By Brandon Vogt - OSV Newsweekly, 3/18/2012
Imagine showing an iPhone to St. Thomas Aquinas and explaining that it holds his entire Summa Theologica. Picture a shocked St. Augustine seeing you read the Church Fathers on a thin screen, then listen to a homily preached hundreds of miles away.
Modern technology provides us Catholics an array of study tools that would leave any saint in awe. Upon seeing our laptops and tablets, smartphones and iPods, they’d marvel at how easy it is for us to explore Sacred Scripture.
Powerful Bible software
Perhaps the most powerful tool around is the Logos Bible software (www.logos.com/catholic). Originally designed for Protestant pastors and academics, Logos now has a full line of Catholic resources that make it helpful for Catholics everywhere — from the pews to the classrooms.
At its core, the software acts like a library — it’s scalable based on how many resources you add. When you download the free base Logos software, you get many Bible translations and books, right out of the box. When you’re ready for more, the Logos catalog has more than 17,000 items to choose from. You’ll find everything from complex theological books and Scripture commentaries to maps, photos and primary texts from each century in Church history.
Many of the resources can be read free online through websites like New Advent (www.newadvent.org), however the benefit of Logos is that it integrates them all in one place, connecting the resources to each other and to Scripture.
“Logos is not just a ‘reader’ for texts,” said Andrew Jones, Logos Catholic product manager. “Rather, the texts become integrated into a system that links them all together at the roots of the individual words, and keys the whole library to Scripture. Scripture is a hub around which the vast library revolves — the Bible is literally surrounded by the Tradition.”
So for instance, say you’re exploring the end of John 6, Jesus’ famous “Bread of Life” discourse. In just a few clicks Logos will give you the full passage in your favorite translation, and then position it alongside commentary from the saints, magisterial teachings on the Eucharist, and even liturgical prayers and artwork pertaining to the sacrament.
Study is made even easier through the helpful search function, which provides answers to any question you have about the Bible. What does St. Augustine say about the opening chapters of Genesis? Which biblical passages point to the priesthood? How have the saints understood Jesus’ parables? One click gives each answer instantly.
In addition to their computer software, Logos also has a free mobile application that is impressive on its own. Within minutes of firing it up, you can reference a favorite Bible verse or browse dozens of commentaries all on a device that fits in your pocket. Who would have guessed 20 years ago that we could carry all of Scripture and centuries of Tradition wherever we go?
This mobile technology is growing at an astounding rate and has already led several tech analysts to deem 2012 “The Year of Mobile.” Today, nine out of 10 Americans have a cell phone, and 45 percent of those are smartphones.
Most mobile devices allow users to download apps — like the one from Logos — several of which can help Catholics go deeper into Scripture. For instance, the Magnificat app brings the same rich content from the print devotional straight to your phone. You’ll find the daily liturgical readings, reflective commentary, morning and evening prayers, and a short saint biography each day. A similar app called iMissal will even play the daily readings aloud.
By integrating Scripture with the liturgy, both apps follow the advice of Pope Benedict XVI, who in his 2010 apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini (“The Word of the Lord”) said that Catholics should “savor the deep meaning of the word of God, which unfolds each year in the liturgy.”
Tweeting the Faith
At first glance, Twitter might not seem like an effective Bible study tool. You wouldn’t expect thoughtful exegesis from a site with a strict 140-character limit. Yet many Catholics are delivering just that.
One prominent example is Bishop Christopher Coyne (@bishopcoyne) of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Almost every morning before he celebrates Mass, Bishop Coyne meditates on the daily readings and then shares his reflections on Twitter. On any given day he might explain how the Church Fathers interpreted a particular passage, offer an inspiring quote, or connect the readings to that day’s saint. His reflections bring clarity and depth to a world often filled with shallow noise.
With exciting new technologies like apps and social media, we shouldn’t forget the most ubiquitous source of digital information: websites. Those looking to grasp Catholicism’s biblical basis will find it at Catholic.com. Run by the popular Catholic Answers apostolate, the site equips Catholics to explain and defend their faith while also guiding skeptics to helpful information.
The site is especially useful for researching how certain Catholic beliefs are rooted in Scripture. For example, if a Protestant friend asks you to explain why Catholics venerate Mary, Catholic.com will point you to passages such as Revelation 12 and provide insights from the Church’s earliest theologians.
The site’s powerful search box makes this research easy. It synthesizes the thousands of resources on the site and allows you to simply enter a topic or Bible verse and find hundreds of relevant materials.
If you’re looking for higher level Bible resources, you might turn to SalvationHistory.com, the website of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, run by Scott Hahn. The site hosts hundreds of biblical articles with varying complexity, everything from simple background on the books of Scripture to cutting-edge scholarship. The site even offers free online courses in biblical theology that give you graduate-level content without the high price of tuition.
Homilies on the go
If you’re looking to study Scripture on the go, podcasts provide a great solution. Podcasts are series of audio or video files you “subscribe” to, usually for free, and can play on your cell phone or other portable device. They allow you to download content and enjoy it at your leisure — whenever you want, wherever you want. A growing number of people are listening to podcasts, especially in their car or on the train.
When it comes to Scripture podcasts, there are plenty of great options. Many priests now podcast their weekly homilies which means you can replay that inspiring message you heard last Sunday or share it with a friend.
Even better, some priests, such as Father Robert Barron of Word on Fire ministries in Chicago, prerecord their Sunday messages and then make them available early in the week. Filled with brilliant insights, Father Barron’s “Word on Fire” podcast (www.wordonfire.org) lets you reflect on the Sunday readings before you go to Mass, thereby helping you better prepare for the liturgy.
Other options include the St. Paul Center website, where Hahn shares his own weekly lectionary reflections, or Lifeteen’s “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday” podcast, which is geared toward younger ears.
Besides commenting on the lectionary, several podcasts are devoted to specific biblical topics. Michael Barber, professor of Scripture at John Paul the Great University, hosts one of the more popular ones called “The Sacred Page” (www.thesacredpage.com).
“One reason I like podcasts is that if you get distracted or want to hear something again, you can do so easily with this technology,” Barber told Our Sunday Visitor. “This is particularly helpful for Scripture podcasts. The Bible is rich, and sometimes you have to hear an idea a few times before you can really get your mind around it.”
And Catholics have plenty of tools to do just that. Whether through software, apps, social media or podcasts, modern technology helps us reflect and study Scripture like never before. It still takes time and devotion, but even the saints would marvel at our Bible tech tools.
Brandon Vogt is a Catholic writer and speaker who blogs at www.ThinVeil.net. He is also the author of “The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts, Online Activists, and Bishops Who Tweet” (OSV, $13.95) which you can find at www.churchandnewmedia.com. He writes from Casselberry, Fla.
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