Fortnight For Freedom Giveaway


Image books is hosting a book giveaway in honor of Fortnight For Freedom. Enter below by July 4, 2014 for your chance to win a copy of Let’s Not Forget God. One entry per person please.



VIDEO: Patrick Madrid on Why Be Catholic?

The popular blogger and publisher of Envoy magazine offers 10 key reasons why he loves being Catholic (and you should too). Drawing heavily on poignant anecdotes from his own experience as a life-long Catholic born in 1960s, Madrid offers readers a way of looking at the Church—its members, teachings, customs, and history—from perspectives many may have never considered.

Read chapter one of Why Be Catholic? by clicking here.


Fortnight for Freedom Reading Essentials: Books About Religious Freedom

The USCCB has issued a call for a Fortnight for Freedom in celebration of the many rights that American citizens enjoy and to patriotically pray for our nation and the current challenges facing religious freedoms in the US. As part of that effort, we’ve assembled this list of books on the subjects of religious freedom and faith and politics from some of the most respected Catholic voices in America.

 NEW!!

$20.00 Hardcover edition

Born out of a speech celebrating the 1,700th anniversary of the Edict of Milan, in which emperors Constantine I and Licinius granted Christians legal rights, this book by Cardinal Angelo Scola gives attention to the crisis of religious freedom in the twenty-first century. Let’s Not Forget God outlines how Christianity has been at the center of creating a pluralistic society, from the Roman Empire in 313 to the American Revolution in 1776. This bold vision of freedom brings religion into the realm of public debate without allowing the state to banish or control it.

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eBook Exclusives: The following titles are important messages from prominent Catholic leaders and are available only as eBooks at a very low price:


True Freedom by Timothy Dolan

99 Cent eBook Original

Are American liberties on the endangered species list? In this eBook original, the Archbishop of New York and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issues a plea for all citizens to reject the cynicism of the day and foster a culture in which religious freedom and all human life are infinitely valued.

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A Heart on Fire Charles J. Chaput

99 Cent eBook Original

In this eBook original, Charles J. Chaput, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, offers a powerful manifesto on the need for Americans to protect religious freedom. By thoughtfully interpreting and applying Catholic values to this confusing moment in history, he provides hope for an American audience hungry for courage and counsel.

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Proclaim Liberty by Carl Anderson$2.99 eBook Original
In this ebook, comprised of three talks Carl Anderson gave between April and August 2012, the author argues that all people of faith ought to approach politics in an effort to transform the divisiveness and hostility in today’s political arena into a society in which every person is respected and valued—a society that Pope John Paul II has called a “Civilization of Love.”

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Available in Print and eBook Formats:

On Heaven and Earth by Pope Francis A conversation between Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, and prominent Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka that brings remarkable insight to subjects such as politics, abortion, religious freedom, and the intersection of faith and the public arena.

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Why Catholicism Matters by Bill Donohue

One of the most visible representatives of the Catholic Church in the United States shows how the Church is far from being an ossified carry-over tradition from antiquity. Why Catholicism Matters celebrates the significant contribution the Church makes in many aspects of today’s world and applies its wisdom to issues on a personal, national, and global scale.

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God in Action by Cardinal George

In this bracing manifesto, His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, one of the leading Catholic intellectuals in America today, provides refreshing insight into the intersection of faith and the public sphere. Finding both challenges and reasons for hope, he lays out a vision for national life that respects natural law, human dignity, and the essential ways religion uniquely contributes to the common good.

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Render Unto Caesar by Charles ChaputFew topics in recent years have ignited as much public debate as the balance between religion and politics. Does religious thought have any place in political discourse? Do religious believers have the right to turn their values into political action? What does it truly mean to have a separation of church and state? The very heart of these important questions is here addressed by one of the leading voices on the topic, Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia.

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A People of Hope by John AllenOne of the world’s most respected religion journalists profiles New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, one of the country’s—and possibly the world’s—most important Catholic leaders through lengthy exclusive interviews. Hear Dolan’s thoughts on many issues including religious freedom and political involvement.

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Beyond a House Divided by Carl AndersonFrom health care, to the role of religion in America, to abortion, to the importance of traditional ethics in business and society, Anderson uses fresh polling data and keen insight in Beyond a House Divided to show that a surprising consensus has emerged despite these debates. He sheds light on what’s been missing in the public and political debates of the last several years: the consensus that isn’t hard to find if you know where to look.

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The Right to be Wrong by Kevin HassonIn the running debate we call the “culture wars,” there exists a great feud over religious diversity. One side demands that only their true religion be allowed in the public square; the other insists that no religions ever belong there. The Right to Be Wrong offers a solution, drawing its lessons from a series of stories–both contemporary and historical–that illustrates the struggle to define religious freedom.

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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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