Reading Ratzinger With Fr. Harrison

Recently, I began a part-time PhD program in England, where I’m writing my thesis on the work of Joseph Ratzinger and his understanding of the human person. On top of this, different writing opportunities have recently presented themselves to me. Verbum has been an amazing asset that has helped me tremendously, and I want to share some of the ways that Verbum makes my theological research easier and more efficient.

The backbone of Verbum is its scriptural tools. Theological researchers who study systematics are often not as strong in scriptural exegesis. They’re not familiar with word dictionaries, commentaries, etc. Verbum’s Exegetical Guide brings together all those resources automatically. This is a great tool for any theologian because they must delve into specific passages, as theology depends so much on a correct understanding of Scripture. The Exegetical Guide is a great centralized tool that can help the theologian in an area of weakness.

Verbum has grown their digital library beyond just scriptural aids. They have a robust selection of theological works. I’ve been able to depend on Verbum due to the extensive amount of Ratzinger and Pope Benedict resources they have in their library. They have more, too, including Hans Urs Von Balthasar, John Henry Newman, other great authors, and a plethora of magisterial documents. Often, when I’m doing research, I will remember that a specific book or chapter spoke to a specific theme or topic but forget exactly where. Verbum helps with this. Its search function alone has helped not only with recalling passages I once read but helping me find other parts of the work that deal with the same topic. Recently I had been looking at a few works by Ratzinger where he was engaging with the work of Hegel. I was able to search and find the necessary passages.

The bane of every researcher is footnoting. I used just to fix my formatting after I had finished writing. Now,  I cite a passage by simply copying the text from the work and pasting it in my word processing document. Automatically, the footnote is placed at the bottom of the page. You can also choose the footnoting style that is proper to your institution. One small tip: if you’re not citing a direct quote but want to refer, copy and paste some random text from the page, remove the text, but leave the footnote. This is a tremendous time-saver that can save you hours of work.

Finally, one of the best things about Verbum is its cross platform accessibility. Often, as researchers, a question or idea pops in our head at the most inopportune time, where we do not have access to our library. This is no longer a concern as I can simply pull up Verbum’s app on my phone and have access to all the resources I would have on my computer. Any notes I add would be synced up between all my platforms. Or, if I’m at a library doing research, I can use the web version of the platform. Thus, research can really be done anywhere or everywhere. I’ve used this feature often when having academic discussions with colleagues when I want to look up something Ratzinger has said on a specific topic.

These are just a few simple ways I’ve found Verbum helps me in my life as a research student. Verbum is not only a robust biblical software system, but it is a tool for theological research as well. What excites me moving forward in my research is that I know I’m only scratching the surface. I know I’m still using the software at only a certain level of its power, and that there is a lot more power available to me. Verbum’s website has a large collection of tutorial pages to help you discover the full depth and breadth of the software. I look forward, as I go deeper into my studies, to using it all the more to make my time and effort in research more streamlined, efficient, and easier.

Fr. Harrison Ayre is a priest of the Diocese of Victoria in British Columbia and a Doctoral Candidate at the Maryvale Institute in the UK. He is the co-host of the popular podcast “Clerically Speaking” and he tweets @FrHarrison.

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