Catholic guide aims to boost scriptural literacy

He shares a name with that of the shortest Gospel writer, but Mark Hart has quite a bit to say about the entire collection of Scripture.

As Life Teen’s “Bible Geek” and executive vice president, he imparts bite-sized biblical wisdom any way he can: in person, podcasts, videos, social media and books among them. Hart’s latest book aims to deeply and comfortably root Catholics in God’s Word.

Author: Mark Hart

Publisher:
Word Among Us Press

Length: 184 pages

Release Date:
March 1, 2017

Website:
bookstore.wau.org

“Unleashing the Power of Scripture: A Guide for Catholics” was released earlier this year with both biblical “newbies” in mind as well as any Catholic soul looking to rekindle a passion and flame for God’s Word, said Hart, a parishioner of St. Timothy in Mesa.

That includes priests. One emailed him to say it reignited his love for the Word and doubled his time praying over Scriptures to prepare his homilies. That priest’s parishioners now familiarize themselves with the readings before Mass and began a Bible study.

Some small faith communities at parishes in the Diocese of Phoenix already regularly meet to discuss Sunday’s readings. “Unleashing the Power of Scripture” could help with that. Hart found it imperative to include a reflection in the appendix highlighting the Church’s three-year cycle of Sunday readings.

“How much different would our Sunday Mass encounter be if we were already aware of the main points, thematic strands and stories we were about to hear (again) proclaimed from the sanctuary? The entire first half of the Mass — the Liturgy of the Word — is now not dependent on whether or not the lector is talented, the distractions were minimal, the homily was a grand slam or we arrived on time,” Hart said. “The more prepared we are for Mass — including reading the readings — the more we ‘get’ out of Mass, sure, but the more we bring to the Mass in intention, intercession and disposition.”

Hart’s book has the power to inspire Catholics beyond the liturgy too with reflections on the Rosary, Lectio Divina and Liturgy of the Hours. He hopes his words stir the soul of busy Catholics.

Then he hopes they open their Bible with greater frequency. At times, that can mean opening an app while waiting on a child’s after-school activity. At other times, dusting off a good, solid Catholic Bible is the way to go, Hart said. The paper Bible is his preference.

“Just holding it feels as though we are linked to the past,” he said.

Exploration of the inside doesn’t need to be cover to cover. Hart’s book offers 10 steps for establishing a habit of reading Scripture. His guide will take readers through God’s story plus some “dos” and “don’ts” for the journey. Both go a long way to “building confidence and deepening your love for God,” Hart said.

For the young at heart, think of reading the Bible as a children’s story time. It doesn’t have to be long, just consistent. The Author of Scripture, the Holy Spirit, always has something He wants to share with any heart, eyes and ears ready to receive it, Hart said.

Catholics of “all ages of Scriptural literacy” can find value in his latest book. It debunks misconceptions about the Church and shows each person’s role in the salvation story as a fascinating adventure. The faithful have an entire lifetime to explore it, Hart said.

“Looking through it, I think it will be helpful for Catholics who have been meaning to get more deeply into Scripture, but don’t really know how to start,” said Steve Greene. As director of the diocesan Kino Catechetical Institute, he sees Scripture come alive for Catholics every semester.

Greene, who is also co-host of “The Catholic Conversation,” a diocesan podcast on Immaculate Heart Radio, spoke with Hart at length on air.

“His book offers a number of practical approaches to how Catholics can engage Scripture more effectively, and how Scripture can become an increasingly integral part of their faith life” Greene told The Catholic Sun. “Mark’s passion for, and love of, Scripture really shines through and I think that will be infectious for anyone who is either beginning to get into Scripture, or anyone who wants to go deeper.”

“Unleashing the Power of Scripture” is Hart’s 15th book. The Holy Spirit inspired him to become the “Bible Geek” more than 20 years ago when launching a biweekly Scripture devotional email. More than 20,000 people subscribed in the first year.

“I began to see how hungry Catholics were for God’s Word,” Hart said. A generation later, he continues to feed the world’s longing to connect with Scripture.