break. It will change your life for good. I promise. It takes 21 days to make a habit, so give it 21 days and see if you aren’t hooked. Put the Bible on your night stand and read it in the mornings. Start fresh.

“Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” – Saint Jerome, Doctor of the Church

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Question: Do you read the Bible daily? How do you do it? Please share your ideas. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Dan

    I have been a on a bit of a Judaism kick lately, so I have been reading mostly Old Testament. The fun part is seeing how Christ, the new, fulfills Moses, the old.

    One goal I have is to read the deuterocanonicals, as I have only a very faint exposure to those at this point. It has been fascinating to learn that the Septuagint, the “bible” of the apostles, included the deuterocanonicals as well as other writings.

    I like your comment about the value of seeing Scripture in the context of liturgy. Sometimes I go to the USCCB website and use the daily readings as my dose of Scripture for the day. Then I follow them the Scriptures up with a recitation of the creed.

    The tripartite plan of Psalms (praise), Proverbs (wisdom) and Gospels (challenge) is gold!

    • The Psalms/Proverbs/Gospels is just an easy way to create a habit and pattern.

      I didn’t want to scare people in the main blog post, but I think that every confirmed Catholic should try to the read the entire Bible at least once. That’s a good goal.

      • Dan

        Definitely! I recommend Dr. Scott Hahn or Dr. John Bergsma for bible helps. They are both former Protestants who understand the big picture storyline of the Bible really, really well. But when they combine their understanding with insights from the Church’s tradition, their exegesis is taken to heavenly heights!

  • Patrick J Reynolds

    Daily Mass has three readings if you include the Psalm 😉
    If we are daily Mass goers we pretty much read our way through the bible every 3 years.

  • Dear Don,

    I can’t wait to join yall. It’s going to be a great conference in a couple weeks! I look forward to meeting you!

  • Patricia Ililo

    Yes i do read the Bible daily. a Psalms, word from the Prophetic books and the daily readings. even when you are busy to open the Bible, just like online pages that have daily reading updates. try this. God’s words truelly give peace of mind all day.

  • Victor

    (((That’s a yellow card. You’ve been warned…)))

    That’s not the first and “IT” probably won’t be the last card that will be sent my way but unless GOD (Good Old Dad) and His Angels tap me on the shoulder, I will simply stick to going to church and continue getting my fix of “The Good Book” in that manner. I know that you are right so you will keep praying for this sometime Annoying Super Sinner.
    Long story short, it does warm my heart that leaders as yourself are now trying to make sure that our Catholic children receive the Spiritual Food needed so that they won’t fall into the same trap that sinner vic fell into. 🙁
    I hear YA Doctor! Hey Victor, the Lord does work in mysterious way now! 🙂
    God Bless

  • JoeAllen

    Taylor, you are sugar-coating a VERY SERIOUS PROBLEM within the Catholic Church … !!!!!!

    Protestants are empowered but Catholics are NOT empowered, to read the Bible … !!!
    Catholics are treated like naive children who will usually mis-interpret the Scriptures, and then will need to find a Priest to explain what the Scriptures are really saying. The subliminal message to rank-and-file Catholics is obvious: YOU ARE ON A VERY SHORT LEASSSSSSSSSH … !!!!!!

    • I’m empowered to read the Bible – and so are others on this site…and we’re Catholic!

    • Jeri-Lynn Woods

      I’m curious to know the basis for your statement that “Protestants are empowered but Catholics are NOT empowered to read the Bible”. Who’s your authority for that statement? What do you mean by “empowered”?
      By the way, I’m an adult convert who has been a Catholic for 20-odd years, and I can testify that your statement “Catholics are treated like naive children who will usually mis-interpret the Scriptures” is not true. AND I’ve been reading the Bible – as well as hearing it every week at Mass – all along! (And also by the way, my church, St. Rita’s in Castlegar BC, has a weekly Bible Study program!)

      • JoeAllen

        Jeri-Lynn, thanks for your perspective.

        Converts from Protestantism to Catholicism, like you and Dr. Marshall, tend to support your arguments with Bible references. This is a wonderful blessing for the Church.

        However, cradle Catholics don’t know Paul from Luke from John. I was a cradle Catholic and the only reason I know the Bible is because I left the Church for many years and eventually attended a Bible-oriented Protestant church. Now I’m back in the Church … thanks to MARY .. who agreed to be my mother and the New Eve and my buddy in our War with Evil.

        In my opinion, a Catholic Bible study is a bland exercise in learning the official Church interpretation.

      • Sha Dakes

        I can attest to that statement.
        The lay people are mostly the ones teaching the Catholic faithful how to read the Bible now. I studied in a Catholic University and studied the Bible but we never ever saw a Bible and much more opened a Bible in the class. I started a Bible study group here in Sweden and was persecuted because she believes the Bible is not true, She only believes the priests, reading the Bible causes people to get crazy and lead people to sin. I dont blame her, we came from the same country, that is what our priests told us. I grew up with the same mentality especially in 70s and 80s when the Catholic Charismatic movement started. Our priests would openly speak badly about them in the homily. This is such a huge deception of the devil…our ignorance of the Word of God is the devil’s strongest weapon against God’s people.
        I studied the Bible yet God was still foreign to me. My college friends from other religion would often share to me about who God is, i could not relate to them. I felt the strong desire to know this GOD. Then my cousin came to our home to share the Gospel and tauht us to read the Bible. Praise God!

  • Jim Peterson

    My wife and I read the Magnificat to each other each day.

  • retiredladyann

    I did the Spiritual Exercises about 2 years ago and committed to reading the gospel and meditating on it for one hour daily the rest of my life. Before that I used to read the Psalms from Jan.-May, and July-November. Then I would read Proverbs in June and December. REALLY easy to do. Also read the bible cover to cover several times. As you say-a habit takes 21 days and you will be so blessed for reading God’s love letter to you. Amazing at times how a certain scripture fits something that happened on a particular day. We have commentaries (husband is a permanent deacon) which he uses for homilies, etc. and I have used them when I don’t understand something, or I ask our priest after Mass on Sunday. Today most parishes have bible studies galore. 40 years ago a Catholic would probably only find a “Protestant bible study” to attend. Thanks be to God there are so many resources, even for busy moms and dads.

    • Great comment. I agree. It’s truly amazing how something in the Bible you read that morning fits the day so perfectly.

      Thank you for your witness!

  • Maureen Calton-Aviles

    I read the word among us on my Kindle. It is very convenient And I haven’t lost a copy since I switched. And it is very economical compared to the paper copy. I don’t feel right about taking the Kindle to mass though.

  • Adam

    If the “Jewel in the Crown” of our Catholic Faith is the Eucharist, the “Mysterium Fidei”, then the golden crown that supports it is the Liturgy of the Word, the “Golden Chain” (Catena Aurea) of Sacred Scripture as the earliest Patristic commentary on the links between the Old Testament and the New fulfilled in Jesus Christ. As a former evangelical, now daily communicant, I find nothing so feeds and satisfies my soul as this double Sacrament of the Word, the “Logos” of John’s Gospel. The question at the top of this blog: “How does Christ fulfill over 300 Jewish prophecies?” is the question I ask at every Mass, where the Scriptures were first linked together in Apostolic times as the inspired answer: “Find out here!”

    • Great comment. I like your analogy of the Golden Chain and the Jewel! Very nice.

      • Adam

        I should add that I meditate on the 3 Bible readings (4 on Sundays) for the Mass every day before attending. Years ago, a Catholic friend of mine in Romania wrote me of a free subscription on my PC and iPhone (Dailygospel) which includes not only the Bible readings for the Mass, but a commentary by a Church Father, a saint, a liturgical hymn, or a Church document. Besides helping me understand the Bible better and prepare me for Mass, it reminds me of the feasts and memorials on the Church calendar. For those with already a lot on their plate, it is just enough for their daily bread.

  • kcthomas

    As you say, Catholics were not Bible readers. I remembe my father reading the Bible in the 1930s. We were reading every day after our rosary. I have asked my children not to give up the practice. All have their Bible but I am not sure of their regularity.As they are religious I hope their children will follow the right way. Psalms are a good reading.( specially 23,91 etc and N.Testament where humility and faith are explained) I read the Bible often. Thanks be to God

    • What a wonderful witness. Are you saying that he read the Bible aloud to the family?

      • kcthomas

        Yes please. He wanted all of us to listen. I was around 10 in 1940.

        K C Thomas

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  • allencch

    I would like to share my previous experience. When I was young (because young, I had more free time), I use my own “segmented reading” method to read bible. At the beginning, I read one chapter from OT each day start from Genesis; one chapter from NT each day start from Gospel of Matthew.
    Then, latter days, I read one psalm; one chapter from Gospels; one chapter from NT start from Acts; one chapter from OT start from Genesis each day.

    Then, again latter days, I split the OT into two segments again. 5 chapters each day, 1 from Psalms, one from Gospels, two from OT, one from NT.

  • Meg

    I found a daily audio Bible podcast on iTunes several years ago. Every day they read a short (sequential) section from the Old and New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs. In one year of listening, they read the entire Bible. I am on my 4th ‘listen’ of the Holy Bible! (Caveat: it is not a Catholic podcast. I think they are Baptists. Nonetheless, I have had my faith deepened from this daily encounter with God’s Holy Word. Also it’s free!)

    • Okay, you’ve got me inspired. We need to create a Catholic Bible podcast with the deuterocanonicals. This might be something that the New Saint Thomas Institute can do.

      • Dan

        That would be good. I, for one, am most excited about reading Wisdom, Sirach, and 1 and 2 Maccabees.

  • Claire Wilder

    I read the Breviary every day. Do not read the Bible daily, but at least once a month.

  • Ignatius

    I would never be able to learn the Bible through Mass readings. Many readers have thick accents or soft voices and there can be distractions. Try reading the Psalms many are uplifting,easy to read and may inspire further reading. I carry a pocket size book of Psalms with me.

  • Jeri-Lynn Woods

    Ironically, I started reading the Bible daily when I decided to leave the Catholic Church 7 years ago – so now that I’ve come back, the habit is pretty firmly established! Now that I have my daily missal, I read the readings for the day – first from the missal, and then again from my Bible (since sometimes the daily readings skip a few verses, this way I get the whole chunk of Scriptures in context).

  • Sha Dakes

    Thank you for sharing this…i am a devout Catholic and love the Word of God.
    I developed 4QsR method in my Bible Meditation. It means 3 questions and response. Q1- What does the Gospel or reading reveal to me of who God is (his nature, attribute or character). Q2-What is God telling me to do? Q3 – What is God telling me not to do? Q4-What is God promising me? Response – Prayer. My purpose is to deepen my relationship with God and my knowledge of Him and lead me to obedience.