Blog Archives

EVERY Catholic Needs to Read This Book

@ACatholicNewbie: EVERY Catholic Needs to Read This Book from @AveMariaPress

The more I learn about my faith, the more I realize how key it is to understand the Bible and how very little I actually did understand it. Until I became a Catholic, I did not realize the parallels between the Old and the New Testament (something smart people call “typology” :-)) and how the New is the fulfillment of the Old and how the New is largely prefigured in the old.

For example, one of my biggest stumbling blocks of the Bible is the story Abraham willing to sacrifice Isaac. I just could not understand how a loving God would ask someone to do that. But this story really only makes sense in light of Jesus. Isaac is the pre-figurement of Jesus. God will sacrifice his only son on wood (the cross) just as Isaac was to be sacrificed on wood. You pretty much have to put on “Jesus” glasses, if you will :), in order to fully view the Old Testament.

The Bible has simply opened up for me in ways I could never have imagined, including validating the teachings of the Catholic Church today, since coming to this realization. One of the most amazing books on the faith I have found to date (second only to Matthew Kelly’s “Rediscover Catholicism”) is John Bergsma’s New Testament Basics for Catholics (Ave Maria Press, 2016). I wish this book had a more compelling title because it is SO much more than that. It is an explanation of the New Testament (in light of the Old) that is absolutely jaw-dropping — a must read for anyone who really wants to understand their faith in light of the Bible.

I have found that flat out the New Testament can be entirely misunderstood when not properly read with an understanding of the Old Testament and of the Jewish customs, words and ways of life in those times. You cannot accurately or fully comprehend what Jesus is trying to teach us without this reference point. So much gets lost — and misinterpreted! With this knowledge, not only does the Bible make sense, it’s life-altering.

Bergsma systematically goes through the Gospel of Matthew, Luke and John, Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans and the Book of Revelation, but he does so in conversational language that anyone can follow.

If you’ve been Catholic for a while, you’ve heard the typology of certain things like the Abraham/Isaac story above, but Bergsma provides you with so many more, many I never realized that totally blew me away. Some examples:

  • The parallel of David dancing in front of the Ark of the Covenant and John the Baptist “dancing” in his mother’s womb in front of Mary, the new Ark of the Covenant
  • How the items, according to Hebrews, that were contained in the Ark of the Covenant (manna, Aaron’s rod and the Ten Commandments) all look forward to Jesus: the Eucharist, priest, law-giver
  • The manna in the dessert, put on display for the people to see; how we adore (sit in the presence of) Jesus, body and blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist
  • The sacrament of Confirmation, which originates in Acts of the Apostles when Peter and John must come down and lay hands on the people to fully receive the Holy Spirit, even after they were baptized.
  • How the Wedding Feast at Cana identifies Jesus and Mary as the New Adam and the New Eve
  • I could go on and on and on… 🙂

Throughout the book, Bergsma, who is a convert from Protestantism, goes through his former beliefs as a Protestant Minister and explains why he was wrong. It’s incredibly helpful for someone coming to the church from a Protestant background.

As far as I’m concerned, this book should be purchased and handed out to every Catholic at every church in the world and be required reading for all RCIA candidates. I’m convinced this would end much confusion over so many elements of the faith and bring people to a much greater understand of the Bible and their mission to become saints on earth.

Bergsma also has a book that goes more in-depth into the Old Testament, giving you the big picture of salvation history, in Bible Basics for Catholics. It’s also fun because he uses stick figure drawings to take you through the Old Testament and each covenant.

10 Things I Wish Non-Catholic Christians Knew About Catholicism

10 Things I Wish all Non-Catholic Christians Knew About Catholicism via @ACatholicNewbie

Photo credit Nheyob, Wikimedia Commons

Note: This post contains affiliate links for which Catholic Newbie may earn a small commission if you purchase items (at no additional cost to you) when clicking through.

Subscribe to Catholic Newbie by entering your email:

I’ve had several interactions  with non-Catholic Christians since my conversion where I’ve realized they are not aware of some basic tenets of our faith that I think would go a long way in bridging any divides between us and provide them, at least, with some perspective of where we are coming from and a more accurate understanding of our beliefs.

We shouldn’t expect non-Catholics to know about the Catholic religion unless they’ve taken the time to explore it for themselves. I certainly did not know any of these things before seeking out the Church, but I definitely wish I had!

So, non-Catholics, here are 10 things I, a former non-Catholic :), want you to know about Catholicism:

  1. We believe that Jesus is physically present in the bread and wine we consume at every Mass. I think this one fact explains so much about the Catholic faith that is misunderstood by non-Catholics. This is why we have to go to mass every week, this is why our churches are ornate and our vessels are made of precious metals, this is why non-Catholics cannot receive communion unless they have professed their belief, this is why if a wafer falls on the floor it is treated with the utmost reverence. This is why we cannot be satisfied in any other church — we cannot leave Jesus behind. This belief in the physical presence of Jesus dates back to the first Christians. Read the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch (who knew the Apostle John and was born in 35 AD) in his Letter to the Romans about the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. A great, easy-to-read book on this topic is the “7 Secrets of the Eucharist” by Vinny Flynn. 
  2. We believe you can go to heaven, too! I think many non-Catholics may wrongly assume that Catholics think they are the only ones getting into heaven. We are not God; only God knows such things. We do believe that we have found the path that gives us the most assistance in entering heaven through the sacraments Jesus left behind (communion, marriage, reconciliation/confession, confirmation, etc.) but we certainly don’t think the doors are only open to us.
  3. We believe in the authority of the Pope and the Church of Rome, because that is what early Christians practiced. Again, see the Letters of St. Ignatius in his deference to the Church of Rome along with the example of many other early Christian leaders (email me for more). We are following the example of what the apostles taught the early Christians. Great article on this topic. I highly recommend doing this research and reading early Christian documents for yourself. Don’t take my word for it! Catholic Answers has a great book called “The Fathers Know Best: Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church” by Jimmy Akin that is a good overview of this topic.
  4. We follow what the early Christians practiced in our “Tradition,” because there was 300 years before the New Testament was compiled. The Catholic Church’s teachings are based on both Scripture and what the Church refers to as “Tradition.” Tradition is factored in, because there was a period of 300 years after Jesus’ death and before an official compilation of New Testament documents was compiled. We follow the tradition that was practiced during that time, because it was comprised of the beliefs, teachings and rituals handed down from Jesus himself to the apostles and on to their successors. This includes teachings like Mary’s Immaculate Conception (she was conceived without sin in order to give birth to God as man), her Perpetual Virginity (she never had any other children and remained a virgin) and her Assumption body and soul into heaven, beliefs that were held by early Christians and only made “official” by the Church after they were challenged over time. Many wrongly hold that these doctrines were created at the councils where they were affirmed, but rather the councils simply made official these doctrines long held and practiced by early Christians. Great books to read more about the Church’s teachings on Mary include “Behold Your Mother: A Biblical and Historical Defense of the Marian Doctrines” by Tim Staples and Meet Your Mother by Mark Miravalle.
  5. We hold many of the same beliefs! We are not so different. We belief in the sanctity of all life from conception to natural death. We believe in Jesus, the son of God who came to reconcile us with the Father. We believe that everyone needs to hear the Good News and that it’s our job to go out and tell the world! We believe in the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. That’s just the beginning…
  6. Confession is not a place to get rid of all your wrongdoings without contrition only to go back and do them again. I remember watching a movie of a young man returning to the priest every week to report how often he masturbated, only to go back and do it all again. That’s not the goal and your sins are not forgiven that way. The idea is to go confess your sins with true repentance (not with plans to go right back and do them again), receive forgiveness and graces (heavenly assistance) to keep from doing those sins again from Jesus (Did you know that we believe that Jesus is present in the priest in the confessional?), and to try earnestly not to commit those sins in the future. An easy-to-read book on Confession is “7 Secrets of Confession” by Vinny Flynn.
  7. There is an unbroken line of succession from Jesus to Peter to all Popes and Bishops. This fact initially blew me away during my education on the Church. The Catholic Church can trace a laying on of hands (as was done in the Acts of the Apostles when they added deacons) all the way back from Jesus to Peter to all Popes and Bishops. That is powerful stuff!
  8. We read the Bible, too! Over a period of three years, if you attended daily mass, you would hear readings from nearly every book in the Bible. And, of course, we do plenty of Bible reading on our own, as well, though you may find us less likely to be able to tell you the chapter and verse, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t educated on God’s inspired word. In fact, Catholicism taught me a key fact about the Bible that makes it so much more interesting: it’s called typology and it means that the Old Testament foreshadows the events of the New Testament and the New Testament fulfills the Old. It’s fascinating to see the parallels, such as between Abraham and Jesus, Adam and Jesus, Mary and the Ark of the Covenant, Eve and Mary, and on and on and on. Here’s a fascinating read on that topic: New Testament Basics for Catholics by John Bergsma (hands down one of the best books I’ve ever read!).
  9. The Catholic Church is made up of sinners. Yes, we are a Church of sinners. That is why Jesus came to reconcile us, but despite his help and graces we still remain in the fallen state of sin inherited by Adam and Eve. Yes, we have child molesters. Yes, Catholics have done bad things in the name of religion. Yes, we have murdered, stolen, been greedy, disobeyed God and more. But so has the rest of the world; it’s part and parcel with being a part of fallen humanity. Such wrongdoers should justly be punished and will certainly be judged by their actions on the last day. Jesus, however, promised that nothing would prevail against the Church (not even sinners) and left us with the Holy Spirit (not humans) to guide it. That’s why we hold true to the teachings of the Church, no matter its sinners, and why even if a priest is a sinner, his sacramental actions are still valid. They are not his works, but those of the Holy Spirit and Jesus within him.
  10. Don’t let hypocritical Catholics mislead you. I’ve often been pointed to examples of Catholics who don’t follow the truth of the Church in the way they live their lives as reasons why the Catholic church is wrong or bad. As above, we are made up of sinners just like the rest of the world, and there will be these people. But don’t let them cloud your image of the Church left by Jesus. The priest who asked for a bribe for an annulment was wrong; the Catholics shouting obscenities at the Notre Dame football game are wrong; the politician promoting abortion rights receiving communion is wrong. But like all sinners, Jesus welcomes them to repent, stop their wrong actions and come back to the fold. Rather, I challenge you to seek devout Catholics who live their faith fully. You will find models of holiness and witnesses of Christian joy beyond your wildest imaginings.

Thanks for taking the time to read. What questions do you have about Catholicism?

Would you be so kind as to “like” Catholic Newbie on Facebook?

Subscribe to Catholic Newbie by entering your email:

Read More:

Grasping the Big Picture of the Bible

Catholic BibleAs a Catholic newbie, getting to know the Bible was high on my priority list, and I do feel like I’m light years ahead of where I started two to three years ago. Simply going to mass weekly (if not daily) and reading the daily readings, as well as subscribing to FlockNote’s free daily Gospel emails has helped me get familiar with some key stories, especially the New Testament.

But all this reading the Bible in bits and pieces, while it has its place and is wonderfully meaningful in itself, makes it difficult to consider the Bible in context and take a look at the bigger picture. What is the overall story of the Bible and how does it play out from the Old Testament to the New Testament?

I picked up a book from Lighthouse Media recently called Bible Basics for Catholics by John Bergsma that gives a wonderful big picture look at what the Bible is trying to convey from start to finish. And this book was incredibly eye-opening for me (and a quick read, I might add!).

While the Catholic Church does a great job with the readings of the day in selecting Old Testament verses that relate to New Testament verses to show you the parallel, this book really brought many of those similarities, comparisons and foreshadowing examples to light in a wonderfully simplistic summary. The author even uses stick figure drawings to help you visualize the progression of the Bible.

So, what’s the Bible all about? Hector Molina says it’s really a love story, a love story between God and his people. Bergsma shows you how this “love story” really plays out as a “covenant story.” The Bible, in one way, is really the story of God making various convenants with his people, who so sadly break them time and time again. Jesus brings us the final, once and for all, covenant, and in fact, He is the convenant itself.

I know you probably knew this convenant idea already, but what this book does it show you how Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, the prophets and more all foreshadow Jesus, and it reveals many of the signs, symbols and passages that prefigure Jesus’ coming. The book also provides a historical context, considers the meanings of the original Greek words and truly brings a depth of meaning unlike anything I’ve yet to read.

As one example, did you know that at the traditional Jewish Passover Jews would drink four cups of wine? At the Last Supper, Jesus only drinks three cups of wine, according to the Gospels. But he completes the Passover ceremony on the cross when he tastes of the bitter wine offered to him, making it the new Passover and completing the convenant.

Remember when Jesus said he would not taste the fruit of the vine again until the Kingdom of God comes, yet tastes it on the cross? This always thoroughly confused me. Have you ever considered he drank of the wine then to signal the Kingdom of God had come? This is the kind of cool stuff that you’ll learn.

Here is a link to this book on Lighthouse Catholic Media and on Amazon. Let me know what you think!

Email Sign-up

Like us on Facebook!


As Featured on Seize the Day With Gus Lloyd

On Sirius Catholic radio

Archives

St. Therese, the Little Flower, Pray for us!