A new K of C Bible study invites Knights to take up the “sword of the Spirit” and rediscover the power of Scripture
By James B. Prothro
Knights are called to be men of service and prayer — caring for our families, parishes and communities, and praying for the Church and the whole world. Faithfully living out our mission as Catholic men each day is a battle. It is a battle against sin and evil in the world. It is also a battle against the sinful desires within us, which we must overcome if we are to love and serve as Christ calls us to.
Christ tells his disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). He has already defeated the power of sin by his cross and resurrection and shares his victory with us, clothing us with “the armor of light” (Rom 13:12). He does so through the sacraments, which strengthen and heal our souls by God’s power and love. He also does so through Scripture — “for the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb 4:12).
The Bible is a divine gift given to strengthen us, to train us in righteousness and to bring us to salvation. Inspired by God through the Holy Spirit, the words of Scripture communicate the very Word of God to us. It is an indispensable weapon on our everyday battlefields. In fact, when St. Paul calls us to take up the “armor of God” in his Letter to the Ephesians, the last piece of armor he lists is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph 6:17).
Note that Scripture is given to us as a spiritual “sword.” Unlike a helmet or a breastplate, it is not a piece of clothing but a weapon, and to get the benefit of it, we need to learn to use it. We need weapons training. This is why the Knights of Columbus has developed the Men of the Word Bible study — to teach us to read Scripture with the support and camaraderie of our brothers in training with us.
OPENING MINDS AND HEARTS
The Bible is all around us as Catholics. It is read and preached. Its words structure our most common prayers. Yet it can be intimidating to try to open it up ourselves. Where should we start? How do we learn to use a “sword” that is a book?
In Scripture, God communicates to us through human writers and human words. This means we need to actually read the Bible’s words. And knowing the contexts and backgrounds of different biblical books and their authors is important, as it is with all human words. If a man says, “I did it,” after getting a promotion, it means something different than if he says those same three words after being accused of a crime. However, context is not the only thing we need to understand the Bible. To use this gift of God for all its worth, Scripture reading has to be complemented by Christian faith and by prayer.
After Jesus rose from the dead and encountered his disciples on the road to Emmaus, he “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Lk 24:45). They knew the basic contexts of the stories and psalms. What they needed to learn was how all the words and books pointed to Jesus, the Son of David and Son of God, who would die, rise and bring salvation to the world (Lk 24:44-47). The whole of the Bible is meant to reveal God to us — who God is and what his saving love has done for us in Christ. Knowing Christ by faith is a key that unlocks the Bible’s deepest meaning, allowing us to encounter God, hear his word and apply it in our lives and communities today. This is why the Church urges biblical interpreters to read Scripture with an eye both to the different books’ historical contexts and to the larger context of the Catholic faith and the truth of Christ (Vatican II, Dei Verbum, 11-12).
The Church also calls us to read Scripture with an open heart. We are not meant to analyze Scripture in the same way we might analyze a literary classic for a classroom assignment. Rather, God’s word analyzes us. Through the words of Scripture, God addresses and teaches us. “Christ Jesus is knocking at our door in the words of sacred Scripture,” Pope Francis wrote in Aperuit Illis (He opened for them), his 2019 apostolic letter on the importance of Scripture. “If we hear his voice and open the doors of our minds and hearts, then he will enter our lives and remain ever with us” (8).
“The Church calls us to read Scripture with an open heart. We are not meant to analyze Scripture in the same way we might analyze a literary classic for a classroom assignment. Rather, God’s word analyzes us.”
It is prayer that allows us to open the door and respond to Christ’s invitation. Therefore, to read the Bible for all its worth, we need to read it prayerfully. In prayer, we say yes to the truths God reveals, we say sorry and repent of our failings, and we ask for God’s protection and grace so that we can soldier on in the battle.
PRAYER, STUDY, RESPONSE
Men of the Word Bible study, announced by Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly on June 9, can help us learn to read Scripture in this way — faithfully and prayerfully. It presents the great biblical narrative of sin and redemption, helping us to think about particular stories in the context of that greater narrative. It leads us to the right starting points and takes us through the main storyline of the Bible to show us how it all points to Christ.
Men of the Word goes beyond mere “study,” however. It draws us into the meditative reading that the Church calls lectio divina (divine reading), with questions and discussions prompting us to reflect on and pray about Scripture’s message to us as Catholic men. Pope Francis called the whole Church to this kind of reading in Aperuit Illis, emphasizing “the importance of learning how to read, appreciate and pray daily with sacred Scripture, especially through the practice of lectio divina” (3). Men of the Word invites Knights and other Catholic men, whether veteran Scripture readers or beginners, to respond to this call.
In support of the Order’s new Cor initiative, this resource calls us back to Blessed Michael McGivney’s vision for Knights to be leaders in discipleship through God’s word. Being a Knight is about much more than supporting the parish financially or raising funds for commendable causes. We can’t neglect our charitable works, but faith and works are inseparable. Our duty of charity must be rooted in our relationship with Jesus Christ.
Knowing Christ is the greatest gift we can receive and the most important gift we can give to others. And the call to know Christ is a call to turn to the Scriptures. As St. Jerome, the fourth-century doctor of the Church and translator of the Bible into Latin, famously said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”
To be examples of faith in our homes and communities, and to lead others in following Jesus, we have to listen to his words: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (Jn 10:27). The more we know Scripture, the better we will be able to explain and defend the faith. The more we know our Lord, the more faithfully we will be able to serve him. The closer we cling to Jesus and his truth, the stronger we will be when others lean on us for support.
God’s gift of Scripture is too great to neglect. When brothers are united around God’s word to grow in repentance, courage and charity, the benefits for our families and parishes are incalculable. The time and effort spent training with this spiritual sword will yield immense rewards in combating our own sinfulness, growing in virtue and protecting those in our care. May God grant us the grace to be fully armed as “Men of the Word,” for our sake and for those we serve.
JAMES B. PROTHRO is assistant professor of Scripture and theology at the Augustine Institute and serves as deputy grand knight of Holy Name Council 8539 in Englewood, Colorado.
CATHOLIC BIBLES ABOUND
People often wonder which translation of the Bible they should use. Part of the answer is: one that they will actually read. The Men of the Word Bible study guide uses the New American Bible, revised edition (NAB-RE), which is the translation Catholics in the United States hear during Mass. Several other excellent Catholic translations are also available, including some recently published in beautiful new editions. Here are just a few examples:
• Ignatius Bible — This Bible from Ignatius Press uses the Revised Standard Version-Second Catholic Edition (RSV-2CE) translation.
• Great Adventure Catholic Bible — Published by Ascension Press, this RSV-2CE study Bible includes maps, commentary and other aids.
• Word on Fire Bible — A seven-volume series, this New Revised Standard Version-Catholic Edition Bible features commentary and striking artwork.
• The English Standard Version, Catholic Edition — This beautiful and accessible translation, first released in 2018, is published in the United States by the Augustine Institute.