Are Bibles For Writing In?

Even when I was in college, I demurred highlighting my textbooks. My friends were well-equipped, it seemed, with fluorescent pens of all colors. And every used volume in the bookstore seemed filled with someone else’s study priorities.

One of my favorite spiritual writers is the Australian Trappist Michael Casey. In his book, Toward God, he offers some thoughts on lectio divina in chapter 7. I recommend the whole book, but the chapter on lectio all by itself is quite good. Fr Casey offers six “practical consequences” as the believer moves from reverence into an encounter with God’s Word. Number one is:

What is holy is our reading of the text, that is, welcoming it into a believing heart. The text itself possesses a sacredness too. No harm will be done by surrounding the book of the Bible with care and love. It helps to have as good an edition as our budget allows. We should respect and cherish our Bible–not scribbling on it–as if to impose our own poor thoughts upon the text–but reverencing it in its integrity.

I suspect my instinct for not writing in books is more nurture, not spiritual nature. But I do have in the back of my Psalter a place for a post-it note where I write the names of people to keep in prayer. It’s a tradition of which I could likely make better use.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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3 Responses to Are Bibles For Writing In?

  1. Jimmy Mac says:

    Ask most Protestant preachers their thoughts on this. The ones I know have annotated copies of their bibles at will. I don’t think that there was any intention of not treating their copies “with love and care.”

    As a book the bible is as much a text book as a devotional aid. It it NOT something magical that will be mistreated by using it as found necessary.

  2. FrLarry says:

    With no disrespect to the good Trappist, his opinion here seems to show a lack of historical knowledge. Writing in a Bible is one of the oldest devotional practices in the Church and has a long history in both Catholic and Protestant traditions. Glosses and marginal notes litter medieval Bibles, if not most Bibles throughout history. The nice Trappist is giving his opinion which has no foundation in Catholic tradition and could be cured by a simple Google search. That said, I have many Bibles, some I write in and some I do not. If all he is saying is that one should have at least one Bible not marked up, I’m fine with that. I’ve marked up books in the past that I wish I hadn’t, and there are some that I wish now I had marked up. A blanket rejection of marking up Bibles is quite ahistorical.

  3. +1, Fr. Larry. My wife’s grandfather was an Anglican priest and we’re in possession of his extremely annotated personal Bible; inestimabile donum!

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