Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Jesus of Nazareth

In the Spring of this year, Pope Benedict XVI's long-awaited book Jesus of Nazareth was finally released. I am in the middle of reading it and all I have to say is "Wow!" This book is a masterpiece from one of the greatest theologians of our time.

It paints such a vivid picture of Our Lord that is truly a culmination of Benedict's 80 years of study and prayer. He masterfully draws out inferences from the Gospels that seem so obvious once you hear them, but I know I never would have thought of on my own.

Unfortunately, most of the buzz that I saw at the time of publication focused on two sentences from the Foreword of the book (pages xxiii-xxiv):

"It goes without saying that this book is in no way an exercise of the magisterium, but is solely an expression of my personal search 'for the face of the Lord' (cf. Ps 27:8). Everyone is free, then, to contradict me."

That this seemed to be the focus of many commentator's analysis suggests how far into the book they actually read. Unfortunately, I did not see anyone include the next line in the book as part of their commentary:

"I would only ask my readers for that initial goodwill without which there can be no understanding."

I would be hard-pressed to think of someone that has the theological chops of Pope Benedict XVI. So, while this book is not an official pronouncement of the Church, I still wouldn't expect to find anything disagreeable from a man with his background (who also just so happens to be presently entrusted with the "keys to the Kingdom").

I greatly look forward to Part II!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The last Catholic CDRom you'll ever need...

With over 1 billion Catholics in the world, it is no suprise to find an abundance of Catholic resources. Just keeping up with the writings of the Pope can seem like a full-time job. Sifting through all the books and websites to find what you are looking for can be cumbersome as well.

But no more!

Harmony Media has an excellent CDRom entitled Welcome to the Catholic Church 4.0 (WCC).

WCC has loads of the primary resources Catholics need to be well-formed and educated in the faith. In one convenient place, you get both the NAB and RSV translations of the Bible, the Catechism of the catholic Church, the documents of Vatican II, all the most important documents from the popes of the 20th century aqnd much, much more (for a complete list of everything available on WCC 4.0, click here).

Plus, it is fully searchable! Some highfalutin Catholic uses the term "prevenient grace" and you have no idea what they're talking about? Search for it on WCC and find out where it appears in the official documents of the Church! (Then you'll see that it appears in the Catechism # 2670, and it was used by Pope Innocent X in his condemnation of the Jansenists in 1658, among other references).

This is really a great one-stop Catholic resource. Plus, with version 4.0, you can even download updates from their website to add the most recent papal writings to your storehouse of Catholic doctrine!

Honestly, I don't work for Harmony Media. I just love their product!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Pope's General Audiences, Part II

In my last post, I began to discuss the thematic catechesis present in the Pope's Wednesday audiences. Here I would like to continue that discussion.

All of John Paul II's General audiences are available on the Vatican website. Unfortunately, they are not all available in English. On the regular page for his General Audiences, they are only available in English beginning with his catechesis on December 18, 1996. Before this date, they are only available in Italian and Spanish (and sometimes Portuguese). Fortunately, there are a few "back door" places on the website to find some of the earlier audiences.

Pope John Paul II delivered his series of catechesis on the Original Unity of Man and Woman (AKA the Theology of the Body) from 1979-1984. The first part of this catechesis is available on the Vatican website.

Following the "Theology of the Body," John Paul II began a lengthy Catechesis on the Creed. I stumbled upon a link to these audiences in English. (Sidenote: I don't know if it's just my web browser or the website itself, but all my em dashes on this portion of the website appear as รข€”). These are also available in book form from Pauline Books and Media, however they have been discontinued and are getting harder to find. Here is a snapshot of those audiences:

I haven't been able to find the titles on Jesus and the Church anywhere for under $100 each, which is unfortunate. Fortunately though, all those audiences are on the web.

Following the Catechesis on the Creed, Pope John Paul II began a catechesis on Mary from September 6, 1995, through November 12, 1997. The first half of this catechesis is not available in English on the web so far as I have found, but the book is still in print and is definitely worth the price.

Next, John Paul II delivered a series of Catechesis on Salvation History, which is also still available, but only in limited quantities as it too has been discontinued. Fortunately, these audiences, which range from November 19, 1997, through March 14, 2001, are all available in English on the Vatican website.

The last series of Catechesis Pope John Paul II began was a commentary on all of the Psalms and Canticles in both Morning Prayer (Lauds) and Evening Prayer (Vespers) from the Liturgy of the Hours. The Catechesis on Morning Prayer began on March 28, 2001, and finished on October 1, 2003 with a reflection on the Benedictus (the Canticle of Zechariah [Luke 1:68-79]). This portion of the Catechesis is available in book form in addition to being on the web.

The Catechesis on Evening Prayer picked up on October 8, 2003, but alas, John Paul the Great passed on before completing it. Pope Benedict XVI wasted no time in picking up where he left off and, using the late pope's notes, completed the catechesis on February 15, 2006, with the reflection on the great Marian prayer, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55). If you want this series of catechesis in book form, you'll have to order it from overseas with CTS Publications (they also have available the catechesis on Morning Prayer).

And of course, this brings us to where we were with the last post and Pope Benedict XVI's catechesis on the Apostles.

Pope's General Audiences

If you're like me, you may have had a passing knowledge that the Pope has weekly "Wednesday Audiences" where he talks to pilgrims and blesses their rosaries, medals, and other religious goods. I had never really thought about it, but I figures that the Pope just spoke about whatever he felt like talking about that day. Sort of like a homily: maybe it would tie into the readings of the day or the particular feast day; maybe to some current global happening of significance. Sure, I had heard of the "Theology of the Body," but I imagined that to be a one time thing. I never envisioned that the Pope actually delivers a systematic catechesis through his Wednesday audiences.

But he does!

Recently, Pope Benedict XVI completed a catechesis on the Apostles and the early Christians of the New Testament era. It has recently been released in book form by both Ignatius Press and Our Sunday Visitor (OSV even has a study guide to go along with it). Of course, you can also find the audiences individually on the Vatican website beginning on March 15, 2006, and going through February 14, 2007. As soon as this set was finished, he continued with the natural progression to a series of catechesis on the early Church Fathers, beginning on March 7, 2007. This catechetical series is still underway.

This catechesis makes an excellent companion to his recent book, Jesus of Nazareth. Who better to learn from on these central Church figures than from the Successor to Peter himself? This catechesis is a storehouse of information on these great men and women of the faith.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Eucharist is really Jesus!

I came across some good insights on the Eucharist in the San Juan Catholic Seminar's booklet Beginning Apologetics 3: How to explain and defend the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This booklet is just one in an excellent series of Apologetics materials. Each booklet breaks things down into easy-to-understand pieces, and this one is no exception.

One observation that is made on page 23 of the booklet seems so obvious once you think about it, but I had never thought about it in quite that way. in the section of "Evidence from History", they pose the simple question that, if Jesus was speaking only symbolically at the Last Supper and the Apostles understood him to be speaking as such, "How then can we explain the development of the doctrine of the Real Presence?"

This incredible teaching that Jesus is truly present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist would surely have seemed incredibly preposterous and heretical if it had not been a teaching from the very beginning. Whenever someone came along and taught something about Jesus that had not been taught before, Saints and Bishops cried out in defense of the true faith. One would expect the same response to the Doctrine of the Real Presence if it were a novel doctrine.

But that is not the case.

Instead, you have no record of anyone denying the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist for the first 1500 years of the Church (except for Berengarius in the eleventh century who later retracted his disbelief). Rather you only find the Church Fathers unanimously teaching the Real Presence.

So, if someone asks you why you believe in the Real Presence, simply ask, "If it has not been a teaching from the very beginning, when did it start and where is your evidence?"

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Adventure Continues...

I have started adding more links to the page. There are lots of good resources out there, so it will be a slow process. For those who may stumble onto this page: Welcome! I hope that the links provided can be of some assistance.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Average Joe Catholic makes debut in Blogosphere

I'm just an average Joe who is Catholic. This is my blog. It is my hope to provide links, resources, and personal commentary that are authentically Catholic and faithful to the Magisterium. (Although I may also provide a "Watch List" of books/websites that are not faithful to the Catholic Church). Enjoy!