Get In Your Spiritual Game

September 28, 2007

Spiritual Workout of a Former SaintLast weekend I attended a men’s conference at a local parish. The keynote speaker was Danny Abramowicz, a former wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints.

He talked about his life in football and his re-conversion to the Faith. A fascinating story.

He also introduced everyone to his “Spiritual Workout” which is included in his book. If you like sports analogies and are looking for a step-by-step manual for improving your spiritual life, this is a great book. Each chapter starts off with a section about football and then relates it to spiritual growth. There is a brief timeout section to consider the main points and then each chapter ends with a quick action plan.

There isn’t anything groundbreaking in this book as Catholic spiritual growth has been written about countless times over the past 2000 years. This is just a unique spin on the topic from a former All-Pro NFL receiver who likes to mix the Faith and football.

The Holy Father’s New Book is Here!

May 22, 2007

Here is an excellent review and some comments about Pope Benedict XVI’s new Book Jesus Of Nazareth which was released in the U.S. just a few days ago.

Review and comments of Dr. Jeff Mirius, Founder of Catholic Culture:

Benedict’s New Book

by Dr. Jeff Mirus
May 18, 2007

My parish church is blessed to have a very enthusiastic priest who recommends many excellent books from the pulpit. At morning Mass on the day on which Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth was to be released, he described how he had tried to get an advance copy the evening before at the local Barnes & Noble. But it hadn’t yet arrived, so it wasn’t until the next day that he began his homily by kissing Benedict’s book.

My own copy had been on advance order from Amazon for some time, and it arrived on my doorstep just an hour too late for me to hold the book up gleefully from the front pew while our priest was explaining how hard he had tried to get it. (Oh well, into every life, a little rain….) But I share his enthusiasm for this wonderful book.

Part One: The Public Ministry

The foreword of Jesus of Nazareth discusses, among other things, the Pope’s methodology. While very good, this can readily be skipped by those uninterested in the various twists and turns of Biblical scholarship over the past century. However, Benedict also tells us in the foreword that this is the first volume of what he hopes will be a two-volume work:

As I do not know how much more time or strength I am still to be given, I have decided to publish the first ten chapters, covering the period from the Baptism in the Jordan to Peter’s confession of faith and the Transfiguration, as Part One of this book.In Part Two I hope also to be able to include the chapter on the infancy narratives, which I have postponed for now, because it struck me as the most urgent priority to present the figure and the message of Jesus in his public ministry, and so to help foster the growth of a living relationship with him.

After the foreword, the book opens with “An Initial Reflection on the Mystery of Jesus” before entering into its ten chapters, which cover the following topics: Jesus’ Baptism, His temptations, the Kingdom of God, the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord’s Prayer, the Disciples, the Parables, John’s gospel, two milestones (Peter’s Confession and the Transfiguration), and Jesus’ declaration of His identity.

Chapter One: The Baptism

I will have more to say in future columns about this important book, combining as it does impressive scholarship, deep faith, and pastoral care, but let me provide an inkling of its riches here from the very first chapter. In his exploration of Jesus’ baptism alone, Benedict touches on several themes which already begin to unlock the richness of our relationship with Christ. For example, he notes that unlike Matthew, who begins his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus, Luke couples the genealogy with the baptism, tracing Jesus back to Adam. “This is a way of underscoring the universal scope of Jesus’ mission,” Benedict points out. “He is the son of Adam—the son of man. Because he is man, all of us belong to him and he to us; in him humanity starts anew and reaches its destiny.”

A reflection on the meaning of Jesus’ baptism is, of course, the centerpiece of this chapter. When John objects that Jesus has no need to be baptized, Jesus replies, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Mt 3:15). Benedict traces the meaning of “to fulfill all righteousness” to the Torah, where it signifies the acceptance of God’s will or, as one expression has it, the bearing of the “yoke of God’s kingdom.” He then offers this beautiful reflection on what it means for Jesus to have undergone John’s baptism of repentance:

The act of descending into the waters of this Baptism implies a confession of guilt and a plea for forgiveness in order to make a new beginning. In a world marked by sin, then, this Yes to the entire will of God also expresses solidarity with men, who have incurred guilt but yearn for righteousness. The significance of this event could not fully emerge until it was seen in light of the Cross and Resurrection. Descending into the water, the candidates for Baptism confess their sin and seek to be rid of their burden of guilt. What did Jesus do in this same situation? Luke, who throughout his Gospel is keenly attentive to Jesus’ prayer and portrays him again and again at prayer—in conversation with the Father—tells us that Jesus was praying while he received Baptism (cf. Lk 3:21). Looking at the events in light of the Cross and Resurrection, the Christian people realized what had happened: Jesus loaded the burden of all mankind’s guilt upon his shoulders; he bore it down into the depths of the Jordan. He inaugurated his public activity by stepping into the place of sinners. His inaugural gesture is an anticipation of the Cross. He is, as it were, the true Jonah who said to the crew of the ship, “Take me and throw me into the sea” (Jon 1:12). The whole significance of Jesus’ Baptism, the fact that he bears “all righteousness,” first comes to light on the Cross: The Baptism is an acceptance of death for the sins of humanity, and the voice that calls out “This is my beloved Son” over the baptismal waters is an anticipatory reference to the Resurrection. This also explains why, in his own discourses, Jesus uses the word baptism to refer to his death (cf. Mk 10:38; Lk 12:50).

A Papal Book?

“It goes without saying,” Benedict remarks near the end of his foreword, “that this book is in no way an exercise of the magisterium…. Everyone is free, then, to contradict me.” A papal book is a relatively new means of communication, begun by John Paul II, in which popes publish their own works of scholarship and personal reflections as private persons. One can, I suppose, doubt the wisdom of this development, as it provides something of a key to a pope’s thought without having any magisterial right to be used even as an interpretive tool. On the other hand, the same issue exists with any pope’s private comments or allocutions to individual groups, since magisterial authority extends only to what the pope intends to teach by virtue of his office to the whole Church.

In reality, there is no new blurring of the lines of authority here, but rather a great benefit in permitting some of the most brilliant and faith-filled Catholics to continue offering their human wisdom to the Church even after their election as pope. Except when the papal office has been tied to secular politics, the human quality of the popes has been consistently and remarkably high. Joseph Ratzinger’s Jesus of Nazareth is a great gift which, precisely because it has been written as a private person by one who is also the pope, will have a disproportionate influence on how other scholars approach Sacred Scripture and the person of Christ. One can read this profound book either for scholarship or for faith, for study or for meditation. It should in fact be read for both reasons. It is truly Athens and Jerusalem all in one.

Reasons To Believe – New Scott Hahn Book

May 17, 2007

Reasons to Believe by Scott Hahn

This book unravels mysteries, corrects misunderstandings, and offers thoughtful, straightforward responses to common objections about the Catholic faith.

Bestselling author Scott Hahn, a convert to Catholicism, has experienced the doubts that so often drive discussions about God and the Church. In the years before his conversion, he was first a nonbeliever and then an anti-Catholic clergyman.

In REASONS TO BELIEVE, he explains the “how and why” of the Catholic faith—drawing from Scripture, his own struggles and those of other converts, as well as from everyday life and even natural science. Hahn shows that reason and revelation, nature and the supernatural, are not opposed to one another; rather they offer complementary evidence that God exists. But He doesn’t merely exist. He is someone, and He has a personality, a personal style, that is discernible and knowable. Hahn leads readers to see that God created the universe with a purpose and a form—a form that can be found in the Book of Genesis and that is there when we view the natural world through a microscope, through a telescope, or through our contact lenses.

At the heart of the book is Hahn’s examination of the ten “keys to the kingdom”—the characteristics of the Church clearly evident in the Scriptures. As the story of creation discloses, the world is a house that has a Father, a palace where the king is really present. God created the cosmos to be a kingdom, and that kingdom is the universal Church, fully revealed by Jesus Christ.

Praise for Scott Hahn’s Reasons to Believe:

“A flagship volume for contemporary apologetics.  This book should be required reading for every Catholic college student and especially for every priest, seminarian, and deacon.  This is apologetics made fascinating.”  —Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, CFR

“An outstanding book.” —Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. (Denver Archdiocese)

“The definitive book on the subject of apologetics.” —Marcus Grodi, TV host, The Journey Home

You CAN Teach your kids Latin

September 17, 2006

This post was eaten by WordPress a couple of weeks ago so I am finally getting around to rewriting it.

The Latin Centered CurriculumAs I have gotten older, one of my biggest regrets about my education (both school and self taught) is a failure to learn some Latin. I have been in a polyphonic choir and attended Latin Masses for years but have never sat down to learn what I am saying.

I have resolved to fix this defect partly because of a new book called The Latin Centered Curriculum. This book is the ideal tool for parents who want their children to receive a “classical” education that actually involves reading the classics, learning Latin and Greek and graduating high school knowing how to think and learn instead of what passes for education in most places these days.

The book gives a brief history of education, a defense of a classical education and a suggested reading list from 1st – 12th grade. The center of the book is the largest and most important part. This section contains a curriculum overview for each year including scheduling and suggested reading.

Prima LatinaLingua AngelicaFor those who would like to teach themselves and/or their children Latin, we highly recommend the Memoria Press Curriculum. This series starts with very rudimental lessons for 1st and 2nd grade in Prima Latina and progresses through the Henle Latin series in high school. The series also teaches classic Latin hymns and chant in the Lingua Angelica program and also includes classes on logic, rhetoric, the Bible and historical biographies of ancient Greeks and Romans.

We are currently going through the Prima Latina book and by the end will hopefully know about 120 words, a few prayers and some basics of Latin grammar. Our 1st and 2nd grader are picking things up well and even our four-year-old and I have learned some of the words.

If you are planning on teaching your children some of the Greek and Roman classics, I strongly recommend the Questions for Thinkers series by Fran Rutherford (my Mom) and illustrated by James Rutherford (my brother). This series gives you study questions, maps, background, vocabulary lists and questions for further thought.

The Greek set consisting of a student workbook and teacher’s guide includes sections on the following works:

  • Iliad by Homer
  • Odyssey by Homer
  • Selections from The Histories by Herodotus
  • History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides
  • The Persian Expedition by Xenophon
  • The Oresteia (Agamemnon, The Choephori, The Eumenides) by Aeschylus
  • The Three Theban Plays (Oedipus Rex, Antigone, Oedipus at Colonus) by Sophocles
  • The Clouds by Aristophanes
  • The Republic of Plato

The Roman set includes:

  • Early History of Rome by Live
  • War with Hannibal by Livy
  • Conspiracy of Catiline by Sallust
  • Attack on an Enemy of Freedom Cicero
  • Attack on Misgovernment by Cicero
  • The Annals of Imperial Rome by Tacitus
  • The Aeneid by Virgil
  • The Metamorphoses by Ovid
  • The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
  • Early Christian Writings
  • The Confessions by St. Augustine
  • The City of God by St. Augustine
  • The Brothers Menaechmi by Plautus
  • The Brothers by Terence

For those who would like to have a ready-made resource for teaching the great works of Greece and Rome (and coming soon, Medieval times), there isn’t a better resource. Yes, this is family but after my Mom homeschooled three kids through high school and wrote these books because nothing else was out there, I think I’m pretty unbiased about the quality of the work.

Something To Remember Me By

July 6, 2006

Something To Remember Me ByThis is a heart-warming book about the relationship between a granddaughter and her grandmother. Through the years, they are fortunate to spend special time together – just the two of them. From grocery shopping to watering the garden to tea parties , everything is fun because they are together. Sometimes they were just sit and watch television. The granddaughter would say, “You are the best grandmother in the whole world”. Grandmother would answer with a hug and a smile. As the girl grew, grandma started to give her things to “remember her by” – a little doll, a china figurine, a gold watch, things to put in the cedar chest that would be hers one day when grandma is gone. When this time comes, the girl realizes that her grandmother has, indeed, left her “something to remember her by”. As she looks at her own reflection in the mirror, she sees her grandmother’s big, warm smile – the best legacy of all.

It is too bad that many grandchildren will miss out on the experiences in this book. The same is true for grandparents. People do not live close to relatives anymore. When I was young, one set of my grandparents lived in the same town as my family. The other lived only ten miles away and most of the aunts and uncles were close by, too. I was lucky to have a very close relationship with my grandmother. Even though she wasn’t afraid to discipline me, I knew she always loved me. I still miss her and she has been gone for over ten years. How sad that today most families are split up. Children and parents live on other sides of the country and see each other once a year. It is mostly because of the economy – we have to go where the jobs are. But, what are we giving up for good high-paying jobs?

It is impossible to describe the feeling of being a grandmother. The grandchildren come along exactly at the right time – just when you’re feeling that “empty nest” syndrome. I believe mothers are born to take care of others. We miss that when our children are grown. And, then, along come these beautiful babies that are a part of us. It is almost a spiritual feeling – they fill your heart with such joy! I thank God everyday for allowing me to be a part of my granchildren’s lives.