How to Get More from the Readings at Mass

Imagine this scenario: It’s 30 minutes before Sunday Mass starts, and you’re running around the house trying to make sure you have everything you need.  Kids shoes need to be located, their hair has to be fixed, any coloring pages you’re taking have to be printed and put in the right bag.  Maybe you have to make a bottle or pack some diapers.  Eventually you usher everyone out the door, get everyone in the car, speed off to Church, find a parking space and make it to the pew just in time for Mass to begin.  Then Mass starts, the readings kick off, and within 30 seconds you’ve got kids to wrangle.

Now, naturally, not everyone has to deal with bringing little children to Mass.  But even without little ones, I think it’s pretty common to be rushing to get to Church.  And let’s not forget, only about 20 to 25% of Catholics even make it to Mass every week.   So you’re already doing a great job just being there!  But wouldn’t it be great if you could also really dig deeply into the readings each week?  If you don’t have time to study them on your own during the week, or even to read them before Mass begins, I have a good resource for you.  Dr. Brant Pitre, a professor at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, has a weekly video series on the Sunday readings that are truly fantastic.

pitreheadshotFrom 2008 to 2014, I was fortunate and blessed to be able to study at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans.  I concentrated on Sacred Scripture and my primary professor in that area was Dr. Pitre.  The classroom experience of studying God’s word under his direction was truly life-changing.  He’s not only a well-respected scholar, but he’s also a gifted teacher.  It certainly helps that he also makes lots of allusions to 1980s pop culture, but that’s a story for another day.

Perhaps my favorite course I took with Dr. Pitre was a class called Methodology of Biblical Studies.  When I saw it on my schedule I thought it was a boring-sounding class, but I soon saw the error of my ways.  That semester, the Fall of 2008, he took us on a tour of the Catholic Church’s approach to interpreting the Scriptures.  We learned about the literal sense and the spiritual sense of Scripture (which is further sub-divided into the allegorical, anagogical, and moral senses).  I was able to read the major encyclicals on Biblical interpretation, works from the Pontifical Biblical Commission, texts from Vatican II, the Church Fathers, and more.  I would then spend the next several years applying that methodology to the study of the New Testament, and it is a real treasure that I was able to get some initiation into this tradition.

Most Catholics, I think, don’t get much of a real training in Biblical studies.  We have a lot to learn from our Protestant brothers and sisters with regard to putting the Scriptures into a place of priority in our lives.  Digging in more deeply to the Church’s understanding of the Bible is perhaps nowhere as useful as in preparing for Mass.

Now, to the point.

Dr. Pitre, at the beginning of this liturgical year, started doing a weekly video on the readings for each Sunday.  I have watched many of them, and they are excellent.  The videos are typically around twenty minutes, and are posted on his blog mid-week, giving us all a few days to take the time to watch the video and prepare for Mass.  Dr. Pitre doesn’t just engage in high-level biblical exegesis in these videos, though he certainly does that.  He also ties the readings into their wider theological context, referencing Church documents, Popes, the Catechism, etc.  He also gives some fascinating background on the Jewish context of most of these readings.  Check out an example here:

In an ideal world, we’d all get to take years of our life and dedicate them to studying the Scriptures.  But as the world really stands, few of us get that opportunity.  But Dr. Pitre is putting his years of study at the service of the Church each week in these high-quality and insightful videos.  And they’re free!  You can’t beat that!
Check them out at Dr. Pitre’s blog.  You can look at all of the previous weeks readings and I’m sure you’ll learn a ton and also help to change your heart.

God Love You!

Posted by Luke Arredondo

Luke Arredondo earned his B.A. in philosophy from St. Joseph Seminary and an M.A. in Theology at Notre Dame Seminary. He is currently a PhD student in the Religion, Ethics, and Philosophy track at Florida State University, where he studies Catholic sexual ethics and Catholic moral theology with Dr. Aline Kalbian. He also writes at his own blog, at Ignitum Today, and Aleteia. His most important work, though, is as a husband to his wife Elena and a father to his three daughters.