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.

15 comments:

Shazamaholic said...

Pardon me for being off topic, but other than the Douay Rheims and NAB (and Confraternity NT), are there any other English Bible translations that use "Amen I say to you" in the NT?

Francesco said...

Hi Timothy,

Yep, looks familiar!

I've never tried lectio divina, how would other sources do it differently?

Cheers,
-Francesco

Timothy said...

Shazamaholic,

I will look around for you. One does not come to
Mind immediately.

Timothy said...

Francesco,

I think one of the differences are what the four steps are for lectio. As I mentioned in the post, the traditional version is a bit different than the one used in this Bible. If you look at Amazon there are a number if different lectio books out there. The ones by Binz and Schultz are fairly new and pretty good.

Shazamaholic said...

While you're looking, Tim, have you read the rumors/speculations on Catholic forums that Ignatius' RSV-2CE may be a transitional edition, and there may soon be a RSV-3CE that would fully adhere to liturgiam authenticam, by restoring "amen I say to you" in the NT (among other changes not yet done in the RSV-2CE)? If that is true, then the entire English speaking world may end up using the RSV-3CE for Liturgy. What is your opinion about it?

(BTW, with the new English translation of the Roman Missal on its way, does that mean Canada's use of the NRSV in Mass is about to come to an end? Which translation do you think they will use? NAB or JB or RSV-2CE?)

Timothy said...

Shazamaholic,

I was not aware of a third edition if the RSV being made. I would be a little surprised, since their study Bible is keyed to the 2nd edition. But Ignatius press is so secretive about their Bibles that it wouldn't be a total shock. Whatever they do, it still remains, even with tweaking the RSV, that it is a fifty year old translation.

As for the NRSV in Canada, it was only a couple years ago that the CCCB and Rome agreed on a version of the NRSV for Mass, so I highly doubt that is going to change any time soon. The upcoming implementation of the new missal is a separate issue in relation to the Mass readings. For instance, when the new NABRE is competed, there will not be an automatic change to the OT Mass readings in the USA.

Shazamaholic said...

Well, it is just rumor/speculation. Is it a problem that the RSV is 50 years old?

The other thing about the RSV is that in addition to the original RSV-CE and Ignatius' RSV-2CE, Oxford has a unique RSV-CE that mixes the CE with the RSV 1971. I wrote Oxford about this, and here is the response I got:
Oxford University Press uses a variety of RSV editions for our Catholic Edition, including the original Old Testament (1952), the 2nd editon of the New Testament, published in 1971, the Catholic New Testament (1965) and the Catholic Old Testament/Apocrypha (1965). Currently all of our RSV Catholic Editions use this mix, and we have many styles and bindings available.

Many on the Catholic forums seem to think Oxford's mix is better than both the RSV-CE and the RSV-2CE. Do you have a copy of Oxford's version? What do you think... is it better?

Do you know if the NRSV in Canada is nation wide, or just a few provinces? I think I read it was only a couple dioceses that went ahead and prematurely ordered NRSV missals, then complained "lack of funds" to replace them when Rome rejected the NRSV.

I think (and hope) the NABRE should include the altered version of the NT approved for Liturgy. All of us should be voicing this concern to the Bishops by emailing nab@usccb.org

Timothy said...

I do have an Oxford addition and it's fine. It is a very slight almost unnoticeable update to the original NT. I personally think the RSV-2CE is slightly better, particularly since it doesn't have archaic 'thees' and 'thous'. But that is just me.

My point about the 50 year old translation is that it doesn't utilize any textual discoveries, like the Dead Sea Scrolls. Plus the language, not including the archaic stuff, is still a little older for my tastes. I would prefer something within that was completed during my life! ;)

As for the NRSV, I am pretty sure that it is now officially used in all of Canada.

Paul Jardim said...

Can't find this bible in South Africa any more.
Looking for a new one as mine is now getting old and I enjoy it so much. This book has really helped me reflect on the verses.
The other question is could I find the bible in Portuguese?

Paul Jardim said...

Can't find this bible in South Africa any more.
Looking for a new one as mine is now getting old and I enjoy it so much. This book has really helped me reflect on the verses.
The other question is could I find the bible in Portuguese?

Paul Jardim said...

Can't find this bible in South Africa any more.
Looking for a new one as mine is now getting old and I enjoy it so much. This book has really helped me reflect on the verses.
The other question is could I find the bible in Portuguese?

Chez84 said...

I recently bought this Bible as I am a complete novice at lectio divina and this fit the bill. I love it so far, the room for notes is superb in some pages and adequate (for me personally) in others. I think that I might be just found my 1st Catholic Bible that I will be living in, so to speak. I've also purchased the New Jerusalem Bible Standard Edition (does anyone know if the hardback version of this Bible come in single column or double column text format?) and the Official Catholic Scripture Study Bible too.

Timothy said...

It is a very lovely bible.

Emilia V. said...

Chez84,
The hardback has the notes and is single column with plenty of space on the sides for personal note-taking.

Chez84 said...

Thanks!