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Get Masterful Commentary on Balthasar and Pope Benedict XVI

Better understand the writings of Balthasar and Pope Benedict XVI with the Aidan Nichols Collection—33% off in Pre-Pub!

Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) and Hans Urs von Balthasar are two of the most important Roman Catholic theologians of the twentieth century. Their thought has been integral in the development of modern Catholic doctrine, and their writings have greatly shaped the lives of millions around the world.

Though they are very different thinkers, they share much in common: they are both brilliant, they both communicate the truths of the Faith in profound and impacting ways, and they both know how to speak to the modern reader while reeling against many modernist philosophical traps. But Benedict XVI and Balthasar also share this: their thought can often be complex, difficult to understand, and very dense.


Aidan Nichols is an internationally respected Catholic academic and priest who has published much on Balthasar (most notably his famous trilogy, The Word Has Been Abroad: A Guide through Balthasar’s Aesthetics, No Bloodless Myth: A Guide through Balthasar’s Dramatics, and Say It Is Pentecost: A Guide through Balthasar’s Logic), and also has an authoritative text on Benedict XVI, The Thought of Pope Benedict XVI: An Introduction to the Theology of Joseph Ratzinger. Devoting a large portion of his academic career to studying these two key figures, Nichols includes thoughts and investigations on Balthasar and Benedict XVI, bringing fresh insights into these great authors’ writings.

Nichols masterfully investigates Benedict XVI’s and Balthasar’s works, reflecting on the wide theological influences and implications of their thought: Augustine’s ecclesiology, early Franciscanism, Christian brotherhood, the unfolding of the Second Vatican Council, and more. In this collection, Nichols also demonstrates an authoritative understanding of Balthasar with commentaries on The Glory of the Lord, Theo-Drama, Theo-Logic, and several lesser-known works by the great Swiss thinker.

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What Does It Mean to Be a Saint? (Part 2)

Last time, we explored the etymology and usage of the word “saint ” throughout the centuries. Today, we’ll see what we find in the Catechism, Church documents, and other sources on the subject of sainthood. What we found last time is that a “saint” is one who is holy—one who is set apart.


Let’s start our study today by looking at the word “saint” in the Catholic Topical Index. Since we looked at the word “saint” in the Scriptures last time, we’ll start with the “Church teaching” segment.

Saint Results

I’m interested right now in any Church documents I can find on the matter, so I’m going to start with Lumen Gentium from the Vatican II documents.

This first result is interesting. Here we see that saints share in a part of Christ’s office:

“The holy people of God shares also in Christ’s prophetic office; it spreads abroad a living witness to Him, especially by means of a life of faith and charity and by offering to God a sacrifice of praise, the tribute of lips which give praise to His name. The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief.  . . . the people of God adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints, penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life.”[1]

We also find that sainthood is not simply an individual phenomenon, but is fully realized in the context of the whole community of believers—it is within the context of the Church that the saint is truly realized:

“The Church, whose mystery is being set forth by this Sacred Synod, is believed to be indefectibly holy. Indeed Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is praised as ‘uniquely holy,’ loved the Church as His bride, delivering Himself up for her. He did this that He might sanctify her. He united her to Himself as His own body and brought it to perfection by the gift of the Holy Spirit for God’s glory. Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification.’ However, this holiness of the Church is unceasingly manifested, and must be manifested, in the fruits of grace which the Spirit produces in the faithful; it is expressed in many ways in individuals, who in their walk of life, tend toward the perfection of charity, thus causing the edification of others; in a very special way this (holiness) appears in the practice of the counsels, customarily called ‘evangelical.’”[2]

There’s more here, too: We learn that not only is “everyone . . . called to holiness,” but also that those who make up the Church are called to “edify others.” This edification is more than a simple “being nice” to others, but it is pointedly evangelical in nature: the saints are called to encourage each other in the faith, helping the unbelief of not just the unbelievers, but also the believers themselves (cf. Mark 9:24).

There’s one more component I’d like to highlight from this document:

“The Son, therefore, came, sent by the Father. It was in Him, before the foundation of the world, that the Father chose us and predestined us to become adopted sons, for in Him it pleased the Father to re-establish all things. . . . All men are called to this union with Christ, who is the light of the world, from whom we go forth, through whom we live, and toward whom our whole life strains.”[3]

The universal aspect here is very important. “All” people are called to be in union with Christ—and it is Christ who calls us to this holiness. Sainthood isn’t just for a select few of us, it is for all people.

As we continue our study on sainthood, let’s not forget to look at the saints who stand as icons for us here and now. John Paul II and John XXIII were both men who exhibited the forms of holiness we read about here; they stand as a model of the faith that we can look up to.

* * *

Right now, in honor of John Paul II and John XXIII’s canonizations, we’ve put together a huge collection of both of their works at a special price. Check out the John Paul II & John XXIII Canonization Bundle (92 vols.) today!

[1] Catholic Church. (2011). Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

[2] Catholic Church. (2011). Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

[3] Catholic Church. (2011). Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

Special Canonization Bundle: John Paul II and John XXIII

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In honor of John Paul II and John XXIII’s canonizations this Sunday, we’re putting together a huge collection of both of their works at a special price. The canonization bundle includes:


Not only can you get an ownership discount on these books, but you can also get an extra 15% off on this bundle with coupon code CANONIZATION at checkout.

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Easter Giveaway: Win a MacBook Air + Verbum Capstone!

Happy Easter! We’re pleased to announce that along with the launch of our new website, we’re giving away a brand-new MacBook Air with our biggest, most comprehensive library yet: Verbum Capstone!


You can enter this contest up to nine times—every entry increases your chance of winning!

Make sure you take some time to explore the new and share it with your friends, family, and everyone you know who is interested in studying the Faith. Be sure to check out our special grand-opening deals too!

Happy Easter from everyone here at Verbum.

Grand-Opening Sale: is Live!

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We’ve just launched our brand-new website, and we have some amazing offerings you won’t want to miss!

We’re putting hundreds of books on sale, featuring some of our most popular titles. Check back on the blog and the website weekly to see which titles are discounted.

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What Does It Mean To Be A Saint? (Part 1)

On April 27, two popes will be canonized as saints: Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII. Both men lived extraordinary lives, reflecting Christ’s love and standing as models of Christian faith for everyone to see.

As we approach this season of Easter joy and celebration, it’s the perfect opportunity to ask ourselves how we too can be saints. What does it mean to be a saint, and how can we become one?


Let’s start our investigation in Verbum by simply typing the word “Saint” in the Go box.

Type in Saint[Click to Enlarge]

Doing so opens up an entire layout, complete with a Topic Guide to begin my study. Immediately I see (in the HarperCollins Bible Dictionary) that the word “saint” occurs in Ps. 31:23—“Love the Lord, all you his saints!” (NRSV)—and comes from the Hebrew term khasid, which is expressive of covenant faithfulness. It goes on to say that “saints” in the New Testament is always translated from the Greek hagioi, the term for “holy ones”: “Thus in Rom 1:6-7, the phrases “called to belong to Jesus Christ,” “God’s beloved,” and “called to be saints” are virtually synonymous.”

This is helpful, but I wonder if a plain dictionary can help us out a bit more regarding more recent etymology. Right-clicking “saint” and opening it up in Marriam-Webster’s, we read that the word comes from the late Latin sanctus (sacred), specifically from the past-participle form sancire“to make sacred” (or to “set apart for God.”)

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 2.21.01 PM (2)

We know at this point that the older understanding of saint is one who is “called to belong to Christ” or one who is set apart for God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines a saint as:

“The ‘holy one’ who leads a life in union with God through the grace of Christ and receives the reward of eternal life.”

We see two important elements here in addition to what we’ve learned so far:

1)    A saint lives a life in union with God through the grace of Christ

2)    A saint is one who has “received the reward of eternal life”

This second point is an important distinction for understanding the modern usage of the word. When referring to a saint, we usually mean those who are living with Christ in heaven, whereas the earlier Greek and Hebrew words didn’t necessarily refer to those who have died. But we also know that the Catechism says:

“The Church . . . is held, as a matter of faith, to be unfailingly holy. This is because Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is hailed as ‘alone holy,’ loved the Church as his Bride, giving himself up for her so as to sanctify her; he joined her to himself as his body and endowed her with the gift of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God.” The Church, then, is “the holy People of God,” and her members are called saints.

 This is a good starting point for understanding sainthood. Next time, we’ll use Verbum to take a closer look at saints in Scripture and throughout the history of the Church.

Pope John XXIII: 4 Things to Know

On April 27, Pope John XXIII will be canonized as a saint, along with Pope John Paul II. Pope John XXIII was a pope of peace, proclaiming God is at the center of all right conduct—in the opening line of his encyclical Pacem in Terris, he wrote, “Peace on earth . . . which man throughout the ages has so longed for and sought after . . . can never be established, never guaranteed, except by the diligent observance of the divinely established order.” Affectionately known as “Good Pope John,” John XXIII worked tirelessly to establish peace and good will, especially in the aftermath of World War II.

Here are four things to know and share about this great Pope:


1)    Pope John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council

In 1962, John XXIII called the historic Second Vatican Council. Though he didn’t live to see its completion in 1963, he began a process that would produce four Constitutions, three Declarations, and nine Decrees—all creating major changes for Catholic life and worship worldwide.

2)    Pope John XXIII wrote the first papal encyclical addressed not only to the Catholic faithful, but to “All men of goodwill”

In his landmark encyclical Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth), John XXIII addresses all who are willing to work toward peace, laying out the requirements for basic human rights by saying, “Man has the right to live. He has the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life . . .” This encyclical, perhaps more than any other pre–Vatican II papal writing, has provided the foundation for modern Catholic teaching on human rights, freedoms, and responsibilities.

3)    Pope John XXIII gave the famous “Speech of the Moon”

On the night following the conclusion of the first Vatican II session, the crowds in Saint Peter’s Square chanted and yelled to get John XXIII to appear at the window and address them. It worked, and when he came to them he delivered an impromptu speech, finishing with the admonition to return home and hug their children, telling them that it came from the pope. This was especially endearing at the time, given the total formality of most—if not all—papal addresses.

4)    Pope John XXIII worked as nuncio to save refugees from the Nazis in World War II

Before he was pope, John XXIII made many efforts to save refugees, including Jewish refugees who arrived to Istanbul, Slovakian children, Jews held at the Jasenovac concentration camp, Bulgarian, Romanian, Italian, and Hungarian Jews all across the globe, and many more. His efforts for peace were tireless, and his compassion for the disenfranchised saved lives and inspired love in the hearts of many.

Now is the perfect time to read and study the writings of this great soon-to-be saint.

Get them for 33% off today on Pre-Pub.

Learn to Use the Verbum App (Part 3)

The Verbum Catholic Bible Study app is free, powerful, and perfect for studying the Scriptures and Tradition anywhere you go. Watch the video below to learn how to connect with others via Faithlife in the Verbum app:

Using Faithlife in the Verbum App

Learn more about using the free Verbum app here:

Part 1
Part 2

Get the Verbum App today by simply typing in “Verbum” to your app store and downloading the app. If you’re reading this on your device, you can download the Verbum App right now on:



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Pre Publication Special: Faith of the Early Fathers

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 The writings of the early Church Fathers are vast. Though all these texts are inherently valuable, the question sometimes arises: How can I find the most important, popular, or concise teachings?


 The Faith of the Early Fathers collection is your answer. Following the structure of the Enchiridion Patristicum, it gives you the Church Fathers’ most important sayings and writings, all in one highly cited collection.

What is the Enchiridion Patristicum?

The Enchiridion Patristicum is a chronological manual of the Fathers’ most important sayings. Compiled by the French theologian Rouet de Journel in 1911, it’s proved itself as a thorough guide for anyone studying theology and Church history.

The Faith of the Early Fathers collection follows Journel’s format, but also includes much that Journel did not. This collection is perfect for:

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Pre-Publication Special: Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Writings and Audiences

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In less than a month, Pope John Paul II will be canonized as a saint—a momentous occasion for millions all around the world. Now is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the life of this great man of God—a man who left behind not just a legacy of holiness, but also a treasury of literature and thought for the entire Church to study.

Today, you can get Pope John Paul II’s audiences and apostolic writings in one 11-volume collection. These are enormous volumes, compiled here at Verbum, that contain the Holy Father’s correspondences, constitutions, and audiences from 1978 to 2005.

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