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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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…

You Are What You Eat

Most of us know this as a fact: if we eat unhealthy food, then we become unhealthy. But the reverse is true too! The more healthy food we eat, the healthier we become. Everything we consume becomes a part of us. We are actually made of bits of bánh phở, nem nướng, strawberries, sushi, black sesame gelato, pizza, katsu don and everything else we have eaten before. It sounds funny, but it is very true that you can trace the origin of certain proteins and lipids within you to your breakfast bacon last month!

So then, ask yourself: what do you want to be made of?

Do you want to be made of just bacon grease? Just rice? Just cheese? (Don’t get me wrong – I love cheese, but I do not want to be cheesy!)

Of course not. And we’re all made of a complex combination of the things we eat. But of all those varieties, what is the most amazing thing? What are we made of that nothing else is made of, that not even most people are made of?

We are made of God.

And not merely made of His love either (everything is made of that)…

[Click on the Crib for Shane Kapler's Blog]

[Click on the Crib for Shane Kapler’s Blog]

But for you, ever since you started receiving Holy Communion, your body has been being rebuilt by True Food and True Drink. Don’t take my word for it, but take The Word for it, when Jesus speaks in the Gospel of John, Chapter Six – He tells us we must eat His holy flesh and drink His holy blood (John 6: 35-67).

Jesus is God, and God made us (body and soul). He knows how our bodies work, and He wants us to be like Him – exactly like Him, made of Him. The fancy word for this is “divinization” or “theosis”, and God wanted this for us since the Beginning. God always meant for us to be like Him, so stop falling for the serpent’s original lie (Genesis 3: 5) and realize that when we Catholic Christians follow Jesus, we also must follow His diet for us. He wants our mortal flesh to be made of His eternal flesh, because then we are not only adopted children of God, but actual children of God!

Let me take this reflection a bit further: what we eat and how we eat also changes our spirit. We notice this most during Lent when we set aside sweets, meats, and other treats. In this way, we exercise our will power, our self-mastery, our spiritual muscle (which is always more challenging to train). So when we live according to the Jesus Diet – when we live the Eucharistic Day – we also let the Lord remake our souls. It takes real will-power, self-mastery and spiritual biceps to live the Eucharistic Day, but all good workouts are worth it in the end.

DNALastly, let me take this even further still: if we are made of Jesus, and Jesus receives all His flesh and DNA from Mary (and He was nourished in infancy by Mary), then it must be that we receive not only Jesus in the Eucharist, but also our Queen of Heaven and Earth. Yes, Mary is with us always as we try to live for her Son. She is so intimately and uniquely near Jesus that she is even here in the Eucharist. So, if we struggle to live the Eucharistic Day, if we need a boost, we must remember that she is here to help us. Jesus gave her to us, and He will always back her up.

 

[Originally written April 28, 2014: for the Northeast Region Youth Leaders of the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Society in America.]

Strawberries in Heaven

My beloved friends,

Guess what happened this weekend in Cedar Bluffs, Nebraska?
About 150 campers got to peek at the beauty of Heaven. Let me tell you more of what we experienced…

Every summer across the U.S., Catholic Vietnamese Americans criss-cross the interstates. This year in the Midwest, friends in states from Michigan to Kansas, from Minnesota to Ohio, and even from Washington and Georgia, converged in the Cornhusker State for 55 hours of learning, praying, practicing and discovering friendship with one another and with Christ.

And there it was: a chance to catch a preview of Heaven.

I once heard some people say that they were afraid of Heaven, “It’s gonna be so boring! Who wants to pray all day, every day, for all eternity? The same thing — forever… what a drag!”

But that’s not Heaven. Instead, Heaven is where He makes all things NEW. ALL things (Rev. 21:5).

strawberry-wallpaper
I love strawberries. I didn’t always love them as much as I do now, but I daydream sometimes about strawberries in Heaven… …

-Me: “Oh look, a strawberry! Don’t mind if I help myself!”

-Jesus: “So you like that strawberry, eh? Well… try THIS ONE!” (pulls out another berry from behind His back)

-Me: “Whoa… this one’s even better!”

-Jesus: “Yes, now try THIS ONE!!” (pulls out yet another berry)

-Me: “Whoa! This one is better than the last two combined!”

-Jesus: “Think so? Try THIS ONE!!!” (and this could go on FOREVER)

Christ. What a curious God He is. Who makes something that is already perfect, into something better… better than perfect! Always new! How could that ever get lame?!

It’s like the love we experience in this life: love makes every moment new, a new experience. The restaurant of your first date becomes special, not repetitive. The movie you first watched together, laughed through together, sniffled through together… that movie becomes a highlight, and  every time you watch that movie or visit that restaurant with your beloved, it’s something new: you’re both a little older than the previous time, both in a different state of mind than before, in a different life-situation.

Now let’s go deeper.

There is one thing people never get bored of doing. NEVER.
Yes, I will get bored of strawberries.
Yes, you will get bored of _____________.
But think a moment before reading on. What do people never bore of doing? What is never boring?

The answer: meeting new friends and strengthening friendships. Sure — we’ll get tired of talking, dancing, dining, traveling, camping, playing games, etc. But after the tiredness goes away, we’re back at it again! We can get “tired” of making and strengthening friendships, but we’ll never be BORED of it to the point of thinking: “No more! I’m so bored of friends! Having friends is so boring!”

Don’t know about you, but I’d rather be exhausted and annoyed with my family/friends rather than be energetic and have no family/friends at all.

So that’s what I saw happen again this past weekend. So many of us stank for lack of showering. So many were exhausted for lack of sleep. So many were cold for lack of a summer. But we were with our friends.

In Heaven, you make friends. And you will never lose a friend. You will meet new persons forever, doing whatever activities that make friendships flourish. Every person is so rich in their specific personality — after all, nobody is identical to another on earth, why would they be redundant in Heaven where ALL THINGS ARE MADE NEW?

And I specifically said “persons” because humans aren’t the only persons in Creation. Angels are persons too! Imagine that… meeting and making friends with the angels. I’d like Saint Michael to give me some jousting and samurai lessons, for sure!

And then, the ultimate person to meet… Holy God Himself.

THAT is the Communion of Saints. THAT is Heaven.

But remember, what I saw happen was only an itty preview: like merely being able to smell fresh baked cookies. But, in Heaven we will finally get to eat the cookies 🙂

vision-of-the-empyrean

[Now if that’s Heaven… then how is Hell like? Where all things are never new. Where you lose friends and are left to solitary confinement. Where time does not pass because there’s nothing that’s going to happen next anyway.]