The Gated Side Chapel

One of the major aspects of the Protestant Reformation was a rediscovery of the Bible as crucial to individuals’ faith.  Not that the Catholic Church ever denied scripture, but it did seek to ‘protect’ the ordinary lay person from the more difficult interpretations of the Holy Word.  Has anything changed in the last four hundred years?



I see a church, huge and noble in aspect;

With people milling around in hushedness.

I see a gated side chapel with no access:

Glorious, if sombre, in its sacred respect.


Central, on honoured altar is set a book;

Bejewelled, framed in candled brightness.

The Word of God, saying – who can guess?

Too far away for any mere mortal to look.


For the railings shut from commoner view;

And only ordained initiates may approach.

To touch, and teach, and perhaps to coach:

To discern the mysteries belongs to the few.


Just who does the ironwork seek to protect?

Lay people confused by the troubling word?

Or the clerical gatekeepers – all else deterred?

If the Church owns scripture – who can object?


Is this an image of my Catholic Church today?

Is this veneration won by means of separation?

Do we emphasise the divine through isolation?

The sheep to be shepherded come what may?


Does the Lord speak in terms simple or highbrow?

God’s voice, yet couched in words of long dead men:

Can it touch our core, or does it need interpreting?

Does the Word have import for our daily now?


I have seen how His Word can transform the soul!

How it can comfort and conflict in equal measure.

How delightful to discover such hidden treasure!

No other text has the power to make us whole.


To revere scripture is good – to live by it is better.

Mediated by and standing full side the Tradition,

The Bible is yet a tale of love without condition:

To be received by all as God’s own love letter.