CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) — While there’s nothing wrong with a bit of light reading in the summer, reading a book or two of the Bible also can be a relaxing — as well as enlightening — vacation activity, Pope Benedict XVI said.
“Naturally, many of the books of literature we pick up during vacation are for a diversion, and this is normal,” he said Aug. 3 as he held his weekly general audience in the town square at Castel Gandolfo.
With some 4,500 visitors and pilgrims present for the audience, the gathering was too large to be held in the courtyard of the pope’s summer villa.
The human need to relax is something to be thankful for, the pope said, because “it tells us that we were not made only to work, but also to think, reflect or simply to follow, with our mind and heart, a story we can identify with or even lose ourselves in and so find ourselves enriched.”
Pope Benedict said, “The Bible is a little library born over the course of a millennium,” and some of the books inside are very short. They would be a great place to start for someone who has never read an entire book of the Bible.
The short ones the pope suggested were Tobit, “an account which contains a very elevated sense of family and marriage,” Esther “in which the Jewish queen — with faith and prayer — saves her people from extermination,” or Ruth, the story of “a foreigner who knows God and experiences his providence.”
The three books, he said, “can be read in less than an hour.”
Longer, “true masterpieces,” he said, include the Book of Job, “which faces the great problem of the suffering of the innocent; Ecclesiastes, which is striking for the disturbing modernity with which it discusses the meaning of life and of the world; and the Song of Songs, a stupendous symbolic poem of human love.”
The pope said that by reading the Bible, and not just novels, “moments of relaxation can become not only moments of cultural enrichment, but also nourishment for the spirit that increases knowledge of God and dialogue with him in prayer.”