Reading Guides

READING GUIDE: Consuming the Word

Consuming the Word: The New Testament and the Eucharist in the Early Church by Scott Hahn

Discussion Questions for Individual Reflection or Group Study

 

This classic book by Dr. Scott Hahn is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how the New Testament writers understood the Word of God and the sacrament of the Eucharist. Within its pages, readers will come to see why, long before the New Testament was a document, early believers saw it as a sacrament. The author examines some of Christianity’s most basic terms to upack what they actually meant to the apostles and their first hearers, providing a powerful and welcome guide as Catholics are challenged to engage in the new evangelization—the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church today.

 

Chapter 1: The Sacrament of the Scroll

  • St. Hippolytus of Rome talked about the connection between reading the outside of the Scriptures and understanding the inside, referring to the Old and New Covenants. St. Jerome talked about “eating the open book.” As we begin this study, what do you think these saints meant?
  • St. Gregory the Great said, “What the Old Testament promised, the New Testament made visible…. Therefore the Old Testament is a prophecy of the New Testament; and the best commentary on the Old Testament is the New Testament.” In your own words, explain what St. Gregory meant by this.
  • Why is a true understanding of the New Testament, the New Covenant, especially urgent today, as the Church embarks upon the New Evangelization?
  • Scott Hahn says, “We cannot deliver what we do not possess.” What steps can you take to really know “the Word” in order to take that Word out to the world, in the same way the first Christians did?

 

Chapter 2: Before the Book

  • We refer to the New Testament in literary terms, thinking of it as Christianity’s sacred and authoritative text. Scott Hahn says that the first-century believers didn’t think of it this way. What did the New Testament mean to them?
  • Can you imagine what it would have been like to be alive in New Testament times? Unless you were very wealthy, you would not have had access to books of any kind. How would this have changed the way you would have experienced Scripture back then?
  • Describe how the early Christians understood the term “canon.” How does this differ from the meaning we usually give it today?
  • Scott Hahn says that if we truly seek to understand the way early Christians understood the faith, we should expect to be surprised. What do you think he means by that?

 

Chapter 3: The New Testament in the New Testament

  • What did the first Christians mean by the term “New Testament”? What did Jesus mean when he used the term, translated as “new covenant” in Luke 22:20? In what way does it refer to more than just a “text”?
  • If the Greek word diathēkē and the Hebrew word berith can both be more accurately translated in English as “covenant” rather than “testament,” how can we explain the preponderance of the English term “New Testament” instead of “New Covenant”?
  • Christians throughout the ages agree that Jesus’s death was a once-for-all sacrifice (see Romans 6:10; 1 Peter 3:18). But why? What made Jesus’s crucifixion a sacrifice? And why would this concept have been unthinkable to a first-century Jew?
  • If you could only hear the readings and prayers in the liturgy (and not be able to read them for yourself), how might this be different from the way you hear the words of the liturgy today?

 

Chapter 4: The New Testament After the New Testament

  • Describe how the early Christians and Church Fathers thought of the New Testament as a “dynamic reality,” not just a collection of writings.
  • How is the strong use of covenantal language—a description of the early Christians’ family bond with God—key to our understanding of the Eucharist today?
  • Why is it important for Christians today to gain a familiarity with the practices and day-to-day life of first-century Jews in Palestine? Why do we need to understand Israel’s institutions and social structures?
  • How is the way an early Christian understood the terms covenant, sacrifice, and sacrament different from your understanding today? How can you regain the primary sense of these biblical terms?

 

Chapter 5: The Original Setting of the New Testament

  • In what way did Jesus declare the New Testament not a text but an action?
  • Why were the books of the New Testament the only books approved to be read during the liturgy?
  • What did Jesus do at the Last Supper that transformed his death forever from an execution to an offering? What did the Last Supper have to do with what happened on Calvary?
  • Explain in your own words how Christ’s redemption only truly makes sense from the perspective of the Eucharist.
  • What did the terms todah and eucharistia suggest to first- and second-century believers? What impact on your own life might a deeper understanding of these terms have?

 

Chapter 6: The Church of the New Testament

  • In our media-saturated culture, it’s hard to imagine a world without books and publishing. What means did Jesus employ to share his message?
  • Why was Jesus so intensely interested in the idea of “succession”—the handing on of the Good News and the New Testament? And if the process wasn’t about establishing texts and institutions, what was important to Jesus?
  • How can we become, like John, “beloved disciples” of Jesus? How can we develop an increasingly intimate relationship with him, and what clues does John’s response to seeing a vision of Jesus in his power and glory leave for us?
  • How do apostolic tradition and apostolic succession “define each other,” according to Pope Benedict XVI?
  • St. Clement of Rome observed that tradition and succession produce natural benefits of peace and good in the Church’s earthly society. What examples of this can you identify in today’s Catholic Church?

 

Chapter 7: The Old Testament in the New Testament

  • Describe how Christian worship in the ancient world can be compared to today’s mass media.
  • Define the process we know as “canonization,” and explain why it is important.
  • Scott Hahn says that, for the Apostles, Jesus himself is the key to understanding the Old Testament. Why do you think this is true?
  • Why does St. Peter insist that Scripture should not be a “matter of one’s own interpretation” (see 2 Peter 1:20)? What are some problems that can arise when people try to understand Scripture apart from the Church’s teaching? Can you cite some contemporary examples of this?
  • Explain in your own words the proper relationship between Scripture and the Church.
  • What do you think St. Augustine meant when he said, “The New Testament is concealed in the Old, and the Old Testament is revealed in the New”?
  • Why did the Christians in the West come to call their short creeds the “rule of faith”?

 

Chapter 8: The Canon of the New Testament

  • In second century Rome, people could choose to study with “fashionable teachers who claimed to be Christian, but who were definitely out of step with the bishops of the Catholic Church.” What ramifications did this have back then? Can you think of some contemporary examples today? What are some of the results of thinking and acting this way?
  • What were Marcion’s main religious beliefs? How did his heresy influence the world?
  • What response did the Church make to Marcion and other heretics of this time? What providential purpose do heresies serve, according to St. Augustine?
  • In your own words, explain how and why the Church had the authority to make the infallible decision about what Scriptures were included in the New Testament.
  • Now that we have the New Testament, why is the Old Testament still essential? Why would Pope Pius XI say that, “spiritually, we are all Semites”?

 

Chapter 9: The New Testament and the Lectionary

  • Catholics are generally thought to be less familiar with the Bible than their Protestant brothers and sisters. In essence, though, describe how a Protestant might only receive a limited “biblical worldview” compared to a Catholic who attends daily or even just Sunday Mass.
  • Where did the lectionary come from?
  • How is the Catholic approach to Scripture precisely the opposite of the approach Scott Hahn used when he was a Protestant pastor?
  • Define in your own words the term “Christian dogma.”
  • Explain what the phrase lex orandi, lex credenda (“the law of prayer is the law of belief”) means for us today. How does it relate to the lectionary?

 

Chapter 10: Trusting the Testaments

  • Scott Hahn says there is a close relationship between the pages of Scripture and the person of Jesus, both of which we call the Word. How do these two mysteries illuminate each other?
  • List some of the ways Jesus brought the sacred texts of the Old Testament into his preaching. How did he view the Old Testament?
  • How should we view Scripture? How can we trust that it comes from God and is divinely inspired?
  • The apostle Peter says that Scripture should never be a matter of one’s own interpretation, but that “men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:21). How is this Holy Spirit more than just a “helper”? Describe the Holy Spirit’s and the prophets’ part in the words of Scripture. How can we have full confidence in the Bible and its message?
  • The author says that no matter when the books of the Bible were written, God speaks through the ages to address the present situation of the faithful. Is this how you view the words of Scripture? Give an example of how the Bible is relevant to something you are facing today.
  • Have you ever questioned the divine authority or the credibility of either the Bible or of Jesus himself? What stumbling blocks in the Bible have challenged your own beliefs? How were you able to answer these questions for yourself? How can you help someone else to view the Bible and Jesus in light of faith?
  • Scott Hahn says that the way the Bible communicates is perfectly harmonious with the mystery of Christ himself. In your own words, explain what he means by this.
  • Why do you think God chose to convey his deepest truths through fallible human instruments? Why does he choose to show his power through human weakness?
  • In your own life, can you see evidence of God’s power being manifested in your own weakness? Describe how.
  • How can faith and reason work in tandem in how we interpret the Bible? How can we avoid intellectual arrogance and pure rationalism?
  • What is the definition of “hermeneutic of suspicion,” and how can we avoid its trap?
  • What does “intellectual humility” look like, and how can this help us to understand the Bible’s truth?

 

Chapter 11: The New Testament and Christian Doctrine

  • How did the Church fathers deal with Arius and his heresy? What finally settled the Arian controversy?
  • Do you see any heresies today in the Church, and if so, what are they? How do you see the Church dealing with them?
  • What positive benefits for the Church can come out of heresies and the controversies they bring?
  • What is Catholic dogma and why is it important? How does it relate to the Scriptures and to Jesus himself?
  • As Catholics, how should we read and interpret Scripture? How can an understanding of dogma help us gain new insights into sacred texts—more so than if we were to understand the Bible purely on our own?

 

Chapter 12: The Mysterious Plan in the New Testament

  • How are Old Testament and the New Testament united? What did St. Paul mean when he wrote about “the plan of the mystery” (Ephesians 3:9; 1:10)?
  • The Greek word for “plan” used by St. Paul is translated as “economy.” What did Paul and later the Church fathers mean by “economy”?
  • Another word that the Bible uses differently than we think of it today is covenant. Describe the biblical definition of a covenant. How is it different than some sort of a contract?
  • What is the goal of “the divine economy,” and how is it revealed by the many covenants God makes with his people throughout salvation history?
  • What is the “divine pedagogy” as used by Paul and the Church fathers? Have you seen evidence of this in your own life in the way God has dealt with you?
  • If you view the Bible as one long story of God’s loving care and instruction for his children, does this change your experience of reading it? How does this change your understanding of who God is?
  • Scott Hahn says the God revealed in Scripture is a Father who “stoops down to his children and lifts them up to share in his blessings.” Is this the way you perceive God? In your own life, how has God been this kind of a Father to you?
  • What should be the goal of all Bible study and Scripture interpretation? How can you better actualize the truth of Scripture, rather than just gaining information? How can the Word go from your head to your heart?
  • In what ways can each of us be a part of salvation history? How do you see Christ active in your own personal history?
  • How can we regain a sense of the saving power of the Word of God and the response God desires from us in the liturgy? How is the liturgy more than a symbolic ritual?
  • Why are the sacraments important? What effect do they have in our lives?
  • The Scriptures have a dual authorship, both human and divine. How is the liturgy similar to this? In your own words, describe the sacramental vision of the Church.

 

Chapter 13: The Sacramentality of Scripture

  • Why has the Catholic approach to biblical interpretation always been literal and historical?
  • Explain in your own words the interplay between divine inspiration and human authorship in the Bible—how is it the product of both God and man?
  • Describe how we can apply classic literary tools—grammar, logic, rhetoric—in our study of the Scriptures. What is “literalism,” and why do we want to avoid it?
  • Scott Hahn says the “letter is a sign”—what does he mean by this?
  • Why is it important to always view the literary sense of the Bible within a historical context?
  • Why is it important to understand the historical context to understand the spiritual and ethical truths the Bible conveys?
  • The author says that it’s important to also consider the religious meaning when studying the Bible—the understanding that in Bible times, life essentially was “religious.” Why does Hahn say that without this understanding, you can’t really uncover the integral meaning of events?
  • The Church teaches that grace builds on nature. What does this mean? What place does grace have in our lives?
  • In the same way, Scott Hahn says that faith builds on reason. In your own words, describe what he means by this.
  • The Church tells us we are mean to read the Scriptures “in the Spirit in which they were written.” What does this mean, and what is the result of studying the Bible this way?
  • How does a spiritual sense of the Bible transform the literary and historical meaning of the text?
  • Do you feel intimidated at the thought of serious Scripture study? How might you deepen your desire to really understand and become familiar with the Bible? How can you really absorb its message?
  • How can you approach both the Bible and the Eucharist in a way that authentically feeds your spirit? What should be the goal of your Bible study? How can the Word of life (the Bible) lead you to the Bread of Life (Christ in the Eucharist)?

 

Chapter 14: The Testament at the Heart of the Church

  • What does the phrase “the heart of the Church” mean? How can we read the Bible from the heart of the Church? What dispositions should we bring when we approach the Scriptures?
  • Have you ever thought that you are part of a heavenly “Bible study group” consisting of the saints and voices of Catholic Tradition and led by the Holy Spirit? How might this change the way you engage with the Bible?
  • Why is it important to read the Bible in light of the liturgy, not merely in private?
  • Scott Hahn mentions three principles for studying the Bible faithfully. List them here.
  • Explain what it means to study passages of Scripture in their true context.
  • How does studying the Bible in light of Catholic Tradition help us to test our own interpretations and protect us from arrogance?
  • Explain the role of Catholic dogma and doctrine as they relate to the Scripture.
  • Have you been a part of a Bible study group? How did this experience help you to grow spiritually? Why did Benedict XVI emphasize the importance of always coming back to a participation in the liturgy as part of faith-filled Bible study?
  • Why did Benedict XVI say that unless we acknowledge Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist, we will have an imperfect understanding of Scripture?
  • What do you think Benedict meant when he said that the Bible is not merely informative, but “performative”?

 

Chapter 15: Coming Full Circle

  • How is the experience of Augustine as a teenager and young adult similar to today’s culture and schools of thought?
  • Augustine came to believe that it was possible to “unravel the tangle woven by those…with their cunning lies” and deceptions. When you look around today, do you have this same confidence? How might you help to inspire this belief in those around you?
  • Describe how Ambrose was able to explain the Old Testament to Augustine in a way that helped him understand the New Testament.
  • Augustine came to see that truth was not to be found in endless discussions and arguments, but in the Church’s liturgy.  Pope Benedict XVI also said, “The primary setting for scriptural interpretation is the life of the Church.” How does this change the way you think of the Bible—and of the Liturgy?
  • As a final question, sum up what it means to truly “consume the Word.”


READING GUIDE: Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper by Brant Pitre

Discussion Questions for Individual Reflection or Group Study

Biblical scholar Brant Pitre shares fresh insights about the Eucharist by looking at it through Jewish eyes. In this way, by discovering the Jewish roots at the heart of the Christian faith, readers will gain new understanding of the Last Supper, Jesus’s final Passover the night before his crucifixion. By exploring the realities of Jewish life in the first century, the author provides a simple, clear, and profound understanding of the Eucharist’s true meaning.

 

Chapter 1: The Mystery of the Last Supper

  • Why might the “Jewishness of Jesus” be important to us as contemporary Catholics today? How relevant is his Jewish identity?
  • Read about Jesus’s first sermon in his hometown of Nazareth (see Luke 4) and explain how Jesus began to reveal his identity as the Messiah in a way that reflected his Jewish roots.
  • Although Jesus often used the Old Testament as inspiration for his teachings, he also said things that seemed to go directly against the Jewish Scriptures. Why do you think he would do this?
  • The Jews were known for their refusal to consume the blood of animals. When Jesus commanded them to “drink his blood,” wouldn’t this mean breaking a very explicit Jewish law? What would a Jew listening to him think? How would you have felt as one of those Jewish listeners?
  • Many modern readers find the Jewish Scriptures to be challenging and unfamiliar territory. What is your reaction to the Old Testament? How comfortable are you with it? How motivated are you to study its meaning?
  • How familiar are you with other ancient Jewish writings, such as the Talmud and the Mishnah? Why might these writings be important for a Christian to at least be aware of?
  • Brad Pitre lists six important Jewish sources that he draws from in this book. List them and briefly describe each of them.

 

Chapter 2: What Were the Jewish People Waiting For?

  • What did the Jews of Jesus’s day believe about the coming of the Messiah? What were first-century Jews actually expecting God to do?
  • What did these Jews think the Messiah would be like? What did they believe would happen when he finally came?
  • Why is it an exaggeration to think that all Jews were waiting for a Messiah who would bring political deliverance (as the Zealots did)? What other hopes for the future did first-century Jews have?
  • Brad Pitre lists four essentials of the new exodus that Old Testament prophets foretold. List these key events and describe briefly what the Jewish hope for a “new exodus” meant. Also list the three keys the new exodus provides that unlock for us the mystery of the Last Supper.
  • The Jews expected the Messiah to be a “new Moses,” whose actions would parallel the actions of the first Moses. What were some of those actions?
  • Reflecting on the first exodus, describe your understanding of what it was really about.
  • Pitre notes that the exodus covenant was sealed in blood, and that the making of this covenant doesn’t end with the death of sacrificial animals, but with a banquet. What connection does this have with the new covenant ushered in by Jesus?
  • Apart from being the place of worship, why was the Tabernacle so important to the ancient Israelites?
  • List some of the ways the Old Testament prophets described the new Temple God would build for them in the new exodus. Why is this hope for a new Temple so important for us to be able to understand the expectations of the ancient Jews?
  • Would Jesus himself have been waiting for a new exodus? If he was, what impact did this have on his words and actions? How did Jesus think the new exodus would begin?

 

Chapter 3: The New Passover

  • Why is the connection between the Last Supper and the new Passover so important? How does it shed light on Jesus’s command to eat his body and drink his blood?
  • Describe your understanding of the Old Testament Passover. What did it really mean to ancient Israel?
  • List the five basic steps involved in keeping the Passover that were laid out in the Old Testament.
  • What is the importance of the Passover Lamb being male and “unblemished”?
  • Why was it so important that no bones be broken during the sacrifice of the Passover lamb? Why could only a priest sacrifice the lamb?
  • See if you can list three key points about the Passover lamb’s blood. Why they are significant?
  • What was the ultimate goal of the Passover sacrifice?
  • Why was it important for ancient Israel families to not only sacrifice the lamb but also to eat its flesh?
  • Ancient scholars suggest that the Passover was a todah sacrifice—a thank offering. What would the ancient Jews have been thankful for?
  • Why was the Passover meant to be an annual feast instead of a one-time celebration? Why was it important that it be a “day of remembrance”?
  • What was the Passover like at the time of Jesus? How was this Passover different than the Passover of the exodus? Brad Pitre says there are at least four key differences. List these and briefly describe them.
  • Many of us think of the Passover at the time of Jesus being like the contemporary Jewish Seder. What is one key way that the Seder is fundamentally different than the first-century Jewish Passover?
  • How was the Last Supper instituted by Jesus similar to other Jewish Passover meals? How was it different?
  • At the Last Supper, Jesus communicated that he himself was the new Passover lamb of the new exodus. How did he communicate this and what are some of the implications of his words?
  • At the Last Supper, did Jesus mean his words realistically or only symbolically? Did he really mean “This is my body” or did he mean “This represents my body”? What was the apostle Paul’s understanding of Jesus’s words?

 

Chapter 4: The Manna of the Messiah

  • Why is it important to explore the connection between the Jewish expectation of manna from heaven and the Last Supper? How is this manna different from the Passover lamb?
  • Read carefully the account of the manna found in Exodus 16:4–5; 11–15. See if you can list four highlights that are important in this story but might be overlooked in a more superficial reading.
  • Many people these days don’t think of the manna as being miraculous; instead, they think it was some kind of natural phenomenon. Looking at the biblical account closely, what are some reasons you can find to support the miraculous nature of the manna?
  • What did Jesus himself belief about the manna from heaven?
  • Brad Pitre says the bread from heaven was a “double miracle.” What does he mean by this?
  • How did God communicate to the Israelites that the manna was not only miraculous but holy?
  • What is significant about the manna tasting like honey?
  • In order to understand Jesus’s teaching about the new manna from heaven, Pitre says it’s important to look at some of the ancient traditions. One is that some Jews thought the manna was “preexistent” and “protological.” What do these terms mean and why are they significant?
  • How did the ancient Jews view the world? How is this different than the way contemporary Western civilization view? How do you view the world?
  • Many ancient Jewish rabbis believed that the future manna was linked with the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of his kingdom. Pick one of Pitre’s examples and describe it in your own words.
  • In what way or ways did Jesus refer to the new manna, linking it to the Last Supper?
  • In the Lord’s Prayer, what do you think Jesus was trying to teach his disciples with the line “Give us this day our daily bread”? What does this line mean to you when you pray this prayer?
  • Name the different ways scholars debate the meaning of the Greek word for “daily”—epiousios? What did St. Jerome mean by his definition of “supersubstantial”? How might thinking about these various definitions change the way you think about what “daily bread” means?
  • Read the Bread of Life discourse found in John 6 and try to look at it from the perspective of a first-century Jew. What significance would the manna from heaven have? Why did Jesus choose manna instead of the Passover lamb to explain what he meant by the necessity of eating his flesh and drinking his blood?
  • If a Jewish listener believed that the old manna was miraculous, would he think the new manna was merely ordinary bread and wine?  Why or why not?
  • How did Jesus’s disciples understand his words about the bread of life? How would these words sound to first-century Jewish people, and why did some of his followers abandon him?
  • When Jesus asked his disciples if they would also go away, Peter responded by saying in effect, “I don’t fully understand what you said, but I do believe.” Are there certain areas where you might not fully understand but still have faith? Describe.
  • How did Jesus help his disciples to understand the mystery of his divine identity and the mystery of the resurrection instead of just leaving them in the dark? Why is this understanding integral to understanding the Eucharist?
  • Describe how you would explain the way Catholics understand the Eucharist to one of your Protestant friends.

 

Chapter 5: The Bread of the Presence

  • How did Jesus think God would be worshiped after his death and resurrection? How would God be present to his people?
  • Today many of us are not familiar with the mysterious “Bread of the Presence.” What is the Bread of the Presence, and what significance does it have for our understanding of the Eucharist?
  • What further insight do we gain if we look at the most literal translation of presence: “face”? What does the Bread of the Face signify? What are both the earthly Tabernacle and the earthly bread visible signs of?
  • How does the Bread of the Presence relate to the “everlasting covenant” between God and Israel?
  • Brad Pitre says the Bread of the Presence was more than a symbol; it was a sacrifice. How was this bread both a meal and a sacrifice?
  • Who was the mysterious King Melchizedek, only mentioned twice in the Old Testament? What is his significance?
  • Did Jesus ever refer to the Bread of the Presence? How did he see it fitting in with the new exodus he was inaugurating?
  • In Matthew 12, by what three ways did Jesus justify the actions of his disciples when they ate the heads of grain? Explain the significance of each of these ways.
  • Scholars have puzzled over why Jesus didn’t take the roasted flesh of the Passover lamb and identify it as his body, if the Last Supper was in fact a new Passover. Why instead did he focus on the bread and wine and identify himself with those elements? How does the Last Supper relate to the Bread of the Presence?
  • How did the first Christians come to believe that the Eucharist really was the body and blood of Christ? And how can Jesus truly be present under the appearances of bread and wine—how is this even possible?

 

Chapter 6: The Fourth Cup and the Death of Jesus

  • What does the author mean when he says that Jesus’s Paschal mystery is literally a Passover mystery?
  • Describe the four cups of wine around which the Jewish Passover was organized and offer a brief explanation of each one’s significance.
  • At a typical Passover meal, the father of the family would explain the meaning of the various parts of the meal: the lamb, the bread, and the bitter herbs. Why was this act of explaining so important?
  • At the Last Supper, many people think there was only one cup of wine, but the author explains that there were at least three. Describe these three cups.
  • What about the fourth cup? Did Jesus not finish his last Passover meal? Why?
  • Did Jesus ever finish the Passover meal? When, if ever, did he drink the fourth cup? How did Jesus define the fourth cup?
  • During a crucifixion, the Jews had a custom of giving wine to the dying man. The Bible says they offered wine mixed with myrhh to Jesus, but he declined it. Why would he do this?
  • How would you explain the full meaning of Jesus’s last words, “It is finished”?

 

Chapter 7: The Jewish Roots in the Catholic Faith

  • What is your reaction to the topics covered in this book so far? How has recognizing the Jewish roots in the Eucharist changed your understand and experience of receiving Communion?
  • What made the Last Supper, Jesus’s last Passover, different from any other Passover? What impact did this have on the earliest Christian writers and how they wrote about the Eucharist?
  • How does St. Paul, for instance, explain the moral implications of Jesus’s identity as the new Passover Lamb? How does he instruct Christians to prepare for the Eucharist?
  • Look at the various passages from the Catechism Brad Pitre mentions. How do these passages shed light and confirm what the author has been sharing in this book? How familiar are you with the Catechism? How could reading the Catechism deepen your understanding about the Eucharist as well as other areas of the Catholic faith?
  • Describe some similarities between the Feeding of the Five Thousand and the Last Supper. How does the Feeding of the Five Thousand both refer back to the manna in the desert and look forward to the Last Supper?
  • Why does St. Paul take such pains to emphasize that Christians must recognize the significance of the supernatural food and drink we receive in the Eucharist, relating it back to the Israelites in the wilderness receiving manna?
  • The author says that there are many profound insights into the Bible that are overlooked by us. Knowing that they are there, waiting for us to discover them, what steps can you take to become more aware of them?
  • Explain the Church’s teaching on the Real Presence of Jesus. What does the Real Presence mean, and how is it central to the Catholic faith?

 

Chapter 8: On the Road to Emmaus

  • If Jesus believed that he was giving his body and blood to his disciples during the Last Supper, how did he think he would be able to give it to anyone else? How did he think other believers would be able to participate in the Eucharist?
  • When Jesus met the disciples on the road to Emmaus, how did he respond to their lack of understanding? What means did he use to explain the recent events?
  • Why did the disciples only recognize Jesus after he sat with them for a meal and broke bread with them? And why did Jesus disappear as soon as they recognized him?
  • On the road to Emmaus, how does Jesus fulfill what he set out to accomplish at the Last Supper? What significance does this have for us today?


READING GUIDE: The Holy Longing

The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality by Ronald Rolheiser

Discussion Questions for Individual Reflection or Group Study

Written fifteen years ago, The Holy Longing has become a classic on the topic of spirituality, touching the lives of devout believers and questioning seekers alike. Father Rolheiser isn’t afraid to ask tough questions, and he offers honest, straightforward answers that quickly get to the heart of common difficulties we all encounter as we seek to channel our restlessness and passion into a healthy, vibrant spirituality. If you’re searching for a deeper understanding of Christian spirituality and how it’s relevant to your life, you’ll be both challenged and delighted by this book.

Chapter 1: What Is Spirituality?

  • Ronald Rolheiser defines “desire” as our fundamental “dis-ease.” Explain some of the ways he describes desire. Which of Rolheiser’s descriptions resonate with you the most?
  • How would you define “spirituality”? Is it a religious term, or do you see it having a larger application? Do you see yourself as “spiritual”? How does the way you have thought of spirituality differ from the way Rolheiser defines it? How are desire and spirituality related?
  • What is your reaction to Fr. Rolheiser’s description of Mother Teresa, Janis Joplin, and Princess Diana? How might all three of these women fit the definition of being spiritual?  Describe a key lesson you can learn from each of them.
  • Rolheiser writes that we all act in ways that leave us healthy or unhealthy, loving or bitter. How has your spirituality shaped your actions up until now?
  • If you agree with Rolheiser’s definition of a saint being someone who can “channel powerful eros in a creative, life-giving way, what other examples can you cite of someone (either now or in the past) who fits this description, and why?
  • How do you define a “soul”? How does Fr. Rolheiser define a soul?
  • What happens within us that causes us to such experience intense struggles at times, according to Rolheiser? Can you share a time when this happened to you? What triggered it, and how did you deal with it?
  • Explain the difference between a healthy spirituality and an unhealthy spirituality, according to Fr. Rolheiser.

 

Chapter 2: The Current Struggle with Christian Spirituality

  • Reflect on these questions, posed by Fr. Rolheiser. Pick the one that speaks most to you and try to answer it.
  1. Am I being too hard or too easy on myself?
  2. Am I unhappy because I’m missing out on life, or am I unhappy because I’m selfish?
  3. Am I too timid and uptight, or should I be more disciplined?
  4. Why do I always feel so guilty?
  5. What do I do when I’ve betrayed a trust?
  • Rolheiser says that past societies were more overtly religious than we are today. While they had less trouble believing in God, they also struggled with other things. In what ways do those struggles inform belief in God, and what can we learn from them today?
  • What is “particularly peculiar” to our own religious, moral, and spiritual struggle? Where do you personally struggle to channel your own spiritual energies?
  • Fr. Rolheiser lists three struggles that he defines as being unique to our time. What are they?
  • Past cultures seemed to understand the nature of energy—especially spiritual, erotic energy—better than we do today. Why do you think that, despite our advancements, we are more naïve about the nature of energy? What are some of the results of this naiveté?
  • Fr. Rolheiser rightly notes that depression is one of contemporary society’s biggest problems. How does he define depression? How would you describe the opposite qualities of depression?
  • Have you struggled with depression? How has it manifested itself in your life? How have you dealt with it?
  • Where have you felt delight—the sense of being spontaneously surprised by the goodness and beauty of living? What triggered this for you? How often do you find yourself feeling this way?
  • What are some of the factors Rolheiser identifies that keep us shallow and prevent us from having real interior depth? What factors especially affect you?
  • Many today think religion is anti-sex, anti-creative, and anti-enjoyment, while the secular world is seen as full of the opposite. Have you encountered friends or family members who view religion this way? Have you ever struggled with this view yourself?
  • A growing number of people describe themselves as spiritual but not religious. They want a relationship with God, but they don’t want to be part of an organized church. What social trends encourage this separatist view of God and religion?
  • Christians are often split between a passion for social justice and a private piety. Where do you find yourself on this spectrum?
  • In your own life, have you encountered any struggles with being selfless versus being taken advantage of? Describe the situation, and also how you resolved this conflict.
  • How do we keep moving forward, while at the same time staying realistic, about the unique pressures we face today? How can we creatively channel the erotic, spiritual fire within us in order to enjoy “creative days and restful nights”? How can we experience peace with God, ourselves, and each other?

PART TWO: THE ESSENTIAL OUTLINE FOR A CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY

Chapter 3: The Nonnegotiable Essentials

  • As Rolheiser says, it’s not an easy matter to live out what is essential to our life of faith. What should we be doing with regards to our faith? Who should we listen to?
  • What defined someone as a practicing Roman Catholic thirty or forty years ago, and how does this differ from someone who is a practicing Catholic today? Should there be any difference? Why or why not?
  • List some of the religious baggage that secular society has carried over the years. Discuss some of the effects of these ideas.
  • What are some of the spiritual voices you hear around you today? How have these voices influenced you, both in good and not-so-good ways? How do you know which voices are the right ones? Which ones are healthy, and which are unhealthy?
  • The Catholic Church teaches that not all truths are equal. How do you personally distinguish between truths that are essential and those that are accidental? Define what is meant by an essential truth and what is meant by an accidental truth, according to Fr. Rolheiser.
  • What are the four nonnegotiable pillars of the spiritual life, revealed to us by Jesus Christ? Briefly describe each one. In your own life which of the four pillars are the strongest? Is any pillar missing?
  • Why is being part of a church community so important? Why can’t the spiritual life be just “Jesus and me”? In your own life, have you struggled with this nonnegotiable? What has been your experience of parish life, both positive and negative?
  • Reflect on this statement: “How we treat the poor is how we treat God.” Do you agree? Consider they ways you engage with forms of poverty, and how you can strengthen those bonds.
  • Do you agree with the statement: “Sanctity has to do with gratitude; to be a saint is to be fueled by gratitude”? Do you think it’s possible to be truly saint-like without being grateful? What difference does having a grateful heart make in your day-to-day life?
  • Rolheiser mentions fasting as a way to stay “warm of heart.” How might fasting accomplish this? Have you had any experience with fasting? If so, what was the outcome?
  • Bernard Lonergran, one of the great religious intellectuals of the century, attempted to define what constitutes a true religious conversion. He came up with six dimensions. See if you can name them, and then share which of the dimensions are active in your own life. If one or more is missing, why might this be?

 

PART THREE: THE INCARNATION AS THE BASIS FOR A CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY

Chapter 4: Christ as the Basis for Christian Spirituality

  • Imagine Jesus himself asking you, as he asked Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” What answer would you give him?
  • What does Rolheiser mean when he says that the incarnation is “under-understood”?
  • Scholars have discussed at length what the apostle Paul meant by the term “the Body of Christ.” Did he mean it in a corporate or a corporeal way? What is the difference?
  • According to Fr. Rolheiser, if it is true that we are the Body of Christ, then God’s presence in the world depends very much upon us. How do you see yourself helping to accomplish this? Share some practical examples.
  • What difference does it make if you believe in God but not in Jesus? What difference does believing in Jesus make?

 

Chapter 5: Consequences of the Incarnation for Spirituality

  • Reflect on the verse at the beginning of this chapter from Matthew 7. Have you experienced times when asking, knocking, and seeking didn’t work? Why do you think God doesn’t always answer our prayers?
  • Do you agree with Rolheiser that, as part of the Body of Christ, we are meant to be concretely involved in answering our own prayers? Why or why not? Why is sometimes leaving things up to God not a Christian way to pray?
  • Think of someone you know who is struggling with depression or perhaps some type of illness. In addition to keeping this individual in your prayers, what could you do that would put “skin on” your prayers? How might God console this person through you?
  • Protestants and Catholics have long disagreed over how our sins are forgiven, with Protestants believing that sincere contrition before God is enough and Catholics emphasizing the need to confess our sins to a priest in the sacrament of confession. Has the way you’ve thought about the forgiveness of sins changed over the years? In what way?
  • Are there loved ones in your life who no longer share your faith, your values, and your morals? Maybe it’s a child that no longer embraces your faith. Or maybe your spouse no longer believes in God. Do you believe that “your touch is Christ’s touch”? What difference does this belief bring to bear on such uncomfortable situations?
  • Rolheiser says that spirituality for a Christian should never be an individualistic quest for God outside of community, family, and church. Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?
  • Explain what is meant by this statement: “The God of the incarnation is more domestic than monastic.”
  • Rolheiser makes the insightful observation that, up until age forty, genetic endowment is dominant, and so someone who is selfish can still look beautiful. After age forty, though, Rolheiser says that we look like what we believe in. What does your face reveal to you in terms of what you believe?
  • How does Rolheiser believe a Christian remains in contact, in love, and in community with his or her loved ones that have died? In what ways can you incorporate these views into your own grief?

 

PART FOUR: SOME KEY SPIRITUALITIES WITHIN A SPIRITUALITY

Chapter 6: A Spirituality of Ecclesiology

  • In the words of Reginald Bibby, “People aren’t leaving their churches, they just aren’t going to them.” Rolheiser attributes this to indifference and a culture of individualism. Have you observed this in your own life or in the lives of those you associate with? How are some ways the Church can address these issues?
  • What are some misconceptions people have about what it means to be a church? Of the five misconceptions Fr. Rolheiser identifies, what are some of the dangers of embracing them? Is there a particular misconception that you have encountered in your own spiritual quest? If so, how have you dealt with it?
  • Fr. Rolheiser says that to be baptized into a Christian church is to be “a consecrated, displaced person.” What does he mean by this? What are the implications of being consecrated to something or somebody, of being “called out of”?
  • Today many people are unable to see the Church as an instrument of grace due to certain aspects of the Church’s history as well as its present infidelities. How can we forgive the Church for these things?
  • Rolheiser says that to be “catholic” means to have a heart that is universal, wide, all-encompassing. He says that the spirituality of the church must emphasize wide loyalties and inclusivity. How can the Catholic Church achieve this today without falling prey to an “anything-goes” philosophy?
  • Fr. Rolheiser lists eight reasons we should go to church. Of these eight reasons, which resonate the most with you, and why?

 

Chapter 7: A Spirituality of the Paschal Mystery

  • What is the paschal mystery of Christ? How do we enter that mystery and live it?
  • What is the difference between terminal death and paschal death? Between resuscitated life and resurrected life? Lastly, what is the difference between life and spirit?
  • Rolheiser says that the paschal mystery is the secret to life, and that ultimately our happiness depends upon living it out. What does he mean by this? And how can we live out the paschal mystery in our daily lives?
  • Rolheiser identifies various deaths we need to experience in the course of our lives. He first mentions the death of our youth. In your own life, how have you experienced this? What lessons have you learned?
  • In talking about the death of our wholeness and the death of our dreams, Rolheiser speaks of the need for an ascension, the need to allow the old to ascend so we can receive something new. In your own life, what are you ready to let ascend? What dreams might you need to let go of? What can you look forward to if you do?
  • Are you undergoing any relational deaths? Name them here, and recognize and affirm the new relationship that has emerged instead. If a honeymoon period has ended, Rolheiser says God wants to give us something richer and deeper. Where do you see God birthing something new in your life?
  • Is the God of your youth different from the God you are faced with today? Is there anything you are clinging to that God is nudging you to release so you can recognize the God who walks beside you today?
  • Henri Nouwen wrote about mourning our deaths and losses, especially when we reach midlife. Why is it important to mourn properly? What hurts, losses, disappointments, or shattered dreams do you need to mourn? Spend some time in quiet reflection and then journal about this.
  • Rolheiser says it’s necessary to both let go of the old and allow it to bless us. What do you think he means by this? How can you let a painful or abusive experience “bless” you?
  • Describe your childhood roots. In what ways can your personal roots bless you?

 

Chapter 8: A Spirituality of Justice and Peacemaking

  • What does it mean to “act justly,” as Micah 6:8 says? What is Christian charity? How is justice different than private charity?
  • How can we help alleviate injustice without our actions resembling the violence and unfairness we are trying to change?
  • Reflect thoughtfully on Fr. Rolheiser’s words about abortion. He comments that too often neither side (those who favor legalized abortion and those who oppose it) acknowledge the deeper, systemic issues that underlie the problem. What are some of those issues, both for and against?
  • What does Fr. Rolheiser see as the ramifications of justice motivated merely by liberal ideology or indignation at inequality?
  • How would you define a biblical foundation for social justice? What affirmations does the Book of Genesis provide?
  • Achieving a more just world order is the goal of many groups, but too often these efforts have not been successful. Rolheiser says this is due to a kind of naivete, and he lists six fallacies that permeate justice and peace groups. Have you encountered any of these fallacies? Do you recognize your own naivete in any of them?
  • Many of us think of God as a force for redemptive violence—the use of violence to overthrow evil and establish justice and peace. But in effect, what happens is that goodness has now been more violent than evil. What is the difference between redemptive violence and the Christian story of redemption? What is the source of Jesus’s real power? What ultimately brings about justice and peace?
  • What does God’s power look like? How does it feel to feel as God does in our world? Fr. Rolheiser gives several examples. Which, if any, of them resonate with you? Describe why.
  • What does Rolheiser mean when he says, “The struggle for justice and peace is not ultimately about winning or losing but about fidelity”? What does fidelity have to do with it?
  • According to Rolheiser, what are our true weapons in the struggle for justice and peace? Which of these true weapons have you used—and with what results?

 

Chapter 9: A Spirituality of Sexuality

  • Define a mature spirituality, according to Fr. Rolheiser, and explain why this is at the center of the spiritual life.
  • What does a healthy sexuality look like? How can we understand and channel our sexuality correctly? Describe the main elements of a Christian spirituality of sexuality.
  • Rolheiser makes a critical distinction between sexuality and genitality. Explain in your own words the differences between these two terms.
  • What did the Greeks mean by the term eros, and how is this different from the typical way the term is understood today?
  • In your own words, describe how you, as a Christian, define sexuality. Give some examples from your own observations.
  • List the nonnegotiables Rolheiser says provide the anchor for a healthy Christian spirituality. Do you agree with all of them? Why or why not? Which ones are part of your spirituality?
  • How can the inner dynamics of sex lead people to sanctity?
  • How is chastity different than celibacy? What does it mean to be chaste?
  • Rolheiser says Christians must have the courage to let go of some of its fears and timidities regarding sex and learn instead to celebrate the goodness of sex. What are some ways Christians can celebrate the goodness of sex?
  • How can we as Christians better understand the times we live in and deal with the issues that result from living in the time between Christ’s resurrection and the end of time?
  • Instead of letting our restlessness drive us outward to more activity, distraction, etc., how can we turn it into solitude? How does solitude differ from loneliness? Why is solitude beneficial? Discuss the steps that Henri Nouwen suggests.
  • Do you ever wonder why Christ remained celibate? Rolheiser suggest a better question: What did Christ try to reveal through the way he incarnated himself as a sexual being? What was he trying to teach us?
  • How was Christ’s celibacy a key element of his solidarity with the poor? Describe how those who aren’t able to experience sexual consumption can be considered poor.

 

Chapter 10: Sustaining Ourselves in the Spiritual Life

  • Since it’s not enough to just have knowledge of the truth, how can we sustain ourselves on our long earthly journey? How can we move beyond our fatigue, loneliness, laziness, bitterness, and bad habits so we become gracious, happy, self-sacrificing, generative, mature Christians? Where do you tend to struggle the most?
  • What practices and exercises are helpful for you as you struggle to live a healthy Christian life in our agnostic, pluralistic, materialistic age?
  • Rolheiser talks about being a mystic. What does he mean by this, and how can we become mystics in our modern world?
  • Describe the value of personal prayer in our quest to sustain ourselves spiritually. What is the result of not praying?
  • How can we fulfill the Scripture, “Pray always”? What does the Bible mean by “pondering” and how can this help us to pray without ceasing?
  • Fr. Rolheiser says that carrying tension for God’s sake is the mysticism most needed in our day. When everything in our culture tells us to avoid tension, what do you think he meant by this?
  • What did Martin Luther mean by saying, “Sin boldly!”
  • What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and why does the Bible say it is an eternal sin that can never be forgiven? What does this sin have to do with dishonesty and rationalization?
  • What is the value of ritual and community? What are some rituals that sustain your daily life?
  • Rolheiser lists some misconceptions about God that people have had in the past, as well as some evident today. Do you share any of these faulty views of God? How do you see God? How does Rolheiser describe God?

 

 

 


Reading Guide: Catholicism by Robert Barron

Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith by Robert Barron

Discussion Questions for Individual Reflection or Group Study

In the pages of Catholicism, acclaimed author, speaker, and theologian Robert Barron has created a unique and intimate journey into the heart of the Catholic faith, capturing its essence in a way that is both eclectic and inspiring. He explores the mysteries of faith, the depth and beauty of the timeless truths, and the defining elements that make up the core of Catholic faith. From art and architecture to theology and the saints, Fr. Barron looks at what makes Catholicism distinctive among all the competing philosophies, idealogies, and religions of the world.

 

Introduction: The Catholic Thing

  • Blessed John Henry Newman said that the great principle of Catholicism is the Incarnation—the enfleshment of God. Father Barron says that the Incarnation is what makes Catholicism stand out among all the competing religions and ideologies in the world. He also says the Incarnation reveals the central truths concerning God and us. What does the Incarnation mean to you? How would you describe the difference between Catholicism and other Christian churches that also embrace the truth of the Incarnation?
  • If someone asked you to define Catholicism in one or two sentences, what would be your response? Why?
  • How would you describe the uniqueness of Jesus? What sets him apart from all other philosophers, mystics, and religious founders?
  • St. Paul referred to Jesus as “the icon of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). What do you think he meant by this?

 

Chapter 1: Amazed and Afraid: The Revelation of God Become Man

  • St. Thérèse of Lisieux said that the heart of sin is taking oneself too seriously. What do you think she meant? Do you think God has a sense of humor? If so, how would you describe it?
  • Jesus wasn’t concerned with what other people thought about his teaching or how the crowds interpreted his actions while he was on earth; he wanted to know what people thought about his identity—who he was. Jesus asks us the same question today. Who do you say Jesus is? What do you believe about his identity, his being?
  • How would you describe the fundamental principle of Christian discipleship?

 

Chapter 2: Happy Are We: The Teachings of Jesus

  • How would you define the secret to true happiness? How does this correspond to Jesus’s teaching through the Beatitudes that love for God must be central to your life if you want to be happy?
  • Is your love for God central in your life? If not, what is central? Does it lead to happiness? How can you move closer to a unique union with God?
  • Thomas Aquinas said that the four typical substitutes for God are wealth, pleasure, power, and honor. Father Barron says that when we try to satisfy the hunger for God with something less than God, we will naturally be frustrated. How do these four substitutes show up in your life? What areas of frustration do you see in your own life, and which of the four substitutes for God is at the root?
  • Robert Barron defines love as “actively willing the good of the other.” Are there situations in your life where you are good to others just so they are good to you in return? What examples in your life can you describe where you actively will the good of someone else with no thought of receiving anything in return? Has there been someone in your life that has shown that kind of love to you?
  • As Fr. Barron describes the parable of the prodigal son, which son do you relate to more—the one physically estranged from the Father, or the one spiritually or psychologically estranged?
  • The elder brother saw himself as “working like a slave” for his father, “obeying all his commands.” In your relationship with God, have you ever seen yourself this way? How does this affect your relationship with others and with yourself?
  • Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, said, “We should turn a nation of go-getters into a nation of go-givers!” How is this statement relevant for today’s culture?
  • Fr. Barron says that once we truly see that God is love, we are no longer afraid to risk the path of love. When have you been fearful of taking a risk? How might your way of thinking change in light of believing in the gospel, and what actions might you take because of this?

 

Chapter 3: “That Than Which Nothing Greater Can Be Thought”: The Ineffable Mystery of God

  • Thomas Aquinas defines the difference between God and everything else using the terms “essence” and “existence.” What does he mean by this? How is God different than his creatures?
  • What did God mean when he spoke from the burning bush and told Moses, “I am who am”? (Exodus 3:14)
  • Fr. Barron says God is both “radically immanent and radically transparent.” What does this mean?
  • Thomas Aquinas came up with five arguments for God’s existence, and in this chapter Fr. Barron talks about just one, the contingency of the world. Describe in your own words the key points of this argument.
  • St. Augustine described God’s unique way of being as “intimior intimo meo et superior summon meo,” which Barron translates as “closer to me than I am to myself and higher than anything I could possibly imagine.” Using this definition, what does it mean to be in right relationship with God?
  • Deists believe that God orders the universe, but in a distant way, as the source of its laws and basic structures. Why is Christian theology different from this?
  • How would you define God’s providence? How does this impact our earthly affairs?
  • When we consider the problem of evil and why a good God would “allow” it, Augustine, Aquinas, and others taught that God permits evil to bring about a greater good. What events in your own life or the lives of those close to you—serious illness, job loss, natural disasters—have led to some kind of greater good? Describe the calamity and the resulting good.
  • Augustine said that when we look within ourselves, we see a mirror of the Trinity. What similarities does the Trinity have with human consciousness?

 

Chapter 4: Our Tainted Nature’s Solitary Boast: Mary, the Mother of God

  • Fr. Barron writes that Mary has “beguiled the finest poets of the West, from Dante to T. S. Eliot; she has been the subject of paintings by the greatest masters, from Fra Angelico and Michelangelo to Rembrandt and El Greco; over the centuries, millions of people have visited her shrines seeking her aid and calling out to her, their mother.” Why do you think Mary has had such a staggering impact? What is it that she conveys to us?
  • In the Garden of Eden, when God gave Adam and Eve permission to eat from all the trees in the garden except one, what did God intend them to experience? What does this signify about what God desires for us to experience as fully alive human beings?
  • The church fathers described the contrast between Mary, the Mother of God, with Eve, the mother of the human race. How does Mary’s obedience reverse the disobedience of Eve?
  • Hans Urs von Balthasar taught that Mary’s fiat (“Be it done to me according to your word”) opens up a space within which God can work. Mary’s freedom, which she surrendered completely to God, creates the possibility for all forms of outreach in the life of the Church. In your own life, are there times when you have relinquished your freedom to God in order for him to accomplish something through you? How difficult did you find this surrender, and what were the results? Conversely, what has occurred when you have clung to your own plans?
  • The Greeks thought that death meant that one’s soul escaped the trappings of the body, a much longed for liberation. Fr. Barron explains that Christianity does not see salvation as a separation of soul and body, but the very transformation of one’s entire self. How do you view death? What does the familiar phrase in the Apostles’ Creed that speaks of “the resurrection of the body” mean to you?
  • Have you struggled with the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception? If so, why? What biblical support can we find for this?
  • What do you understand about Mary’s mission as mediator and intercessor? How is Mary’s role different than that of her Son’s?
  • Mary is an ongoing presence in the life of the Church, and her basic task is always drawing people into a deeper fellowship with her Son. What is your experience with Mary? Describe how she has helped you, and also how she has led you to Jesus.

 

Chapter 5: The Indispensable Men: Peter, Paul, and the Missionary Adventure

  • The two key players in early Christianity are Peter, the head of the apostles, and Paul, the first Christian theologian. Fr. Barron says that these two men should not be merely historically interesting to us; instead, due to their centrality, they “live on as determining archetypes” from the early Church to the present day. Summarize what you see as each of their indispensable contributions to the Faith.
  • Fr. Barron shows how the artist Caravaggio captures the moment of transformation in his masterpiece The Conversion of Saint Paul. Once full of confidence and power, Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus leaves him helpless, blind, and powerless. He was being prepared for “a new journey, a new kind of fighting, and a new way of seeing.” Have you had a similar transforming experience in your own life, one that set you on a different path and opened the eyes of your heart in a dramatic way? How did such a transforming moment change you?
  • The heart of Paul’s message was: “Submit to the lordship of a new king, Christ crucified and risen.” This message was meant to turn the world upside down. Fr. Barron writes that “authentic Christian proclamation is as subversive and explosive as the earthquake that shook the prison walls in Philippi” during Paul and Silas’s imprisonment. Can you identify some current examples of this type of authenticity and zeal, some modern day apostles who combat tepid and uninspiring preaching? What makes them stand out?
  • The Church is more than just a community of like-minded individuals; Paul suggests that it is an organism of interdependent cells, which all derive their life from the primal energy and power of Jesus. Paul talks of “entering into Christ” and “trusting in Christ.” How would you describe your own relationship with Christ? How do you participate in his very life? What does it mean to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14)?

 

Chapter 6: A Body Both Suffering and Glorious: The Mystical Union of Christ and the Church

  • In our culture, many people are like the woman in sociologist Robert Bellah’s text Habits of the Heart: piecing together religious beliefs from many sources and according to one’s whim. Bellah identifies this as the distinctively American form of religion: eclectic, superficial, and willful. Do you see shades of this eclectic form of religion in your own life, or in the lives of those around you? How does it manifest itself? How does this differ from being called to be members of the Church, the mystical body with Christ at the head?
  • We have been called out of the world—the whole network of institutions, beliefs, behaviors, and practices. What does this look like in actuality? How can we maintain our Catholic distinctiveness and not get swept up in the ordinary, accepted way of being?
  • The Second Vatican Council sought to inspire a new generation of Catholics who would carry the holiness they learned in the Church out to the secular world in their specific areas: nurses and doctors, teachers and writers, business leaders and lawyers. This is quite different than keeping one’s faith private. How does the vision of the Second Vatican Council manifest itself in your life? How has your faith spilled out into the lives of those around you?
  • What exactly is the Church called to do? Describe her mission in your own words.
  • Like blind Bartimaeus, we have been blind, “lost in our sin and unable to see the world aright.” We have been called instead to a new lifestyle with new patterns of thought, as part of the “one holy catholic and apostolic” Church. As Catholics, what are the specific bonds of unity that make us one within the body of Christ? What are the elements that foster Christian unity?
  • Our culture puts a lot of value on variety, tolerance, and diversity. How does this fit with Robert Barron saying that saints are people whose lives are about one thing? How does the Church deal with this problem of unity and diversity? How is the Church able to embrace the positive dimensions of culture without being disrespectful or by compromising the truth?
  • The Second Vatican Council said there are “rays of light,” echoes of the fullness of truth, in all non-Christian religions. John Henry Newman talked about the Church’s power of assimilation—meaning its capacity to adapt elements from the culture and adapt them to its own purposes. What “rays of light” do you see in other religions? Where do you see examples of the Church being able to do assimilate these echoes of truth today?
  • Fr. Barron writes that holiness is “a kind of wholeness or integrity, a cohering around a center.” He goes on to say that holiness “is the integration that results from putting God unambiguously at the center of one’s concern; it is the coming together of all of one’s faculties—mind, will, imagination, energy, body, sexuality—around the single organizing power of God.” How have you defined holiness in the past? How does Fr. Barron’s definition change or expand the idea of holiness for you?
  • When we say that the Church is holy, it does not deny the fact that the Church is also made up of sinful people, some at the highest levels, who have done horrible things. How can both these statements be true? How can we reconcile them?
  • What does it mean that the Church is “apostolic”? Of what benefit is this to us as its members? What personal impact does it have for you?
  • When we say the pope is infallible, it does not mean he is omniscient, able to predict the future, immune from making poor judgments, above criticism, or incapable of sin. What does infallibility mean and how would you explain it to those of another faith?

 

Chapter 7: Word Made Flesh, True Bread of Heaven: The Mystery of the Church’s Sacrament and Worship

  • Reflect for a moment on how you typically think of the Mass. What words come to mind—serious, pious, holy…? Have you ever thought of the Mass as play? Describe how this word relates to the celebration of the Liturgy according to the definitions provided by Aristotle and Romano Guardini.
  • Dietrich von Hildebrand says that this “play” or “praise” of the Liturgy rightly orders the personality, since we find interior order to the degree that we surrender everything within us to God. What signs of balance and order do you see in your own life when you are fully surrendered to God? How does this “play” out in your day-to-day life?
  • Modern secularism is based on the assumption that we essentially are our own persons, belonging to no one, self-determining and self-directing. By contrast, Catholicism teaches that “your life is not about you.” How does the Sign of the Cross at the beginning of Mass signal this?
  • How do you define “worship”? How does your definition differ from the old English word its derived from, “worthship,” which means demonstrating that which is of the most worth to us?
  • How are some ways you demonstrate placing your “worthship” on God, not pleasure, money, or power? What has been the result?
  • Describe in your own words what the posture of sitting signifies. Why it is important?
  • How do you view the readings at Mass? Fr. Barron says that if people listen attentively to the Scriptures at Mass, they leave the confines of the familiar and enter a new psychological and spiritual space. How might Fr. Barron’s perspective change the way you feel about these readings?
  • What are some vital differences between a priest’s homily and a Protestant minister’s sermon?
  • From the Catholic point of view, what is the significance of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist?
  • How would you explain transubstantiation to someone who was unfamiliar with the term? What keys does Thomas Aquinas provide in his definition?
  • What does Fr. Barron mean when he says that because Jesus’s word is the divine Word, it is not merely descriptive but also transformative?
  • In his meditations on the story of the three kings, Fulton Sheen says that no one comes to Christ and goes back the same way he came. How has this been true in your own life?

 

Chapter 8: A Vast Company of Witnesses: The Communion of Saints

  • Fr. Barron says that the story of Jesus getting into Peter’s boat in Luke 5 reveals the essential feature of sainthood. What does he mean by this? What does this story have to do with the saints?
  • What key insights have you gleaned from learning more about the life of Katharine Drexel?
  • Why do you think that spiritual greats like Dorothy Day, Edith Stein, Thomas Merton, St. John Paul the Second, and Hans Urs von Balthasar were such fans of Thérèse of Lisieux?
  • Describe Thérèse’s “Little Way” in your own words. What impact have her teachings had on your life?
  • How did Edith Stein’s love for God elevate and transform her courage as she faced her capture and eventual death at the hand of the Germans?
  • Describe the “transfigured temperance” that we see manifested in Mother Teresa. How did she go far beyond the normal requirements to serve so selflessly?
  • Why do you suppose God allowed Mother Teresa a lack of his presence for such a long time? How can we explain the fact that during these years she still functioned at a very high level, “directing her community and traveling the world as a teacher and evangelist”?
  • When God’s pure, white light shines through individual human lives, it manifests as an infinite variety of colors. Who in your life radiates God’s light? What unique dimension of divine holiness does this individual (or individuals) manifest?

 

Chapter 9: The Fire of His Love: Prayer and the Life of the Spirit

  • There are many forms of prayer: Speaking, singing, being silent, emptying one’s mind, sacred reading, petitioning, even dancing can all be considered forms of prayer. But is there a common denominator, a fundamental characteristic, of prayer? How would you express what this common thread is?
  • How is “being with God” different than the “prayer of petition” (asking God for things)? What has been your experience of just “being with God”?
  • Thomas Merton is a contemporary example of someone who experienced many of the same anxieties and effects of secularism that we do today. What motivated him to seek and dedicate himself to God? What lessons can we take away from this thoroughly modern, thoroughly human spiritual master?
  • How can St. John of the Cross help you to understand why most of us are so unhappy most of the time, so dissatisfied? What does St. John of the Cross offer as a solution to the overarching materialism and secularism so prevalent today?
  • Define the difference between being depressed and experiencing what St. John of the Cross called the “dark night of the soul.” What is the goal (or outcome) of such a dark night?
  • In St. Teresa of Avila’s life, we see an example of someone who experienced mystical visions of Christ, the Blessed Mother, and the saints. During these times she would enter a trance-like state; other times she was known to levitate. How do you feel about such experiences? Have there been times in your own life, or in the life of someone you know, that God made his presence known to you in an unusual way?
  • The heart of St. Teresa’s teaching is based on her realization that Christ dwelt within the depths of her soul. She compared his divine presence to an interior castle. How would you describe what it means to be grounded in Christ, to have him dwelling within you?
  • Jesus urged his followers to persevere in petitioning God in prayer. But if God cannot change, what is the point of asking him for anything? If he “knows what we need before we ask,” why should we bother telling him what we need?
  • When we pray and don’t receive what we ask for, what might God have in mind? Can you think of an example in your own life where your prayer went unanswered? How did you deal with this, and what did you learn from it?
  • Thomas Aquinas speaks of God “praying through us.” What does this mean?
  • Thomas Merton described contemplative prayer as “finding that place in you where you are here and now being created by God.” What does it mean to pray contemplatively? Have you had any experience with this type of prayer?

 

Chapter 10: World Without End: The Last Things

  • How can we reconcile the idea of a good God and the existence of an eternal hell, a place of unending torture?
  • What does the Catholic Church teach about heaven, hell, and purgatory?
  • Fr. Barron discusses Dante’s masterpiece, The Divine Comedy. How familiar are you with this meditation on the next world? Reading Fr. Barron’s commentary, what new understanding do you have regarding the meaning of hell?
  • Describe the differences between mortal and venial sins.
  • If venial sins can affect the soul in a twisted, negative way (even though they have long been forgiven), what means has God provided to heal those wounds?
  • What is your understanding of purgatory? Has your thinking regarding purgatory changed in any way after looking at it from Dante’s perspective?
  • Many Protestants believe that purgatory is not biblical, and it’s true that the word “purgatory” is never mentioned in Scripture. What is the basis for the Church’s teaching on purgatory?
  • How do you describe the angels? Are they involved in human situations, and if so, how?
  • St. Paul tells us that we battle not against flesh and blood but with angels and principalities. How might unseen powers exert a harmful influence on the affairs of human beings? Are there any situations in your own life where you have experienced this type of battle?
  • How would you define Satan after reading this chapter?
  • Fr. Barron offers descriptions and explanations of heaven from spiritual greats like Thomas Aquinas and C.S. Lewis. What new insights have you taken away from what they say?
  • Three metaphors for heaven are: 1) the beatific vision, 2) the city, and 3) the new heavens and the new earth. Which metaphor resonates most with you, and why?
  • Describe what the beatific vision means in your own words.
  • How can heaven be compared to a city? What characteristics does a city have that might parallel what heaven might be like?
  • Describe the “resurrection of the body.” What form do you think this will take?
  • Many Christians see the goal of the spiritual life as getting out of this world and “going to heaven”—the soul leaving the body and journeying to a purely immaterial realm. Fr. Barron says this is not what Christian hope is truly about. How have you thought about what it means to go to heaven? What is the Christian belief about what happens to our bodies when we die?

 

A Coda

  • Fr. Barron ends the book by saying that what Catholicism really is all about is God. Now that you’ve finished the book, how has your understanding of Catholicism changed? Can you articulate two or three key takeaways?


Reading Guide: The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn

The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth by Scott Hahn

Discussion Questions for Individual Reflection or Group Study

As Catholics, most of us are so familiar with the Mass that we might fail to see the powerful supernatural drama that unfolds each time it is celebrated. Saint John Paul the Great said that the Mass is “heaven on earth.” In the pages of The Lamb’s Supper, popular author Scott Hahn explores how what we celebrate on earth is actually a mysterious participation in the heavenly liturgy. He shows how the Book of Revelation provides the key to understanding the Mass—as well as how the Mass is the only way to fully understand the Book of Revelation. This study guide is designed to help you see the Mass in a new way, with the goal of participating more fully, enthusiastically, intelligently, and powerfully in the liturgy than ever before.

 

PART ONE—THE GIFT OF THE MASS

Chapter 1: In Heaven Right Now

  • St. John Paul the Great said that the Mass is “heaven on earth.” Would you describe your experience at Mass each week as “heavenly”? If not, what keeps it from being so?
  • Have you ever connected the Mass with the Book of Revelation? Describe and discuss the connection Scott Hahn made.
  • Why did the ancient church fathers consider the Book of Revelation the key to the liturgy, and the liturgy the key to the Book of Revelation?
  • Do you have questions regarding certain aspects of the Mass? Are there areas that don’t seem relevant or meaningful to you? Which parts of the Mass are the most meaningful and have the most significance to you?

 

Chapter 2: Given for You

  • Look at the eight titles for God on page 14. The first seven seem appropriate for Jesus Christ, who is both human and divine (Lord, God, Savior, Messiah, King, Priest, Prophet). Why is he also called “Lamb”?
  • Read the passage in Genesis 14:18–20 that talks about Melchizedek. What was different about his priestly sacrifice, and in what way is he a foreshadowing of Christ?
  • List the ways that the story of Abraham and Isaac can be seen as a profound allegory for Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross.
  • Sacrificing animals was a central part of ancient Israel’s religion. What did all these sacrifices mean? (Hint: see if you can come up with four meanings.)
  • What was the significance of the Passover—the pivotal sacrifice in Israel’s history? Why was Passover so central to Jesus’s mission? What should Passover mean to us today as Christians?
  • Why does the Mass proclaim Jesus as the “Lamb of God”? And why does Revelation portray him as a “lamb standing as if slain”?
  • Worship includes praise, atonement, self-giving, covenant, thanksgiving—and sacrifice. Sacrifice can seem outdated and ancient to our modern minds. What is the deeper meaning of sacrifice?

 

Chapter 3: From the Beginning

  • Pagans sometimes thought the early Christians were involved in cannibalism and human sacrifice because the Eucharist was so central to their life and worship. How central is the Eucharist to your life—not just when you’re at Mass, but throughout your week?
  • How would you define the doctrine of the Real Presence to someone unfamiliar with it?
  • Scott Hahn says the todah can be called the liturgical “ancestor” of the Mass. In what way is the todah a powerful expression of confidence in God’s sovereignty and mercy? What are the similarities between the ancient Jewish todah and our Catholic Eucharist?
  • In your own life, what are some ways you see evidences of God’s providential care?
  • Think about what it must have been like to be one of the early Christians. You might not have been able to read—or even if you could, you probably couldn’t afford to have books copied out for you. How would you have felt about the words of the liturgy, so much of which came from the Scriptures? How might this be different from the way you hear the words of the liturgy today?

 

Chapter 4: Taste and See (and Hear and Touch) the Gospel

  • How do you envision the worship of the early Christians? Do you imagine it to be spontaneous and improvised? How does your vision differ from a typical Catholic Mass today?
  • What is the value of order and routines, ritual precision, and liturgical etiquette?
  • In your own life, how is faithfulness to your routines a way of showing love to your family and other relationships?
  • How does the liturgy make us more effective in the spiritual life and in life in general? How does it impact your life?
  • How does the liturgy engage your whole person: body, soul, and spirit?
  • What are the two distinct parts of the Mass, and what does each include?
  • St. Cyprian of Carthage wrote that “in the . . . Sign of the Cross is all virtue and power . . . . In this Sign of the Cross is salvation for all who are marked on their foreheads.” What did he mean by this?
  • Scott Hahn says that the Sign of the Cross is the most profound gesture we make as Christians. Have you thought of it this way? Why is this true, and what does this gesture signify? Why is the Sign of the Cross is a reminder of who we are? How is the Sign of the Cross like a solemn oath, and what is that oath?
  • How is “hearing” the Word of God different from “reading” it?
  • Origen said, “No one understands in heart . . . unless he is open-minded and totally intent.” Does this describe you during the readings at Mass? What could you do to develop a deeper attentiveness? How might these readings help you prepare for receiving Holy Communion?
  • Scott Hahn says that just as Jesus comes to us through “humble, tasteless wafers,” so the Holy Spirit sometimes speaks to us through a “monotone, lackluster preacher.” What is your reaction to a dull, dry homily? Have there been times when a boring sermon ended up inspiring you, and if so, how?
  • During the Offertory, how can your work, prayers, family life, mental and physical relaxation become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, as the Second Vatican Council said? How can offering all these ordinary things to God “consecrate the world itself” to him?
  • What does the phrase “Lift up your hearts” mean to you?
  • As you go through your days, how conscious are you of the presence of the angels and saints? What difference would a deeper awareness of them make in your life?
  • Describe how the Mass fulfills perfectly the words of the Lord’s Prayer.
  • In Jesus’s day, the word communion most often described a family bond. In what way does receiving Holy Communion renew this family bond today?
  • How is the Mass a “sending forth,” not so much a dismissal, but a commissioning? What are we being sent forth to do?

 

PART TWO—THE REVELATION OF HEAVEN

Chapter 1: “I Turned to See”

  • How do you feel about the Book of Revelation? Does it fascinate you? Terrify you? Frustrate you? Explain why.
  • How do you feel when you think about the world ending? What hopes or fears does it arouse in you?
  • Martin Luther, the very first Protestant, found the Book of Revelation to be so bizarre that for a while he even thought it didn’t belong in the Bible because he said that “a revelation should be revealing.” What does the Book of Revelation reveal?
  • Scott Hahn says that the early Church fathers frequently associated the liturgy with the Apocalypse, making an explicit connection between the Mass and the Book of Revelation. Have you ever made such a connection? How might the Mass shed light on the Book of Revelation, and vice versa?
  • Imagine yourself as a Greek-speaking Jewish Christian during the apostle John’s time. How might you view the vision John shares in the Book of Revelation?
  • What did the temple mean to pious Jews during this time? Why did the early Christians consider the torn temple veil so theologically and liturgically significant?

 

Chapter 2: Who’s Who in Heaven

  • What are some similarities between the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation?
  • How can we become, like John, “beloved disciples” of Jesus? How can we develop an increasingly intimate relationship with him, and what clues does John’s response to seeing a vision of Jesus in his power and glory leave for us?
  • The early Church fathers believed that when John describes the woman in Revelation 12:1–2, he was describing the Ark of the New Covenant as well as Mary. What similarities exist between the Ark and Mary?
  • Scott Hahn says that “the woman” stands for more than Mary. What else does she represent?
  • How can we answer the argument raised by some biblical scholars who say that the woman cannot be Mary since, according to Catholic tradition, Mary suffered no labor pains? How might we also address the argument that the woman in Revelation has other offspring, while Mary remained a perpetual virgin?
  • Describe the ways that Revelation portrays Mary as the “New Eve.”
  • How can we better understand the reality of the two hideous beasts in Revelation? How are they more than mere symbols? Who are these beasts in reality? What does Satan want to accomplish through the two beasts?
  • What does the first beast—a seven-headed, ten-horned monster—stand for? What does the second beast stands for?
  • What is the “mark of the beast,” and what does this mark represent?
  • What does the number 666 have to do with work? What happens to our work when we fail to offer it to God—when we put it before him in importance?
  • Scott Hahn says the Apocalypse should lead us to a greater appreciation of our priestly heritage and a sober consideration of our accountability to God. How well are you living out your covenant with God? How faithful are you to your “priesthood”? How might you live it out more faithfully?
  • The beasts communicate to us that we are fighting spiritual forces—immense, depraved, malevolent forces. What instances of these forces do you see around you? How can you fight these forces spiritually?
  • Scott Hahn writes that angels (meaning “messengers”) do not actually have bodies. In terms of the angels’ nature or mission, describe the significance of their wings and their multiple eyes. How does this significance serve to reassure rather than frighten you?
  • Angels are might warriors, battling constantly on the side of God. Have you had any experiences where you sensed an angel’s presence of protection on your behalf?
  • Revelation 6 talks about the martyrs being “under the altar.” Why would they be under the altar? What was usually under the altar of the earthly Temple?
  • Scott Hahn says the meaning God intends us to get from the Book of Revelation is often plainly told in the text. What does he mean when he says we must “fight the temptation to strain for the extravagant while denying the obvious”? What can fighting this temptation help us to better understand about Revelation?

 

Chapter 3: Apocalypse Then!

  • The author says that the futuristic interpretation of the Book of Revelation should not be our primary focus. Why do you think he says this?
  • From earliest times, Christians have spoken of the Bible having both a literal and a spiritual sense. What does the Church mean by this? What does each of these “senses” describe?
  • When it comes to Revelation, why are so many interpreters so sharply divided?
  • How would you say Revelation offers encouragement to Christians undergoing persecution and trials? Are there particular verses that have spoken to you when you’ve experienced times of tribulation?
  • What are some ways the Book of Revelation might be literally about the fall of Jerusalem?
  • Both John and Jesus refer to a distant Parousia (return) and an ongoing Parousia, which still takes place today. How is the Church literally the kingdom of heaven already begun on earth, and what form does this take?
  • Jerusalem is “allegorically called Sodom and Egypt.” What is it that these two places held in common?
  • What does Scott Hahn mean when he says, “You cannot be a good Catholic until you’ve fallen in love with the religion and people of Israel”?
  • Place yourself imaginatively in the time of John’s Revelation. Why would the very idea of Jerusalem’s fall make you anxious?
  • In every age, the Church faces mighty persecutors, with ever more powerful armies and weapons. What are some of the persecutors the Church faces in our own day? How does the Mass enable Christianity to prevail over these forces?

 

Chapter 4: Judgment Day

  • Do you find the severity of the judgments in the Book of Revelation to be incongruous with the idea of a merciful God? How can these two concepts be reconciled, and how do both concepts apply to our own lives?
  • How is God’s judgment more than an impersonal, legalistic process? How can his judgment be an expression of love?
  • How does sin destroy the family bond we have with God? How does it keep us from true life and true freedom?
  • Describe what happens when we allow sin to become habitual in our lives and choose not to repent.
  • Why would a good God allow economic depression, foreign conquest, or natural catastrophes in our world? Why might this be the best thing he can do for us?

 

PART THREE—REVELATION FOR THE MASSES

Chapter 1: Lifting the Veil

  • Scott Hahn wrote that the realization that what takes place in the Book of Revelation takes place every time Mass is celebrated was life-changing for him. In what ways has this realization changed your life?
  • As you look at the Apocalypse with a “sacramental imagination,” what small details in the Mass correspond with what you read in the Book of Revelation? Describe some ways the Apocalypse is organized like a liturgy.
  • Why do you think John depicts celestial scenes in graphic, earthly terms in the Apocalypse? Why didn’t he use other ways to help us understand the transcendent, immaterial nature of heavenly worship?
  • The Greek word apokalypsis means an “unveiling.” How is the Book of Revelation an unveiling about how the Church was to deal with the destruction of Jerusalem? How does Revelation guide Christians as to what to leave behind and what to bring with them as they embrace the New Covenant
  • How did Jesus intensify, internationalize, and internalize the way Israel worshipped?
  • Scott Hahn says that all scriptural roads seem to lead to the city of King David, Mount Zion. What is Zion a symbol of—what does it signify?
  • St. Cyril of Jerusalem says that when we “lift up our hearts” at Mass, “we should have our hearts set on high with God, and not below, thinking of earth and earthly things.” What are some ways you can actively seek this “recollection”? How might this change your experience of being at Mass?
  • How is the Book of Revelation a personal invitation from Jesus to each of us? What is he inviting us to? How can you more authentically respond to his invitation?

 

Chapter 2: Worship Is Warfare

  • What are some of the ways today that people seek to flee real life? What are some ways you seek to avoid it?
  • Why would we want to avoid the reality of being human? Do you agree with Scott Hahn that it is the seemingly omnipresence of evil and our own apparent inability to escape it? What is your typical escape route from reality, and what would you say is the root of it?
  • Since we cannot avoid evil, how can we begin to conquer the forces that oppose us?
  • Are there situations in your life where you feel that Jesus has delayed in coming to help you? What aspects of today’s world seem firmly in the hands of evil forces? Do you believe that the saints and angels direct history by their prayers? How would this belief change the way you view the world and its problems?
  • How do you envision Jesus’s Second Coming? Do you think it will be anything like his first? When John speaks of the “wrath of the Lamb,” how terrifying does that image seem?
  • The author says that the expectations of many Christians about the Second Coming of Christ need adjustment. What adjustments might your own expectations about this event benefit from? How does God mean us to view Christ’s Second Coming?
  • Scott Hahn says that while hell may seem to prevail in the world, the Church is, in a sense, in charge, and our prayers and the sacrifice of the Mass are the force that propels history toward its goal. How effective and forceful are your own prayers? How can you pray more powerfully?
  • In the Mass, the victory is already won. How then should we understand our ongoing combat? Why should we continue to fight?
  • Scott Hahn says that God wills that each of us should play an indispensable role in salvation history. Do you see yourself in such a role? How might your unique place in the world affect something so important?
  • The most dangerous enemies are within our own souls: pride, envy, laziness, gluttony, greed, anger, and lust. What sinful habits in your own life must you battle? How can you begin to root them out so you can truly advance in the spiritual life?
  • Name some ways that you can prepare for Mass—both before you arrive and when you first are seated in church.
  • The saints and popes teach that we should go to confession “frequently.” How frequently do you take advantage of this sacrament? If you don’t go very often, what might you do to rearrange your schedule so you can go more frequently?
  • Describe some ways that we are on the winning side in spiritual warfare. How should this make you think, feel, and act?
  • Even though we are on the winning side, the battle is still a battle. How does the evil one assault us, especially during Mass? What specific onslaughts have you experienced?
  • How do small, ordinary things or people that distract, annoy, anger, or cause us to judge require heroism to fight against? Why does Scott Hahn say these are the tough battles?
  • After reading this book, when you hear doomsday reports that the end is near, why might you be able to respond without fear? How can you choose to see the Apocalypse as something to run toward rather than away from?

 

Chapter 3: Parish the Thought!

  • We are all part of the heavenly family, but before we can enjoy this bond, many of us must put aside modern, Western notions about family. How does the way we view family today differ significantly from the way it was viewed during Bible times?
  • St. John Paul the Great said, “God in his deepest mystery is not a solitude, but a family.” Why is this such an earthshaking truth? What makes God “a family”?
  • To prepare for our oneness with Christ, our mystical marriage, we must leave our old lives behind. Is there anything in your life that you need to leave behind so you can fully enter into the newness Christ offers?
  • Marrying into the family of God is meant to completely transform us. In what ways has becoming aware of your new life in Christ changed you? What has it transformed?
  • Do you truly see yourself as part of the whole family of God—from the angels and saints and all the Christians who have gone before you to the parishioners you worship beside today? Does this thought make you uncomfortable? Can heaven really be heaven if all your neighbors are there, too?
  • Scott Hahn says that loving difficult people refines us. How is this true? Is there someone difficult in your life that you are striving to love? How has this refined you?


Chapter 4: Rite Makes Might

  • We usually envision heaven as a place of joy, where God, “who will wipe away every tear” (Revelation 21:3) welcomes us. But Scott Hahn says that heaven is also where we see ourselves clearly and where the Judge reads our works from the Book of Life. He says our deeds go with us when we go to heaven, and also when we go to Mass. How can this awareness impact you and the choices you make?
  • Describe what happens when you dip your fingers into holy water and make the Sign of the Cross. How have you thought of holy water in the past? Has Scott Hahn’s description given you a new perspective in any way?
  • How are you more than a spectator at Mass? In what way are you a participant? How might seeing yourself as a participant change the way your experience of the Mass?
  • We profess our belief in one holy catholic and apostolic Church during the Creed. Do you live by the teachings of that Church without exception? If not, what areas do you choose to ignore, and why?
  • How attentively do you receive the Bread of Life? Do you receive Christ as reverently as you would an earthly king?
  • How can you treat the mysteries of heaven with more respect? How can you teach your children to do the same?
  • We are called to live like the martyrs lived—by offering ourselves sacrificially wherever we are. How can this martyrdom manifest itself in your everyday life? Name some tangible ways that you, like the martyrs and missionaries, restore all things in Christ.
  • How has your understanding of the Mass changed through reading this book? How has your understanding of the Book of Revelation deepened?



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