A Church Guy Goes To Yale

Rummaging around the Internet, I happened upon Yale Open Courses. They are taped main lecture sessions for a handful of courses that Yale decided to make available. Browsing through the material, “Introduction to the Old Testament” and “Introduction to the New Testament” looked interesting so I checked them out andI decided to take them.

I am beginning with Introduction to the Old Testament for three reasons. First, I am drawn to the Old Testament in a special way. When I have a choice, I proclaim the first reading, which is usually from the Old Testament. The Old Testament is mysterious, a mystery deriving from both cultural and historical distance and a personal lack of familiarity. The Old Testament features a wider variety of style and expression and events and shows in great detail the panorama of humanity.

Second, the Old Testament came first and the beginning is a very good place to start. Since it was God’s plan to prepare His people through the Old Testament for Christ, studying the Old Testament would hopefully prepare me for meeting Christ in the New Testament and every new day.

Finally, I enjoyed the style of the professor teaching the Old Testament course better. Having viewed and begun thinking about her first three lectures, I know there will be much to critique. But Professor Hayes presents her material in a way that is authoritative and respectful.

The first lecture covered Yale administrative stuff (ugh!! – I am glad that I can ignore this), the foundational premises of the class and some substance. an overview of Professor Hayes’ premises. Her discussion of four “myths” about the Bible and how she will deal with “faith propositions” offers some food for thought.

So stay tuned for the first substantive installment of “A Church Guy Goes To Yale” coming next week.


Footnotes In The Bible: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

We Church Guys know our footnotes.  We chat about text and after we decide what it means, we check the footnotes.  Eric Sammons has a thing or two to say about that in an excellent blog post titled “Why Footnotes In Most Bibles Stink.” I agree with his second reason more than his first.   Check it out and let’s get a conversation going.

Catholic Boot Camp: Good Website For Getting To Know The Catholic Faith

A friend of the St. Francis Men of Emmaus passed this along:

Check out this web site. Its easy to read but has lots of links to further deepen our knowledge of the Faith. Great tool for exploring with your children.

The website is called beginningCatholic.com.  It is easy to read and to navigate.  It is designed for people thinking about becoming Catholic and answers a lot of the basic questions, but would appear to be good for a refresher course.


The Way of Obedience

Chapter 2 of St. Luke or here recounts the birth of Jesus, His presentation, the witnesses of Simeon (found here) and Anna, and the finding of Jesus in the Temple. On a literal, historical level, what happened was straightforward. St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother traveled to Bethlehem to be counted in a census. There, the Blessed Mother gave birth to Christ. Angels in all their splendor announced the birth to the shepherds. After the time of the Blessed Mother’s purification, she and St. Joseph brought Him to the Temple to be presented. Simeon exalted Him and praised God for the great gift to seeing the Lord’s Salvation in the flesh.

These events provide an excellent example of true worship and the true way to holiness. The overriding theme is obedience. Mary and Joseph obey human, external authority. They obey religious authority. Every step they take is obedient. So, too, for Simeon and Anna.

For those of us who are immature spiritually, there are always two choices: our preference and God’s preference. Sometimes they overlap, but many times (such as with sinful desires) our preference is opposed to God’s. Obedience, for the spiritually immature, is the conscious effort to subordinate our preference to that of God’s. Over time, though, our preference becomes wholly conformed to God’s so that our preference disappears or our preference is God’s. In other words, we die to ourselves while becoming alive in Christ.

Mary and St. Joseph illustrate this — Mary, in particular. “Be it done unto me according thy word” is the ultimate expression of the uniting of one’s will with God’s. Not is a passive way, but an active self-giving to Him. St. Joseph, not as perfect, but also heroic: drop everything and take Mary and the baby to Egypt. Take Mary as a your wife. Luke, Chapter 2 illustrates this through obedience to Jewish law. For neither Mary nor St. Joseph was religious observance likely their preference on a human level. But grace had so bound their wills to God’s through their “obedience” — dying to themselves and their preferences to the extent that they differed from God’s. The way of obedience is thus the way of holiness.

The Real Face of Jesus, Part I

The Church Guys have finished the “Real Face of Jesus.  Is this Him?


Re-reading this post, what sticks out is the Incarnation.  God became one of us in all things but sin.  He had hair. His eyes were bluish-gray.  His hair brown.  He had a mother.  Thinking about that  mystery leaves me dumbstruck with awe.


The whole topic of trying to figure out what Christ looked like provoked a lot of discussion.  Some guys thought that we were the “face” of Jesus and trying to find the literal face of Jesus was illegitimate.  Others thought that we fell so short of Christ that talking about being the “face” of Jesus was almost sacrilegious.

Although I was an advocate of one view, the more I think about it, both positions miss the point — and suffer from the same error.  The point is the incarnation.  Christ was a flesh and blood person.  The two positions, however, spiritualize Christ.  The first is a metaphor in the same way calling the Church the “Mystical Body of Christ” is a metaphor.  The second is almost Gnostic; by(over)emphasizing our unworthiness, it almost reaches a point where matter, the physical, the concrete, are evil — in its rush to save Christ’s presence from being physically embodied in us, it ends up divorcing Christ from the world.  That is error — an error any Church Guy ought to recognize having just studied John’s Gospel.

So where does that leave us?  The ‘you are the face of Christ’ idea has much to recommend it.  I think it needs to be understood a little more accurately, though.  When we are in a state of grace, Christ’s very life is in us.  We return His love with the only thing worthy of an infinite gift — by returning His love to Him through acts of service and of worship.  We are unworthy to untie the sandals of His feet.  But we can, if we want, hand on what we have been given — His grace.  Through the sacraments and the ministry of the Church, we grow in our capacity to manifest that love.  Not because of any merit or ability on our part — how can a finite creature repay even the smallest infinite gift?  Our money’s no good.  But God gives us what we need through the Church.  Grace to have something to return.  Grace to be pleasing to Him.  If we understand being the “face” of Jesus to mean giving whatever grace we have back to Him and to those He loves out of love for Him, then yes being the “face” of Christ is our highest aspiration.  Realizing that it is not our grace and that we really have nothing to give (except what we have been given) means accepting our limits.

The debate over the real face of Jesus turns out to be one of those debates where both sides were advancing a partial truth as if it were the whole truth.  Whether we should try to figure out what Jesus looked like is the topic of Part II.

How To Teach Your Kids To Pray And To Love The Bible

As parents, we are called to be the primary teachers of the faith to our children. Why? Because God wants them to go to Heaven and we want what God wants. Here’s an idea for teaching your kids to reverence the Bible. Over at Everyday Catholic, Judith Dunlap offered this nugget:

There is a tradition of prayer in our Church called Lectio Divina (“holy reading”) that includes practiced silence. It involves four steps: reading (usually from Scripture), meditating (thinking about or placing yourself in the story), contemplation (sitting in silence with a word or passage) and prayer (telling God what the reading meant to you). Small groups and individuals practice this ancient prayer form in monasteries and homes. It can be a great way to pray together as a family.

Gather the family and read a story from Jesus’ life. Ask youngsters how they might feel if they were one of the people involved. (Make sure you talk about how you would have felt too.) Pick out a word or two. Tell your children to sit quietly and repeat the word in their heads—not thinking about the word, just repeating it. After a minute, ask everyone to say a short prayer out loud.

Notice how this approach helps teach mental prayer? If they start practicing early, they are more likely to have the skill later on and have a deeper, richer prayer life as a result. They will also learn the habit of applying what they hear to their lives. Try and see if it works for you and let us know in the comments.

A Tool To Study, And Then Live, Our Faith Better

As Catholics, we reject the unbiblical doctrine of sola scriptura. God, in His gracious goodness, fully revealed Himself to us through His son, Jesus Christ. We find in His gospel all we need for salvation. Before He ascended to Heaven, He handed on that revelation to the Apostles who, in turn, handed that Truth on to their successors. In this way, He preserved His Truth, whole and entire, for all time. The pilgrim Church thus looks to both Sacred Scripture and sacred tradition to see the face of Christ her Savior:

But in order to keep the Gospel forever whole and alive within the Church, the Apostles left bishops as their successors, “handing over” to them “the authority to teach in their own place.” This sacred tradition, therefore, and Sacred Scripture of both the Old and New Testaments are like a mirror in which the pilgrim Church on earth looks at God, from whom she has received everything, until she is brought finally to see Him as He is, face to face (see 1 John 3:2).

Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, para. 7. In short, this means:

Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church. Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles, in the common life, in the breaking of the bread and in prayers (see Acts 2, 42, Greek text), so that holding to, practicing and professing the heritage of the faith, it becomes on the part of the bishops and faithful a single common effort.

If sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form “one sacred deposit of the word of God,” it makes sense to study them together. But this is hardly practical. We open our Bibles, read, and then need to go to tomes upon tomes to search for the passage or two that discusses what we just read. I doubt that anyone outside of a university can even try and I doubt that anyone can do it adequately.

What no individual could do, the Sacred Congregation for the Clergy has done for us. At its site, www.clerus.org, it offers several nifty tools. The most helpful is a concordance of Sacred Scripture and sacred tradition. How does this work? First, the search box prompts you for a passage. Let’s take John 18:15-17 — Peter’s first denial of Christ. On the right side, we see the text of the passage and enough surrounding text for context. On the left side, we see:

Citations of
Jn 18,15-18:

Augustin on John:

Chrysostom on John:

. . . .

plus many more (I picked only a few for illustration.) This gives us an easy tool to study sacred tradition as we study Sacred Scripture. We can now read the word of God with the whole Church. Check the link out in Faith Basics.