Thursday, November 11, 2010

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 slience? 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 whould it be beneficial outside the monastery?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Service Hour Reminder

Students, please remember that the deadline for the completion and submission of your five service hours is only a few weeks away. The form can be found on the school website at
and will also be uploaded to school weblockers.

Same Story....Different Day

Hey scholars,
we'll have questions in the AM...sorry to keep you waiting with baited breath. I know you were so looking forward to them.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

St. Patrick Questions, pt. I

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 these visions play in his life and ministry? How (and why) does our contemporary culture respond to such claims of mystical visions?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

something different

Hey guys, if you're looking for St. Augustine questions we're going to hold off until class tomorrow. Things will be a little different tomorow - including the location of class. See you in the morning.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

St. Augustine Questions, pt. 1

These questions take us through part 1, Chapter 6.
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 18, 2010

Our Lady of Victory Chapel, St. Catherine's University MN

Below are images from the chapel at St. Catherine's University. It is, I suspect, the one that Sam visited for a wedding last weekend. Even if it is not, this is still a good example of a church for us to study. It is a classic basilica style with traditional Romanesque features inside.

The stained glass window above the altar, featuring "Christ the King", pointing to a higher Christology.

St. John Chrysostom, Homily 46

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?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi

How, without a systematic study of the doctrine of the Church (a privilege which most Catholics do not have) are Catholics to know their beliefs, if they do not even know the Chruch's prayers.

In light of this observation of mine (take it for what it's worth) we will be examining the Memorare. First let us examine the prayer and articulate what it is actually saying:

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

The Memorare is at least 500 years old, and its popularity was spread by a French priest with the surname Bernard. This led to the popular assumption that the prayer was written by St. Bernard of Clarivaux, whose theology of Mary we will investigate later this semester.
Please write a brief summary or "translation" if you will, of what this prayer is saying. next time we will begin the process of committing it to memory. Such "prayers of the heart" give utterance to our prayers when words would otherwise escape us.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Christology Data Gathering

We discussed Christology in class today: the study of the nature and identity of Jesus Christ. It is basically addressing the question that Jesus asked of his own Apostles, "Who do you say that I am?" (Mark 8:29)
How we answer that question is absolutely pivotal in shaping the rest of content of what we believe, the character of our worship, guiding our actions, and even the depth of our relationship with God.
Christology becomes an issue because we find in the one person, Jesus Christ, the hypostatic union of two natures: Human and Divine. All of our efforts to articlate who Jesus is will place, even if only slightly, into a "high" or "low" Christology.
Part of the function of the Magisterium (teaching authority) of the Church has been to establish the boundaries of orthodoxy (right belief). This means setting brackets, if you will, along the Christological spectrum. Beyond the brackets of orthodoxy we find heresy - an alternative, and false belief about the nature & identity of Jesus.

Your Assignment is to study your local parish for this coming weekend (and this past weekend) and try to create a "snapshot" of the operative Christology in the parish. You will do this in four ways:

I. Creed - What is expressly taught about who Jesus is? You will find this in the homily, in the Pastor's message in the bulletin, and in any religious formation classes the parish offers. You might also want to ask this question, "who is Jesus?" of a few people.

II. Liturgy & Sacraments - How does the parish engage in the worship of Jesus and how does it present the sacraments as encounters with Jesus? This you will find through astute observation in a few areas:

A. What is the "feel" of the Church before mass? What is going on in the fifteen minutes or so before mass begins? What are the Hymns sung at Church? What is the content, what are they about?

B. How many altar servers and other lay ministers (lectors, ushers, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion) are there? What is their decorum? How are they dressed? How active are they in the mass?

C. What prayers are used? It would be unreasonable to write down each one in its entirety, but identify some of the key phrases that are used. What is the general tone of the language of the prayers?

D. What is the environment like? Describe, or even sketch the layout of the Church. Where is the tabernacle? Where do you find statues or images of Jesus, Mary, or the Saints? What is the "feel" or style of those statues or images? Describe any prominent stained glass, banners, or seasonal decorations. Finally, describe the vestment of the priest.

III. Morality - What is the parish attitude toward sin? Are there explicit references to it during the mass - particularly the penitential right at the beginning? What about during the homily or in the bulletin? Are pro-life or other issues addressed? Is the confessional in a prominent location? How often is confession available? What percentage of people would you estimate make use of confession on a regular basis?

IV. Prayer - What opportunities does the parish offer for private or group prayer outside of Sunday mass? Is weekday mass celebrated regularly? Is there an adoration chapel? If so, is it widely known or used as such? Do people pray the rosary or other prayers before or after mass? Does the priest offer suggestions for personal or private prayer?

Remember, this is the data gathering portion of the assignment. I am not yet asking you to draw any conclusions, though if they begin to emerge, please jot them down to incorporate later.

Monday, October 4, 2010

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 28, 2010

Pope Benedict to the Youth

Pope Benedict, in his homily at a public mass in Scotland, made the following remarks to the young people gathered there, remarks I now share with you, not so much because the ideas are new to you, but rather because I think these words from the Holy Father will encourage you in what you are already doing.

"Finally, I would like to say a word to you, my dear young Catholics [of Scotland]. I urge you to lead lives worthy of our Lord (cf. Eph 4:1) and of yourselves. There are many temptations placed before you every day – drugs, money, sex, pornography, alcohol – which the world tells you will bring you happiness, yet these things are destructive and divisive.

There is only one thing which lasts: the love of Jesus Christ personally for each one of you. Search for him, know him and love him, and he will set you free from slavery to the glittering but superficial existence frequently proposed by today’s society. Put aside what is worthless and learn of your own dignity as children of God.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks us to pray for vocations: I pray that many of you will know and love Jesus Christ and, through that encounter, will dedicate yourselves completely to God, especially those of you who are called to the priesthood and religious life. This is the challenge the Lord gives to you today: the Church now belongs to you!"

For excellent coverage of the Papal Trip (and all other universal Church happenings, check out

Pope Benedict on St. Cyril

Again, I invite you to look back to the Holy Father's catechesis on St. Cyril for some additional context and insight.

St. Cyril 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 of 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 lecture 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 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. What do you make of the section "On Apparel"? Just jot down a few sentences of your reaction and we will discuss it in class.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Hello theology scholars. I was really impressed with our class last time. However, as seems to be our pattern - we went a bit longer on the lesson than I intended and we did not have time to review. So rest assured, the Quiz (actually more like a test) is still on the horizon, but a bit further off than we intended. So I will see you bright and early, ready to review the Apostolic (and early Patristic) Age.

Mr. Basso

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

St. Cyprian Questions

1. What external factors may have been influencing St. Cyprian in drafting this document? (remember, you need to do a little independent research on this one.)

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

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 we 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 Judging those who break away form the Church, but rather trying to correct their misguided actions.

St. Cyprian of Carthage - Introduction

In preparation for our reading of St. Cyprian's Treatise on Church Unity, please read Holy Father's essay on this Church Father.
Then proceed to read the Treatise itself, again entitled, On the Unity of the Church.
Discussion questions to follow.
Ad Jesum per Mariam
Mr. Basso

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

St. Ignatius Questions

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?

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?

Until next time,
Ad Jesum Per Mariam,
Mr. Basso

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Didache Questions

Hello, Scholars.
I apologize that I have been out of town this weekend for a relative's wedding and I have not yet posted the Didache questions. No worries. We will work on these in class tomorrow. See you all bright and early.

Here are the questions we will be going over in class, as well as some key vocabulary terms that I thought might be unfamiliar to you.

Monger (Christmonger)

1. Briefly explain what is meant by the “Two Ways”. In what sense are these paths or “ways” that one travels? Why do you think the authors put all of the moral instruction at the beginning as opposed to starting off describing who Jesus is and what had happened to him?

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 and why is this mentality so far removed in the contemporary Church?

4. Chapter 4 urges parents not to “withdraw their hands” from their children, basically condoning spanking. Why do you think the apostolic fathers would bother to include this among their list of precepts? What is the relationship between a child’s behavior and a child’s faith?

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 think the Church is today and why? (give examples)

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 does fasting do to enhance one’s experience of baptism? Why do you think there are specifications as to the type of water used?

7. 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 particular days as fast days?

8. Compare & Contrast the Eucharistic Prayers described in the Didache with the prayers you are familiar with at mass.

9. 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?

Ad Jesum per Mariam,
Mr. Basso

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Acts of the Apostles

Welcome to the Theology 11 (Honors) website. This will be your online resource for questions, reading assignments, and links to aid your research. We are starting off with the Acts of the Apostles, and here is your first set of questions:

1. Briefly summarize the events of the first Pentecost. What charisms (gifts) did the Apostles receive and what purpose do they have for these gifts? Can you think of an Old Testament story that is, in some way, the "opposite" of what is going on here? Describe it.

2. Compare and contrast SS. Peter and Paul as Apostolic Leaders. How do their efforts at Evangelization differ? In what ways are they consistent?

3. Analyze the social structure of the Apostolic Church and contrast it with the social structure of the Church today.

4. What need 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?)

5. Analyze St. Paul’s speech at the Acropolis to the Greeks. How does this compare to the way Paul speaks to the Jews?

6. Describe the Gentile vs. Jew controversy and analyze how the Apostolic Church ultimately dealt with that controversey.


1. 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?

2. The efforts of the Apostles in evangelizing others is directed toward making converts and then having them receive baptism. Acts records mass baptisms of hundreds, even thousands of converts. What "goes along with" these baptism events? What sort of "follow up" do the Apostles provide to the new converts?

3. See question #4 above.

Ad Jesum Per Mariam,

Mr. Basso