Tuesday, May 07, 2013

How a DRE Can Put the "Logos" to Good Use

A while back, many popular Catholic bloggers, theologians, and apologists wrote reviews about the usefulness of Logos 4, with the Catholic Scholars Library. Well, recently, I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy of the new and updated version called Verbum, which is the Catholic version of Logos 5.

Besides being blown away by how truly epic this bible software is, I was also at somewhat of a loss as to how to review it without just parroting what other people have already said. Yes, I could review the new features that come with Logos 5, but I also want to say something unique about its usefulness or its effectiveness as a tool for bible study. After reading previous reviews and giving it a good deal of thought, I finally came upon a way to put my own spin on it.

I would like to tell you how a Director of Religious Education can benefit from this software.



One of the things that surprised me about the Logos Bible Software is that there are pictures and even ready-made handouts that are connected to the Bible passages that they illustrate. So, let's say you're doing a lesson on the Last Supper. If you search for a passage from one of the Institution Narratives (for example, Lk 22:19 "Do this in memory of me"), it will appear in the middle column, and in the left column a Passage Guide and an Exegetical Guide will appear with all of the resources from the Logos Bible Software that are connected to that passage. One of these is a Handout which shows what yeast does to bread and includes various images of the types of bread that were eaten in biblical times and during the Passover.

How neat! This type of thing is great in RCIA because you're always looking for ways to mix up the presentation with various forms of media so as to accommodate different learning styles and to generally make the presentation more engaging. To be able to learn about and even see the types of bread that Jesus and the Apostles would have eaten really helps to make this important moment come alive for them and feel more real.

Studying the Greek

So, they've seen the bread. Now you want to talk about how this meal is actually a sacrifice. One way to do this is to point out that the Greek word for "Do" in "Do this in memory of me" (poieo) is used in many places in the Septuagint to refer to the sacrificial offering upon the altar in the temple. But, how do you figure out which passages from the Septuagint use poieo in a sacrifical context? I've read this argument before in various apologetical works, but I've never been able to discover these passages that are referenced. Unless you have a Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint (which is a rare book, and expensive) there's really no way to do it.

Trust me, I've tried. In fact, just after I received Logos 5 I was confronted by this problem in a debate. I scoured the internet for a resource that would help me to find what I needed. There are online bibles that have the Septuagint as a translation you can use. The Septuagint itself is online, and some sites allow you to search for specific Greek words. But, none of these allow you to search for a Greek lemma, or every instance in which a base word appears in all of its forms. I wanted to know where I could find poieo used in a sacrificial context in the Septuagint. Nothing online was quite what I needed. Finally, I realized I had what I was looking for the whole time.

Morris Proctor explains how to do it (his instructions also work for Logos 5), and when I found his article it was a revelation to me! Of course, in RCIA, I'm not going to dive into the minutae of Greek lemmas, Hebrew equivalents, Brenton's English translation of the Septuagint (which is also available from Logos), and all that. But, it would be nice to be able to read four or five passages from the Old Testament that mention the offering of a sacrifice with the very same word that Jesus used. That's quite an eye-opener, and in RCIA, you more or less live for that moment when the light bulb comes on and they learn something interesting and new for the first time. Logos 5 gave me all the examples I could ever want or need to make my point.

I didn't even know, until recently, that my Logos Bible Software could do that. It makes me wonder what else this thing can do that I haven't discovered yet.

Liturgy of the Word

Another way in which Verbum helps in RCIA is with the construction of a Liturgy of the Word. Once the candidates and catechumens proceed to the Catechumenate stage, it is good to introduce more liturgical elements into the process. One way to do this is to begin each lesson with a Liturgy of the Word. Typically, you'll want to construct the Liturgy of the Word so that the readings correspond with your topic, but during the Easter Season, I like to use the reading for the day. By this point, they are in the Mystagogy stage, where all the topics pertain to how to live according to the Easter sacraments, and so the readings for the season are instructive.

Of course, you can go to the USCCB website and get the readings for the day. For example, let's take April 29, the Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church. The USCCB website gives you the readings for Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter. It gives you the First Reading, the Responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel. But, the Catholic Lectionary that comes with Verbum gives you more. For example, it gives you the readings for Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter, but it also includes the Gospel Acclamation. It also gives you the readings from the Proper of Saints, since April 29 is the memorial of a saint. Now, I could have walked over to the sacristy, flipped through the lectionary, and figured all of this out for myself. But, it was very nice to have it here all in one place.

Breaking Open the Word

One final way that this software is helpful for RCIA is when it comes time to "Break Open the Word." I'm not even sure if that is the official title for it, but that's what we always called it on the RCIA team at FUS. At any rate, this is the time when you leave the Mass with the catechumens (some will include the candidates as well) and you spend the rest of the time discussing the Mass readings. The idea is to help them feed off of the Word until that day comes when they can feed off of the Eucharist.

But, let's say you're just a volunteer. You don't have a theology degree. Often times, you feel like you need someone to break open the Word for you! Yet, now you are being tasked with trying to bring out the meaning of the Mass readings for others. Verbum is abundantly helpful.

Depending on the package you have, there are potentially hundreds of Catholic bibles, commentaries, dictionaries, and other resource aids at your disposal. I was given the Master package, which contains ... well ... all of THIS! (go to "Compare & Buy" and see the second to the last column of dots). Here is just a very small sampling of the works that I was particularly appreciative to receive:
  • Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition
  • Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition New Testament Reverse Interlinear
  • Lexham Greek-English Interlinear New Testament
  • Brenton's Septuagint English Translation
  • A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture, by Bernard Orchard (1953)
  • A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture, by Frederick Jusus Kneck
  • Catena Aurea, by St. Thomas Aquinas
  • Douay-Rheims Bible Commentary, by Leo Haydock
  • The Great Commentary, by Cornelius a Lapide
  • A Catholic Dictionary, by William E. Addis and Thomas Arnold
  • A Dictionary of Canon Law, by P. Trudel
  • The Ante-Nicene, Nicene, and Post-Nicene Fathers
  • 99 Homilies of St. Thomas Aquinas
  • Parochial and Plain Sermons (vols. 1-8), by John Henry Newman
  • almost all of Dave Armstrong's books
  • Kingship by Covenant, by Scott Hahn
  • Pontifical Biblical Institute New Testament Studies Collection (11 vols.)
  • more Church documents then you could wave a stick at
You get the idea. When I said this software was epic, I meant it. And the next time I sit down to prepare for Breaking Open the Word, I'm going to have all of the information I need.


So far, I've only focused on how Verbum could be very useful in various facets of the RCIA process. But, from this it should be easy to see how the DRE could utilize Verbum and Logos 5 in his other tasks and responsibilities.

It goes without saying that this software would be essential to any bible study one was leading. The handouts I previously mentioned would work great as part of a sacramental prep program. I use Dave Armstrong's various works of apologetics quite often when I'm writing my Catholic Q&A for the parish bulletin. Now they are all digitized and searchable and cross-referenced! The various Catholic catechisms available could be put to good use in the Religious Ed program. You get the idea. For any type of parish catechetical leader or volunteer, Verbum and Logos 5 is a goldmine.

Oh, One More Thing ...

What's the catch? Well, it's pretty expensive. The Verbum Master package costs $117.50/month or $1,349.95. But, when you consider that it would cost $13,500 to by all of these books individually, the asking price for the software appears more reasonable. Also, once it's yours, you can download it to as many computers and digital devices as you own, which increases the value of your purchase.

There are ways you can make this yours. Your parish could pay for it (some of you DRE's are probably laughing at me right now, but there are parishes where this would be doable). You could have a fundraiser. You could have several staff members pitch in on it. You could tell all of your family and friends, "Go in on this and you don't have to get me anything for the next five years." Put a little money aside from each paycheck until you save enough to get it. Basically, do whatever you can do (reasonably and morally) to make it happen. You'll be glad you did.

Pax Christi,

Monday, May 06, 2013

Hearing and Praying to God

How do we recognize the voice of God in prayer? Who are we to pray to, the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit?

Regarding your first question, it is difficult to say. This is one of those things where, when you hear it, you just know. I can say that it helps to get acquainted with God's voice in Scripture. Scripture is, after all, where we hear Him speaking. God speaks through the Law. He speaks through the prophets. He speaks His final word in Jesus.

Once you familiarize yourself with His words, then when you hear that “small, still voice” (1 Ki 19:12) in prayer, you'll know it is God. Scripture has already shown you how He speaks, how He likes to operate, what He usually says and does not say, and so you will know His voice when you hear it. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (Jn 10:27).

Of course, any message you receive in prayer that does not coincide with Scripture or with the teaching of the Church is not from God. Any message that is not loving is not from God. Any message that attempts to belittle you or fill you with shame is not from God.

Praying more will help you too. It is through prayer that God communicates to us and us to Him. When you first meet a person, you may not recognize his voice if he calls you on the phone. But, as you get to know him better, as your relationship with him grows, his voice becomes easier to recognize. So it is with God. The more you pray the more you will come to know God's voice when you hear it.

As for your second question, prayer is primarily to the Father so we should always pray to Him first. But, we are also invited to pray to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, and this is a very good and important thing to do.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
2665 The prayer of the Church, nourished by the Word of God and the celebration of the liturgy, teaches us to pray to the Lord Jesus. Even though her prayer is addressed above all to the Father, it includes in all the liturgical traditions forms of prayer addressed to Christ.

2670 "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit." [. . .] Since he teaches us to pray by recalling Christ, how could we not pray to the Spirit too? That is why the Church invites us to call upon the Holy Spirit every day, especially at the beginning and the end of every important action.
I hope that helps.

Pax Christi,
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