Scripture Study Tools

prologus_ioanni_vulgata_clementinaSt. Jerome: if you don’t know anything about him, here’s all you need to be properly introduced:

Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.

That’s right. If you don’t know the Bible, you don’t know God. That doesn’t mean you have to know everything in Scripture, but it does mean you should be reading the Word, thinking on it, praying with it, and starting your journey. This is standard for all Catholic Christians, especially if we work with teaching others the faith. Over the years of being a TNTT youth leader and trainer, I’ve come to realize this as more and more true (I see it especially when reviewing countless post-camp assignments). So, to help, may I recommend these resources (in addition to the TNTT workbooks) for you and your beloved seedlings, searchers, companions, knights, and fellow leaders.

The original Christian Bible is a small library of 73 select books, books specifically selected by people inspired by God. The Old Testament was assembled by the ancient Jews, the New Testament by the Church Fathers, and the Christian Canon of Scripture was determined by the Church Fathers also. Every Christian owes it to these people who chose these books, which is why we read only these 73 today, and not the other rejected books. You can find more on the Bible’s history and deeper meanings here:

Handouts to prepare for: Seedlings (AN), Seekers (TN), Companions (NS), and Knights (HS)

  1. The 2nd Edition Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition (RSV-CE). I love this Bible… the leather bound and hardcover versions are bomb.
  2. Study Bible of the 2nd Ed. RSV-CE, aka: the Ignatius Study Bible. For now, only the New Testament is available in one volume. The Old Testament is being put together right now, and so is only available in individual issues (I have the Genesis issue, which is amazing… I used it to create HTDT based on the whole Torah/Pentateuch). Dr. Scott Hahn is one of the faithful minds behind this study Bible.256x256bb
  3. Free app to read the whole Bible with interactive and in-depth commentary from the Church Fathers. Don’t miss out on this neat tool, called Catena.
  4. Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: this series on the New Testament is indispensable for anyone who wants to know the way the Church reads the Word of God. I highly recommend starting with the Gospels (my seminary’s Scripture classes use this series).mark_small
  5. Pocket Guide to the Bible: great introduction to what the Bible is, its history, how to use and read it, and how it’s organized.
  6. Where We Got the Bible: something I read to learn how the Bible came into existence, and how the Catholic Church assembled it and maintained it throughout the ages. Pretty fascinating, considering the Bible is the Church’s book.
  7. If you really wanna get into more Scripture treasures, then read anything by Dr. Scott Hahn and listen to his talks on YouTube. He’s a great speaker to start with. A Father Who Keeps His Promises is a great treat for us who want to know the main theme of the Bible.
  8. Great Adventure Bible Timeline of Salvation History: we all prefer a slick timeline chart instead of a chunk of words, so this is a great visual aid to exploring how the Jews, Jesus and His Church all fit together.
  9. An online Bible in Greek, Latin and English, if you’re down with exploring the Scriptures in the ancient Biblical languages (I haven’t found one for the Hebrew, yet).
  10. And for serious step into deeper Scripture study, try Bibliaclerus. I’ve only used it a handful of times, but it is very thorough and powerful. Almost forgot about it until a friend reminded me!
  11. Don’t forget a Bible Dictionary, too. Yep… handy for looking up key words and names when they come up.
  12. The BibleSmack Game (yep, I finally found a good name for it!). Here are BibleSmack‘s rules and files you need to play this game with others:

BibleSmackNewTestament Cards

BibleSmackOldTestament Cards

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Select Chants for DHHT

Hello Beloved HT of Miền Trung (and any eavesdroppers)!

This DHHT XI, we get to go a bit old school and do Adoration with some Latin chants. These chants are ancient, and the Latin is a major heritage of Roman Catholicism (stretching back over 1000 years). If you want to know more about Latin, please look here: The Romance Tongue and Why Chant Can’t Speed Up.

But, to help us all prepare, please put these three chants on repeat for the next month, and we’ll get together in mid-July to praise the King in the Church’s mother tongue. We’ve never done this together on such a large scale, so we’re a bit nervous… but let’s do this!

—–1) O Salutaris Hostia (by St. Thomas Aquinas)

Translation, history and full lyrics here.

—–2) Tantum Ergo (the last 2 verses of the Pange Lingua, also by St. Thomas Aquinas)

Translation, history and full lyrics here.

—–3) Salve Regina (anonymous and ancient)

Translation, history and full lyrics here.

Online Resources for Catholic Truths

—–1) Catholic.com is a great website to ask questions and discover answers. You can even call into Catholic Answers Live and ask professional and faithful apologists your toughest questions about God, His Church, His Book, the Catholic Faith, etc. Don’t be shy! These apologists (people who can explain well what the Church believes) are here to help. Give them your best shot.

—–2) ChastityProject.com is all about the Church’s guidance on healthy relationships between men and women. The world around us tells us one thing, but the Church invites us to much more beauty than the world can offer. In fact, it was this invitation to live more beautifully that saved my faith and my life (I am serious). Take your time and really explore this website in depth. There is much treasure here. Also, please dig into the Theology of the Body if you want to know what changed my life forever, because it can change your life for the better also.

—–3) MattFradd.com is a great resource for any of us who want to know how the Church defends herself from atheists. Fradd is also excellent at explaining why and how pornography and lust destroys not only the Church, but also destroys everyone: men, women and children. If you think porn is not a big deal, or if you know it is evil but not sure why exactly, then please give Matt Fradd some time to explain and you will be blown away: ThePornEffect.com

—–4) Because Big Media these days is so biased and anti-Catholic, please look at my top recommendations here: Choose Better News.

—–5) Because the YouCat is only a kiddie summary of the summary of the Catholic Faith (aka: the Catechism of the Catholic Church), you can see the CCC here online.

—–6) Saint Paul Street Evangelization is a great ministry that helps faithful Catholics understand and also share their faith with others in a productive way. Seriously explore their resources and take your faith to the streets (this is also my official provider of Miraculous Medals, not to mention I helped design one of their prayer cards!).

—–7) Most importantly, an online Bible in Greek, Latin and English. If you’re looking for a study Bible (with great notes and detailed explanations and citations, check the Revised Standard Version – 2nd Catholic Edition here).

—–8) Lastly, because I am conceited, let me post a link to my blog right here at HolySmack.com. Here you can keep up with my thoughts and reflections as my faith in God and His Church steers me through life (check out the movie reviews!).

Always the Best and Nothing Less

[Daniel Mitsui’s “Wedding at Cana” in the Traditional Japanese style.]

The Wedding at Cana has been special to me ever since my silent retreat experience with Mary in 2011. Only, I didn’t realize how special it was to me until the past year. More and more it appeared in my life. More and more… but here are a few treats from the wedding feast, just in time as America feasts this Thanksgiving week:

—–1) After telling her Son there is no wine left, Mary turns to the servants of the wedding feast and tells them, “Do whatever He tells you.” These are Mary’s last words in the Gospels. No more of her words are recorded, and so these have a weight to them. But, while I prayed the Rosary and contemplated on this mystery, I heard Our Lady say to me: “Do whatever He tells you… when He tells you.”

I immediately realized that just as important as the “what He tells you” is the “when He tells you”!

So often we think we know what we need to do, so we rush, we hurry and end up doing not as well as we could have. I can think of many examples where if I had only slowed down, prepared, planned and waited to the Holy Spirit to send me, I would have succeeded. Learning to follow Divine Timing has been difficult, but I have seen things happen that are nothing short of miraculous. Coincidence just can’t explain away enough these experiences (one of which I may share in more depth later).

CremeBrulee—–2) For the longest time I wondered how strange it was for Jesus to make/serve the best wine after wedding guests were already too drunk to know the difference and appreciate anything. Like, why would anyone give a thousand dollars to an intoxicated person? Or why give a crème brûlée to someone who has a miserable cold and can’t even taste anything? Or why serve the finest sashimi to guests who don’t know their shoes from their sushi?

Well, I asked Jesus this point blank, in front of a group of friends (His beloveds), while He was in the Blessed Sacrament. And I stared Him down. And He sent the Holy Spirit gushing into me. Once I asked, the answer just swelled up from out of nowhere, effortlessly:

Jesus saves the best for us, makes the best for us… always the best and never less… because He is God and because He loves us. Even when we are too drunk to see the greatness of the gifts He has given us, too wasted to understand and use the talents He gave us, too stupid to care for the loved ones He brought us to, too sinful to love Him, even despite all our inadequacy… He still gives us all of Himself and everything good for us.

And if we don’t see the goodness, the greatness, the loveliness and treasure… it’s because we need to get sober. Otherwise, we will miss out on all that Heavenly glory (as Bruce Lee used to say):

“Mary, I have no wine. Please ask your Son to turn my blood into love. Mary, tell Him, ask Him.”

-Evan Pham, as inspired by St. Francis de Sales

An Exorcism Experience

IMG_20141003_145844By now, most of America is in Halloween mode.

And I’ve been saving a special something for Halloween mode.

A few months ago, a dear friend shared with me about her exorcism experience. Now, just to be clear, she did not undergo the Ritual of Exorcism. What is meant is that she experienced the power of the exorcism prayers in the Medal of Saint Benedict (do yourself a favor and click the link!). And when I heard her story, I felt she should share it with others also, and so I offered her the chance (and SO glad she responded generously! Thanks, Sarah!). In many ways, it reminded me of the Exorcism of Emily Rose, and ultimately because both Emily and Sarah became witnesses not to the devil’s tricks, but witnesses to Christ’s power and love.

But that’s enough from me. Have a look and a listen yourself:

 

Modesty at Mass

Recently I received a thoughtful question from up the TNTT vine…

“If the Theology of the Body teaches that our bodies are beautiful and reflect God, why must we be modest in Church?”

audrey_hepburn_type_1

[Audrey Hepburn’s quote illustrated by Alicia Vasquez.]

Modesty is not about covering up something because it is ugly. Instead, it’s about cherishing and protecting the beautiful, especially about safeguarding love and respect. Since Woman (and all things women) is the more beautiful sex, there is an emphasis to safeguard her. Women do this by dressing and behaving appropriately to help others see that there is more beauty to them than just their skin and hair (because it’s so easy to stop just there).

Since women are so attractive, it is easy for men to get caught up in the physical and external looks. By dressing and behaving modestly, they are helping others find where their true beauty is. I like to remind myself with this quote: “The most beautiful part of a woman is her.” Meaning ALL OF HER. The moment we focus on just one aspect of her person, is the moment we objectify her and abuse her. Her whole person (body, soul, mind and heart) is beautiful, and modesty helps us find that total beauty by guiding our attention to her as a person instead of getting caught up in and stopping at the external beauty. Modesty helps us treat others and ourselves with the dignity and respect we all deserve. Modesty done right, it makes us free and happy!

At Mass, we also dress modestly* to help others find where the true beauty is… where Beauty Himself is: Jesus (God). After all, God invented beauty itself! He is Beauty itself! And everything that is beautiful is only beautiful because He knows how to make it that way. So if we behaved and dressed immodestly, we are not just disrespecting ourselves, but God (because we’re distracting others from realizing where Beauty is).

Here are two posts I wrote before addressing this question:

Even the Blind See Her Beauty

How Women in Veils Inspire Males Like Me.

I hope that helps!

*Note: dressing modestly does not mean making yourself look ugly! It means having good taste, class and dignity. For tips about this, I recommend these:

1) Verily Magazine (yes, I do read this once in a while and not ashamed about it!)

2) Leah Darrow (once competed on America’s Next Top Model)

3) And a whole bunch of short articles about Modesty from ChastityProject.com (by Crystallina and Jason Evert)

Dancing at Dusk

LastDancing HT weekend, a strange group of young Vietnamese Catholic adults gathered beside a lake in rural Wisconsin and found themselves dancing for the Lord at dusk. The following is video footage providing evidence of the ocurrence, and that Evan has learned to shed his shyness of the camera (with much gratitude to the fellow dancers and videographer!)

Yet, before (or after) you enjoy the evidence, please consider why it is that we dance? Why is it that we find it difficult to sit idle and still when a good song comes on? Why can we not brush off beautiful music, or ignore terrible music either? Why do we respond with shudders or dancing?

These are questions for the Theology of the Body to answer, and without drilling into the depths, I’ll say this for now: we have bodies. We were made body-soul, and our body makes visible our invisible soul. Music is a special art that cuts easily into the soul, and depending on the type of music (yes, there are types we should avoid), we respond physically and in certain ways that make sense.

So with these two songs presented below, I’d like to say that I did not sit down and draft out the movements in a technical and premeditated way. Instead, I listened to the music and moved the way the music steered me.

And many others can move way better than I. But this is my blog, so hah…