FAQs

What kind of parish mission do you give?

Are the missions you give just lectures or classes in the bible?

Why should we prayerfully “study” the bible instead of just prayerfully read it?

How long do your parish missions last?

What kind of set-up do you need for your talks?

What is your fee for a parish mission?

Where did you get your education in biblical studies?

What kind of parish mission do you give?

My missions are not the traditional type parish mission.  My missions are based on the prayerful reading and study of sacred scripture.  St. Francis told his followers that the words of Scripture are “spirit and life” for us.  I believe that.  The Second Vatican Council reminded us that the scriptures were to be studied in a prayerful context, so that “…it may come, that by the reading and study of the sacred books…the treasure of Revelation entrusted to the Church may more and more fill the hearts of all.:  (Dei Verbum, 26) 

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Are the missions you give just lectures or classes in the bible?

I do give straightforward classes, workshops and seminars on the bible but that’s not the same as a parish mission.  In a parish mission I offer some fundamental insights for understanding the bible but I place that understanding within the context of our spiritual life and our daily struggle to follow the gospel. 

Still, the church reminds us that the living of our Christian life requires the prayerful study of the bible.  This is challenging.

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Why should we prayerfully “study” the bible instead of just prayerfully read it?

The texts of the Old and New Testaments are ancient and complex because God chose   for their authors people from times, cultures and languages that are foreign to us.  To understand them better we must understand these contexts from which they came – the culture, the lands, the languages, the peoples.   It is from these contexts that God chose the writers for the transmission and emergence of His saving word.   

Seeing that, in sacred Scripture, God speaks through men in human fashion, it follows that the interpreter of sacred Scriptures, if he is to ascertain what God has wished to communicate to us, should carefully search out the meaning which the sacred writers really had in mind, that meaning which God had thought well to manifest through the medium of their words.  (Dei Verbum, 12)

So Vatican II tells us that if we wish to correctly “ …understand what the sacred author wanted to affirm in his work, due attention must be paid both to the customary characteristic patterns of perception, speech and narrative which prevailed at the age of the sacred writer, and to the convention which the people of his time followed in their dealing with one another.”    (Dei Verbum, 12)

That means we try to put ourselves into the mindset of the ancient author and the ancient audience of the biblical text.  Anyone who has studied the plays of Shakespeare can appreciate how difficult it can be to understand an ancient literary work that is almost 500 years old.  William Shakespeare was a western European Christian who wrote in English.  And yet, though many of us share his cultural background, we still have trouble understanding his writings.  Now consider the biblical authors. 

They came from non European lands.  They did not write in English but in ancient Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic (Languages that ceased to be spoken thousands of years ago!).  Some of the texts of the Bible are almost 3,000 years old; the “newest” texts of the Bible are almost 2,000 years old.  Some of these authors were from a world dominated by the cultures of ancient Mesopotamia, some were dominated by Hellenistic Greek culture and still others were from a Roman culture.  All of these circumstances are quite foreign to us living in the 21st century!

The Pontifical Biblical Commission’s report of 1993 says: “

To attempt to by-pass [biblical exegesis or study] when seeking to understand the Bible would be to create an illusion and display lack of respect for the inspired Scripture.  When fundamentalists relegate exegetes to the role of translators only … and refuse to follow them further in their studies, these same fundamentalists do not realize that, for all their very laudable concern for total fidelity to the Word of God, they proceed in fact along ways which will lead them far away from the true meaning of the biblical texts.   Proper respect for inspired Scripture requires undertaking all the labors necessary to gain a thorough grasp of its meaning.  (Conclusion)

So, to “understand what the sacred author wanted to affirm in his work” requires prayerful study; not just prayerful reading.

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How long do your parish missions last?

I generally will be in a parish from Saturday afternoon through Thursday morning.  If the pastor has no objections, I’d preach at the week-end masses for the parish in order to give the parishioners information about the mission and to whet their appetites for our work with the scriptures.  I’d offer a presentation each evening, from Sunday through Wednesday evening.  If desirable, I can repeat the evening session the following day for those who missed the evening session, finishing on Thursday morning.  I usually offer 90 – 120 minute sessions.  This allows time for prayer, study and questions.

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What kind of set-up do you need for your talks?

I have become Power Point dependent!  I use Power Point slides for the sessions.  I bring a portable computer and a portable projector.  The site for each night’s talks would need either a large screen or a large, white wall for the Power Point slides, and of course electrical outlets for the equipment.  I frequently scribble notes during the talks so I’d like to have a chalkboard or white board for notes.  If the parish cannot accommodate a Power Point presentation, I can make do with just a large chalkboard or white board.

Given the above, it is clear that the church may not always be the best place for the sessions.  If there is a large hall in the parish or an auditorium, that might better accommodate the presentations.

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 What is your fee for a parish mission?

As a Franciscan friar I try to live a life of gospel simplicity and am very concerned that money never determine my ministry of the Word.  I expect to receive a just wage for my labors, as the gospel describes.  If the diocese has regulations for the payment of people giving parish missions, I would, of course, conform to any such diocesan requirements.  Otherwise I’d prefer that a free will offering be given.  This would be gathered by leaving a basket at the doors of the church or hall for each session of the mission.  Folks can then make an offering for each session.  On the final night of the mission I’d ask that a regular collection be taken up as is done at Sunday mass.  This gives everyone a chance to make an offering for the mission whether they’ve been able to attend all the talks, just a few of the talks or only the last one.

As I said, I am a Franciscan and as a Franciscan I cannot let money be a determining factor in my work.  However, also as a Franciscan, I am a member of a larger fraternity of men.  So I have a responsibility in the support and care of my brothers – many of whom are now retired and in healthcare facilities.  I need to support them as they have supported me.  The money I receive for my work always goes into the common fund for our friars – never to me personally.  So I’d ask that if checks are given, that they be made out to “The Franciscans” not to me.

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Where did you get your education in biblical studies?

I received my training in a number of places from wonderful teachers.  My Masters of Divinity and my Master of Arts in Biblical Studies came from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, Illinois.  I received my Licentiate in Sacred Scripture (S.S.L.) from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.  (The S.S.L. is a Roman degree and is like a doctorate without dissertation.)  This is the special school founded by the Pope Pius X in 1909 specifically for the training of Catholic Biblical scholars.  It is one of the foremost institutions in the world for biblical study.  It is run by Jesuits and its faculty is world renowned for its expertise in biblical languages.  It also has one of the finest, if not the finest, library in the world for biblical study.  I received my Doctorate in Sacred Theology (S.T.D.) in biblical studies from the Pontifical Gregorian University, also in Rome.  I received my Masters in Education from Loyola University, in Chicago.

So you can see that my education has been exclusively at Catholic institutions.  I am humbled by the depth and breadth of my education and in my work I always seek to live up to the rich opportunities given to me by the Church and by my brother friars.

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