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With more readily available Bibles in hand, and growing literacy among Christians, Protestant clergy kept scripture central to worship and encouraged private devotion to the Bible.

Catholic authorities reacted with caution, insisting that the Bible must be authoritatively translated, taught, and interpreted lest the ordinary Christian be led astray by ignorance or fancy.

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Why do Catholics engage the Bible differently than Protestants?

In the beginning of Christianity, the Word of God was primarily heard.

Without the printing press, the books of the Jewish and Christian scriptures had to be painstakingly copied by hand. Deacons, priests, and bishops were entrusted with proclaiming the scriptures, in Latin throughout the Roman or Western Church, and then preaching about them, sometimes in local language.

These clerics mediated the good news to ordinary Christians, most of whom could not read.

Like their Jewish ancestors, the first Christians told stories around a meal.

The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus changed the ancient storyline.

So did parents, who told familiar Bible stories to their children.

Tales of saints, exemplars of Christian living, became popular. Gregorian chant developed as a helpful way to remember scripture through hearing. Pageants and processions brought to life familiar biblical scenes. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century introduced the now-familiar nativity scene to visually demonstrate the Christmas story.

(And, he writes to the applause of many, homilies must be brief, not taking on “the semblance of a speech or a lecture.”) Like other Christians, Catholics today hear, read, see, sing, and pray the Bible.

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