The Great Adventure Blog – The Great Adventure Catholic Bible Study 73 Books. One Story. Your Story. Thu, 10 Jan 2019 20:27:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Ultimate Guide to Running a Catholic Bible Study Fri, 30 Nov 2018 15:46:35 +0000 Starting a Catholic Bible study can be intimidating—but we’re here to help!

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Embracing Confirmation Prep as a Challenge and an Opportunity Wed, 27 Jun 2018 18:40:42 +0000 When asked why he first decided to write and develop a Confirmation program, Chris Stefanick said, “Confirmation is one of those few intersections that the Church—in all its beauty and power—has in the lives of the average Catholic. I served for four and a half years at a parish in East LA, and found that there was no single resource available that would both fully catechize and effectively evangelize teens.”

Indeed, over half a million Catholics are confirmed every year. However, according to a Pew Forum study, over half of those confirmed leave the faith within five years. Having also served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Denver, Stefanick said that he saw the need for a turn-key program that could be easily implemented and run by both catechists and volunteers.

“Many people teaching Confirmation are parents and parishioners who are not necessarily trained catechists, but who can be great mentors and facilitators, if they’re given the proper tools.”

Stefanick began working with coauthor Ron Bolster (the Director of Catechesis at Franciscan University) and a team of youth experts in forming a comprehensive curriculum that serves as a thorough introduction to the Catholic Faith.

“We spent a full year working on a twenty-four lesson framework, based on the RCIA model. Then we spent another four years working with an awesome team of presenters who would not only appear in the videos, but would also write a personal witness story, which would appear in the corresponding lesson in the student workbook.”

Changing Teen’s Lives

The end result, Chosen: Your Journey Toward Confirmation, was released in the spring of 2014. The program includes a video series, a Student Workbook, and guides for leaders, parents, and sponsors, along with extensive online resources.

“We were determined to evangelize not only the teen to be confirmed, but also the parents, the sponsor, and even the leaders themselves, as we encourage them to share their faith and become living witnesses of Christ,” Stefanick said.

Over the past four years, the program has been adopted by thousands of parishes across the country. It won the Catholic Publishers Association Award for Resources in Ministry, Book of the Year, and Resources for Liturgy in 2015, and was the first 

multimedia Confirmation preparation program to be included on the United 

States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Conformity List.

Evidently, it has received very positive reviews from clergy, catechists, and most importantly, from teens.

“The examples they use in the videos are really relatable and you can understand them,” said Cassie, 13. “It’s not just people lecturing you.”

“Before I started Confirmation, my friends and I didn’t really know what we were doing or what the point was,” said Connor, 15. “And then after we did Chosen we began understanding everything—and now we’re all on fire. I actually understand my relationship with Jesus, which is really good right now.”

Beyond Confirmation

Due to the enthusiastic response of early reviewers, educators, and group leaders, Chosen was produced in two formats: a Confirmation edition and a general faith formation edition. Both formats offer the same powerful twenty-four lessons, differing only in the emphasis that key sessions of the Confirmation edition place on sacramental preparation.

Sister Paschalina Marie of St. Peter’s Parish in Spokane, Washington noted the impact she saw the program was having on her class.

“We can see already that the Chosen program is going to give them means to remain firmly rooted in Christ. Students said that it was very clear to them that the presenters were passionate about what they were talking about, and were seriously and lovingly interested in them. They also commented that it is so much better than driver’s ed!”

Chosen speaks to youth in their language, from their culture, and with the enduring love of Jesus Christ,” said Most Reverend James D. Conley, Bishop of Lincoln. “Chosen is a thoroughly Catholic Confirmation program from the heart of the New Evangelization.”

Stefanick summed up the philosophy behind Chosen: “Ultimately, it’s beauty that draws the heart. And when people hear the Gospel in a language that they can understand, it changes their lives.”

Watch the trailer for Chosen here.

This article was written by Patrick McCabe and originally appeared in Ascension’s 2015 Faith Formation Catalog. It has been updated and modified for use on the blog. 

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About Patrick McCabe

Patrick has developed and produced a number of studies for Ascension, including the award-winning Chosen program. He now manages the Parishes and Schools division at Ascension. Prior to joining the Ascension team in 2011, he worked for six years in Catholic radio as a general manager, with experience in managing marketing, fundraising, and operations. In an earlier career, Patrick was a professional musician and has toured and recorded internationally. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business communications from Chestnut Hill College, an MBA from West Chester University and has studied project management at Temple University. Patrick resides in the suburban Philadelphia area with his wife and their three sons.

Missing Mass and More on the Nature of Sin Tue, 26 Jun 2018 18:19:26 +0000 Among the more frequently addressed types of questions we respond to, questions of morality come up the most often. Some moral questions require nuance, understanding, and a deeper look. Others are straightforward. Today’s question fits in the second category.

Victor asks, “Is missing Mass intentionally a grave (mortal) sin? I’m not referring to being sick or an emergency or when it was not possible to find a church.”

Not an Easy Question

While it may seem like a simple yes or know answer, readers may recall a post entitled Are All Sins Equal, which discussed among other things the requirements for a sin to be considered mortal. As a reminder, the Catechism of the Catholic Church lists three conditions which must be met: grave matter, full knowledge, and consent. These three conditions all must be present, which is why one of the other factors touched on in that article is the difficulty in answering the question “is x a mortal sin?”

Another part of the difficulty is that the Catechism does not precisely define the difference between actions that are mortal and venial as it does describe it. This is because the difference is primarily in the result of the action. Pope St. John Paul II, quoting St. Thomas Aquinas, wrote:


“When through sin, the soul commits a disorder that reaches the point of turning away from its ultimate end God to which it is bound by charity, then the sin is mortal; on the other hand, whenever the disorder does not reach the point of a turning away from God, the sin is venial.’ For this reason venial sin does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship with God, charity and therefore eternal happiness, whereas just such a deprivation is precisely the consequence of mortal sin” (Reconciliation and Penance, Chapter 17).

While there are some actions that by their nature are always grave, the eternal result is what defines this. Are we turning away from God, or not? In other words, there is no spreadsheet in Rome we can consult where you find every sin, and move to the next column to see if it is mortal or venial. And there is good reason for this! Man, by his fallen nature, might tend to read this as if certain actions are “only” venial sins, and down that path, dangers lie. As St. John Paul II goes on to say of venial sins, in that same chapter, “This however must never be underestimated, as though it were automatically something that can be ignored or regarded as “a sin of little importance.”

Gravity and Intention

Thus, in the original question, you can see why the second half of the quotation matters. Victor does not mention a situation where someone is unable to attend, but where they miss mass “intentionally.” In this case, our reader assumes a hypothetical in which the one meets the requirement for a mortal sin by freely and willingly choosing to not attend Mass.  So, let us examine the first requirement (grave matter). In this instance, the Church speaks quite clearly:


“The precept of the Church specifies the law of the Lord more precisely: On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass. The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day.

The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin” (CCC 2180-2181).

Knowledge Matters, Too

So, we can say with certainty yes, missing Mass is a grave sin. Were it not for the parentheses in Victor’s question, I could have answered him with a simple copy and paste from the Catechism. However, the question did not only inquire about gravity, but mentioned mortal sin. The Catechism answered the first requirement, and, in our hypothetical, the question itself answered the third requirement.  However, that second requirement (full knowledge) still must be met. The very fact that someone needs to ask this question implies that full knowledge may not be there. In fact, it may very well be that there are plenty of people who no longer realize the fact that it is a grave sin.

To the extent that anyone lacks this knowledge, this would mitigate their culpability. However, for those who have read this post, they no longer lack that knowledge. If, in reading this post, you came to a better understanding of the Catholic approach to Sabbath worship, I am glad that this knowledge has helped you.

If you have any additional questions, please feel free to post them in the comments below.

This article was first published on The Ascension Blog.

Featured photo by Tomas Robertson on Unsplash.

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]]> Abortion Vote in Ireland Betrays Nation’s Heritage Mon, 25 Jun 2018 19:47:56 +0000 What was once unthinkable happened on May 25. When the people of Ireland voted to remove from their constitution the provision that protected unborn children, people the world over looked on, baffled that the land once known as the Island of Saints and Scholars had fallen so far.

For generations, Ireland was considered a stronghold of Catholic Christianity. The pagans had been converted long ago and despite some silly stereotypes, the Irish were always seen as solid Catholics. There’s a reason why so many of them came to America during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to help out in the “mission” territory.

But now, after years of scandal, and with a rampant secular culture set firmly in place, Ireland has betrayed its Catholic patrimony and has returned to its pagan roots. For the first time in our world’s history, abortion was made legal in a country by a popular vote. How did we get here, and what does it mean for Ireland, and Europe as a whole? To be sure, those that are pro-life have a very long road ahead of them.

What’s truly sickening about all this is that this repeal of Ireland’s anti-abortion laws was possible only because baptized Catholics voted for it. As we hear from some American Catholics, the notion that one could be in communion with the Church and yet support a woman’s “right” to choose to forcibly end the life of their unborn child was a very popular notion leading up to the repeal. Despite Irish bishops decrying the repeal of Ireland’s eighth amendment, such as Bishop Kevin Doran’s comments, the public pretty much ignored what their leaders had to say. This was turned into a “private” matter, meaning many Catholics thought that they could vote to repeal the eighthamendment in “good conscience”. Such a thought process shows us how far Ireland and the rest of the world has moved away from its Catholic identity, though.

What may be even more disturbing in all this is the aftermath of the vote itself. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar recently announced the following:


“It will not … be possible for publicly funded hospitals, no matter who their patron or owner is, to opt out of providing these necessary services which will be legal in this state once this legislation is passed by the Dáil and Seanad [senate]. I’m happy to give you that assurance.”

Catholics, Be Heroic Witnesses

While individual doctors and nurses may be able to opt out from performing or assisting in abortions, Catholic hospitals may not as they are publicly funded. What Varadkar has to be “happy” about is beyond me. But it just shows yet another example of how morally degraded we and the West have become. It shows how callous we have become toward those who are defenseless. Instead of helping a mother through a crisis pregnancy, and giving her the loving care she needs, young mothers are essentially being told that their children are better off dead. This tragedy is not something we can easily forget about. If anything, this move should embolden pro-lifers even more so around the world. Why? Because it shows that there is a lot of work that still needs to be done.

Perhaps it’s time for pro-lifers to really do something drastic. For instance, what if every single person in these publicly funded hospitals were to all “opt-out” of doing abortions at Catholic hospitals in Ireland? If most of the country is Catholic, you’d think this would be an easy feat. If all those that were “personally opposed” to abortion would speak up, this could definitely happen. Then again, if this had occurred, then the repeal probably never would’ve happened in the first place. This is what the pro-life community needs both in Ireland and in the United States. The community needs Catholics and other Christians to be heroic witnesses. In a time where people are confused on fundamental aspects of life and morality, we now more than ever need Catholics to just wake up and act as they should.

But of course, we don’t live in a perfect world. Until a greater number of Catholics actually stop being afraid to support the life of the unborn, those that are already committed pro-lifers need to ramp up the way they transmit awareness. Many of those who are pro-choice have great web presence and continue to utilize social media outlets. Pro-lifers need to get to this level too, particularly in Europe. We need to wear our faith on our sleeve, and that includes standing up for the most vulnerable in our world today. How can we say we’re fighting the good fight if we won’t go out and talk about it? Now this isn’t to say that we should just randomly start talking about hot button issues every chance we get. However, we should really reflect on a few things.

Don’t Be Afraid to Rock the Boat

How often have we remained silent when the topic of abortion comes up because we don’t want to rock the boat? How many times have we seen our friends post pro-choice material on their news feeds for everyone to browse as they scroll on, as we do nothing to counteract the sea of misinformation on abortion? What should really give Irish pro-lifers pause is that nearly 70 percent of general practitioners in the country said they would refuse to give out the abortion pill. It should give us pause because it forces us to honestly ask ourselves whether or not we’ll see this happen. My guess is “no”, simply because it is much easier for us to “go with the flow”.

If we’re not going to be bold enough to steer the ship back on course in our culture, then it will continue to run aground. Now is not the time to simply sit back and watch everything turn into dust. As St. John Paul said in Evangelium vitae:


“Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection.”

Are we making an effort to make that opposition known? Whether we are in America, Canada or Ireland, are we really making conscientious objections to the tyrannical laws that are in place? If there is a “grave and clear obligation” to oppose these laws, then to not do so shows that we have been derelict in our duties as Christians. Clear and emphatic opposition to these outrages against the human person must be made manifest. Thankfully, Millennials and Gen Z’ers do appear to be the most pro-life generation yet, so there is hope. What happened in Ireland may be seen as a bitter defeat, but there’s no time like the present to begin picking up the pieces, and educating our peers and family on the truth behind abortion. As we can see from the words of St. John Paul, this is our duty as Christians.

This article was first published on the Ascension Blog

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What Does the Church Say about Capitalism? Thu, 21 Jun 2018 19:40:47 +0000 In a previous post, I treated the Church’s critique of communism, both at the moral and spiritual level, as well as on economic grounds in terms of what is most befitting to human dignity and human freedom. While the Church certainly favors a market economy (i.e., capitalism) and recognizes the right to private property and even profit as an indicator of business health, it does so with certain qualifications.

A place to start is Pope St. John Paul II’s Centesimus Annus where he clearly provides the Church’s nuanced approval of capitalism:

“If by ‘capitalism’ is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative …. But if by ‘capitalism’ is meant a system in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed within a strong juridical framework in its totality, and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious, then the reply is certainly negative” (Centesimus Annus, 42).

In this post, we want to unpack the second half of this statement. But before we begin, it is worth noting that John Paul II insists that the New Evangelization “include among its essential elements a proclamation of the Church’s social doctrine” (Centesimus Annus, 5), the guiding principle of which is “a correct view of the human person” (CA,11). That is, all of Catholic social teaching flows out of the Church’s deeply held conviction regarding the inviolable dignity of the human person.

The Universal Destination of All Goods

The right to private property is balanced by another principle, namely, the universal destination of all goods (see CA, 6), a principle which is rooted in the very fact of creation (CA, 31). This principle basically says that God created the earth and all its resources ultimately for everyone. St. Thomas Aquinas gave expression to it long ago when he noted that while we have a right to private property, the way in which we use our private property must take into account the common good of all people:

“The temporal goods which God grants us are ours as to the ownership but as to the use of them, they belong not us alone but also to others as we are able to [help them] out of what we have over and above our needs” (Summa Theologiae, Second Part of the Second Part, Question 32).

Once our needs are met, we have a responsibility to others.

We can distinguish between need and want (e.g., I “need: water, I “want” a corvette). Natural needs form the basis of authentic human rights, rights which are rooted in the natural order and which, in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, we have a duty in justice to try and secure. It’s in this light that Pope Leo XIII spoke of a right to a “just wage,” ultimately in order to support a family (see CA, 8). As John Paul II put it:

“A workman’s wages should be sufficient to enable him to support himself, his wife and his children” (CA, 8).

Thus, the market economy must serve more than just the bottom line. Perhaps more colloquially, the Church calls us to “live simply, so that others may simply live.”

Here, the Church provides principles—not exact programs as to how this plays out. We are called to recognize that our lives are not our own. Given our belief in a Creator, everything we have is gift—even if we have diligently cooperated with God’s gifts in developing what we have. In the end, we will render an account of our stewardship, of the way in which we have utilized his blessings both for ourselves and others.

We certainly can begin with our tithe, which helps usas much as anybody else. Money can provide the ultimate security blanket, a “rainy day” fund, as it were. Tithing becomes an act of faith that helps detach us from this false sense of security, this false idol which can consume so much of our lives. Interestingly, we know we are not supposed to “test” God; but curiously, according to the prophet Malachi, there is one exception:

“Bring the full tithes into the storehouse … and thereby put me to the test” (Malachi 3:10).

If tithing was the response of thanksgiving for the blessings of the Old Covenant, how much more should we be grateful for the blessings of the New?

The Transcendence of the Human Person

The Church’s social doctrine flows out of a properly “theological dimension,” one that recognizes the transcendence of the human person and the eternal destiny to which we are called. This is why the alternatives cannot be either Marxism or consumerism. Yes, the market economy is more befitting to human dignity and human freedom. But economic freedom must be subordinated to the full truth of the human person—that is, freedom must be grounded in truth (see CA, 55).

Exactly how we go about meeting the natural needs of others is a point on which faithful Catholics may sometimes disagree. But that we are our brother’s keeper—that we have a duty in justice to the Creator and our fellow man—is not open to question. It is part of the gospel:

“One thinks of the condition of refugees, immigrants, the elderly, the sick, and all those in circumstances which call for assistance, such as drug abusers: all these people can be helped effectively only by those who offer them genuine fraternal support, in addition to the necessary care” (CA, 48).

Further, we have to see them as persons, who have needs of soul and body. That is, our aid must address the human condition in its totality: “development must not be understood solely in economic terms, but in a way that is fully human” (CA, 29). Along these lines, speaking of the “preferential option for the poor,” John Paul II states:

“This option is not limited to material poverty, since it is well known that there are many other forms of poverty, especially in modern society—not only economic but cultural and spiritual poverty as well …. In the countries of the West, different forms of poverty are being experienced by groups which live on the margins of society, by the elderly and the sick, by the victims of consumerism, and even more immediately by so many refugees and migrants” (CA, 57).

If we truly love others, we begin to make their needs—bodily and spiritual—our needs as well.

Environment and the Family

Even before Pope Francis rightly drew our attention to the need for stewardship of the earth and its resources, John Paul II had already pointed in the same direction:

“In his desire to have and to enjoy rather than to be and to grow, man consumes the resources of the earth and his own life in an excessive and disordered way. At the root of the senseless destruction of the natural environment lies an anthropological error, which unfortunately is widespread in our day. Man, who discovers his capacity to transform and in a certain sense create the world through his own work, forgets that this is always based on God’s prior and original gift of the things that are. Man thinks that he can make arbitrary use of the earth, subjecting it without restraint to his will, as though it did not have its own requisites and a prior God-given purpose, which man can indeed develop but not betray. Instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, which is more tyrannized than governed by him” (CA, 37).

Here we see the link between natural stewardship and morality: man is a creature and is called to conform to the objective order of things created by God, both in his use of the material world and in the spiritual and moral order which leads to authentic human flourishing.

And like Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si, John Paul II turns to the “human environment,” founded upon the centrality of marriage and family (see CA, 38-39). As he puts it, “In the face of the so-called culture of death, the family is the heart of the culture of life” (CA, 39).

Here we come full circle regarding the Church’s appraisal of capitalism: when the market is absolutized without reference to the dignity and vocation of the human person, it becomes dehumanizing. John Paul II writes:

“All of this can be summed up by repeating once more that economic freedom is only one element of human freedom. When it becomes autonomous, when man is seen more as a producer or consumer than as a subject who produces and consumes in order to live, then economic freedom loses its necessary relationship to the human person and ends up by alienating and oppressing him” (CA, 39).

Just because the Church deemed the remedy of socialism and communism worse than the disease (see CA, 12) does not mean that there were not real problems to be addressed. The market economy is more befitting to human nature than communism; but the former is only fully human—and thereby an aid in bringing man to his ultimate end—if the transcendence of the human person and the human good is taken into account.

How we can we better recognize our participation in the economy as moral actors with a transcendent destiny, and not simply as buyers and sellers?

This article was originally published on the Ascension Blog on

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

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About Andrew Swafford

Dr. Andrew SwaffordSwafford is Associate Professor of Theology at Benedictine College. Dr. Swafford is author of Spiritual Survival in the Modern World: Insights from C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape LettersJohn Paul II to Aristotle and Back Again: A Christian Philosophy of Life; and Nature and Grace: A New Approach to Thomistic Resourcement. He is a member of the Academy of Catholic Theology and Society of Biblical Literature; he is also a senior fellow at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. Andrew has appeared on EWTN’s Catholicism on Campus and is a regular contributor to Ascension Press’ Bible blog as well as Chastity Project. He lives with his wife Sarah and their four children in Atchison, Kansas.