Friday, November 30, 2012

St. Francis of Assisi Questions

1. Read ALL of the selections from the writings of St. Francis, p. 201 - 228.

2. GENTLEMEN will answer the questions regarding the Rule of 1223 and the Testament of St. Francis.(pp 201 - 212) 
LADIES will answer the questions regarding the Admonitions of St. Francis and his Letter to All the Faithful. (pp 213 - 228)

Be thorough in your responses and prepared to lead class discussion over your assigned texts. 

Questions for the Rule of 1223:
1. Summarize St. Francis' rule regarding the Friars' clothing. What practical and spiritual benefits are there to following this rule?

2. How does Francis tell his friars to respond to those who live lives of luxury? Why?

3. Regarding the Liturgy of the Hours, why does St. Francis make a distinction between clerics and lay brothers? (this presupposes you know what these two are. If you do not, find out.)

4. When do the friars have to observe fasts and why? 

5. How are friars to behave when they are travelling? What does this chapter of the Rule tell us about how friars are different from monks?

6. Why are the friars forbidden, under any circumstances, to accept money? 

7. In Chapter 6 St. Francis insists that his friars cling to poverty. Why would he be so strict on this issue rather than allow for some degree of leniency or moderation? 

8. Why should the friars not be angry or upset at the sins of others? Should this apply universally to all people? 

9. Create a chart to illustrate the structure of the order. Explain how the order is governed. 

10. What guidance does Francis give regarding preaching? Evaluate the most recent homily you heard in light of this guidance. How does it measure up?

11. Chapter 10 deals with conflict among the friars. What kind of conflicts might arise among friars? How should the conflicts be handled?

12. Does Francis' guidance to the friars who are illiterate surprise you? Do you think it is still applicable today? 

Questions for The Testament of St. Francis 

1. Is Francis' Reverence for priests too trusting or uncritical (especially in light of the priest abuse scandal that  has scarred the Church)? What are current attitudes toward priests among Catholics? 

2. Is it hypocritical of Francis to say that he clings to poverty and yet he wants the Blessed Sacrament to be "honored, venerated, and reserved in places which are richly ornamented,"?

3. Francis claims that his chief goal is to live the life of the Gospel. How effective do you think his rule is at establishing a Gospel-based life? Are there any deficiencies?

4. What sort of work does Francis say is suitable for a friar to perform? Why should a friar be engaged in work at all?

5. How should the order deal with unruly or disobedient friars?

6. How, on pg. 212, does St. Francis say the rule should be interpreted and obeyed? 

Monday, November 19, 2012

St. Benedict Questions

1. In the prologue, St. Benedict uses the metaphor of a knight fighting for a king and calls upon monks to "take up the strong, bright weapons of obedience." What practices or behaviors do you think he would be referring to, and in what way are they weapons?
2. St. Benedict refers to the need to "open our eyes to the deifying light". What do you think he means here?
3. In several places mention is made of dashing ones thoughts against Christ. What is this, and how would one do it?
4. What is Benedict's justification for some degree of strictness or severity in his Rule?
5. Describe the four kinds of monks, and explain the hierarchy that Benedict places them in and why. What makes cenobites the "strongest" kind?
6. What reasons does St. Benedict give for requiring such stout and upright character of any man who would be abbot? Which of these reasons or character traits would you also want to find in other types of leaders (political, athletic, military, etc.)?
7. Explain the three-fold approach of "Reprove, entreat, rebuke." Why should the abbot avail himself of such a strategy?
8. Why does Benedict suggest the Abbot call upon the other monks for input in making decisions?
9. Which of the instruments of Good Works (ch. 4) do you think are most common in our culture? and which are most lacking? Give examples of each and explain why you think they are so common / rare.
10. Why is obedience alone not enough? What must it be coupled with to be found pleasing to God?
11. What harm is there in idle chat or humorous conversation that silence is to be preferred? Has our culture lost sight of the value of silence?  Either way, give examples, and explain if we are better or worse for it.
12. Briefly summarize Benedict's "12 Step Program" toward humility? Why is humility so valuable in the monastery? To what extent would it be beneficial outside the monastery?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

St. Patrick Questions

1. Why does St. Patrick immediately begin by addressing himself as “a sinner, unlearned, the lowliest of men”? Why does he put forth such a low opinion of himself?

2. With a deacon for a father and a priest for a grandfather, why do you think Patrick did not embrace the faith of his family as a young boy? Is this a common trend among young people (to be lukewarm about faith)? If so, why? And is that a bad thing?

3. St. Patrick turns to prayer in the midst of his captivity. Do you think that, generally speaking, it takes a crisis or catastrophe to bring people to the point of developing their spiritual life? Explain.

4. Why was the captain and ship’s crew reluctant to take St. Patrick on board? What do you think the meaning is of their strange custom of “making friends”?

5. After the ship lands Patrick and the crew travel by land for weeks. What biblical story do you find echoing through his account of this event? Provide as correlations and explanations as you can.

6. When he was about your age St. Patrick committed some unnamed sin that came back to haunt him as an adult. Do you think it just that a sin of one’s youth could have such lasting effects?

7. One does not typically think of St. Patrick as a mystic, and yet we read that he was prone to visions throughout his life. What role do you think these visions play in his life and ministry? How (and why) does our contemporary culture respond to such claims of mystical visions?

Monday, October 29, 2012

St. Augustine Questions (Part I)

1. What do you think Augustine means by his desire being “not to be more sure of [God] but to be more steadfast in [Him]?
2. What is the single thing that Augustine identifies as preventing him from giving himself over wholly to the Christian faith?
3. He points out that neither Christ nor St. Paul forbid marriage, so why does he not pursue that path and choose to live his life as a married Christian man.
4. Augustine says that God and His word are “everywhere implied” in the writings of the Platonists. Do a little digging on the Platonists and identify some Christian values that are implied in Platonic thought.
5. Victorinus asked “Then is it walls that make Christians?” His same argument is made today by those who assert that they are Christian but do not “go to Church”. Is the argument any more valid coming from Victorinus than it is today?
6. St. Augustine observes that human nature is to love “regained” things more than those that we have had all along. Do you agree that this is in fact part of human nature? Provide an example from scripture that reflects this as part of God’s nature as well?
7. Again, Augustine observes that “the greater joy is heralded by greater pain.” Does this mean that it is impossible for us to know great joy without great pain? Explain – provide an example from your life and a theologically based example. How does Augustine’s life reflect this maxim? 8. Compare Augustine’s metaphor of the Chain with that of St. Gregory of Nyssa. How could you combine these metaphors.
9. St. Augustine writes at length about how he postpones his conversion and keeps saying later, and later still. He then says the “law of sin is the fierce force of habit”. Does this mean that by repeating a sin we forfeit our will and give the sin control? Explain.
10. Why do you think the influence of the story of St. Anthony is not as strong today as it was on Augustine and Alypius?

Monday, October 15, 2012

St. John Chrysostom

1. Christ says that we do not come to God unless we are “drawn” to him. Explain how Chrysostom says that this does not interfere with our Free Will. Would this imply that God only chooses to draw “some” people to Himself and not all?

2. In discussing the Bread of Life Discourse, what reason does Chrysostom give for Christ “shrouding his explanation in mystery”? What is his criticism of Christ’s audience upon hearing this “hard saying”?

3. At the bottom of pg. 104 Chrysostom describes the role of a disciple in regard to asking questions. What do you think of his description? Do you agree or disagree, and why?

4. Explain why Chrysostom thinks asking the question “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” is the wrong question to ask. What should have been asked instead – and what do you think the results would have been of asking the “right” question?

5. Chrysostom writes a particularly beautiful passage on page 105: “Therefore, in order that…as the body is joined with his head.” What is the purpose, in his opinion, of this “commingling” with Christ and humanity? What role does the Eucharist play in this “commingling”?

6. What type of action would be expected of us if we were like “Lions breathing out fire”?

7. Chrysostom references the Eucharist as a “fountain”. How is the Eucharist like a fountain in the life of a Christian?

8. On pg. 107 Chrysostom talks about the danger of taking the Eucharist “unworthily” or with the wrong disposition. What do you think makes for an appropriate (or inappropriate) disposition?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

St. Gregory of Nyssa

Please read Pope Benedict's catechetical essay on St. Gregory, as well as the writing in your text.
1. Very early on, Gregory compares being a Christian to being a doctor, a politician, mathematician, etc. and says that just as these professions require an education, so to does being a Christian. Do you think that we really must have some level of education before we can call ourselves Christian? Explain.

2. What do you make of the "dancing monkey" illustration? We live in a society that largely calls itself "Christian" and yet we persist in crime, violence, injustice, and vice. Are we any more than dancing monkeys?

3. Gregory writes that to unite ourselves to Christ means to share in the "lofty ideals" that are used to describe him. Does this mean that if we do not assume the noble virtues in our character that we are not truly united to Christ? Compare the meaning of this segment to the discussion we had about the Ascension a few weeks ago. (Why did Jesus have to ascend?)

4. How does Gregory assert that Christianity "returns" man to his former or original state?

5. What reason does Gregory give (on the top half of pg. 64) for us being accurate imitators of the Divine?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

St. Cyril of Jerusalem - Catechesis Questions

1. In the first section the venerable bishop states that "True Religion consists of two elements: pious doctrines and virtuous actions." Contrast this with the idea held by some Christians that salvation by "faith alone". (the notion that faith alone saves us and that our actions / deeds have no bearing on our salvation.)

2. Consider that this document was a series of instructions delivered to people on the verge of converting to Christianity and being baptized. Imagine that you are an adult who knows nothing of the Christian Faith. How would you respond to Cyril's catechetical instruction?

3. Compare the passage "On Christ" to the section of the Nicene Creed, "I believe in Jesus Christ...and his Kingdom will have no end." What are the differences / similarities. Why do you think these assertions about Christ were necessary?

4. People often ask, "If belief in Christ is necessary for salvation, then what happened to all of the people who lived before the coming of Jesus?" How does Cyril adress this question in the passage "On His Burial."?

5. In the passage "On His Ascension" Cyril exhorts his audience to make the sign of the cross often. Even two or three generations ago the sign of the cross was used much more frequently than it is today. Do you think the current and more recent generations are, in Cyril's words, "ashamed of the Cross of Christ"?

6. Pope John Paul II is credited with developing a "Theology of the Body" which we will examine next semester. What can you extract from this brief writing about Cyril's own Theology of the Body, particularly as it pertains to goodness, sexuality, and food?

7. Provide a critique of the current state of fashion and clothing in light of St. Cyril's statements "On Apparel." 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

St. Cyprian Questions

1. Do a bit of independent research and try to hypothesize what external factors may have been influencing St. Cyprian in drafting this document?

2. Analyze St. Cyprian's use of Scripture to support his arguments. Does he use scripture effectively and with sound interpretation? Provide and analyze three examples of his use of Scripture. (Recall that scripture passages are italicized in the text.)

3. St. Cyprian takes a rather harsh stance against those who "break away" from the Church founded by Christ. Compare and Contrast his position with that of the Church as published in the most recent document "Responses to Some Questions on Certain Aspects of the Doctrine of the Church", particularly in questions two and three.

4. In our modern society people shy away from making "absolute" statements, or any statements that appear to "judge" or exclude others. Bearing that in mind, what are some elements of St. Cyprian's treatise that could be put to good use today in the effort to reconcile and unify the diverse Christian Denominations.

5. Support the Argument that St. Cyprian is not merely judging those who break away form the Church, but rather simply fulfilling his obligations as a bishop. (recall the two obligations of a bishop that we discussed in class.)

Monday, September 10, 2012

St. Ignatius of Antioch (II)

Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans

1. Ignatius addresses a specific heresy within this community. From his writing, describe what you think the details of this heretical belief are, particularly the doctrine pertaining to Jesus.

2. Again, Ignatius exhorts them to adhere closely to the bishop. Why do you think this was of such great importance?

Ignatius to Polycarp

1. In chapter 2 Ignatius compares the bishop to a pilot (of a ship). Why do you think he would make such a comparison?

2. Explain why Ignatius uses the metaphors of an athlete, an anvil, (ch. 3) and a clad warrior (ch. 6) to describe a faithful Christian.

3. What is Ignatius' view of the role of marriage in society?

St. Ignatius of Antioch (I)

Ignatius to the Romans

1. Why do you think he was so eager for martyrdom? Cite examples form the text where he justifies his desire to die.

2. Do you think in desiring death St. Ignatius was being a true follower of Christ's example or do you think he was a bit overzealous - even suicidal in his thinking? Explain.

3. How do you think it would have impacted the Church if all of the early bishops shared this zeal for martrydom? Would it be possible for bishops today to demonstrate this same zeal for suffering, even if not for martyrdom?

Ignatius to the Philadelphians

1. St. Ignatius' primary concern seems to be for the unity of the Church under the leadership of the bishop. Why do you think this is of such importance to him?

2. St. Ignatius is very critical of divisions within the Church and with those who hold "different gospels". How do you think he would react to the pluralism and diversity within Christianity today, which has hundreds of different denominations?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Didache Questions

Basic Questions:
1. What is the nature of the document? Approximately when was it written? Who was the intended audience? 
2. When and where was it "rediscovered"? 
3. What is the basic four-part structure of the work?

Monger (Christmonger)

1. The “Way of Life” is often spelled out in the negative (i.e. what a Christian should not do).  Briefly summarize it in the positive – what, based on the teachings of the Apostles, should a Christian do?

2. Chapter 3 uses “slippery slope” logic to deter readers from committing minor sins. List the minor sins mentioned and explain why each one is bad in its own right, even if it does not lead to the “greater sin” associated with it.

3. Chapter 4 reiterates what we find in the 4th Chapter of Acts, namely that to be a Christian was to share one’s worldly goods without noting the loss or expectation of repayment. Why is such emphasis made on this in the early Church? Evaluate the current atmosphere of stewardship and charity in the Church in light of this command, speculating as to the causes or reasons for any discrepancies. Provide evidence to support your theory.

4. Chapter 4 also presents two seemingly problematic directives: first it urges parents not to “withdraw their hands” from their children, seeming to condone corporal punishment. Secondly, it tells slaves to “be submissive to your masters”.  Are these directives inconsistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Should they be quietly pushed aside  in favor of the “big picture” or even dismissed as outdated and obsolete?

5. As stern as the first section of the Didache is, in chapter 6 we see the very moderate admonition to “do what you can” rather than a demand for perfection. What is the danger of straying too far to one side (expecting perfection of Christians) or too far to another side (expecting virtually nothing of Christians)? Where do you find the contemporary Church on that spectrum? Provide evidence to support your answer.

6. In chapter 7 we see a call for those being baptized (and any others associated with baptism) to fast for two or three days prior. What is the purpose of fasting and why would it be considered preparation for baptism?

7. What are chapter 7’s specifications as to the type of water used for baptism? What is the purpose of these regulations and how do they compare to the current rubrics regarding baptism? (Consult the Catechism and the Rite of Baptism for a treatment of contemporary practice.)
8. We find an instruction to pray the Lord’s Prayer three times a day. Why do you think this prescription was made? And why is there a concern about keeping (and avoiding) particular days as fast days?

9. Compare & Contrast the Eucharistic Prayers described in the Didache with the prayers you are familiar with at mass. (Consult the prayers of the RomanMissal 3rd Edition for comparison.) Identify three substantial similarities and three considerable differences and offer commentary for one of each.

10. Chapters 11 – 13 give guidelines for the reception of travelling preachers as well as criteria for testing the authenticity of these “prophets”. How do these guidelines and criteria compare to the respect shown to clergy today and to the Church’s expectations of them?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Acts, Part 2

Acts Chapter 5
1.      Examine Gamaliel’s speech before the Sanhedrin. Do you think the mere persistence of the Church is enough to attest to its divine origin and mission? Why or why not?
2.      How do the Apostles respond to their flogging and why?
Acts Chapter 6
What social condition prompts the institution of deacons? What are the elements of the ordination of the deacons? (What do the apostles do to them to make them deacons?)
Acts Chapter 7
What precipitated the martyrdom of Stephen? What was the role of Saul in this martyrdom?
Acts Chapter 8
What is the sin of simony? Contrast Simon’s encounter with Peter with that of Ananias and Sapphira.
Acts 13: 16 – 43, 17: 16 – 34 
Contrast these two speeches of St. Paul, the former at a synagogue, the latter at the pagan Acropolis in Athens. How does his approach differ in dealing with Jews & Gentiles? Why?
Acts Chapter 15
Describe the controversy that is brewing here and how it threatened the unity of the Church. How did the Apostolic Church ultimately deal with that controversy?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Acts of the Apostles

Basic Questions:
      1.  Who is the author of the Acts of the Apostles? Approximately when was it composed? Who is the intended audience?
2.      What are the Four Senses of Scripture / Typology?
3.      What is the distinction between the terms “disciple” and “apostle”.
4.      Know the terms: Enculturation, Jew, Gentile, God-Fearer, Hellenist,
5.      What are each of the distinct levels of clergy that emerge in the early church
Acts Chapter 1
Why do the Apostles wish to replace Judas? What criteria do they establish for his replacement? What method do they use to determine who the replacement is to be? Contrast this method with the selection process of bishops today. (see -
Acts Chapter 2 - 4
1.      What was the Jewish understanding of the feast of Pentecost? Why would Christ’s disciples be celebrating a Jewish festival?
2.       Create a chronology of the events of the first Christian Pentecost. What charismata (gifts) did the Apostles receive and what purpose do they have for these gifts? Using Typology, analyze an Old Testament story that is, in some way, the "opposite" of what is going on here.
3.      Read the conclusion of Chapter 2 (42 – 47) and the conclusion of Chapter 4 (32 – 37). How does this depiction of communal life stem from specific teachings of Christ? What does it mean to be of “One Heart & One Mind”? What light do these two passages shed on the role of the Apostles?
4.      Pentecost is often associated with the sacrament of Confirmation. What is the nature and origin of this connection? Based on your experience of Confirmation preparation, how well is this connection explained?