One good plan for Lent is to spend some minutes a day studying the faith more, or at least one aspect of it, like the sacraments. In fact, it is recommended that Catholics continuously study and review the faith throughout their lifetime, in order to acquire what St. Josemaria Escriva calls “the piety of children and the doctrine of theologians”. Given the richness of the Catholic faith, there is always something new to be discovered about it every time one studies it.
However, admittedly, the prospect of studying the same thing again and again can initially be unappealing. Fortunately, there are always new ways to approach the same old topics. For example, while most of us have learned the basics of the Catechism either in RCIA or in school or from our mothers’ lips, it is a good idea to revisit the Catechism, this time learning its biblical basis and context.
For those who want to use this approach in studying the sacraments, one good resource is the St. Paul Center for Biblical Studies’ video series on “The Bible and the Sacraments”. (Full disclosure: I was given advance access to it, as well as a free copy of the accompanying participants’ workbook.)
Starting Ash Wednesday, the St. Paul Center for Biblical Studies will give free access to its video series on “The Bible and the Sacraments” for a limited period of time. The series consists of eleven lessons, each lasting 25 minutes on the average, on the biblical roots of the sacraments as explained by author Matthew Leonard. Two lessons will be posted every week, and will be available for two weeks each. DVDs of the video series are available for sale, but the shipping will start after Easter.
You will need to register to get access to the free videos. Those who register will get discounts on the supplemental materials, which consist of a participant’s workbook, a leader’s guide for those who want to study the materials in a group, and copies of Scott Hahn’s Swear to God and Jacob Wood’s Speaking the Love of God.
In my opinion, these additional materials are not necessary to take full advantage of the lessons. However, based on my experience with the free Bible courses from the website of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Studies, which are accompanied by review questions, I would recommend getting at least the participant’s workbook for The Bible and the Sacraments. The participants’ workbook contains review questions, discussion questions, memory verses, lists of the biblical references, and recommended additional readings from the two books mentioned above and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Personally, I find the review questions most valuable, because I find it helpful to take down handwritten notes based on the review questions. This practice helps me actively engage with the material and remember it better. Of course, each one can and should use the materials according to his or her personal learning style.
I would recommend The Bible and the Sacraments to anyone who wants to understand the sacraments better. I think those who would especially appreciate it are those who already have a rudimentary understanding of the Church’s teachings on the sacraments but who would like to “level up” their study of the subject matter, perhaps rooting it deeper in the Scriptures. However, The Bible and the Sacraments is easy enough for beginners to understand. On the other hand, those who want a more scholarly treatment of the subject matter will be satisfied just the same.
Lent is all about penance, almsgiving, and prayer. Studying the faith facilitates all three. We can offer up the effort we exert in studying the faith to atone for the time we waste in idle curiosity. Studying the faith equips us to give spiritual alms to those who have questions or doubts about it. Above all, studying the faith makes us know God more, and thus helps us relate better with Him in prayer. For these reasons, I look forward to watching the St. Paul Center for Biblical Studies’ videos on The Bible and the Sacraments this Lent.