The Bible is a “dangerous book” that young people should read daily rather than letting it gather dust on their shelves.
“The Bible is not meant to be placed on a shelf, but to be in your hands, to read often – every day, both on your own and together with others,” the Pope wrote in the prologue for a youth bible published in Germany.
He encourages young people to read the Bible together, the same way they would play together or go shopping.
“Why not read the Bible together as well – two, three, or four of you? In nature, in the woods, on the beach, at night in the glow of a few candles … you will have a great experience!”
But he warned against skimming the Bible and not reading it properly.
“Read with attention! Do not stay on the surface as if reading a comic book! Never just skim the Word of God!”
He added young people should ask what God says to them through the Bible.
“Has he touched me in the depths of my longing? What should I do?” he encouraged them to ask. “Only in this way can the force of the Word of God unfold. Only in this way can it change our lives, making them great and beautiful.”
The Pope shared his own daily Bible reading routine in the prologue of the German edition of the YouCat Bible. The new bible is from same people who produce the YouCat cathechism for youth.
In his message, Pope Francis reflected on his own use of his Bible.
“If you could see my Bible, you would not be particularly impressed,” he said. “What – that’s the Pope’s Bible? Such an old, worn-out book!”
Though that doesn’t mean he would trade it for a new one.
“I love my old Bible, which has accompanied me half my life. It has been with me in my times of joy and times of tears. It is my most precious treasure,” he said. “I live out of it, and I wouldn’t give anything in the world for it.”
The new YouCat edition includes the Bible texts in a new layout with story lines, line drawings and colour photographs with explanations and quotations.
Fifteen publishers from countries including the US, Poland and Argentina have already signed agreements to publish the newly formatted Bible.
He praised the new Bible for its inclusion of testimonies from young people and saints calling it a “page turner”.
“It is so inviting that when you start to read at the beginning. You can’t stop until the last page,” he said.
The Pope also called for an appreciation of the Bible, reminding young people how persecuted Christians face death for owning the book calling it “highly dangerous”.
He added some countries treat someone with a Bible “as if [they] were hiding hand grenades in your closet.”
“There are more persecuted Christians in the world today than in the early days of the Church. And why are they persecuted? They are persecuted because they wear a cross and bear witness to Jesus. They are convicted because they own a Bible,” he said.
The Pope went on to ask if the Bible can ever be just a piece of literature or a collection of stories, given how many Christians are persecuted for it.
He also showed he practices what he preaches, sharing his own Bible reading habits.
“Often I read a little and then put it away and contemplate the Lord. Not that I see the Lord, but he looks at me. He’s there. I let myself look at him. And I feel—this is not sentimentality — I feel deeply the things that the Lord tells me.
“Sometimes he does not speak. I then feel nothing, only emptiness, emptiness, emptiness…. But I remain patiently, and so I wait, reading and praying.”
That wasn’t all he confessed to.
Anyone struggling to keep their eyes open while praying can also take heart, as the Pope says he sometimes dozes off while saying his prays.
“But it does not matter,” he said. “I’m like a son with the father, and that is what is important.”