Blessed James Alberione

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The Holy Gospel in particular and the books of Holy Scripture, that is, the Bible, in general, as given to us by the Church, constitute the press apostle's essential undertaking. In fact, you can't think of the apostle without the Bible, just as you can't think of the priesthood without mission; Sacraments without the Cross; a plant without roots.
This reasoning is clear if you consider [i] the importance of the Bible; [ii] God's will as regards the Bible; [iii] history and the needs of people.

Importance of the Bible
In comparison with other books, the Bible may be likened to a mountain of gold next to a seam of silver deep down in the bowels of the earth.
This is true as regards the Author of the Bible, its content and the spirit that enlivens it.
God himself is the principal Author of the Bible. The writers are but instruments that God used in order to write what he wanted. This is the main reason for its importance.
If a book appeals because of its author and captures the imagination on account of its content, then what book in the world could ever have a content as interesting as God's book? The books of human authors can reveal good and wonderful things, but no one, by himself, can with any certainty solve issues of such importance for humanity as those that regard God, human beings, the beginning of all things and their end.
These are truths which God alone could inform us about and he has done so in the Bible.
Likewise, only God could reveal future events to us, those that will happen in this world and the things that will be in eternity. He alone could manifest his resolve to save us from eternal damnation by means of the mysteries of the Incarnation, the Passion and the Death of his own Son. Only God could reveal to us our elevation to divine sonship and our eternal destination; only he could point out to us the way and provide the means to travel safely on the road of eternal happiness.
God has done all this in the Bible. So can
there be a more interesting or more important book than God's book?
The spirit that permeates the Bible and brings it to life sets it apart from other books. It is the Word of God's great sacrament. From its pages glows the divine fire of the Holy Spirit just as in the sacramental species there is the living divine person of Christ. Just as those who receive the Host partake of heavenly nourishment of incomparable energy, likewise those who nourish themselves on the words of the Bible experience an inner divine fire of inexpressible action that penetrates the soul and renews it spiritually.
Those who eat the bread of life will live for ever. Those who nourish themselves on the word of the Bible and do so with the right disposition will be filled with the Holy Spirit. For the Spirit that permeates the Bible is not the finite and changeable spirit of human writings. It is the very Holy Spirit, God who knows everything and who, from the beginning, knew those who would read his book. By means of hagiographers he wrote words of infinite wisdom and eternal value, words which even now have that same intrinsic force, as if he were writing them just as they are being read.
To speak of "the book" is to speak of "the Bible". The book that has exercised the greatest influence on humanity; an influence that is by far superior to that exercised by peoples and
religions. It permeates our civilization; in it art and literature find their inspiration.
Without a knowledge of the Bible we would find the works of many authors such as Dante, Klopstock, Milton and countless others, incomprehensible. We could say that there is hardly any important literary work that fails to quote it or to make reference to it.1
Laws, institutions, morals, customs - everything is dependent on the Bible.
The Bible is translated into almost all languages. There are countless Bible commentaries and introductory works. But the majority of these works are addressed to scholars to help them in their research.
The Bible is the book that always acted as the most reliable literary basis for deeper studies. It was, in every age, the comfort of those who suffer. It is, in sum, the most important work that humanity possesses.

God's will concerning the Bible
God's will concerning the Bible is that everyone should read it.
The logic behind this statement is first the fact that God himself deigned to cause and influence the hagiographers to write, and secondly, his assistance
in their work.
Our thinking on this could not be otherwise. As Jesus Christ ardently desires us to receive him in the Holy Eucharist, instituted precisely for us, so God desires we should read what he has written for us in the Bible.
Jesus Christ made this will of God evident by fulfilling it himself so as to give us an example. A case in point, the Gospel narrates that at the beginning of his public ministry, while Jesus was in the Synagogue on the Sabbath, he was invited to read from the book of the prophet Isaiah.
The Divine Teacher read it and explained it. He said that the passage alluded to him. Often times, by referring to Holy Scripture, he showed how there was fulfilled in him what was prophesied. This shows that he knew the Bible and that he referred to it.
Appearing to the disciples of Emmaus after his Resurrection, he explained to them "in all the scriptures the things about himself, beginning with Moses and all the prophets."2
God's will concerning the reading of the Bible is made manifest from the teaching and usage of the Church, the authentic interpreter of God's desires.3
The Church gives us the books of the Bible divided into chapters and verses which makes for fruitful and easy reading.
Numerous canons of Councils and writings of the Popes, just to mention in particular the encyclical Providentissimus Deus4 of Leo XIII, and the Spiritus Paraclitus5 of Benedict XV, is clear-cut proof of the Church's desire for people to read Holy Scripture.
The Church has established the Bible as the backbone of Catholic liturgy. The Psalms, for example, are the official prayer of the Church. Each day selected passages of the Gospel are read during the Mass. The Letters of Saint Paul and other passages taken from the various books always shape the so-called lesson of the Mass.
God's will concerning the Bible is that it be read by everyone. God himself said so. This was the teaching of Jesus Christ and it continues to be that of the Church.

History and people's needs
Before the coming of Jesus Christ the Bible was the sole holy book for the Jews; it was the book par
excellence. Likewise was it so for the Christians of the early Church.
The early Christians, who still had the teaching of Jesus Christ and the Apostles ringing in their ears, read the Scriptures every day. For greater convenience, when faced with danger and persecution and they were unable to take the whole Bible with them, they would take the Gospel or at least part of it to read. Such reading gave them the strength to persevere in the faith and, when necessary, to lay down their life.
This custom of the early Christians gradually lost ground and with it the fruit of the reading of scripture. Thus, little by little, it was neglected and, in our own time, is ignored by the vast majority of people.
The consequences were and are deleterious. "In spite of its vaunted material progress," states Peduzzi, "present-day society has deviated a great deal as regards religion and morals, with a return to ancient paganism, as a result of a phenomenal religious antipathy and a dissolute lifestyle on the part of many. Society reached this point because hell managed to deprive it of Jesus Christ, the center of its spiritual life; of Christ in the Eucharist through heresy, a lack of morals, and paganism mostly; and of Christ
in the Gospel initially through ignorance and later through the free thinking of Protestantism."6
The great Pope Benedict XV, writing to Cardinal Cassetta, declared: "Experience teaches over and over that the deviations of modern-day society find their origin in the fact that the life, the teaching and the works of Jesus Christ have fallen into the pit of oblivion and that people no longer draw their inspiration from them for their daily actions."
If almost no one wants to know about God today, it is because almost nothing is known about God. For many, too many, religion today is more external practice than faith and feeling.
The meek and charitable Pius X had already programmed a remedy. Desiring with Saint Paul to renew society in Christ he found nothing more apt than to give it Christ anew. But the whole Christ, that is, the true, living Christ in the Eucharist and the speaking Christ in Scripture and in the Gospel. "From the time We resolved to restore all things in Christ," he writes to Cardinal Cassetta, "We could desire nothing better than the faithful be introduced to the habit of not just frequent but of daily reading of the Holy Gospels, for it is precisely this that proves and shows clearly the
way that can and must be taken to achieve that longed-for restoration."
Not only history but the pressing need of people shows how necessary it is to return to that primitive tradition regarding the reading of the Holy Book, this great book that God has written to show us the way to heaven.

It would seem pertinent to set out some canons and decrees relative to Scripture reading. - The side numbers are Denzinger's:
Clement XI condemned the following errors7 of Quesnel:8
1429. - 79. Utile et necessarium est omni tempore, omni loco et omni personarum generi, studere et cognoscere spiritum, pietatem et mysteria Sacræ Scripturæ.
1430. - 80. Lectio Sacræ Scripturæ est pro omnibus.
1431. - 81. Obscuritas sancta verbi Dei non est laicis ratio dispensandi se ipsos ab eius lectione.
1432. - 82. Dies Dominicus a Christianis debet sanctificari lectionibus pietatis et super omnia sanctarum Scripturarum. Damnosum est, velle Christianum ab hac lectione retrahere.
1433. - 83. Est illusio sibi persuadere, quod notitia mysteriorum religionis non debeat communicari feminis lectione sacrorum librorum. Non ex feminarum simplicitate, sed ex superba virorum scientia ortus est Scripturarum abusus, et natæ sunt hæreses.
1434. - 84. Abripere e Christianorum manibus Novum Testamentum seu eis illud clausum tenere auferendo eis modum illud intelligendi est illis Christi os obturare.
1435. - 85. Interdicere Christianis lectionem Sacræ Scripturæ, præsertim Evangelii, est interdicere usum luminis filiis lucis et facere, ut patiantur speciem quandam excommunicationis.
Pius VI has thus drawn attention to Pistoia' teaching:
1567. - 67. Doctrina perhibens, a lectione sacrarum Scripturarum nonnisi veram impotentiam excusare; subiungens, ultro se prodere obscurationem, quæ ex huiusce præcepti neglectu orta est super primarias veritates religionis: - falsa, temeraria, quietis animarum perturbativa, alias in Quesnellio damnata.
Pius VII teaches:
1604. - Sane cum in vernaculo sermone creberrimas animadvertamus vicissitudines, varietates, commutationesque, profecto
ex immoderata biblicarum versionum licentia immutabilitas illa convelleretur, quæ divina decet testimonia, et fides ipsa nutaret, cum præsertim ex unius syllabæ ratione quandoque de dogmatis veritate dignoscatur. In id proinde pravas teterrimasque machinationes suas conferre in more habuerunt hæretici, ut editis vernaculis Bibliis (de quorum tamen mira varietate ac discrepantia ipsi se invicem accusant et carpunt) suos quisque errores sanctiore divini eloquii apparatu obvolutos per insidias obtruderent. "Non (neque) enim natæ sunt hæreses, inquiebat S. Augustinus, nisi dum Scripturæ bonæ intelliguntur non bene, et quod in eis non bene intelligitur, etiam temere et audacter asseritur". Quod si viros pietate et sapientia spectatissimos in Scripturarum interpretatione haud raro defecisse dolemus, quid non timendum, si imperito vulgo, qui ut plurimum non delectu aliquo, sed temeritate quadam iudicat, translatæ in vulgarem quamcunque linguam Scripturæ libere pervolvendæ traderenturæ...
Gregory XVI teaches as well:
1630. - ...Perspectum vobis est vel a prima christiani nominis ætate hanc fuisse propriam hæreticorum artem, ut, repudiato verbo Dei tradito et Ecclesiæ catholicæ auctoritate reiecta, Scripturas aut manu interpolarent aut sensus expositionem interverterent. Nec denique ignoratis, quanta vel diligentia vel sapientia opus sit ad transferenda fideliter in aliam linguam eloquia Domini; ut nihil proinde facilius contingat, quam ut in eorundem versionibus per societates biblicas multiplicatis gravissimi ex tot intepretum vel imprudentia vel fraude inserantur errores; quos ipsa porro illarum multitudo et varietas diu occultat in perniciem multorum. Ipsarum tamen societatum parum aut nihil omnino interest, si homines Biblia illa vulgaribus sermonibus interpretata lecturi in alios potius quam alios errores dilabantur; dummodo assuescant paulatim ad liberum de Scripturarum sensu iudicium sibimet ipsis vindicandum, atque ad contemnendas traditiones divinas ex Patrum doctrina in Ecclesia catholica custoditas, ipsumque Ecclesiæ magisterium repudiandum.
But thus his defense and solemn conclusion:
1631. - Hunc in finem biblici iidem socii Ecclesiam sanctamque hanc PETRI Sedem calumniari non cessant, quasi a pluribus iam sæculis fidelem populum a sacrarum Scripturarum cognitione arcere conetur; cum tamen plurima exstent eademque luculentissima documenta singularis studii, quo recentioribus ipsis temporibus Summi Pontifices, ceterique illorum ductu catholici antistites usi sunt, ut catholicorum gentes ad Dei eloquia scripta et tradita impensius erudirentur.

1 Grande Dizionario Enciclopedico, (ed.) Prof. Giovanni TRUCCO (Vol. II).

2 * Cf. Lk 24:27.

3 The Catholic Church is generally accused of forbidding the faithful to read the Bible. This is not so. All the Church asks is that people read approved translations and ones provided with notes. Because the Bible is a very difficult book it is easy to misunderstand it. At the time of the Reformation, which placed the sacred text in the hands of everyone without any other surety, perhaps there could have been - as a reaction - a greater strictness; but the Church has always inculcated and promoted the study and reading of the Bible.

4 * Of 1893, on Bible studies.

5 * Of 1920, to celebrate the fifteenth centenary of Saint Jerome.

6 PEDUZZI, Alle fonti della vita.

7 * In the light of the Second Vatican Council's Constitution Dei Verbum it turns out that the following statements which were condemned do not always deserve the title of "error".

8 * We give the English translation of the canons and decrees mentioned. The side numbers are those of Denzinger, bilingual edition [Latin/Italian] edited by P. Hünermann, EDB 1995.
2479 - 79. It is helpful and necessary at all times, in every place and for all kinds of people, to study and to know the spirit, the piety and the mysteries of Holy Scripture. - 1Cor 14:5.
2480 - 80. The reading of Holy Scripture is open to all. - Acts 8:28.
2481 - 81. The holy obscurity of God's word is not a reason for the laity to dispense themselves from reading it. - Acts 8:31.
2482 - 82. Christians are to sanctify the Lord's day with pious reading, and especially of Holy Scripture. To deter Christians from such reading is harmful. - Acts 15:21.
2483 - 83. It is an illusion to think that women need have no knowledge of the mysteries of religion through the reading of the sacred books. The abuse of Scripture and the rise of heresies are not the outcome of women's simplicity but the proud knowledge of men. - Jn 4:26.
2484 - 84. To snatch the New Testament from the hands of Christians, or not to allow them to open it, thus depriving them of how to understand it, is to close Christ's mouth. - Mt 5:2.
2485 - 85. To forbid Christians to read Holy Scripture, particularly the Gospel, is to forbid the use of light to children of the light, and is tantamount to a kind of excommunication. - Lk 11:33.
Pius VI has thus drawn attention to Pistoia's teaching:

2667 - 67. The teaching which holds that only a genuine incapacity can dispense from the reading of Holy Scripture; and which adds that the further propagation of this obscurity, from forgetfulness of this precept, which has arisen over the primary truths of religion: (is) false, rash, disturbs the quiet of souls, and was condemned before in Quesnel.
Pius VII teaches:
2711 - Since so many alterations, variations and changes come to light in the vernacular text as a result of a too free translation of the Bible then that unchangeableness which is associated with God's word would certainly be jeopardized and faith itself waver, especially when the truth of dogma is determined on the basis of a single syllable.
Of course, heretics have always had the habit to present their perverse and abhorrent schemes in this way and, by means of Bibles published in the vernacular, to deceitfully hide their own errors wrapped in the most holy ornament of God's word. (As regards the extraordinary diversity and differences of these Bibles, they can come to no agreement and blame one another.) "Heresies come to the fore" Saint Augustine was wont to say "only when the good Scriptures have not been properly understood, and when what has not been understood in the Scriptures is also stated in a thoughtless and impudent way."
If, then, we are saddened by the fact that people esteemed for piety and wisdom have not infrequently been mistaken in their interpretation of Scripture, what must we not fear if the Scriptures were handed over to unskilled people to be freely read in the vernacular? ...
Gregory XVI teaches as well:
2771 - You know full well that right from the start of Christianity this was the typical tactic of the heretics: having both repudiated the word of God handed down and rejected the authority of the Catholic Church, they either manipulated the scripture texts or they distorted the explanation of its meaning. You know what diligence and wisdom is required to translate faithfully the Lord's words into another language; so it is not implausible that, in the translations effected by the Bible societies, there will be an increase of serious errors, due either to fraudulence or to the ignorance of so many interpreters; such errors are then concealed for a very long time by the very flood and variety of translations, to the detriment of everyone. But it is of little concern to these societies what errors the readers of such translations swallow, provided that, little by little, they become accustomed to boldly judge the meaning of Scripture, to despise the divine traditions diligently guarded by the Catholic Church in accordance with the teaching of the Fathers and to repudiate the teaching of the Church itself. ...
But thus his defense and solemn conclusion:
To this end this same movement of biblists does not cease to slander the Church and this holy Chair of Peter, as if, for centuries on end, it had sought to deter the faithful from the knowledge of Holy Scripture. On the contrary, there are numerous and obvious proofs of the particular commitment whereby, even quite recently, the Popes and, under their guidance, the other Catholic bishops have made every effort to instruct Catholics in the word of God, written and handed down.