The following brief quotation, from Pope Benedict XVI’s opening address to the Latin American bishops gathered at Aparecida, nicely drives home the centrality of Scripture in Catholic spirituality.
We cannot live or preach the Gospel, he says, unless we know its “content.” Christian faith is not just a general attitude. It has content. We have to know its richness and its wholeness. And though the Catechism is an invaluable summary, Scripture itself is the Word of God. Indeed, notice how he pairs the “content and spirit” of the faith: you cannot know the spirit of the faith without also knowing its content.
And according to Benedict XVI – and Vatican II, and the Tradition, the Fathers of the Church and the medievals – there is no other way to know that “content and spirit” then to learn “to read and meditate on the word of God,” and so attain “profound knowledge of the word of God.” This, he says, is “indispensable.”
Are Pope Benedict’s words elitist? Does he make it so only intellectuals can know the faith? No. Scripture is for everyone. To know the Tradition and read the lives of the saints is to discover that the simplest, from Antony of the Desert to Thérèse of Lisieux, found in Scripture not an obstacle, but the food of faith, their “staple diet”. The real elitism is to refuse to “train people to read and meditate.”
At the beginning of this new phase that the missionary Church of Latin America and the Caribbean is preparing to enter, starting with this Fifth General Conference in Aparecida, an indispensable pre-condition is profound knowledge of the word of God. To achieve this, we must train people to read and meditate on the word of God: this must become their staple diet, so that, through their own experience, the faithful will see that the words of Jesus are spirit and life (cf. Jn 6:63). Otherwise, how could they proclaim a message whose content and spirit they do not know thoroughly? We must build our missionary commitment and the whole of our lives on the rock of the word of God.
-Benedict XVI, Inaugural Address of the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, Aparecida, Brazil