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Joe Paprocki :
67 article(s)

Joe Paprocki, D.Min., is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press in Chicago. He has over 30 years of experience in pastoral ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago. Joe is the author of numerous books on pastoral ministry and catechesis, including The Bible Blueprint, Living the Mass, and bestsellers The Catechist's Toolbox and A Well-Built Faith (all from Loyola Press).
June 26th, 2012

The story of Jonah is one of those Scripture passages that we as Catholics would say is a TRUE story, but not necessarily FACT. Catholics believe that everything… in the Bible is TRUE in a religious sense. However, when it comes to scientific and historical truth (facts), there are times that the Bible is not totally accurate.
Why? Simply because the Bible comes to us from a time when most people were not literate and certainly not as literal as we are today. They did not have science and history as we understand those fields today. So, although there is a great deal of historicity in the Bible (proven by archeological study), we also find that there are places where figurative language was used. Figurative language (for

February 22nd, 2012

While many Christians wear ashes on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday, few, if any, don sackcloth! And yet, the two are often mentioned in the same breath in Scripture (1Mac 3:47; Esther 4:3-4; Is 58:5; Jer 6:26; Dan 9:3; Jon 3:6; Mt 11:21, to name a few). Today, we tend to picture someone wearing sackcloth as someone wearing a burlap bag with holes for the head and arms. In biblical times, however, sackcloth was made from the coarse hair of a black goat. Because it produced some degree of pain or discomfort, it was worn by one who was mourning or as a public sign of repentance, atonement, or submission. Because of this, sackcloth was sometimes worn by the Prophets as an outward sign of their call to repentance.
The purpose…

December 28th, 2011

As Catholics, we don’t believe that ANYTHING in the Bible is invented. Rather, everything in the Bible is inspired. In other words, God is the author of the Bible and human authors wrote the Scriptures down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
With that in mind, the Catechism… (#115-117) teaches us to recognize that the Bible works on 2 levels: the literal and the spiritual. This means that, even when events described in the Bible may not be intended to be understood literally, they nonetheless teach spiritual truth.
Of course, your question is asking whether or not the infancy narratives (found only in Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels) are factual (can be taken literally as historical accounts)

May 27th, 2011

Abraham is considered our father in faith by three major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. So, let’s begin there. Abraham (or Abram, as we first encounter him) is a central figure in the story of salvation history. It is through him that God established his covenant. That’s another way of saying that it is through Abraham that God entered into a very sacred relationship with humankind. In order for God to determine Abraham’s ability to trust, Gn 22 tells us that God instructs Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Recall that this ancient story (literally thousands of years old) comes from a time when human sacrifice (and polytheism – belief in many gods) was common. What strikes us as so utterly…

May 20th, 2011

Jesus did not ask Peter this question 3 times because he was hard of hearing or slow to comprehend Peter’s answers! The fact that Jesus asks Peter this question – “do you love me?” – three times is very significant.

May 13th, 2011

The Acts of the Apostles, which is a sequel to Luke’s Gospel, is an action-packed thriller, to borrow from today’s vernacular. It’s hard to imagine reading the Acts of the Apostles and NOT coming away with a sense of enthusiasm and eagerness to proclaim the Good News! In fact, I often recommend to people that they begin their study of the New Testament by reading the Acts of the Apostles even before delving into the Gospels. In many ways, we can most easily relate to the Acts of the Apostles because it is most similar to our own experience: followers of Jesus striving to proclaim the gospel after the Ascension of Jesus, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Some of the most well-known and inspiring stories in the…

May 6th, 2011

The biblical authors loved numbers. Some numbers are good. Some are bad. Some numbers are repeated so often that we can rightly become a bit suspicious. For example, you might be surprised to know that the number forty occurs nearly 200 times in the Bible. The Israelites wandered the desert for 40 days; Moses remained on the mountaintop for 40 days; Jesus spent 40 days in the desert. It is obvious that this number is being used as a symbol and not strictly to communicate fact. Specifically, the number forty represents a significant period of time during which a person’s faithfulness is tested and can be judged or determined. Other numbers are used frequently in the Bible to convey symbolic meaning.
The number…

April 29th, 2011

John’s Gospel describes Jesus forming a “whip of cords” (John 2:15) and using it to drive out them out of the temple. How can we reconcile Jesus’ apparent anger with the notion of anger being a deadly sin? First, we don’t know that Jesus was angry. We do not have a description of his inner state of mind. What we do have is a description of bold behavior – fierce action. There is a difference between being angry and being fierce. In fact, Jesus’ disciples describe his actions in this scene as reminiscent of a passage from Scripture: “Zeal for thy house will consume me.” (Psalm 69:10) In other words, the disciples characterized Jesus’ demeanor as being zealous, not angry. Finally, for those who dismiss…

March 18th, 2011

Indeed, Joseph is a quiet man in the Gospels, included in several stories in Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels (which both include genealogies tracing Joseph’s lineage to King David) and briefly mentioned in John’s Gospel. No words are attributed to this carpenter in any of these passages and yet his presence speaks loudly. He is described as a man of faith, an upright man, and a man who is open to God’s direction. In Matthew’s Gospel, in particular, we are told of significant dreams that Joseph has in which he learns God’s will that he should take Mary as his wife (Mt 1:18-25) and later take her and the child to Egypt for safety from Herod (Mt 2:13-23). Final mention of Joseph comes in Luke’s story of the…

March 4th, 2011

First of all, mountains are mentioned frequently in the Bible because mountains dotted the landscape of biblical regions. In other words, while mountains have a significant symbolic value in the Bible, they first and foremost are part of the physical reality of the Bible. As a result, mountains and hills are mentioned over 500 times in the Bible. Mountains have a logical religious symbolism for biblical cultures since they are “closer to God” who was believed to dwell in the heavens (as in the sky). As a result, God often reveals himself on the mountaintop.
In the Old Testament, the mountains of Sinai and Zion are most significant. Mount Sinai, of course, is associated with Moses and is the place where Moses…

February 25th, 2011

When it comes to important people in the Old Testament, Moses is “Da Man!”
Says who? Well, start with the Bible itself as it characterizes Moses at the time of his death: “Since then no prophet has arisen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face. He had no equal in all the signs and wonders the LORD sent him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh and all his servants and against all his land, and for the might and the terrifying power that Moses exhibited in the sight of all Israel.” (Dt 34:10-12) Now there’s an epitaph!
So why is Moses considered so great a figure in the Old Testament? Namely, because he is the instrument through which Israel experiences God’s salvation. The Exodus – the…

February 4th, 2011

Ownership of land was very important in biblical times. Heck, it still is! Who doesn’t think that they’ve “made it” when they finally purchase their first home? To own property is to reach a degree of prosperity that makes you a “someone.” Recall that, in the Old Testament, the Jewish people find themselves in slavery in the land of Egypt. They have no land to call their own, and therefore, they have no identity. So, when God sends Moses to free the Jewish people from slavery and lead them into freedom, he promises them land – something that will identify them as a people and as a nation. This wasn’t some last minute after thought, however, that God threw in to sweeten the pot. It was part of God’s plan…

January 14th, 2011

What we find in the New Testament is a reference to a woman named Phoebe as “minister of the church at Cenchreae” (Romans 16:1) The Greek word used here for minister is diakonos which means servants, attendants, or ministers. St. Paul used the word to refer to himself on occasion as he did in 2 Cor 6:4 (“ministers of God”) and 2 Cor 11:23 (“ministers of God”). It is not at all clear, however, that this had been established as an ecclesiastical role… in the church at that time.
On the other hand, it is very clear in Paul’s First Letter to Timothy (3:8, 12) that the word deacon referred to an established office of the church’s hierarchy to which one was ordained. Thus, because we do not know what the precise functions

January 7th, 2011

First of all, we don’t know exactly how many wise men visited the newborn king! This is one of those assumptions made by people throughout the ages that is not specifically mentioned in the Bible (just as the Book of Genesis never mentions an apple!). It is presumed that since they offered 3 gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Mt 2:11) – that there were 3 wise men. However, we really don’t know how many there were. Having said that, the story of the Magi is an example of a biblical story whose historicity remains unclear. Whether or not their absolute historicity can be verified or not, the Magi do indeed exist as an integral part of a rich story that reveals God’s Word to us. In other…

November 12th, 2010

Stigmata, from the Greek word for “marks” or “signs,” refers to the physical manifestations of the wounds of Jesus on the hands, feet, side, and brow, accompanied by intense suffering. These are called visible stigmata. When someone experiences the sufferings without any outward marks, these phenomena are called invisible stigmata. Although a small number of saints over the centuries have been known to bear the stigmata as a means of participating in Jesus’ suffering, no reliable list exists. Certainly no one in Scripture was known to have the stigmata. Saint Francis of Assisi, one of the best-known examples of a saint bearing stigmata, is considered the first to bear these…

November 5th, 2010

An apocalypse is a revelation or prophecy about the ultimate divine purpose. As such, the word apocalypse is associated with the end of the world, when God’s ultimate purpose will be revealed. Contrary to popular opinion, the Bible does not contain a list of 7 signs of the apocalypse per se. However, the Book of Revelation, beginning with Rev 5:1, describes a book with 7 seals. As each seal is opened, an event or series of events occur. The first four seals are associated with the “four horsemen” and are accompanied by the signs of 1) religious deception and persecution (Rev. 6:1-2), 2) war (Rev. 6:3-4), 3) famine (Rev. 6:5-6), and 4) pestilence (Rev. 6:7-8). The opening of the fifth seal is accompanied…

October 29th, 2010

The 7 Deadly or Capital Sins are not found in a list, per se, in the Bible, but rather are part of Church Tradition, dating back to the early Church and especially St. John Cassian and St. Gregory the Great. These sins are considered deadly or capital (from the Latin word for head; caput). In the Bible, there are examples of lists of sins, such as Proverbs 6:16-19 and Galatians 5:19-21, however, these are not specifically the 7 Deadly sins of pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth (acedia), as they are enumerated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1866. At various points in the Bible, all 7 of these sins are proscribed. Traditionally, the Church has also provided virtues that counteract these…

October 15th, 2010

Names play an important role in the Gospels. While major characters such as the Apostles, Mary and Joseph, King Herod and Pontius Pilate are named, when it comes to more minor characters, we don’t always get the name of the individual. In many ways, this creates a bit of a mystery with regards to these characters, similar to the mystery that surrounded the masked Lone Ranger (an old TV Western) which led people to ask, “Who was that masked man?”
In some cases, minor characters do receive a name such as Simon of Cyrene who helped Jesus carry his Cross, Zacchaeus, the tax collector with whom Jesus ate dinner, and Barabbas, the criminal who won his release instead of Jesus at the hands of Pontius Pilate. In other cases,…

September 24th, 2010

Question: Where does the church get some of the legendary stories of St. Joseph such as the wooden stick that blooms for Joseph but not others?

Many Catholic churches have altars (or at least statues) on either side of the main altar, dedicated to St. Joseph and to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Take a close look at the St. Joseph statue the next time you’re in church and chances are, you’ll notice him holding a wooden stick out of which flowers are blooming. A quick look through the Gospels reveals no reference to any kind of an incident involving St. Joseph and a wooden stick blooming flowers! So where does this image come from? First of all, the story of the wooden stick and the blooming flowers goes like this:

September 17th, 2010

Q: Why does the author of John’s gospel use the term “the disciple whom Jesus loved?” Is this a homosexual reference?
One of the more mysterious characteristics of John’s Gospel is his reference to “the disciple whom Jesus loved” or the “beloved disciple.” This reference occurs 5 times in John’s Gospel:
·
13:23-25 (the disciple reclining next to Jesus at the Last Supper who asks Jesus who will betray him)
· 19:26-27 (the disciple standing at the foot of the Cross to whom Jesus says, in reference to Mary, “Here is your Mother)
· 20:1-10 (the disciple who, along with Simon Peter, hears Mary Magdalene’s account of the Resurrection)
· 21:1-14 (one of 7 disciples who are…

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