A Chapter a Day

One of the best things my mom ever did for me and my sisters and brother was sit us down each morning and have one of us read a chapter of the Gospels. Just a chapter—no explanations or exegesis, just one of us reading a chapter aloud of St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke or St. John, and then going on to the tasks of the day. It was simple and it was very beautiful—the effects of doing this are still with me today.

The words washed over us, and sank into our hearts. Other than 1 Corinthians 13, there has not been any Scripture that I consciously memorized. But due to hearing my siblings reading aloud chapter after chapter, day after day, out of the beautiful Bible, I found out that I had internalized so much that I did memorize verses and parables and phrases. Oh, it has been like a treasure house in my mind! We were using the Douay-Rheims translation of the Bible (the Catholic KJV, if you will), and the sound and dignity of the language was something that impressed me very much. (The bishops don’t use this translation for Mass anymore, so I had never heard it before.) I believe we went through all four Gospels three times while I was in high school. There is nothing like having this store of verses in my head to apply to my life when I recognize a similarity to something I’m facing that Our Lord talked about. It supports and sustains me, even all these years later–thank you, Mama!

And it was so good to hear the Gospels, rather than just read them privately, quietly, to myself. It makes a big difference to be able to hear the words, rather than only see them.  It uses a different part of the brain, and so I believe that is why it had such a marked effect on me. My mother was a great reader-aloud to us all our lives, and so it was natural that she would think to have us read Scripture aloud together. Even the youngest took a turn at reading, although it was a challenge. But for all of us it was an immersion, which is the best way to learn anything: an immersion in tradition, in the life and words of Our Lord, and in our beautiful English language.

I urge you to try this with your family. It’s very simple: with your favorite translation of the Bible, hand it to a child when you are all gathered at prayer time each morning and listen to the chapter together. Start and the first chapter of St. Matthew, and when you reach the last verse of St. John, go back to St. Matthew and start over again. You don’t need notes, and you certainly don’t need theology degrees! Doing this will benefit all of you right away, but the true harvest will come after two or three cycles have been completed: the Gospels will live inside of each of your hearts and minds in a new way, and remain there always.

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