Emmaus Academy Course Review

I think we can easily forget that there isn’t an end of learning when it comes to our faith. We don’t “graduate” or “finish” in terms of faith and knowledge of God. God is immeasurable, infinite, eternal, outside of time and space. Even when we die and come into His full presence, there will still be things outside of our understanding because we are not God, nor will we ever be. 

While there is no true end to learning about what we believe, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a journey worth pursuing. We are immensely blessed with a faith that is rich in meaning, tradition, and history. We also believe in a living faith. The Holy Spirit is still actively guiding the Church as a whole as well as each one of us individually. Mysteries of our faith are still being revealed, apparitions are still happening, saints are still being made. Even if someone, somehow, managed to learn all the things that have been discovered about our faith to this point, they still would not know all of it because there is more the Holy Spirit is waiting to draw us into. 

If you haven’t guessed yet, I love to learn and I especially love this adventure of learning the deep mysteries of our faith. I was so pleased to be able to review a new course from the St. Paul Center’s Emmaus Academy entitled, “Full of Grace.” The Emmaus Academy is a learning platform that has a wide range of video based courses on a variety of topics especially pertaining to Sacred Scripture. It also has a few book based series where you can read through a modern text and engage in reflections guided by the author. Finally, there are a growing number of special presentations on specific topics. So far, Dr. Scott Hahn has a video series that walks through the Our Father and this July a new series will be released titled, “The Catholic Table.” Emmaus Academy has monthly or yearly subscription options.

“Full of Grace” is a Marian focused series of 12 videos, ranging from 22-40 minutes (only 1 40 minute video, the rest were 35 minutes or less). The videos are given by Fr. Daniel Maria Klimek, TOR, a professor of Mariology at Steubenville University. At the conclusion of each video there is an optional 5 question quiz which highlights some of the overall concepts discussed in the video. 

There is no time specific requirements for these courses. You are working through them on your own and at your own pace. However, at the start of the course, I appreciated that you were shown a window which projected how many hours a week you wished to dedicate to your course and if you stuck to that plan, when you would expect to conclude. While not a binding document, it was a nice touch for emphasizing that this course should be a priority in your schedule. 

As a mom of 6 kids, I don’t have a ton of time to sit down and devote 30 minutes to a video that delivers a lot of information I want to retain. These aren’t background noise videos. Each one was full of interesting content pertaining to Mary’s role in Scripture, background information about the Garden of Eden and how Mary is part of the fulfillment of God’s promises to Adam and Eve, the history and development of Marian dogmas, Marian apparitions, and even Mary’s role in spiritual warfare. This was a packed course.

The interface is very clean and easy to navigate which I appreciated. Even more, I appreciated that the course kept my place in the video I was in the middle of, even if I was switching between my computer and my phone. This was a huge plus for me because it happened often that I would start a video on my phone, want to stop to take a note and get distracted by this, that or the other, and then return in the evening on my laptop. There wasn’t any trying to remember the time stamp or which video was I in the middle of again. 

This was a very dense course. Excellent, but dense. I would highly recommend a notebook because there will be a lot to write down as well as a number of new authors you might want to check out. If you haven’t had the opportunity to study your faith in a more academic setting, this course might be a little overwhelming. But, because these are pre-recorded videos, you can pause or rewatch as you need so you can fully explore all the concepts presented. 

Overall, this was an excellent experience for me. It was so good to spend this time focusing intently on the Blessed Mother and how special she is for the Church, as well as for me personally. 

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Fifth Sunday of Lent 2023

Today’s post is going to be a little different in that it’s also a book review. Over spring break I was able to read a most excellent book I wanted to share with you. By the Rivers of Babylon by Michael D. O’Brien is a historical fiction novel about the early life of the prophet Ezekiel. I fell in love immediately and one of the overall themes of the book fits in perfectly with this Sunday’s Gospel reading – God’s timing.

In case you haven’t noticed, either from Scripture or your own life experience, God doesn’t follow a schedule we can easily decipher. In the story of Jesus’ raising Lazarus, Jesus finds out about Lazarus’ illness 2 full days before He begins to journey to Bethany. Jesus is about 30ish miles from Bethany at this time (the previous chapter of John tells us Jesus traveled to Samaria after some confrontations at the Temple in Jerusalem). At a walking pace, it would have taken them at least 2 days to get to Bethany, maybe longer. And Jesus waited to get started.

I’m sure everyone was wondering why Jesus chose to wait. If they had listened closely, they would have already known the answer to their question:

When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

John 11:4

Something larger was at work in Lazarus’ illness. Jesus could have rushed to Lazarus’ side and cured him of whatever was ailing him. But, the bigger, more miraculous, impossible story happens because Jesus choses to wait for God’s timing. To reflect more fully on God’s timing, check out this week’s video.

The Israelite people experienced this time and again. In By The Rivers of Babylon, you walk with Ezekiel through the crumbling of faithfulness in Jerusalem and into exile in Babylon. While this at first sounds like a depressing read, Ezekiel’s perspective lifts your eyes to heaven and God’s larger plan that is at work. Below is my full review:

Because of the distance of time between today and Biblical days, it can be difficult to fully appreciate the world during which the Bible was written. We rely on ancient texts, cultural traditions, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to reveal to us what life could have been like during the Israelites wandering in the wilderness, the glory of David’s kingship, or times of exile. We are also blessed by the imaginations of authors such as Michael D. O’Brien who, through his new book, By The Rivers of Babylon, can open up for us a whole new perspective on a particular moment in Biblical history. 

O’Brien has crafted a beautiful book about the early life of the prophet Ezekiel, or Yezekiel in the Hebrew O’Brien utilizes. I was entranced by this book and the gentle way O’Brien unfolds the young Ezekiel’s life. The inside of the dust jacket includes the question, “What makes a prophet?” I found this to be a poignant question. While the book thoughtfully unfolds moments of Ezekiel’s life which are clearly preparatory for his eventual calling to be a prophet to the exiles, O’Brien also invites the reader to consider what God could be preparing them for someday. Do we each have a unique purpose to which God is calling us? How is God using today to prepare us for the tomorrow we do not yet see?

I’ll share one quote as an example:

“I am carefully fitting corner bricks to overlap with bricks of the adjoining wall. Ah, if only I could mold a whole wall in an instant, go my thoughts. I could carry it here on my shoulders. I could put four walls together and make a house in the blink of an eye.

Then I smile at the notion. Life is like this, I remind myself. You cannot move a whole wall on your shoulders. You move the wall brick by brick. This is how God as built Israel, little by little, step by step.

pg 178

What a beautiful, timeless insight into the human heart. We want things to happen immediately. We want quick answers, minimal waits, instant gratification. The story of Ezekiel through O’Brien’s imagination is one of slowness, anticipation, and difficult waiting. Instead of lashing out against their conquerors, Ezekiel offers a prayerful approach. He trusts in God’s plan for His people and continually unites himself to that plan through simple acts of love and generosity. He also would have been a man immersed in the psalms, which O’Brien does a masterful job of weaving into all sections of the book. Through these psalm-prayers of Ezekiel, we are able to witness a powerful form of praying in, with, and through the words of Scripture.

You know you’ve found a good book of Biblical historical fiction when the first thing you want to read after finishing is the book(s) of the Bible referenced. This is exactly how I felt and what I did upon closing By The Rivers of Babylon.

I cannot encourage everyone enough to find the time to read this book, and then to go on to read through the book of Ezekiel. I am already planning a second read through, likely of both.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Rorate Coeli ~ Advent Music Review

Advent has always been one of my favorite liturgical seasons. The music, in particular, is something I look forward to each year. I love how mindful our Church has been throughout the centuries to safeguard and celebrate certain passages, melodies and refrains that hold special significance for the various liturgical seasons. I was so happy to be able to receive a copy of Rorate Cœli: Marian Sounds of Advent from The Monks of Clear Creek

This CD was recorded at Our Lady of the Annunciation of Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma. It is a series of chants that come from different liturgical moments throughout Advent and the Mass the Vigil of Christmas, that being Mass in the morning on Dec. 24. The “Rotate Cœli” which the CD is named after, is heard during the Saturday Mass of the Blessed Virgin in Advent. The text is taken from Isaiah’s lament over the destruction of Jerusalem while keeping our eyes fixed on the promise of God’s salvation. The refrain is specifically Isaiah 45:8:

Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just One.

I found this image to be striking. The introduction to the CD, written by Abbot Philip Anderson, reflects that, “It is through Our Lady that the Dew of God in Person finally came down from Heave to fulfill the longings of the prophets of old.” Jesus, the gentle Dew of God. It reminded me of the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19 where God passes by the cave. Not in the mighty wind, not in the earthquake and not in the fire. It was at the lightest wisp of breeze that brought Elijah to his knees before his Lord and God. Jesus didn’t come to earth on the backs of wild horses or flaming chariots. He wasn’t born in a palace or a cultural center. He came, meek and mild, as the dew we often don’t even remark upon or notice. The simplicity of chant mingles with the complexity of what is sung about. It never ceases to cause me to pull away from the demands of my day and to rest in those few moments of peace and prayer. 

As someone who loves to learn, I was so happy to find the booklet that came in the CD to be full of information. Not only are all the chants written out in Latin, but it also includes English and French translations. Additionally, the majority of the translations are also accompanied with an explanation of when the chant is typically sung, a few comments about key notes, chords, or phrases to listen for and how this chant connects to the others in the set. While these chants are beautiful and mediative on their own, their richness comes alive when you journey through them with the booklet to guide you and inform your ear to the subtleties built into the music.

Though Advent isn’t upon us just yet, still a few days to go, I am already making plans to be listening to this CD as part of our daily drive to school. My kids and I have listened through it as I prepared to write this review and there is a definite difference in the overall tone of the car from when we listened to chant and when we did not. Adding chant to our usual day may become a permanent thing. I will definitely be looking to the monks at Clear Creek for more peaceful and thoughtful chants to expand our collection.

If you haven’t yet, this is a great time to visit my previous blog post which has the Advent Journals for this year. Again, these are totally free to you and anyone whom you choose to share them with. I hope they bring you blessings and peace this Advent season.