Tag Archives: Bible

Lectio Divina, Sacred Reading

Simon Rubens
Recently, a priest in my community, Father Theophane Cooney, CP, gave me this short instruction on prayerfully reading the scriptures. The latin term for it is “lectio divina,” sacred reading. Something good should be shared. Here it is:

What is Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading)?

It is a spiritual, rather than academic, reading of the Bible. It enables the reader to get to know Jesus in a more personal way, through reading, above all through listening.

It is to experience a personal meeting of an intimate kind with the God who loves you and comes to meet you in the sacred reading. You should not feel obliged to read a complete passage, you are there to listen. God can say an awful lot in a few words.

Avoid opening the gospel at random: choose rather the gospel of the previous Sunday, or the coming Sunday.

Preparation

Time: set aside 10 or 15 minutes when you will be free from interruptions.
Place: somewhere free of interruptions, no telephone, no television, no computer.

1. Take some moments to calm down.
2. Invoke the assistance of the Holy Spirit. Pray to be enlightened with an inspiration that may inspire your life.
3. Read calmly, very slowly, the biblical text. Read it again. Take the time to listen to the Lord and the message he wishes to share with you from this reading. Don’t expect blinding revelations. God is teaching you to listen and seek him in silence.
4. Meditate: ask yourself–“What does this word of God, which I have read carefully say to me.”
5. Pray. Speak to the Lord who has spoken to you in the text you have reflected on. Let your attitude be that of the Virgin Mary: “Be it done onto me according to your word.”
6. Contemplate in silence. Remain fascinated and impressed as you calmly allow the word of God to inspire you as though it were the heat of the sun.
7. Act. Make a commitment that springs from this encounter with the Lord. Inspired and filled with the word of God you return to daily life with a renewed attitude.

If you are faithful to this practice, your life will begin to change. The word of God will lead you to a change of attitudes, values and feelings. Love the word of God. Study it and allow it to form your personality.

(Fr. Theophane Cooney, CP)

Spiritual Childhood

peaceable kingdom copy

This evening at the Catholic Chapel at Dover Air Force Base I spoke on spiritual childhood, an important part of the spirituality of Advent and Christmas. “Unless you become like a little child, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus said. Isaiah saw a child at the center of the Peaceable Kingdom.

In the short catechesis as our service began, I recommended the bible as a way to know Jesus Christ as a teacher of faith and prayer. I like the New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE) because it’s the version we use in our liturgy and it’s got great notes. Its recent revision takes into account newly discovered biblical manuscripts, the latest archeological finds and historical and biblical scholarship.

The New Jerusalem Bible and the RSVP translations are also good.

Many still use the King James version of the bible, one of the great literary treasures of the English language, but it has drawbacks. It hasn’t benefited from the advances in biblical scholarship that have taken place since its creation in the 16th century.

According to a recent survey of Catholics in England, most English Catholics still don’t read the bible much; usually they only know it from Mass on Sundays. That’s also true here in the United States, I think.

It’s important that we take our direction from the 2nd Vatican Council which sees the bible at the heart of our spirituality and a bridge to better relationships with other Christian churches.

Pope Benedict offers a fine example of how to use the bible in his three volumes entitled Jesus of Nazareth. His last volume, on the infancy narratives, was just published before Christmas.

I spoke in my main presentation about the spirituality of childhood, reflecting on a description given by St. Leo the Great. To be a child means to be free from crippling anxieties, forgetful of injuries, sociable and wondering before all things.

Preaching, 2

Yesterday I offered some thoughts on preaching. Today a few more reflections. Who are those we preach to today? We should know them as they are and the church in which we preach as it is.

Let’s recognize we’re preaching to people and to a church experiencing a priest shortage, a declining number of women and men religious, and a weakened hierarchy.Statistics– surely we see it ourselves– tell us that people, especially the younger generation, aren’t going to church as they once did.  Our parishes are suffering from a decline in members and Catholic schools are closing.

It’s a church roiled by sexual scandals, controversy over the place of women, issues like gay marriage, abortion and government regulations. Certainly,  Jesus Christ will be with us always and the church will survive, but what can we do to strengthen it?

I think the closest historical parallel to our American church today may be the Catholic church in American colonial times, which one historian describes as a “priestless, popeless church.”  We might add  “sisterless” to describe our church, since religious woman had a major role in its growth until now.

The colonial church survived, according to historians, because it was kept alive in the home, by prayerbooks and catechisms. (cf. The Faithful: A History of Catholics in American, by James M. O’Toole, Harvard,  2008)

Historical parallels are never absolute, but that era may suggest a preaching aimed at building a home-based faith, that is strongly catechetical and that promotes a life of regular prayer in people.

What would the prayerbook and basic catechism for today’s church be? The bible, now providentially blessed with new tools to access the treasures of its spirituality. We need a preaching that directs people to this source and helps them mine it.

It’s important we recommend the best versions of the scripture available (The New American Bible, The Jerusalem Bible) and encourage people to use aids like The Magnificat and Give Us Our Daily Bread to follow the daily lectionary.

Who preaches?

I believe we need a new generation of preachers in our churches and wherever the gospel can be proclaimed: men and women, priests, religious and laypeople. I’m not looking for new Bishop Fulton Sheens, spell–binding orators to dazzle us with their eloquence.

I think I’d prefer preachers with more modest skills. Maybe preachers like the hosts on the cooking shows on television, who whip up good food and bow out modestly after they show you how it’s done. I think  laypeople will have an increasing role in the renewal of preaching.

What about canon law? “The times, they are a-changing.”

Mission: St. Clement’s Parish, Matawan-Aberdeen, NJ

We know from the gospels that Jesus used examples from his time to speak to the people of his day. Today’s readings tell us that.  Since Jesus lived most of his life in Galilee in northern Palestine, and most of the people he preached to were farmers who made their living on the land or fishermen fishing the sea, Jesus talked to people about fishing and their farms and vineyards and planting seeds.

So how would he speak to us now?  Would he Google the place?

I’m here for your parish mission for the next three days. Tonight, tomorrow night and Tuesday night at 7:30 PM.  I googled “Matawan” for information about your town, or borough, to use the right word, and Wikipedia said there are about 9,000 people here in Matawan. in a space of 2.3 square miles. The median age about 36.

In a New York Times article last year entitled 2 Lakes, the Shore and a Train to the City  the writer said that Matawan was a good place to live, to bring up kids,  close to the train, close to the shore, close to the water. The statistics say you’re more prosperous here than other parts of the country, but the 2000 census did say that 5.5 of your population were below the poverty line. I’d guess that might be greater these days.

Now, I don’t think that Jesus, if he came here to talk to you, would go on a lot about statistics. The gospels say he urged people to be grateful to God for what they had.  Don’t forget God who gave you everything; God should be at the center of your life.

Be like your Father in heaven, aim high. Live a grateful life and love the way God loves.

The gospel also says that Jesus was not someone who was always calling people out. He saw the heartbreak, the sorrow, the sickness, the pain that’s present in everyone, no matter where they live. He saw sinners. Sinners are those who get life wrong. He spent a lot of time with them. He’s God’s face for us to see.

For the next few evenings I’ll be using the Gospel of Matthew to follow Jesus Christ through the last days of his life and his appearances as Risen from the dead. These are the most important parts of the gospel.  We’ll  follow him as disciples, which means we’ll learn from him, our teacher and Lord, how to live today from the way he lived yesterday.  I’ll go slowly through the scriptures step by step, so if you come to these evening sessions might be good to bring a bible along.

I hope this mission helps us to appreciate Jesus Christ and give us a greater appreciation for the scriptures that speak of him. In our church today, the scriptures have become our catechism and our prayerbook.

But you know as well as I that many don’t read the scriptures much or understand them too.

An article in a recent issue of the Jesuit magazine, America, (http://www.americamagazine.org/content/current-issue.cfm?issueid=786) discussed the way American Catholics read the scriptures. Actually, they don’t read them much or know much about the writings we call the Word of God, the author, Brian B. Pinter, says. Also, Catholics who do read the scriptures, may read them literally, like fundamentalists. But the Pontifical Bible Commission in 1993, Pinter points out, warned that  “Fundamentalism actually invites people to a kind of intellectual suicide.”

Last summer the pope urged Catholics to take up and read the scriptures. It wasn’t a pious wish, he was dead serious. The scriptures are the Word of God that nourish our faith and help us know God’s will.

A couple of weeks ago was catechetical Sunday, when parishes began their religious education programs for the year. Most of these programs are for our young people.  But you know religious education involves more than young people. All of us are called to grow in our faith and live what we believe.

Unfortunately, adults may think that faith is something you learn as a child in school or in a religious education program and you never have to learn about it again.

The Catholic writer Frank Sheed once said the problem with adult Catholics is that they don’t keep engaged in the faith they learned as children. He used the example of our eyes. We have two eyes. Let’s say one of them is the eye of faith; the other is the eye of experience.

As children, in religious education we may  see the world with two eyes; but as adults we may see the world only with the eye of experience. And so we lose the focus that faith gives, another dimension. We won’t see right. Faith helps us to see.

“You are all learners,” Jesus said. It’s not just children who learn, all of us learn. We are lifelong learners. Lifelong believers, engaged believers, struggling believers, even till the end.

So, I invite you to our mission this week as lifelong learners. Some of you may not be able to make it, but let me make a deal with you. How about doing a little online learning? I have a blog on the web called “Victor’s Place.” I’ll put up some material from our mission every day, starting with this homily. If you can’t get here yourself, or have a neighbor who wont darken the church door, or have a daughter in California who’s not going to church, take a look at “Victor’s Place.”

You saw me bring up a cross at the beginning of Mass and put it next to the pulpit. That was to remind me and to remind you that Someone Else is here speaking during these days of mission. The Lord is with us. He wants to speak to us here in this place where 9,000 people live, a place of  “2 Lakes, near the Shore and a trainride to the City.”

The mission services, a short catechesis, a longer reflection on the scriptures, hymns, prayers and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament will be about 1 hour. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday Nights at 7:30.

I’ll be celebrating the morning Masses on Monday and Tuesday at 8 AM  and preaching a short homily. Afterwards I’ll be available for confessions.

Fr. Victor Hoagland, CP

vhoagland@mac.com

mission poster 2

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Learning from the Bible

In my last blog I mentioned an article about Catholics reading the bible. They don’t read it much, in fact, and those who do may read it as biblical fundamentalists do. The author quoted from a 1998 report from the Pontifical Biblical Commission, the pope’s advisors in biblical  matters, which said that “Fundamentalism actually invites people to a kind of intellectual suicide.”

It can also lead to political damage as well according to an article in the Op-Ed section of the New York Times today “Why the AntiChrist Matters in Politics” by Matthew Avery Sutton.

Especially in troubled times, some may see political consequences in the bible and its prophecies that really aren’t there.

“Biblical criticism, the return of Jews to the Holy Land, evolutionary science and World War I convinced them that the second coming of Jesus was imminent. Basing their predictions on biblical prophecy, they identified signs, drawn especially from the books of Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation, that would foreshadow the arrival of the last days: the growth of strong central governments and the consolidation of independent nations into one superstate led by a seemingly benevolent leader promising world peace.

This leader would ultimately prove to be the Antichrist, who, after the so-called rapture of true saints to heaven, would lead humanity through a great tribulation culminating in the second coming and Armageddon. Conservative preachers, evangelists and media personalities of the 20th century, like Billy Sunday, Aimee Semple McPherson, Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell, shared these beliefs.”

Last week was catechetical Sunday, marking the beginning of our religious education program at St.Mary’s. We blessed our catechists who are going to be involved in the religious education of our young people.

But religious education involves more than young people. All of us are called to grow in our faith and live what we believe. Unfortunately, as adults we may see faith as something you learn as a child in school or in a religious education program and you never have to learn about it again.

The Catholic writer Frank Sheed said the problem with adult Catholics is that they don’t keep engaged in the faith they learned as children. He used the example of our eyes. We have two eyes. Let’s say one of them is the eye of faith; the other is the eye of experience.

As children, with a religious education, we may  see the world with two eyes; but as adults losing our engagement with faith we gradually come to see the world only with the eye of experience. We lose the focus that faith gives, another dimension. We won’t see right. Faith is what  helps us to see.

“You are all learners,” Jesus said to his disciples in the gospel. It’s not just children who learn, all of us learn. We are lifelong learners. Lifelong believers, engaged believers, struggling believers, even till the end.

One of the areas we have to learn about today in the Catholic Church is the Bible. It’s there every Sunday and every day of the week. It’s our new catechism and prayerbook, one of the gifts our church gives us.  We need to learn about it and pray from it as much as we can.

We Go to God Through Questions

I’ve been talking to a number of people lately who have questions about their faith. I emailed this to one of them today:

Here are some sources you might find interesting as you look again at the faith you learned long ago.

Just a few months ago a new Catholic bible was published called the New American Bible Recent Edition. NABRE. The last printing was 20 years ago, but since so much new archeological material and textual discoveries have become available since then, they thought a new edition was due. Part of what we are experiencing today is an explosion of new knowledge in these fields and in other fields of human knowledge. I’m going to pick up that new bible soon myself. It has wonderful notes and introductions to the books and it’s also the translation we read in church.

I was in a Barnes and Noble store yesterday and looked at the section of bibles, but I could hardly locate the New American Bible among the other editions. With the decline of Catholic book stores it’s hard to get the books we might be looking for. The media don’t help either with some of their sensational productions on religion.

The pope’s two new books, “Jesus of Nazareth”. are also good to read. I’ve been reading his last one about the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus, and I find it stimulating. He’s using much of the latest scholarly materials and offering some wonderful insights. and he’s not afraid to take on tough questions.  We are all doing the same thing: learning and learning again.

I like a recent catechism published by the American bishops: The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults. You can get it at Amazon.com. It approaches the different aspects of faith simply and offers a person, whether a canonized saint or not, who exemplifies that aspect and tells their story. Faith is better seen when it’s lived by people.

Since you were impressed by your recent visit to the Holy Land you may be interested in some entries I did for our pilgrimage from St. Mary’s from October 16 to November 20, 2010. You can find them on Victor’s Place, my blog, at https://vhoagland.wordpress.com/

I think I told you what one of my theology teachers told me long ago. “We go to God through questions. You find one answer and ten more questions are there waiting to be answered.”

Questions are part of our search for God.

Harold Camping’s Church

I watched Harold Camping respond to reporters yesterday after the earthquakes and the rapture never came on May 21st. The poor reporters didn’t have a chance. Harold has been answering questioners like them for years. At the end of the interview he thanked them for being so gracious. They didn’t rattle him at all.

His answer to their main question was that everything occurred spiritually. There was a spiritual earthquake. He hasn’t given up.  The world’s going to end in October. He’s sure of it.

Harold claims to know all this from his calculations from the bible. He’s also dead against the Christian churches–all of them–which he says are inhabited by Satan. All you need are the bible and Harold for going through this world and  getting into the next.

In one way, Harold is a perfect example of why we need churches. He’s also an example of why private interpretation of the bible is rejected by the Catholic Church. Once you say that every individual has the primary role in interpreting the bible, you are on the way to creating as many churches as there are people like Harold.

The other danger Harold illustrates is that he make the bible he holds on his lap the sole authority for everything spiritual. Yes, it’s God’s word. But where did that  book come from, you want to ask him? It didn’t appear mysteriously from heaven. It was a book that came from believers. Parts of it were “memoirs of the apostles,” parts of it were “writings of the prophets,” letters from Paul and others. It’s a library of different experiences and expressions.

You need a living church to help you interpret it and give you balance. You need a living church to express and develop its wisdom. You need more than Harold.