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!

We’ve compiled all of the insider tips and essential information from the past twenty years of working side by side with our amazing Bible study leaders. This guide will walk you step-by-step through your Catholic Bible study journey.

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Immigration, Confirmation, and More on the Weekly Roundup Mon, 02 Jul 2018 18:46:04 +0000 As the summer heats up and the Fourth of July draws near, we hope you have the time to take a look at all of the new free content we posted on the Ascension website this week. We aren’t shying away from the tough issues, but address them with clarity and charity. Come take a look, see what we have posted below:

Ascension Presents

Fr. Mike Schmitz

The Church & Immigration

On the issue of immigration, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin” (CCC 2241). While elaborating on that teaching, in this video Fr. Mike also points out that a nation has a right and responsibility to protect its borders. While it’s impossible to avoid politics completely on this issue, Fr. Mike addresses primarily the Christian principles inherent in the immigration debate. Watch video …

Encountering the Word

No Human Is Merely Mortal

In this week’s Encountering the Word video for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jeff Cavins reflects upon the eternal aspects of our existence and that we are all creations of God. The readings are:

First Reading: Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15
Alleluia: cf. 2 Timothy 1:10
Gospel: Mark 5:21-43 or 5:21-24, 35B-43

Matt Fradd

The 3 Elements of a Good Argument

Who would have thought there actually is a correct way to argue? In this video, Matt explains the three elements of a good argument: clear terms, true premises, and valid logic. These elements are so distinct and concise, it’s a wonder why people don’t use them in their everyday debates more often. Maybe you’re someone who tries to avoid arguments or debates because you think your thoughts on a matter are just your own opinion; but by using these three guidelines in logic, we can avoid that relativistic pitfall and gain more confidence in what we have to say. Watch video …

Find out more about Matt Fradd at

The CFRs

Lost and Suicidal Man Seeks Christ

Sometimes all a person needs is someone to remind them that God is with them. In this video, Father Emmanuel tells the story of a man whose car broke down at the merge of two highways. He was despairing about his life, but Father Emmanuel was able to minister to him just by being present at the scene. The many instances where God was at work in this story are real and apparent. As Father Emmanuel says, sometimes you just have to stop the car and let God be God. Watch video …

Ascension Podcasts

Blood Transfusion

What would you do if someone you loved refused something that could save their life? Listen …

Infant Baptism, Ending Friendships, and Purgatory

Fr. Josh answers questions about baptizing infants, ending friendships, and the purpose of purgatory. If you have a question, comment, or a response for Fr. Josh, email us at You may hear your question or comment in an upcoming podcast episode! Listen …

Give People What You Have!

How do you share your faith with someone who is opposing you or bombards you with question after question? Today Jeff shares three things to remember when sharing about the Catholic Faith. You have the opportunity to change someone’s life, so be prepared to give the world what you have! Listen …

One Parish’s Winning Formula for Confirmation Prep

One parish in Louisiana transformed their confirmation prep ministry by making three simple, yet powerful changes. Their teens went from begrudgingly memorizing answers about Catholicism, being confirmed, and then disappearing from church, to becoming active participants in their parish – truly on fire for the Catholic Faith. Listen as Colin MacIver, a contributor for Chosen: Your Journey Towards Confirmation, shares this story of incredible transformation and the formula that made it possible.

“The idea of Chosen is to have a great resource so that the focus and energy of your team and your parish isn’t “How do I say this perfectly?”, it’s, “How do I build these relationships well, and how do I model and mentor being a disciple?” Listen …

5 Ideas for Your Summer Bucket List

Summer is a time set apart, and so I see … opportunity! To set a goal! To try something new! This week, I’m sharing some ideas I think you should consider adding to your list of goals this summer. What is going on your bucket list this summer?  I would love to hear from you about what goals you are setting for yourself and your family during this season. Listen …

Ascension Blog

The Missions of Sts. Peter and Paul Passed on to Us

Christian devotion to Saints Peter and Paul is of a most ancient origin. The special Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul has always been celebrated in Rome, at least since the reign of the emperor Constantine. Some Roman catacombs from this time period possess graffiti asking for the prayers of these great saints. One scribbled inscription reads, “Paul and Peter, make intercession for Victor”. Read More …

Liberty, How Can We Rediscover You?

If you enter the old CIA headquarters lobby, one thing you will notice are the words of Christ chiseled into the marble wall. Taken from John 8:32, the engraving reads:



Believe it or not, this verse actually is the motto of the Central Intelligence Agency. Read More …

Embracing Confirmation Prep as a Challenge and an Opportunity

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.” Read More …

One Month After Abortion Vote in Ireland, Have We Already Forgotten?

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. Read More …

This post was first published on the Ascension Blog at

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The Missions of Sts. Peter and Paul Passed on to Us Fri, 29 Jun 2018 19:34:49 +0000 Christian devotion to Saints Peter and Paul is of a most ancient origin. The special Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul has always been celebrated in Rome, at least since the reign of the emperor Constantine. Some Roman catacombs from this time period possess graffiti asking for the prayers of these great saints. One scribbled inscription reads, “Paul and Peter, make intercession for Victor”. On June 29, every year, Catholics around the world also ask for the intercession of these saints before our Lord’s throne.

But as many great saints do, these apostles have nicknames. St. Peter is often called the “Prince of the Apostles” while St. Paul is typically called the “Apostle to the Gentiles”. While we celebrate both men on the same day, they both played different roles in the life of the early Church.

Prince of the Apostles

Of course, we all know full well that St. Peter was the rock upon which Christ founded his Church. While he preached the gospel to many different peoples as St. Paul did, it’s clear that his main role in the life of the Church is an ecclesial one. As the first pope, it’s very fitting that St. Peter is called the “Prince of the Apostles”. Keep in mind that he isn’t a prince in the same way the Prince of England is. Instead, the word “prince” comes from the Latin princeps, which simply means “supreme head” or “ruler”. As Christ’s vicar on earth, he and his successors have been given temporal authority, and the power to “bind and loose” as our Lord said. We see this with St. Peter presiding over the Council of Jerusalem in the Acts of the Apostles.

Apostle to the Gentiles

As for St. Paul, we see that he clearly traveled a little bit more than St. Peter. Just take a look inside any Bible from the middle of the twentieth century and you’ll more often than not find a map detailing St. Paul’s travels from Corinth to Galatia. Because he made so many contacts, it’s most fitting that we commemorate him as the “Apostle to the Gentiles”. Keep in mind that it was also him who rebuked St. Peter during the controversy stemming from whether or not Gentiles needed to be circumcised. Whenever one reads any of St. Paul’s letters, it’s pretty clear that he’s driving home the point that salvation comes through Jesus Christ, not through works of the Torah.

The Magisterium and the Mission

But what’s beautiful about this special solemnity is that we focus on two specific roles of the Church. One role of the Church is to govern. That’s why we have the Magisterium. It ensures us that we are living in God’s truth. When all the bishops are united with the pope, we can be assured that a certain teaching is true. We were promised this certitude by Jesus himself before he ascended into heaven. This is embodied in St. Peter, and it really is comforting to know that no matter what, the gates of hell will never prevail against this Church that Jesus founded. It is continually the pillar and bulwark of truth.

And then on the other hand, the Church is meant to go out to others. Since we are the Church, the members of Christ the Head, we have a duty to go out and spread the gospel message. We may not all have as much success as St. Paul did, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop trying. Don’t we live in a world that has become largely “Gentile”? That is, a world that really doesn’t know God much at all?

Our world is much like the one that Saints Peter and Paul lived in. There’s a lot of work to do here in the twenty-first century in regards to building the kingdom of God. But it’s not impossible. If these two great apostles could do so much on their own, just think what 200, or even 2,000 Catholics with a similar mindset could do! Like St. Paul, we need to be an apostle to the “Gentiles” of our age, and like St. Peter, we need to stand firmly on the “rock” upon which Jesus founded his Church. If there’s anything to take from this week’s solemnity, it’s that each and every one of us Catholics are called to do what St. Peter and St. Paul were called to do. If we haven’t really answered that call yet, now is a perfect time to resolve ourselves to do so.

Embeded image by Josep Bracons on Flickr.

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Liberty, How Can We Rediscover You? Thu, 28 Jun 2018 19:01:35 +0000 If you enter the old CIA headquarters lobby, one thing you will notice are the words of Christ chiseled into the marble wall. Taken from John 8:32, the engraving reads:



Believe it or not, this verse actually is the motto of the Central Intelligence Agency. The very fact that the CIA uses the motto is an interesting microcosm of the “American experiment.” It is the premier spy agency of a democratic government that refuses to elevate one religion over another. Nevertheless, the origins of this country are profoundly rooted in Protestant Christianity and thus vestiges of that origin remain even in this age, as the CIA’s choice of motto reminds us.

If America is associated with one thing, it is the idea of freedom and being free. The modern liberal interpretation and the Christian view of freedom are not the same, however. The difference between the two has marked America’s course since her very inception on July 4, 1776 to the present day, and it will determine her fate.

The Christian Conception of Freedom

The Christian conception of freedom is rooted in the very core of salvation history. In the beginning man was free before disobeying God and becoming a slave to sin. While not forced against his will to do evil, the corruption of the will itself and the presence of the desire for evil within man constituted his slavery. As St. Peter explained:

“for whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved” (2 Peter 2:19).

Christ came to liberate us from our bondage in sin and enable us to live free through holiness. Consider the words of St. Paul:

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).  

Freedom in Socratic Philosophy

The Socratic philosophers concurred to a significant degree with the Christian understanding of freedom. Plato wrote extensively on the hold which the flesh had over man, constantly inciting the soul to evil. He explained through Socrates in Phaedo:

“It fills us with wants, desires, fears, all sorts of illusions, and much nonsense… It is the body to which we are enslaved.”

For Plato, the liberation of the soul from the body—death—was the only way to accomplish man’s freedom. He expounds in the same dialogue as before:

“While we live, we shall be closest to knowledge if we refrain as much as possible from association with the body and do not join with it more than we must, if we are not infected with its nature but purify ourselves from it until the god himself frees us… And that separation of the soul from the body is called death.”

The Baptism of Classic Philosophy

Plato’s view in this regard would go on to be misinterpreted by the followers of gnosticism, an ancient mystery religion which has had multiple run-ins with Christianity throughout history. A fundamental tenet of gnosticism is the irredeemable wickedness of the body. The Church would rescue Plato’s legacy from the gnostics by asserting that the body is redeemable. Not so easily dismissed, we will encounter a stronger reincarnation of gnosticism later.

For now, we turn to the last of the classical philosophers, Boethius, in which we find the incorporation—or as G. K. Chesterton would say, the “baptism”—of the works of the philosophers into the Christian fold, especially as they relate to freedom. In Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy, we find the clear expression that sin is bondage and holiness is freedom without any gnostic separation of body and soul. As Boethius beautifully explains in verse:


“When high-enthroned the monarch sits, resplendent in his pride
Of purple robes, while flashing steel guards him on every side;
When baleful terrors on his brow with frowning menace lower,
And Passion shakes his laboring breast – how dreadful seems his power!
But if the vesture of his state from such a one thou tear,
Thou’lt see what load of secret bonds this lord of earth doth wear.
Lust’s poison rankles; o’er his mind rage sweeps in tempest rude;
Sorrow his spirit vexes sore, and empty hopes delude.
Then thou’lt confess: one hapless wretch, whom many lords oppress,
Does never what he would, but lives in thraldom’s helplessness”
(Consolation of Philosophy, Book IV, Song II).

Agreeing with Plato’s arguments in Gorgias, Boethius goes so far as to say that it is better for the wrongdoer to be caught than to not be caught because, in being caught, he is liberated from the slavery of his sin and offered salvation. For over a millennium, this constituted the established view of freedom in the Western world.

The Development of Christian Governments

As the Roman Empire crumbled into oblivion, the barbarian chiefs who destroyed her would eventually become Christian kings and the marauding hordes would become Christian knights. Feudalism replaced the imperial bureaucracy and the Middle Ages were underway. Explicitly Christian forms of government began to develop, such as what Hilaire Belloc refers to as the popular monarchy. In such a system, the king served as “the natural protector of the weak against the strong, the curber of the rich, and above all the maintainer of custom – which was law.”

The popular nature of the monarchy was found in that the king’s interests were the people’s interests and he protected them from the oppression of the nobility. In addition to this, the king was not chosen by the people, but rather God. As Belloc notes:


“Because the king was the mystical embodiment of the whole community an old sacramental form was kept up appealing at a coronation for the approval of those present; but of election there was no conception, still less of making a king by power of the rich men in Parliament. It was not a mechanical office ‘created.’ It was of God. It was in the nature of things.”

It is clear that Christian kingship which developed in the Middle Ages took heavy inspiration from Romans 13, the first four verses of which read as follows:


Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer.”  

From these verses, we find the foundation of government inseparable from the Christian understanding of freedom. By punishing evil and promoting good, the ruler is engaged in the work of liberating the enslaved. This biblical conception of government would soon be completely turned on its head.    

The Reemergence of Gnostic Dualism

By the late Middle Ages, gnosticism was forgotten but not gone. The teachings of Plato’s pupil, Aristotle, were very popular in the West at this time. Aristotle placed a greater emphasis upon the physical world than Plato did, whereas Plato—as noted earlier—inclined more towards the spiritual. However, many of Plato’s and Aristotle’s intellectual descendants in the Middle Ages would make the same mistake over and over—because they would not only emphasize either the physical or spiritual, but would separate the two to the point of disdain toward one or the other. 

The gnostics were disdainful toward the physical world, but they were akin to a new philosophy that emerged around the fourteenth century, called nominalism, because this new philosophy also separated the physical world from the spiritual. Whereas gnosticism shunned the physical world in the interest of the spiritual, nominalism de-emphasized the spiritual in the interest of the physical. This emphasis upon the physical world in many ways led to the development of modern Western science. Unfortunately, it also led to a separation of faith and reason in many academic circles. The gnostic dualism of the physical against the spiritual served as the intellectual basis of the Protestant Reformation (the doctrines of “faith alone” and “Scripture alone” were in many ways the antithesis to the rise of nominalism).

All of this separation between the physical and spiritual realms would forever change Western education as it would create an increasingly secular intellectual atmosphere during the Renaissance. This in turn would lead to the political philosophy of liberalism and a new interpretation of freedom. Allow me to explain how.

John Locke and Liberalism

The most influential exponent of liberalism was the seventeenth century English philosopher, John Locke. An intellectual descendant of the divide between faith and reason, Locke applied this concept to the political realm. Since the spiritual was cast out of the sphere of reason, Locke was adamant that authority to rule came from the people themselves rather than God, which he articulated through his social contract theory.  

As a result of Locke’s influence, the people assumed the right to overthrow government as long as the majority consented. He was a Christian, though he hated the Catholic Church and was unorthodox even by Protestant standards. 

Since, according to Locke, authority arises from fallible men who simply agree with each other—rather than from divine law—hidden within his proposition is the idea that man has the ability to determine for himself right and wrong—though he failed to admit it at the time. With a few pen strokes he had ushered in a new age of skepticism and the rise of liberal democracy. 

The immediate consequences of his work were the justification of the overthrow of the last Catholic king of England, James II, in the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688. His ideas about social contract theory and popular sovereignty would quickly spread across the world, finding a notable home in both France and the Thirteen Colonies.

The Age of Revolution

In 1775, revolution firmly based on Locke’s principles erupted in the Colonies. America’s very conception—in the minds of the Founders—was based on the competing views of freedom between liberalism and Christianity. On the one hand, they were throwing off a hereditary monarchy and replacing it with the sovereignty of the people. On the other, they insisted to their dying day that the “experiment” would only work if the people of the newly formed United States were virtuous and self-sacrificing.  

As Benjamin Rush, one of the most devout of the Founding Fathers, wrote:

“The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in Religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.”

They did not have to wait long for enduring disappointment. It quickly became apparent that the American people lacked the prerequisite virtue and their noble republic quickly devolved into an avaricious democracy in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The strength of Protestantism in America kept the country from turning into Revolutionary France, but the doctrine of private interpretation of Scripture espoused in some form by all Protestant sects undermined the Church’s authority and played right into the hands of liberalism.  

With the increase of greed and politics being dominated by men looking after their own interests, many of the Founders bemoaned that they had ever fought the Revolution. In 1812, the once optimistic Rush would sadly declare that the American experiment “will certainly fail. It has already disappointed the expectations of its most sanguine friends.” As far as Rush was concerned, he concluded that “nothing but the gospel of Jesus Christ will effect the mighty work of making nations happy.”

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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.