How to read the Bible in the RCIA process

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIAWhen do you introduce your introduce your inquirers to Scripture? I think for most folks, it’s pretty early on. I try to at least connect the inquirers’ stories with a story from Scripture, even if I don’t pull out a Bible and read the story exactly. Certainly by the time they are showing signs of readiness for the Rite of Acceptance, they should have a rudimentary understanding of the Bible.

That’s why I’ve never liked the optional “Presentation of a Bible” in the Rite of Acceptance. I try to make sure the inquirers have their own Bible and are reading it regularly well before they become catechumens.

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIAIf you would like to know more about the Bible, check out this webinar recording: “What your RCIA team needs to know about the Bible.” Click here for more information.

It’s easiest for the inquirers if the parish has a supply of Bibles on hand. If you have the budget for it, you can give them away. If budget money is scarce, you could ask the inquirers for a donation or ask the sponsors to buy a Bible as a gift for the inquirers.

I also think it is important to put an actual Bible in their hands and not a missallette or other lectionary-like resources.

How to read the Bible

To get inquirers started on reading Scripture, first teach them how to navigate. They can always look in the table of contents if they get lost. But here are a couple tricks for finding your way around more quickly.

  • If you open the Bible to the very middle, it will usually open to the Psalms or Proverbs.
  • If you then open the second half to the middle (so now you have ¾ of the pages in your left hand and ¼ in your right) you will be in the New Testament, probably looking at one of the gospels.
  • The four gospels always appear in this order: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
  • Acts always follows John, although it is the “second half” of the Gospel of Luke.
  • Following Acts, we get the major letters of Paul: Romans and 1 and 2 Corinthians
  • Then, you can remember next letters with this mnemonic: General Electric Power Company (Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians)
  • After that, you’re on your own. Those are all the tricks I know.

Give the inquirers a list of the upcoming Sunday Gospels and have them read along with the church’s lectionary. Teach them how to read the chapter and verse numbers so they can look up the readings later on their own. Point out to them that the lectionary skips some portions of the Gospel and encourage them to read the missing portions as well.

Have them read the Psalms the same way. Give them a list of the daily or Sunday Psalms from the lectionary, and ask them to read along as the church year progresses. Have them read the entire psalm and not just what’s printed in the lectionary.

How to pray with the Bible

There are probably as many ways to pray with the Bible as there are people who are reading it. Here is a simple process you might use or adapt.

  1. Ask God to open your ears and heart.
  2. Open the Bible to the reading you want to reflect on.
  3. Read the reading through, perhaps even speaking it out loud.
  4. Go back and read it a second time, more slowly, and stop when you get to a phrase that moves your heart. Dwell on that phrase.
  5. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to better understand the meaning of the phrase. Imagine what it means for your life right now. Stay in that moment for as long as you feel comfortable.
  6. Read the entire passage again, perhaps speaking it out loud.
  7. Conclude by praying the Lord’s Prayer. Or, if the inquirers do not yet know the Lord’s Prayer, have them pray: “Lord Jesus, thank you for giving us your Word. May I learn to follow you more faithfully.”

What have I left out? Do you have any other tips for teaching the inquirers how to read and pray with the Bible?

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIAIf you would like to know more about the Bible, check out this webinar recording: “What your RCIA team needs to know about the Bible.” Click here for more information.


See also these related articles:
  1. Episode 75: How is the Bible different from the lectionary?
  2. Episode 73: Six things every RCIA team needs to know about the Bible
  3. What a Catholic nun and a group of Evangelical teenagers taught me about the Bible
  4. Finding your way around the Bible: basic steps for RCIA
  5. How to read the Bible in the RCIA process

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  1. When I have people who have had no religious education, I suggest they get a childrens’ Bible. The childrens’ Bible gives them many of the main stories of Scripture without overwhelming them, then we encourage them to get into Scripture Study after initiation. (Some sign up even before their initiation.

  2. We use the Break Through bible for our children and teens. It is the Good News Translation and the children love it. For our adults, the New Catholic Answer bible is very good.

  3. The previous Sunday’s Gospel is read at the beginning of each gathering. A team member offers a reflection. Then team members facilitate a reflection at each table using a focus question. This helps the candidates and catechumens apply the scripture reading to their own lives and prepares them to look more deeply into God’s word. Although we spend only a few minutes, the shared reflections are lively and beneficial to each participant.

  4. We present a Bible to each of our Inquirers at the beginning of their journey of faith. It is the “map” for their journey. They have all the readings for the Sundays of the liturgical year in a notebook we give them. At our sessions we first proclaim the upcoming Gospel, then we have them find it in their Bible and reread it. Then we simply ask them 4 questions: What did you hear? What word or phrase did you connect with? How did you feel when you heard this Gospel? Is there anything in the Gospel that would cause you to see your life differently or make a change in your life?
    This is a simple “methodology” that enables them to connect the Word with their life, and hear how others do it. Many of our RCIA people will tell us how they use this method at home with their families and children so that all are prepared to hear the Word on Sunday together.
    I would not use a Children’s Bible for the RCIA. Hearing the stories of the Bible for those who have had no experience with the Bible is part of a an ongoing PreCatechumenate. That is the time to share those stories together with them. When they are comfortable with the stories of our faith and become more comfortable with the Bible,then they can become Inquirers.

  5. Hi Diane. Thanks for chiming in. I was a little confused by your last sentence. My understanding anyone who has any interest at all is an inquirer. I don’t think there is a requirement that they know the stories of our faith or the Bible. Or did I misunderstand you?

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