Monday, July 12, 2010
Catholic Prayer Bible: Lectio Divina Edition Review
Published earlier this year, the Catholic Prayer Bible: Lectio Divina Edition is produced by the Pastoral Bible Foundation and Paulist Press. According to Paulist Press, this new publication "is an ideal Bible for everyone who desires to reflect on the individual stories and chapters of just one, or even all, of the biblical books, while being led to prayer though meditation on that biblical passage." It comes in both a hardcover and paperback edition, the former including two ribbon markers. The translation used throughout is the NRSV Catholic Edition.
Included in this edition is an introduction to the Catholic Prayer Bible: Lectio Divina Edition as well as an essay on "Discovering Lectio Divina through Scripture" both of which were written by Catholic Biblical scholar Lawrence Boadt, CSP. In addition, the Sunday Mass readings and some simple drawn maps are included in the appendix. There are no additional book introductions or textual commentary in this edition. (I will get to the lectio divina feature below.)
One of the best features of this Bible is it's page layout, which, in general, keeps the prose in a single-column format while the poetry is typically in a double-column. I say "in general" because this is only true when there is a "lectio divina box" on the page. Whenever this does not occur, the page resorts back to a double-column format. Fortunately, many pages have this lectio divina box. In addition, there are also bold paragraph headings which are helpful in spacing out the text. This certainly enhances the ease of reading, which is a good thing in a "lectio divina" Bible. The margins are 1/2 inch and on pages where there is single-column text there is even more room to write out one's personal annotations. The picture I took on the left gives you a general view of what each page looks like.
Interestingly enough, it occurred to me while I was looking through this Bible that I felt like I have seen this style of font and page formatting before. After thinking about it for a few minutes, I realized that is was very similar to the Catholic Community Bible version that I own. Anyone who owns that Bible (Francesco) will instantly know what I am talking about. I have included a picture of the Catholic Community Bible here for a comparison.
On to the main feature of this Bible, which is the lectio divina insert boxes found on many of the pages. Many of you are familiar with the standard four steps of lectio divina: Lectio, Meditatio, Oratio, and Contemplatio. Well, the Catholic Prayer Bible follows another form of lectio divina, focusing on the four steps of: Read, Reflect, Pray, and Act. While I would greatly prefer the traditional four steps, I have seen variations over the years, some even including a fifth part which tends to focus on one's action or response to the text. So, I am not too sure what to think of this. As with anything of this sort, some of the information is good, while others is either obvious or too suggestive.
To give you a bit of a taste of the lectio divina box feature, let's take a look at what they put for Exodus chapter 1:
Read: The changing fortunes of the Israelites in Egypt are marked by their transformation into a growing slave population that becomes a source of anxiety to the pharaoh, who works them hard and attempts to reduce their numbers. Two faithful midwives save many newborns, but the threat remains.
Reflect: Consider the courage of the midwives in standing up to the pharaoh. Reflect on the ways in which governments sometimes infringe on individual liberties.
Pray: Ask for the strength and the faith in God to meet challenges or to work against unjust demands.
Act: Recognize that circumstances change and it is necessary to develop new strategies to meet the needs of the present and to prepare for the future. (77)
Many of the other lectio divina boxes have a similar style and outlook to them. (If anyone is interested in what this edition says for any particular passage, just let me know in the comment box.
In my opinion, the Catholic Prayer Bible is a pretty good entry level approach to lectio divina. One could argue that it would be better to learn the practice of lectio divina, via a tutor or a good book, and then just apply the steps to individual texts in a regular old Bible. However, if neither of those two options are available, and you are new to the Bible, then this edition could be of some help. Anyone else who is moderately familiar with the Bible, or lectio divina, would probably be OK without this edition. Also, I would think that a concordance and perhaps some additional classical artwork of Biblical passages would be of some benefit to readers.