If someone asked you what Bible verses everyone should know, what would you answer?
Both because I use scripture a lot in my own prayer and because in providing spiritual direction or giving retreats I often make suggestions of scriptural passages for others to pray with, I was interested to pick up Patrick Madrid’s, 150 Bible Verses Every Catholic Should Know.
Madrid’s aim is to provide 150 verses that are “among the most important passages for daily prayers and devotions, making important life decisions…, dealing successfully with temptations, sorrows, setbacks and surprises, growing in holiness, consoling and counseling others and discussing your Catholic Faith with non-Catholics.” He divides the scriptural passages by topics such as: Salvation, Divine Revelation, The Sacraments, Sanctity of Human Life, Trials and Temptations and The Church. Each topic contains several scripture passages, each followed by some short commentary.
I’m guessing that if I asked ten serious pray-ers to provide their list of the most important Bible passages, I’d get ten different lists and so I’m reluctant to criticize Madrid’s choices. Still, for me there are some curious omissions. I couldn’t imagine not including on such a list the Genesis account of creation, of God creating the world (however long that actually took) and breathing life into humans. Or Paul’s hymn of Christ’s humility in Philippians. Or the raising of Lazarus and Martha’s beautiful expression of faith that precedes the raising. Also, the author’s heavy use of the Gospels of Matthew and John to the virtual exclusion of Mark and Luke mean that several of my favorite passages (e.g., Emmaus and the Prodigal Son) are not included. That my list is different from his cannot be taken as a criticism of the author. Indeed, if one effect of the book is to cause readers to come up with their own “top 150” list, that would not be a bad thing.
As a spiritual director, I don’t tend toward the same way of categorizing scriptural passages that Madrid uses in the book. I’m more likely to categorize passages in terms of things like helpful passages when one is struggling with faith or trust in God, passages to pray with when one is in need of healing, and the like. But given Madrid’s aims, which as the quote above suggests, go beyond counseling or dealing with individual issues people are facing, his division seems sensible.
One of the things I greatly appreciated was the inclusion of some passages I don’t tend to go to, either in my own prayer or in my recommendations to others. What explains the fact that I never turn to the letters to the Thessalonians for anything? Beats me, but Madrid includes three passages from those two letters and I am happy to be reminded of their existence.
I think the best way to use this book is that way Madrid obviously intends is: not as something to sit and read cover to cover, but as a tool for one’s daily prayer. And I do think it is a very valuable tool for that purpose. So those looking for something to help structure their daily prayer might consider taking a bit of time each day reflecting on one of the passages and the brief commentary.
I read this book as part of the Catholic Company reviewer program.