Category Archives: Catholicism

Just Ordered (and, Just Picked Up)

Indulge me a quick(ish) preface to this announcement of recent purchases. Today marks exactly one year since I stood before a room full of witnesses and made vows to my wife. I mention this firstly because it’s one of the more monumental moments in my life and secondly because it brings to mind something that we were told during out premarital counseling. The pastor who married us shared a story about how him and his wife have made it 40 years without impulse buying. They agreed that anything they wanted but hadn’t already planned for would be written down on a list in the kitchen and if they still wanted it after a day or two then they’d get it. He said that in all those years they never got anything off the list.

I’m not nearly as disciplined, but I have tried to implement that advice when and where possible. I share this anecdote because more than a week ago my buddy Michael Burgos started talking about getting a premium Bible. That sparked my interest and I began perusing evangelicalbible.com’s offerings. I found a couple that I liked but I determined that I wouldn’t get anything because I didn’t really need another Bible and I had no good reason to grab another at this moment in time. Well, after a week I still wanted one and I kept reading reviews, watching videos, and looking at pictures before finally deciding to pull the trigger.

I went with the Ocean Blue goatskin Crossway ESV Heirloom Legacy Bible. Now I’ve had an ESV Legacy before and I hated it. I ended up giving the thing away. It appears that this is an update and the major things that irked me are no more. I also went with this version because I had my heart set on blue (it really is quite striking!) and I’ve come to know and love single column texts over the years. As of late I read my Bible almost exclusively in my many Reader’s editions from Crossway. And though I haven’t handwritten anything in a Bible in quite a long time, this particular Bible has plenty of room in the margins and footer for note taking. I think I will pick the practice back up once I get it.

In addition to this premium Bible, my wife and I spent our first anniversary together out and about doing all manner of things. Our first stop was a Barnes & Noble for some Starbucks and book browsing. I ended up grabbing a copy of H. A. Guerber’s Classical Mythology for $7.98. I saw it the last time I was there and wanted to grab a copy but never did. I also opted to order a bunch of books from CBD’s Spring Sale before we went to see Death Wish, which was great, by the way! Here’s what I got from them:

The Structure of Sacred Doctrine in Calvin’s Theology

Translating the New Testament: Text, Translation, Theology

Rowan’s Rule: The Biography of the Archbishop of Canterbury

Evangelizing Catholics: A Mission Manual for the New Evangelization*

The Age of the Spirit: How the Ghost of an Ancient Controversy Is Shaping the Church

What Did the Ancient Israelites Eat? Diet in Biblical Times

ESV Gospel of John, Reader’s Edition

Friends of Calvin

The Fourth Cup: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper and the Cross*

Abraham Kuyper: A Pictorial Biography

An Outline of New Testament Spirituality

Romans: Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scriptures*

Treasures Old and New: Essays in the Theology of the Pentateuch

The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass As Heaven On Earth*

At the Heart of the Gospel: Suffering in the Earliest Christian Message

Consuming the Word: The New Testament and the Eucharist in the Early Church*

Qumran and Jerusalem: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the History of Judaism

The Gospel and The Mind: Recovering and Shaping the Intellectual Life

The Challenges of Cultural Discipleship: Essays in the Line of Abraham Kuyper

God Speaks: What He Says, What He Means

I got too many to link them all. Most of them ranged in price from $0.99 to $2.99. The notable exceptions are the volumes by Scott Hahn*, but I’m trying to get my hands on everything he’s ever written so I’m willing to pay the price for those. I’d love to say that this should hold me over for a while, and while it probably should, it definitely won’t. Until next time…

B”H

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Home Library/Office Tour

I wanted to do this for a while. I had some time today. One day I’ll get a good camera and give this thing some real production value.

B”H

Many are Called: Rediscovering the Glory of the Priesthood

Hahn, Scott. Many are Called: Rediscovering the Glory of the Priesthood. New York: Doubleday, 2010. Pp. 155. Hardcover. $14.99.

Many are Called: Rediscovering the Glory of the Priesthood is a slim volume in which Catholic scholar Scott Hahn shows his admiration and appreciation for this ancient and venerable ministry. Over the course of 12 chapters Hahn examines the priesthood in Scripture and history while highlighting the many roles that a priest plays: namely father, mediator, provider, teacher, warrior, judge, bridegroom, and brother.

He presents a redemptive-historical narrative in which the father was originally the priest of the family who passed down the role to his sons. Israel, then, was a nation of priests. But after the golden calf incident God stripped the nation of the priesthood and appointed a single tribe to serve the function.

Fast forward to the New Testament and we find Christ as our heavenly high priest; the one to whom the priesthood has always pointed. His body, the church, is an extension of himself and as such we are once again a nation of priests. But there are a sect of priests who serve the nation. They are the fathers to the fatherless; mediators (as extensions of Christ himself) between God and man; teachers of the laity; spiritual warriors charged with defending the faith and battling spiritual wickedness through prayer and fasting; and so much more.

Hahn does a great job of showing just how multifaceted the priesthood is while setting up a plausible foundation for the office based on Scripture. Where he doesn’t succeed, in my opinion, is in his case for celibacy. Sure, the Apostle Paul says that one can devote himself wholly to Christ if he does not marry, but he also says it’s better to marry than burn with desire. History is full of tales of priests who have carried on affairs with women and have even sired secret families. Had they been allowed to marry, as for example, the priests in the Orthodox Church, then there would be nothing scandalous about this. Add to this the fact that Peter, whom Catholics consider to have been the first pope, was married and it becomes hard to see a reason for making this a necessary vow for priests to make.

I was also somewhat disappointed with Hahn’s closing remarks about the frailty of priests. Of course we recognize that they’re human and on this side of eternity they’ll make mistakes and fall short of perfection. But the manner in which these remarks are presented seem like a thinly veiled defense of those caught up in the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandals. This volume would have been stronger had this material been omitted. But there is plenty to be gleaned from Hahn’s focused treatment and the positive features outweigh the negative.

B”H

Signs of Life: 40 Catholic Customs and Their Biblical Roots

Hahn, Scott. Signs of Life: 40 Catholic Customs and Their Biblical Roots. New York: Doubleday, 2009. Pp. 276. Hardcover. $23.00.

Signs of Life: 40 Catholic Customs and Their Biblical Roots is part apologetic, part devotional, and part catechism. Scott Hahn brings to bear his decades of study and devotion and explains Catholic belief and practice from the seemingly mundane actions of dipping your fingers into holy water upon entering the sanctuary to the central Christian tasks of worshipping the triune God.

Plenty is covered in between like the Sacraments; sacred times, spaces, and meals; and those notorious practices that give Protestants fits like indulgences, prayers for the dead, and relics. Hahn covers each subject in a few short pages and ends each chapter with a quotation from a saint, pope, council, or otherwise revered teacher that the reader is invited to ponder in their heart.

Interestingly enough, not every practice addressed is exclusively Catholic. For example, in chapter 16 Hahn covers Bible Study, which Protestants certainly engage in, but he does so from a Catholic perspective with reference to the revised lectionary of the 1970s and Dogmas, which are “the Church’s infallible interpretation of Scripture” (115). Prayers of Aspiration (chapter 12) aren’t unique to Catholics either. It’s quite normal for Protestants to recite memorized prayers or scriptural citations throughout their day.

But without detailing every custom covered let me just say that in general Hahn is to be celebrated for bringing his living faith in the living Christ to a broad audience in the most helpful of ways. Hahn writes simply without being simplistic and it is evident on every page of the book that he has thought through each of these practices deeply and more importantly, the reader gets the impression that he practices what he preaches.

As he notes in the introduction, his selection of material is “not quite random, but not quite inevitable either” (15). Rather they are the things that are important to him and Hahn’s “meditations are not definitions”; they’re his “reflections borrowed from this saint and that pope and combined in a way that’s [his]” (15). He invites the reader to ponder these things and things not mentioned and reflect on them in their own way.

Catholic readers will find much to build up their faith and Protestant readers will learn much about Catholic customs without being totally convinced that each one has sufficient biblical warrant (in other words, don’t approach this book as a definitive defense of Catholic practice, doctrine, or tradition); but there is something to be gleaned by every reader of this book. If nothing else the reader will come away with a strong sense of one Catholic’s appreciation of and devotion to his faith.

B”H

Hail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God

acts.pngHahn, Scott. 

Hail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God

New York: Image, 2001. Pp. xii + 191. Paper. $15.00.

Amazon | CBD

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With thanks to Image Books‘ Blogging for Books program for this review copy!

I was raised Catholic but departed from the church shortly after my confirmation. God would eventually grab a hold of me at 21 years of age but as it happens he didn’t intend for me to return to the Church of my childhood. Instead I’ve been serving in Pentecostal churches for the past dozen years. And still, there are plenty of things about Catholicism that I miss, most notably liturgical worship and that inexplicable feeling that comes from knowing that yours is an ancient tradition.

There are also things, that at this point in my life, would keep me from returning, most notably the filioque clause in the Western version of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed and the Marian Dogmas. I doubt I’ll ever be able to accept the filioque but I’m open to the things that the Catholic Church teaches about Mary. I’ve never been one of those Protestants who took pleasure in denigrating the mother of our Lord Jesus just to avoid the possibility of worshipping her!

So with this in mind I began reading through Scott Hahn‘s Hail, Holy Queen in order to see if he could convince me that the Marian Dogmas had more support than I had previously thought. In his usual conversational style, which marks all of his popular writing, Hahn makes the case for Mary’s Immaculate Conception (not to be confused with the virginal conception of Christ); her Divine Motherhood (i.e., her being the Theotokos – Mother of God); Perpetual Virginity; and Bodily Assumption.

But before turning to these Dogmas themselves, Hahn teaches the reader a bit about biblical typology. He presents Mary as the “New Eve” receiving grace where the first Eve rejected it; succeeding where the first Eve failed. Mary is also the “New Ark of the Covenant” who carried the Word of God made flesh; the true Bread from heaven; and the eternal High Priest. And just as every Davidic king had a “queen mother,” Mary is the Queen Mother par excellence, receiving due reverence even in the presence of her Son who is her superior.

In all of this Hahn exhibits a keen knowledge of Scripture and is able to reveal subtle allusions amidst some glaringly obvious types and shadows, and all of this with an eye on John’s Apocalypse and what it says about the woman clothed in the sun (Rev. 12). He also takes the reader through the Catechism of the Catholic Church and what the Fathers of the Church have had to say about Mary throughout the centuries. I’ll admit that he presents an impressive case for the antiquity of many of these Dogmas.

He also helped to clear up some things that I had always taken issue with, namely the idea of Mary as the “New Eve” to Jesus’ “New Adam.” How could Jesus’ mother also be his wife (especially in light of the fact that the Church is called the Bride of Christ)? He responds with reference to Isaiah 62:4-5, which actually makes sense, at least as far as I’m concerned. It’s funny, but one of his least sophisticated arguments in the book, a recounting of a homily delivered by a priest for the feast of the Immaculate Conception, really hit home. In short, the priest asked who would preserve their mother from sin if they had the power. The answer is everyone, of course, and yet none of us have that power. But Jesus does, and he used it (158-59)! Simple yet profound.

There were times when I thought that Hahn was reaching. For example, he goes through the standard objections to Mary’s Perpetual Virginity and notes the appeal to the place in the Gospels where Jesus’ mother is said to be outside with his brothers and sisters. Hahn’s response is that the Greek word for brother (adelphos) was used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament to refer to not only brothers, but also cousins or kinsman more generally, and that in Hebrew and Aramaic, which would have been spoken by Jews in first century Palestine, there was no distinct word for cousin so the word for brother would have been used (104).

I’m left to wonder exactly how the Gospel writers could have communicated that these people were in fact Jesus’ brothers and sisters then. What could they have possibly said, other than what they did say, to indicate such? I’m also curious about the use of adelphai (sisters) in Mark 6:3 and the longer reading of Mark 3:32. Did the feminine form of the word have the same range of meaning, and if so, where do we see this attested? I’m also be interested to learn why adelphai is set beside adelphoi in Mark 12:31-32 and adelphos in Mark 6:3 when there are many instances where adelphoi has “brother and sisters” as the intended meaning.

I was also underwhelmed by Hahn’s arguments for the Bodily Assumption, which is not mentioned in Christian writings until the sixth century. He points to Mary being found in heaven in body and spirit in Revelation 12, but that simply assumes what has to be proven, namely that Revelation 12 is about Mary in the first place. There is good reason to believe that it is about Israel. The appeal to there being established feast days when we do first read about the Bodily Assumption does nothing to show when they were established. Likewise, his anecdotal evidence about encountering a priest who wrote the one book on the subject just when he needed him most, does not an argument for the Assumption make.

In the end Hahn failed to convince me of the truth of all the Marian Dogmas but he did show me that there’s more to them than I had previously thought. He also offers one of the best explanations for praying the rosary that I’ve ever read and he demonstrates how focused meditation is far from vain repetition (without denying that it could turn into such). His is an intriguing study that shows the devotion of a son who truly loves his mother and we can all take a page out of Hahn’s book on that point.

B”H

In the Mail

My Ignatius Press ordered arrived today. To be honest, I saw the box and thought the publisher had sent a bunch of books for review because, well, I forgot I had placed this order! But here’s what I got:

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Now I have to move the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI section of my library because these books are way too tall to fit on the top of my bookcase where my other Ratzinger volumes are housed.

B”H

Just Ordered

My dear friend/brother-from-another-mother Esteban informed me of a fantastic sale from Ignatius Press in which I just picked up the following books (links are to Amazon followed by Ignatius for comparison purposes):

You can’t beat a bunch of $3 books from arguably the best Pope ever! The sale ends at midnight so any interested parties will do well to get shopping now!

B”H