“You should read the Bible every day,” you say to your teen-aged nephew; and to make it easy for him to study the Scriptures, you follow up with a personal copy of the New American Standard Bible – gift-wrapped with love, tied with a bow, frontispiece personally signed.

Ready for this challenge, he flips the Bible open to the Book of Numbers and reads this:

Then Balak said to him, “Please come with me to another place from which you can see only some and not all of them, and from there curse them for me.”

Well, that's confusing! So he flips ahead to 2 Samuel, where he reads,

Then Rizpah, Aiah's daughter, took sackcloth and spread it out for herself on the rock from the beginning of the harvest until rain came down on them from the sky, fending off the birds of the sky from settling in on them by day, and the wild animals by night.

His eyes glaze over and he sets the book aside. How, he wonders, could anyone find meaning in a passage like that?

*          *          *          *

The problem with reading the Bible, for the uninitiated, is that he may be unprepared to discern the deeper meaning – and uncertain which passages offer easy-to-grasp advice for daily life, and which must be understood within a larger context.

Here's where the YOUCAT Bible comes in. This newest title in the internationally bestselling YOUCAT series for youth and young adults helps young people to follow the “story” of the Bible. In a style popularized in the YOUCAT Catechism, stick-figure people march through the pages of this book, illustrating popular Bible stories in a way that is both humorous and informative. The insightful sidebar quotes draw from the wisdom of theologians, writers and saints, and explain how to apply biblical texts in everyday life. There are short commentaries from today's top Bible teachers, maps, full-color photographs, as well as an index of biblical names, terms and topics. There are ten helpful suggestions on how to read the Bible.

The YOUCAT Bible is based on the popular Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition of the Ignatius Bible. What it is not, though, is a complete text. Mark Brumley, president and CEO of Ignatius Press, explained,

“I think it's a great book for helping people to get into reading the Bible or helping those already reading it to understand it better. Where someone doesn't already have a Bible, it certainly couldn't hurt to give him YOUCAT Bible along with a full copy of the Bible, but it's not required. Of course it is helpful for people to understand that YOUCAT is an abridgment – both so they won't treat it as a complete reference work and because they may be less threatened by it.”

Perhaps the greatest tribute to the usefulness of this book can be found in the Preface, which was written by Pope Francis. “What then,” he asks young readers,

“...are you holding in your hands? A piece of literature? A few nice old stories? No....

So you are holding something divine in your hands: a book that is like fire! A book through which God speaks.”

And the Holy Father describes his own biblical study. “I want to tell you how I read in my old Bible!” he explains to his young audience.

“...I take it out and read a little in it, then I put it away and let the Lord look at me. I do not look at the Lord, but HE looks at me. Indeed, HE is there. I let him gaze at me. And I perceive – this is not just sentimentality – I perceive very deeply the things that the Lord says to me.”

I've heard some Christian teachers describe the Bible as “Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth.” (Get it? B.I.B.L.E.?) At just over 400 pages, the YOUCAT Bible is perhaps less intimidating for young readers and others than the 1,100-page New Revised Standard Version. And whatever works! As Pope Francis urges in his introduction, “Do you want to make me happy? Read the Bible.”