Monday, December 30, 2013

The Pope's latest document

Call your order in right now for Pope Francis' "Joy of the Gospel."

Be sure to let your parish ministry team know that the handy paperback edition  of Pope Francis' document is ready to ship--and that there are bulk discounts available (at $9.95, it's already the least expensive version out there)

5 – 10 copies 10%
11 – 25  copies 15%
26 – 50  copies 20%
51 – 100 copies 25%
over 100 copies 30%

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Responding to Ray

Being online (especially on Twitter), I get to "meet" a lot of people. Some of them, like a fellow I'm going to call "Ray," are beginning to reconnect with the Church,  thanks to the witness of Pope Francis, and have questions about aspects of the faith. Ray gave me permission to answer his questions on NunBlog, for the benefit of others.

He starts in a good place: with the Bible.
I would like to start reading the Bible - what are your recommendations on a version - there are sooo many different ones?  I downloaded an app to my tablet (free app, of course) and it has so many different versions - I am not sure which I should use.  Once I settle on that - where is the best place to begin?  I am not sure if reading from Genesis on is the right way to go.
pasotraspaso / Foter / CC BY 

My go-to translation is the NAB (New American Bible)--the version that is used at Mass in the United States. This translation was revised over the past twenty years (so it is technically the "NABRE"--New American Bible, Revised Edition). It is a straightforward translation that pretty closely hews to the original languages the Bible was written in (Hebrew and Greek). That is it used at Mass gives it the edge for me: I like having my reading and "hearing" work together to foster memorization. (Other people prefer using a different translation, like the Jerusalem Bible, so that the difference makes them pay attention.)

Your app probably does not have either of these--and maybe not a Catholic bible at all. The closest translation to the NAB in the Protestant bibles is the Revised Standard Version (RSV). There is a Catholic version of this, but I'm not sure if your app will have this. The RSV was also updated recently ("NRSV"), with some unfortunate attempts at political correctness. In that sense, it is very close to the New International Version, another Protestant translation.

Are you getting the idea that Catholic translations are still kind of rare and maybe not even free? You are right. So far the predominant Catholic translations of the Bible, the NAB and the JB (Jerusalem Bible or New Jerusalem Bible) are not included in most of the free Bible apps. However, you can get an inexpensive NAB ($1.99) on the iTunes store. I haven't used it, so I can't testify to how user-friendly it is.

Why would you shell out $1.99 for a Catholic Bible when the Protestant ones are free? Until the copyright holders soften up on this, there are two primary reasons to pay up. The first is that the translations are very accurate in places that matter the most to Catholics, with footnotes that many other Bibles do without (explanations are mandatory in Catholic bibles and have been for 450 years!). The second is that you are getting a seven-book bonus: Sirach, Tobit, Wisdom, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Baruch, and additional sections for Daniel and Esther. We call these "deuterocanonicals" because their scriptural "status" was recognized a bit later than most of the other books. But by "later" I mean only a century or two before Christ (instead of five centuries before). Protestant bibles will perhaps include these and other ancient Jewish writings as "apocrypha," but they will be mixed in with texts the Church really considers "apocrypha"--not the Bible at all. Getting a Catholic edition of the Bible from the get-go will help you avoid this confusion. However, if you cannot afford to pay for apps, the New Testament of the NRSV or the NIV are close enough to the NABRE for starters. I would stay away from paraphrased versions like the Good News Bible (also called the "Today's English Version"), unless you want something that sounds very, very casual. That is a sign of an extra layer of interpretation, which I find both dubious and intrusive.

That leads to your other question: where to begin.

Oddly, the Bible is not a book to be read from the beginning. This is a book where you start almost at the end. Jesus fulfilled "everything written about him in the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms*" (in other words, the Old Testament). So you want to start in the New Testament, with the four Gospels: four different ways the story of Jesus was told in the decades right after the first Easter.

Beginning at the end is not really that odd. It's only at the end of the detective story that all the clues come together. "Ahhh!" you say: "So that's what it meant!" Knowing what the earliest Christians said about Jesus, seeing the way they re-read the entire collection of Scriptures they had always known as Jews, gives us an edge that they already had. It is a little like learning the language before you go into another country. In reading the Bible, many a "traveler" has given up in despair somewhere in the book of Numbers. The New Testament is the best reading guide for the Old. In fact, in the early Church there was a saying that you can find today in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: The New Testament lies hidden in the Old, and the Old is unveiled (reveals its full meaning) in the New (see CCC 129--CCC meaning "Catechism of the Catholic Church").

There are also some good (free!) online resources that I can recommend to you to guide you in getting to know the Bible.

Carson Weber, a layman in California, has created a 30-session audio course on the Bible for Catholics. He does start with Genesis, but not in the very first lesson! His program is meant to accompany a text book, but you don't really need the book to benefit from the audio sessions. You can also download the classes in podcast form.

Dr. Scott Hahn's St Paul Center for Biblical Theology offers a long list of free online courses on the Bible. You just have to register (free!) to access the classes. These are text, not audio. However, the instruction is extremely thorough. (Dr. Hahn is a former Protestant minister who came into the Catholic Church about twenty years ago. He is a highly respected Scripture scholar; his website has material for beginners and teachers alike.)

The Catholic Education Resource Center also has some articles answering the most common questions about the Bible from a Catholic perspective.

*The Law, the Prophets and the Psalms

This expression comes from Jesus himself, after he rose from the dead! He met two grieving disciples leaving Jerusalem the day after the Sabbath. They knew all about Jesus dying on the Cross. They had even heard that people had seen him alive on Sunday morning! But they gave up hope and left the city. Jesus himself met them on the road and helped them realize that what they had experienced was what the Bible was foretelling all along: "everything written about him (the Messiah) in the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms." See Luke 24 for the whole story.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Registration open for Advent Women's Retreat!

Sister Kathryn Hermes is coming back to Chicago!
This year, the Advent Women's Retreat will be based on HeartWork, a new process of spiritual growth developed by Sister Kathryn.

Join us Dec. 7, from 8:30-3:00 for an Advent retreat day with John the Baptist, King David and St. Joseph that will lead you to a place of rest using the simple tools and exercises of HeartWork--practices you can take with you and continue at home. As in past years, the retreat will be held at St. Peter's in the Loop (downtown Chicago). Doors open at 8:15.

Register through the bookstore (call us at 312-346-4228 or drop in), or register online. Through the bookstore, we can accept Visa/MasterCard, personal checks and cash. Online accepts all major credit cards. The $40 fee (50% discount for religious sisters and students) includes coffee/donuts and a boxed lunch. (As requested, we'll try to have more salad and fruit options this year.)

Sister Kathryn Hermes is a Daughter of St Paul and author of the best-selling "Surviving Depression: A Catholic Approach" (and  its accompanying Journal) "Beginning Contemplative Prayer," "Making Peace with Yourself," and other spirituality books. Sister holds a Master's in Theological Studies and an advanced certificate in Scripture. She is currently Director of Electronic Publishing for Pauline Books & Media, Boston. Sister Kathryn's books will be available for purchase and signing throughout the day. (You can also get them in e-book formats!)

Tentative schedule:
8:15: Doors open
8:30: Orientation and Opening Meditation
8:50: John the Baptist and Making Peace with Life Choices (Meditation and Exercise)
9:30: Private Prayer (handout)
9:50: Break
10:00: King David and Making Peace with Life's Responsibilities (Meditation and Exercise)
10:45: Break
11:15 Private Prayer (handout); Opportunity for Confession
12:00: Mass, followed by lunch
1:30: St. Joseph and Making Peace with our Concern for Others ( (Meditation and Exercise)
2:30: Q&A, Closing Meditation    

For more about Sister Kathryn's HeartWork ministry, visit heartwork link badge

Friday, September 27, 2013

Everybody's talking about Pope Francis!

The interview of Pope Francis conducted over three days by his fellow Jesuit Antonio Spadaro did more than spark a few headlines: it got the whole world talking about what the Pope had said (or not said, as the case may be). There's always a risk involved in going off-script, but Francis clearly believes that it is worth it--and he seems to hope that the world's one-billion-plus Catholics will be able to carry their part of the conversation forward.

Many people seemed to get the Pope exactly wrong. Some fervent Catholics are troubled (perhaps they believe the headlines?), wondering if Francis is selling out on key applications of Catholic doctrine, or making political statements ("I'm not a right-winger" means one thing in the US context; something very different for a person who lived through Argentina's "dirty wars").

America (Jesuit weekly) has a number of thoughtful posts on what has got to be the journalistic coup of the magazine's more than a century-long history.

And one scholar suggests that the discomfort being expressed by many anxious Catholics is an invitation to transform the uncertainty into reflection. The article offers some helpful distinctions about the difference between, say, an interview and an encyclical, as well other insights that shed extra light on the Pope's words.

Here are some additional posts on an interview that deserves to be read carefully, reflected over, and prayed with.

Archbishop Chaput responds to many people's questions, concerns, fears.

An initial post from Patheos editor, Elizabeth Scalia,
Followed by this brief "spiritual antivenin" by the same author
and then a bit of context for those who worry that the Pope might be soft on abortion
and a poignant reflection on the would-be patients in the "field hospital" that is Francis' vision of the Catholic Church
(All of the above from the prolific and profound Scalia.)

Keeping Up with Francis (by Daughter of St. Paul nunblogger, Sister Anne)
First thoughts about the Francis Interview (by Father John Zuhlsdorf)
Pope Francis' Comments about Homosexuality in the Big Interview (by Father John Zuhlsdorf)

Monday, March 18, 2013

Catholics and Marriage: the principles behind the headlines

If all you know about Church teachings on marriage and related issues can be summed up in the short (and often inaccurate) phrases typically found in the headlines, it would be understandable that you might find Church teachings mystifying and maybe out of date. If that's you (or someone you know), you'll be amazed by what those teachings really are, and how they fit into a totally Catholic worldview.


It took Pope John Paul five years, but you can cover his entire Theology of the Body in just three days: May 4, 11 and 18.

Under the guidance of Franciscan Father Robert Sprott, we will devote two hours to each of the four "units" of Pope John Paul's series of talks on the human person in God's plan:

      May 4: Session ONE From the Beginning with Adam and Eve; the Sermon on the Mount
      May 11: Session TWO The Resurrection of the Body; Celibacy "for the Kingdom"; Marriage as the "first" sacrament
      May 18: Session THREE The language of the body; conjugal spirituality; the problem of contraception

Each session meets for two hours in the morning (10-12 Central Time) and two hours in the afternoon (1:30-3:30 Central Time).

If you are in the Chicago area, join us downtown. You can sign up for one day or register for the full program at the discounted rate (student rates, too!).

Outside of the Windy City, log in for the live video stream. Registration opens six weeks before the event dates; each two-hour session requires a separate registration. Your registration gives you access to the archived video even after the event is complete, so if the scheduled dates don't work for you, you can still benefit from the program.

Theology of the Body will fill you in on the background of the most controversial and misunderstood teachings of the Catholic Church. You'll be amazed by the beauty, the integrity and the hope this vision of what it means to be "made in the image of God, male and female" really means. Don't keep it to yourself!

The sessions will be based on Pope John Paul's talks, collected in the book "Man and Woman He Created Them." Copies will be available at the bookstore as well as online.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

We need your help!

Has Pauline Books & Media been a part of your life? Share your story in the comments! (By sharing here, you give us permission to use your story to tell our story to others!)

Monday, January 7, 2013

2013 Bible Study: Psalms!

That's right: eleven weeks, beginning Feb. 9, at our usual time (10:30-12:00). Pre-order the optional workbook ($22.95) for pickup at the first class.