Wednesday, September 24, 2008

This Is Not Your Grandmother's Bible Study

From Mike Potemra at The Corner on National Review Online:

These are the words Raymond Arroyo uses to describe a surprisingly
captivating new book he has edited called Mother Angelica's Private and Pithy Lessons from the Scriptures. I say "surprisingly," because a book with that title would not seem to be designed for people like me: 1) I'm a Protestant and 2) though I watch and enjoy much of the programming on the Catholic TV network (EWTN) Mother Angelica founded, I always found the public persona of the lady herself distinctly off-putting. And so along comes this book, and it's full of meditations on Scripture that are genuinely humble and moving.

Arroyo writes, accurately, that what Mother Angelica has developed in these pages is "a theology of the street—an approach to Scripture that was immediately relatable to daily living."Almost all of the book remains in the territory of what C.S. Lewis called "mere Christianity"; in only a handful of instances does the author dwell on R.C. distinctives.

On one of these, actually, I must register a polite protest: In discussing John 6, a crucial text on the Eucharist, she writes: "Even the Fundamentalists, who take the Scripture at face value, say, 'This is ridiculous.' They take this whole chapter and throw it out the window. They never mention it."

Ahem: If you go to the fundamentalist website, and click on John 6, you will be able to listen to on-demand audio of—at last count—nine hundred and nineteen different sermons on this one chapter. And that's just one fundamentalist website. What she meant to say is, fundamentalists mention it all the time, but disagree with her Church's interpretation of it.

Much more in line with the book's overall spirit is the following passage, discussing Luke 17:7-10: "When you're talking about accomplishing a duty for God, He is not obliged to say thank you or reward you. We can't go to heaven with any concept of an award or reward for all the exterior things we did. Those were inspirations we merely followed . . . The only thing I will have when I die is the amount of love I have for God at that moment."

Now, even today I run across Protestant apologists who claim that Catholics believe in "justification by works," as opposed to "justification by faith"; the next time I meet one of these apologists I must remember to quote that passage, and then tell him it was written by a conservative, doctrinally orthodox Catholic nun. And an even more typical passage is the one about King David: "The thing to remember about David is he was really a sinner and yet Our Lord loved him so much that he's known as the Son of David. David did some pretty bad things: He shed a lot of blood . . . he had that thing going with Bathsheba and then he murdered her husband. David should be an encouragement to any of you who might get discouraged over your little peccadilloes. Once the Lord loves you, I tell you. it's unbelievable. His love is forever.""He had that thing going with Bathsheba" captures the book's style; "His love is forever" captures its spirit.

Sorry to steal the entire post but, well, this is the blogosphere and, besides, it was hard to decide which of it to leave out.

I paid a visit to and Potemra's right: you can download a kajillion sermons on just about any part of the Bible you'd like. Might be worth checking out.

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