Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Few Easy Ways to Include the the Study of Scripture in Your 2011

As we find ourselves several days into the new year, there are probably many people who are struggling to keep a New Year’s Resolution or two. Perhaps some haven’t begun. In any case, the new year is a wonderful time for each person to set new goals and map out new territory for themselves, especially for their growth in union with God. One wonderful way to do this is to resolve not only to take some time to pray with the Scriptures of the Liturgy as we discussed in our last spiritual reflection, but to even spend some time studying the Scriptures in general, for our spiritual profit. The rest of this reflection will give a couple of reasons and some simple “hows” for prayerful study of Sacred Scripture, with encouragement to include this in your New Year’s resolutions for your spiritual growth in 2011.

Why should I study Sacred Scripture?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs 101 - 141 and the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church questions 18 - 24 clearly expound the Church's teaching on Sacred Scripture. The first criterion given by the Church for reading Sacred Scripture is that "it must be read with attention to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture" (CCCC 19). Without a knowledge of the "content...of the whole of Scripture" then, we are unable to understand particular passages of Scripture in the context of the unity of the whole. Therefore, in order to reap the richest spiritual fruits from our prayer with the Bible, we ought to invest some time in sacred study of the Old and New Testament.

Get the "Big Picture"

In order to get the "big picture" of salvation history, one needs to read the 14 books of the Bible that contain the chronological narratives which give the entire story of salvation history in sequence:

1. Genesis
2. Exodus
3. Numbers
4. Deuteronomy
5. Joshua
6. Judges
7. 1 Samuel
8. 2 Samuel
9. 1 Kings
10. 2 Kings
11. Ezra
12. Nehemiah
13. Luke
14. Acts

How to Start

In our time, there are many excellent resources available for Scripture study in the form of books, DVDs, CDs and online formats to accompany our reading of the Scriptures themselves. I am going to list a few excellent way to obtain a general knowledge of the "content...of the whole of Scripture" which are not exhaustive, but hopefully point you in the right direction if you have been at a loss for a good Scriptural companion for a more comprehensive knowledge:

1. A Father Who Keeps His Promises by Scott Hahn (Book) A person could read this along with the 14 historical books, simultaneously. It is an excellent guide, highly readable, and gives you the big picture. Put this outline of the books and this covenant theology outline into your Bible (complements of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Kokomo, Indiana) to refer to as you study. You will see its great importance as you move along. Even if you use one of the other resources below, you should use these outlines and attach them or write them into your Bible.

2. A Quick Journey Through the Bible by Jeff Cavins (DVDs or CDs plus student pack and leader's guide) An eight part series, whereby, in the course of four hours, you will obtain a great overview and comprehensive understanding of the "big picture" of salvation history. You can do the series with the DVDs or CDs with or without the student pack, but the student pack is very useful.

3. Our Father's Plan by Jeff Cavins and Scott Hahn free audio files from EWTN or DVD (3 disc set - 13 hours in total) This excellent series gives the chronological narrative plus deeper theological mining in each session. This is an excellent follow up for the two above suggestions, or it can also stand alone, incorporating an introduction with greater depth of learning.

Handy Tips

Professor Sebastian Carnazzo, M.A., Ph.D Cand., offered some very useful advice in his course on the Old Testament given at Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College that is worth sharing:

1. Don't be afraid to write in your Bible. Make notes in your Bible; highlight theme words. Many of the ancient manuscripts were plastered with notes all over the margins. It is not disrespectful to the Word of God. If there is important information that you want to remember, or a chart or list to which you wish to refer - put it in your Bible in some permanent fashion. If you write it or attach it into your Bible, it will be near you when you want to refer to it. If your left and right margins are very narrow, use a footnote system, and put the actual notes in the top or bottom margin.

2. Get a good translation in hard cover or leatherbound. You don't want the precious notes that you make to be lost in 10 years' time, when your paperback version begins to fall apart!

3. He had us all order the Bible Map Insert from Son Light Publishers, that has excellent Bible maps, can attach permanently inside the cover of your Bible, and also has great lists. I certainly use mine a great deal and recommend it highly!

How to Continue Studying Scripture

Once you have a grasp on the overall content and unity of Scripture by one of the above resources or some other excellent course or resource, you can continue to prayerfully grow in your knowledge of Scripture in several ways.

1. First of all, you can prayerful re-read the chronological books, that now contain your notes and cross references. As we mentioned before, always remember to pray before reading or studying the Scriptures! This will help you to absorb and begin to interiorize your knowledge. Most people find, on a second reading, that they are noticing details they never noticed before, and also (happily!) realize that they have learned so much and are getting quite familiar with the "big picture."

2. Another excellent idea, which, I believe is from Jeff Cavins or Scott Hahn, is to read the 14 chronological books again, but also begin to read some of the other books from the same time period, in order to understand the context. The outline of the books linked to above will show you where all the books belong.

3. Then, after such a firm grounding, you are ready to launch out into other Scripture studies on particular sections of the Scriptures, to which you may be particularly drawn. Again, there are many excellent resources for such studies. Singing in the Reign: The Psalms and the Liturgy of God's Kingdom by Michael Barber and The Lamb's Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth by Scott Hahn (regarding the Book of Revelation) are just two examples of many fine Scripture studies that a person can use. One can also use excellent Scripture commentaries and dictionaries. There are some great study Bibles from Ignatius Press with notes by Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch already inside as well. So, indeed, there is no lack of resources and we have not yet mentioned the commentaries of the Fathers of the Church available online!

What If I Don't Have Time?

Yes, it takes time to study Scripture. But you can fit it into your schedule if you really hold that it is important. Here are several different ideas; hopefully one of them will work for you!

1. Set aside an hour on Sundays.

2. Pick a month (or time period of the year) where you will prayerfully study Scripture for a period of time each day. Lent is an excellent time for such an endeavour, or some month when your duties are not so intense.

3. Devote one Saturday morning of each month to studying Scripture!

4. Set aside a small amount of time each day to study Scripture (e.g. 10 minutes or even 5 if that is all you have).

5. Plan a Scripture Study at your College/University and invite your friends!

6. If you do a lot of driving, get an audio Scripture study you can listen to in your car.

We hope that you feel inspired to make the study of Sacred Scripture part of your 2011. May it bring you to a greater knowledge of the Father's loving plan through His Son, Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit and thus to a greater love of the Trinity. May Our Lady, who pondered everything in her heart, teach you how to lovingly ponder God's Word and respond as wholeheartedly, with your "fiat." Happy New Year to you all!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy Epiphany and A Blessed New Year!

Dear Friends,

Here we are in 2011!! How fast this past year has gone by! We pray that each of you had a very blessed Christmas with your loved ones and that the Joy of the great Feast of the Epiphany is still aglow in your hearts. Thank you to all who sent us cards, gifts, and greetings to the Community throughout the holy season. All of you, our friends, family and benefactors were remembered by the sisters in our community’s Christmas Novena of Masses.

This year was very special for us as the entire community was together for the great Solemnities of Christmas and Epiphany! We were blessed to have Father Tim Higgins offer the Holy Vigil Mass of Christmas here at the Marian Residence in the evening for our dear seniors. The Manger, the flowers, and the Gregorian Chant sung by the sisters all added to the peaceful beauty of the anticipated coming of the Divine Infant of Bethlehem into our longing hearts. Father also offered the Christmas Morning Mass here in our Residence Chapel…standing room only!! Our chapel was filled to overflowing with residents and sisters and the heartfelt singing of both the young and the old to welcome our new-born King poured out into the hallways greeting all who came to visit!

On Saturday, January 1st, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, we were delighted and honored to host our newly consecrated Bishop, Most Rev. Bishop Douglas Crosby, O.M.I. for Lunch with all the sisters. Mother Dorothy brought His Excellency on a tour of the Marian Residence and our convent and as he , Mother, and Father House (who kindly brought the bishop up from Hamilton) returned to the dining room the Community greeted the Bishop with a glorious rendition of the Latin Hymn Ecce Sacerdos, (Behold the Great Priest). His Excellency was most kind in his words to the community, greeted each sister individually and imparted his blessing upon us all before departing for Hamilton. May the Lord bless our new shepherd and all he does for the up-building of the Faith here in the Diocese.

On January 2nd, continuing the celebrations, our six junior professed Sisters and their formator performed for the community the late 15th Century English morality play Everyman. Many surprises were in store for the audience! A gentle reminder of the importance of charitable good deeds done for the love of God. What a wonderful way to begin this New Year!

Fellowship forsakes Everyman in his journey to eternity, as do Kindred, Cousin and Goods

Everyman's Good Deeds lie cold in the ground through sin!

Beauty, Discretion, Five Wits, Strength, Knowledge and Good Deeds agree to accompany Everyman in his eternal pilgrimage after he repents, goes to Confession and does penance

Good Deeds and Knowledge assist Everyman in his last moments before death

The Angel comes to take Everyman to Paradise, followed by his Good Deeds

May this year be a time of abundant grace and blessings for you and all your families!

The Sisters of Our Lady Immaculate