“Indeed, the Church is built upon the Word of God;
she is born from and lives by that word.
Throughout its history, the People of God has always found strength in the Word of God, and today too the ecclesial community grows by
hearing, celebrating and studying that Word.”

Pope Benedict XVI,
Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini

On 18 November 1965, the Second Vatican Council issued the dogmatic constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum. In it, the college of bishops taught:

The sacred synod earnestly and especially urges all the Christian faithful…to learn by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures the “excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:8). “For ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” Therefore, they should gladly put themselves in touch with the sacred text itself, whether it be through the liturgy, rich in the divine word, or through devotional reading, or through instructions suitable for the purpose…

Seeking Christ in the Sacred Page:  that is the primary goal of the Mark Seven Bible Institute. Since 2006, the Dominican Missionaries for the Deaf Apostolate has provided an environment for the study of the Sacred Scriptures for Deaf Catholics. Nestled deep in the Adirondack Mountains, Camp Mark Seven provides a spiritual oasis for prayer, leisure, study, and rest. Join the people of Old Forge in experiencing God’s creation. Celebrate Mass daily in the chapel overlooking Fourth Lake. Eat and chat with friends new and old in the dining hall. Join the staff in learning the tools to read the word of God. The Mark Seven Bible Institute promises to ensure that each participant will leave at the end of the retreat with a renewed appreciation for the Church’s book, the Holy Bible.

Sacred Liturgy, Devotional Reading, and Instruction

The Second Vatican Council strongly encouraged all Christians to “put themselves in touch with the sacred text itself, whether it be through the liturgy, rich in the divine word, or through devotional reading, or through instruction…”

Thus the sacred liturgy, at Mass and Benediction, allows for a worshipful encounter with the Lord by attending to the Word. Morning prayer with lectio divina, an ancient method of reading the Bible, as well as private time with the sacred text, places each person in an environment where the only language signed or spoken is God’s. Daily workshops, lectures, and sessions give instructions on how to critically interpret the Bible and to make sense of a document that is far removed from our experiences by culture, language, and geography. By the sacred liturgy, devotional reading, and instruction, each participant learns to own the Bible and to be comfortable in giving it pride of place in the life of grace.

A Uniquely Catholic Experience

The Catholic Faith is our way of life as believers in Jesus Christ. Thus it is much more than a religion; Catholicity is a culture that defines not what we do, but who we are. The Catholic culture of Camp Mark Seven means that every aspect of the Church’s 2,000 history finds its home at the Camp—whether we are at supper, swimming in the lake, or enjoying a bonfire.

How is the Catholic culture manifested at Camp Mark Seven? First of all, as Christians, we are reminded by the gift of Life by the death of Christ with a crucifix in each room. Our attitudes and behaviors reflect the Beatitudes and striving to imitate the example of Christ. Every afternoon we celebrate Mass with a homily from the heart. Our conversations at the dinner-table are simple, genuine, and charitable. Respect for each person is expected.

During the week of the retreat, our Catholic culture is amplified by breathing the language of the Church, especially in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy and the proclamation of the word of God. This means that, in addition to Mass, we celebrate the Rite of Benediction with time for silent prayer before the Most Blessed Sacrament. The Angelus is signed together at noon and six o’clock to remember the Incarnation of the Word and of Mary becoming the Theotokos. Before retiring, we remember our heroes by reading the lives of the saints from the Roman Martyrology. Above all, the patterns of Scripture in the Lectionary are given careful attention.

In our studies, the teaching office of the Catholic Church guides us, especially in the writings of the Fathers, Ecumenical Councils, the teachings of both Sts Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure, with the Ministry of Peter and the college of bishops. Since we are gathered to study the Bible, special attention is given to the instructions of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and reputable Catholic biblical scholars such as Raymond Brown, Joseph Fitzmyer, Roland Murphy, Rudolph Schnackenburg, and many others. And, recognizing our shared grace of baptism, we also attend to the solid research of Evangelical Protestants such as Oscar Cullmann, Joachim Jeremias, Daniel B. Wallace, and Carsten Theide.

By moving away from a superficial religiosity, we work hard to establish an evangelization of culture, first at the personal level, and then culture at the level of family, society, and the world. By placing ourselves “in touch with the sacred text itself,” we are equipped to renovate ourselves with the help of sanctifying grace for a life that makes the Gospel contagious.

Catholic Hermeneutics:
Biblical Criticism and Theological Faith

The Bible is a complex book.  Written in at least three languages no longer spoken, in a culture far removed from our own in both distance and chronology, and in a completely different political and religious landscape, we cannot be glib about acquiring Biblical literacy.  Higher criticism emerged in the nineteenth century but met with fierce resistance from the Church.  In 1943, however, Pope +Pius XII welcomed scientific methods of analyzing the Bible and to this day, Catholic Biblical scholars enjoy the highest reputation for rigour and expertise.  Joseph-Marie Lagrange, Raymond Brown, Rudolph Schnackenburg, John Meier, Barbara Green, Ronald Witherup, Sandra Schneiders, Barbara Reid, and many others are well known among Catholic theologians as faithful Catholic interpreters of Scripture.  Evangelical scholars, too, stand among these giants:  Daniel B. Wallace, D. A. Carson, Douglas Moo, Gordon Fee, N. T. Wright, and innumerable others.

At Mark Seven Bible Institute, intelligent faith is never a contradiction.  At the beginning of the tenth century, St Anselm of Canterbury spoke of sacred theology as fides quarens intellectum, “faith seeking understanding.”  The Bible informs our faith; St Thomas Aquinas teaches that the cardinal virtue of prudence is the most important in the exercise of all other virtues, including the theological virtue of faith, and higher criticism is certainly a kind of prudence.  (Cf. Summa theologiae, Ia, q. 27, art. 1, ad 3.)

To be continued…