Friday, May 2, 2014

Book Review - Many are Called: Rediscovering the Glory of the Priesthood by Scott Hahn

Many people often skip over the introduction to a book, eager to get to the “meat” of the story. However, when done properly, the Introduction should get the reader excited to read the rest of the story. The introduction sets the stage for the book and encourages the reader to move ahead with an open mind and heart, allowing himself or herself to truly enter into the pages. Cardinal Dolan’s introduction does just that. It sets the scene of excitement for the priesthood, while Hahn delivers page after page, chapter after chapter of reinvigoration for the glory of the priesthood.

The early chapters take the reader through what it means to be a man and what it means to be a priest. This is expanded upon as Hahn gently reviews the Old Testament view and role of the priest, highlighting the book of Genesis, Exodus, Judges, Chronicles, and Kings drawing on the examples of Abraham, Noah, Moses, David, and others.

As the book progresses, Hahn speaks to the specific roles of the priest and how Christ changes, or rather fulfills, those roles during His life and ministry. He illustrates how those who are called to the priesthood in the early days of the Church as well as today continue to fulfill the role of the priest as mediator, provider, teacher and other traits God has given to men.

This book dissects the meaning of the word “father” and how our priests live up to that name through their spiritual fatherhood and their teaching through word and example. It excites the reader by giving examples of courageous and heroic priests on literal battlefields in war and those spiritual wars fought in our parishes. The book explores the wisdom and counsel of priests both in the early Church and today, turning the readers’ attention to the glory of the priesthood.

One of the most intriguing chapters notes the complementarity of marriage and the priesthood, highlighting the beauty of priestly celibacy. As a former married Protestant minister, Hahn explains his personal experience with “balancing” devotion to two spouses—his wife and his congregation. He also states that it is through his vocation of marriage that he has come to a great appreciation for priestly celibacy. Drawing on God’s plan for men through creation and the complete gift of self He calls all men to, Hahn explains that neither vocation devalues the other, but they compliment each other.

Hahn delivers, once again, a real, readable, relatable look into the beauty of Christ’s Church, namely the priesthood of Jesus Christ. I would recommend this book for anyone, especially someone considering a vocation to priesthood. It is not limited to those individuals, however. This book can be of great use to the lay faithful who, after years of scandal and attacks on the priesthood, need a reminder of the true beauty and glory of Christ’s priesthood and those He calls to share in it.

Some Notable quotes:
“In the priest, we come to see fatherhood that goes beyond the biological dimension. In a mortal man, we encounter a priesthood whose offering is eternal”

“The Almighty, after all, can give himself as simple bread. It’s no trouble for him to send his Word by way of the simplest words, even when they’re stammered out and stumbled over.”

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

‘Consuming the Word’ Gives Something to Chew On: A book review on Scott Hahn’s “Consuming the Word”

I have always enjoyed Scott Hahn’s writing style. He makes theology personal and relatable. Almost anyone can pick up one of his short books and get an awful lot out of them. Depending on where one is on his or her faith journey would determine the particular book selection. Hahn has a particular style of writing which gives his readers a lot of meat to chew on. He fills each book with solid theology sandwiched with personal reflection and experience. Whether you are more advanced in your study of theology or just beginning, Scott Hahn’s works can certainly charge and re-charge the theological portion of the brain. The most recent book I had the opportunity to read was Consuming the Word. (Available for purchase here)

In just under 160 pages (references included) Scott Hahn takes the mystery and beauty of the “New Testament” and dissects the true meaning of the phrase. He opens the reader’s eyes to what that term actually means. By drawing from the Old and New Testament, as well as early Church writings, Hahn explains that the New Testament is not just a collection of books in the Bible. He draws on the Word of God—both Scripture and the person of Jesus Christ to explain, in a beautiful way, the gift Catholics have in the Eucharist and the sacred Liturgy.

It is remarkable what is contained within two simple words. In Consuming the Word, the reader is given a wonderful foretaste of Systematic Theology. Hahn’s book is extremely academic without seeming to be so. He combines several areas of Catholic theology—Sacred Scripture, Church History, Patristics, Sacramental Theology, and Dogmatic Theology—in a very relaxed way.

If you are interested in starting to read Scott Hahn, I recommend beginning with Rome Sweet Home, then The Lamb’s Supper, and then Consuming the Word. This sequence should prove beneficial for the reader to get a grasp of Hahn’s writing style, as well as delve deeper into the mystery of the Mass and Eucharist, all the while becoming more and more interested in and on fire for the Catholic faith. I encourage readers to pick up a copy today.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

My Teacher Says I'm Special

Growing up, my school assemblies would always talk about self-esteem. It seems that elementary schools in the late 80’s and 90’s (sorry for my older readers-I don’t mean to rub it in your face) had this one major issue on their minds. It would seem to be up to the teachers of that decade to instill within students like myself that we are “special.” We have a value and a purpose and we should see that. A common phrase used was, “Can’t we all just get along?” The push for such education can be justified—just as anti-bullying programs are justifiable today. What started as an attempt to boost self-confidence and love of oneself has, in a way, naturally transformed itself into what theologians and philosophers call relativism.

Relativism is the belief that all ideas, opinions, beliefs, etc. hold the same value. It implies that there is no universal truth. (If I’m ok, you’re ok, everything is ok) If I want to believe that 2+2=5, then who are you to tell me otherwise? Obviously that example is a bit extreme, but if we look at some of the issues we face as Catholics today, we can clearly see this philosophy at work. Issues such as the redefinition of marriage, abortion, artificial contraception, embryonic stem cell research, and other hot button topics can be linked to this idea that there is no natural or universal law or truth. The flip side of these issues places the Catholic Church in a position where it may “suffer greatly” (Matthew 16:21) when they stand up for a universal truth.

By constantly hearing “I love me for me” and “It’s ok to be me” led many of my generation to the next obvious question—Who is this “me” I am supposed to love, or more grammatically correct, “Who am I?” Finding who “me” is for many of my peers and others in my generation meant that they would or could redefine their identity. Even though I grew up in a fairly middle-class suburb in central New Jersey, many of my friends decided that they would fabricate this ideal that we lived in the ghetto. People in my middle and high school claimed to be from the School of Hard Knocks, when in reality they lived in a 5 bedroom house with a maid and a landscaper. Other false identities quickly followed based on what we saw in movies, listened to in music, and what we saw others doing. Was this just typical adolescence? Perhaps—or perhaps because it was coupled with a “find yourself…love yourself...don’t let anyone try and change you” attitude, we are now faced with many other forms of redefinition today.

Through my school assemblies, I was taught that just because someone is different than I am does not give me the right to feel like I am more important or entitled to more than that person. It certainly doesn’t give me the right to hurt or make fun of that person either. This teaching is true and remains true to this day. In fact as Catholics, we believe in the dignity of all human beings regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, looks, wealth, or sinfulness. Yet when we stand up for what we believe in we are labeled, by some, as old fashioned, haters, bigots, and worse. So how do we as Catholics stand up for truth in a loving way?

Without putting this type of formation in the correct context, there is no wonder why we have allowed the world to form such a thought process which leads to relativism. The Church teaches the fact that we are all created by God with a dignity. We were created by God who is love (1 John 4:8). We were created out of love, for love, and we deserve nothing less than love. So yes we are supposed to respect and love all of God’s creations, including ourselves. Yet God calls us out of ourselves in the Gospels, saying to deny ourselves for the sake of His Kingdom. We are to deny the world and not conform to it (Romans 12:1-2). We must stand up for the universal truth, God’s truth and His law must govern our lives. We may suffer greatly for this in terms of the world. Yet if we do not, the world will suffer greatly. How do we do this? Love. Love till it hurts. Love when it feels like the Lord “duped you.” (Jeremiah 20:7) Love as God loved. Love to death.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

I Firmly Resolve

It is that time of year again when people pull out their “goal” for the next year. Most people call it a resolution. Others seem to call it a false promise to yourself. When we think about New Year’s Resolutions, we usually set a lofty goal that will, in some shape or form, work towards our benefit. People join a gym, buy exercise equipment, or research diets in order to “live healthier in 2013.” As a personal trainer, my first job at a gym was set to begin January 1st a few years back. That was my first job offer. The “resolution” to live healthy or get in shape is so prominent that I was going to get paid (very well) to help people commit to their goal.
We all know, however, that many resolutions are often too lofty and unattainable. Perhaps 365 days is to big of a measure for a goal and we need to focus on shorter terms. I would always make short programs for my clients—-about 3 weeks in length. Rather than focusing on the long term goal of losing 15 pounds over the course of 12 weeks, I would set up short term, easily attainable goals: Week 1. I will motivate myself to go to the gym this week by laying out my gym clothes each night before I go to sleep; Week 2. I will master the technique of Exercise A and B this week; Week 3. I will work out an extra day this week by doing something fun—rock climbing, playing basketball, etc. The list of weekly goals would continue. By the 12th week, not only would the client enjoy their workout routine and want to continue it, but many would find that they lost more weight or gained more muscle than they anticipated.
The same thing is true in our resolutions of faith, namely our resolve to “go and sin no more” after we confess our sins in reconciliation. There are different versions of our “Act of Contrition,” but the one I was taught growing up includes the phrase, “I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, to do my penance, and amend my life…” That is an extremely attainable resolution, if we take it little by little. Let us make a different kind of New Year’s resolution for 2013. Let’s start with getting right with the Lord through confession. Whether it has been a week or 40 years, let us resolve to 1. confess our sins; 2. do our penance; and 3. Amend our lives. It can be done, little by little, and by the time we look at the scale of our spiritual weight, we fill find that our faith has become much stronger than we originally set out for.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sorry, Bo Peep!

“Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture…” The Lord sends us all a wake up call with the readings this week. First we hear from Jeremiah as he informs his listeners of the Lord’s faithfulness to his flock. Jeremiah warns the “bad shepherds” of the time by letting them know that the Good Shepherd is coming and the Good Shepherd will gather his flock and lead them to green pastures, as we read in the Psalms. In the Gospel, we hear about the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. And as the Good Shepherd, Jesus does not leave his flock when they need Him. He puts their needs before His own.

The Disciples had returned from their long journeys. They were tired and hungry. They were looking for a quiet place to rest when the crowds came to them. It is in this moment that Jesus taught his Disciples (and continues to teach us today) a valuable lesson. There are times when we want to take a break from ministry. We each have our own unique mission in life that the Lord calls us to—some are called to ministry by serving the sick as a doctor or a nurse. Others are called to educate as parents and teachers. Still others are called to provide jobs and financial support for people in the business world. However “ministry” takes shape in our lives, it can become tiresome. We grow weary and sometimes we would love to find a quiet place to rest. Jesus teaches us that even in those times, it is important to see the needs of others and give of ourselves even more.

While it is very important to find time for retreat, relaxation, and rest (even Jesus found time to go off by himself to pray) Jesus calls us to give ourselves to the service of others and when we feel like we cannot give anymore—give. Even though that seems like a lot ask, think of what happens when we choose to take for ourselves instead of giving. What example does that set for those who ask for our help and we turn them away because we are too tired or “not in the mood”? As Jeremiah exclaimed in the first reading, “Woe to the shepherds who mislead my flock”

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Life is Simple

Life is simple when we live simply! It is by this motto that I am trying to live my life and pave the way for my family. My wife and I do not make a lot of money in the eyes of the world, but over the past year we have experienced an unexplainable joy—a true joy that cannot come from a beautiful home, money in the bank, or even a dream job. From renting a one-bedroom apartment to now living with my in-laws, our living situation has been less than ideal, but through this time, we have grown closer to one another and our Lord. Our first year of marriage certainly has been a test of how “simple” life can be. Simple, of course, does not mean easy.

We have given up the search for the perfect house—simply because it does not exist and even if it did, it cannot bring us happiness. All too often we hear about how great the market is to buy a house. “It’s a buyer’s market...interest rates are at their lowest...why rent when you can own?” While the interest rates and house prices continue to drop, it is a BAD market—not a buyers market. The housing market is ugly and doesn’t look like it will be improving soon. My wife and I have gone from looking to invest in a house to buying a home. A home is not an investment—it’s a safe place for families to be nurtured and grow. A home is where my wife and I will develop our “Domestic Church” as Vatican II calls each family. The house, condo, or apartment does not produce this—the family does.

While we continue to search for a home, I can’t help but think of the homes in which Jesus lived and how Joseph and Mary prepared Jesus for His ministry by living simply. From Bethlehem to Egypt to Nazareth, the Holy Family lived simply. If we look at the Nativity scene, we find Jesus living amongst the animals in the manger. Shortly after, Joseph took the family to Egypt, where there was no job waiting for him—we can assume that he had to find work and a place to live for the time they spent there. Finally, in Nazareth, we know that Joseph was a carpenter. There is no mention of lavish living or palaces for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. They lived simply.
This carries into Jesus’ public ministry, especially in when He sends his disciples out two by two. His instructions-live simply! “Take nothing with you but a walking stick.” He tells them. As Jesus himself traveled, that is how He lived. He and His disciples did not stay in luxurious hotels. Jesus did not build a 13 bedroom mansion for them to return to and retire in. Instead, they were constantly traveling, staying where they could rest their head—even if that meant around a campfire.

How simple of a lifestyle these men lived. The Disciples trusted completely in the Lord providing for them. They took their example from Jesus who took His example from his humble beginnings, being raised by a carpenter and his humble wife. We can learn from this example as well. For instance, when I look at all the “things” and “stuff” that I so desperately want to give my family I remember the words, “Take nothing with you for the journey, but a walking stick.” In that sentence, Jesus tells us that our life is a journey and the journey can be hard, but it can be even harder when you have to carry all these things on your back. The road may be steep and windy at times, but with a walking stick, the climb is a bit simpler. Jesus also lends us a hint as to what matters in life—obviously “things” and “stuff” are not important, but what’s more? THE JOURNEY is important. It is the journey that leads us home.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Take a Vacation...grow in your faith!

The picture above is from my honeymoon last year in Antigua. Yes, my wife and I are coming up on our 1st Anniversary-feel free to send us a gift! All joking aside, I cannot believe it has been a year since the last time I took a real vacation. After the non-stop planning and running around associated with the wedding, it was such a relaxing, wonderful experience. Between working a few jobs and completing my Master’s degree and my wife working about 50-60 hours per week, it was the first time we got to spend alone together; it was our first vacation.
Usually when we think of summer vacation, we think of unplugging and shutting ourselves off from the world. We go camping or head down the shore (I’m a Wildwood/Cape May kind of guy), fly to the Carolinas, or take a cruise. Whatever your vacation desires are, I bet “growing in holiness” isn’t on the top of many people’s priority lists. Vacation=taking a break from every day life. True, but it cannot = a break from faith.
I can’t think of a more perfect time to grow in our faith than when we are free from the noise and chaos of our everyday lives. Vacation can almost be a mini retreat experience. We do not have the distraction of work, school, or rush hour traffic. We make our own schedule and do what we want to do.
If you are like me, there are some must haves during my vacation. First, I enjoy walking on the beach first thing in the morning. If I am up for the walk, I can certainly find a local Church for daily Mass. (just go to and type in a zip code to find a church!) What better way to start the day than by giving thanks to God for the opportunity to have a vacation?
Second, I always bring a book or two. I have now made it a habit to bring at least two spiritual books with me when I travel, just in case I get bored with one. I am not saying that we all need to be reading the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas or the entire Catechism (Although, if your up to it go for it!). What I am saying is that by opening our minds to some spiritual reading during our vacations, the Lord can sometimes speak to us more clearly—especially without the many distractions of life. What we learn may even help us when we return home and take up our everyday tasks and occupations.
Finally, I need to pray. It is so easy to pray when we are at the beach or even on a hike. When we surround ourselves with God’s wonderful creation, how easy is it for us to say, “Wow, God is great,” or “Thanks for making this world so beautiful.” By doing this, we really begin to experience God’s presence everywhere. We may even begin to realize that we cannot escape Him and He truly is with us wherever we go. So go! Take a vacation!