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Communion and Liberation: An Encounter with Christ

This post is by guest blogger Kathryn Heltsley, a member of Verbum’s Product Creation Team.

Across the United States, small groups of people are meeting weekly in parish halls, Sunday school rooms, and private homes. We sing a few songs—anything from traditional hymns to The Beatles—say a prayer, and then break out a text written by founder Don Luigi Giussani, or the current leader, Father Julián Carrón, and discuss how it relates to our lives. We challenge each other not to let the reading remain abstract, but to examine how it is relevant to our circumstances, the drama we live day-to-day.  We take vacations together in the summer, engage in retreats and cultural events throughout the year like the New York Encounter, a cultural event in downtown Manhattan open to the public. We share meals, we share our lives.

wipf-and-stock-catholic-studiesWe don’t do this because we’re best friends. We’re called together by something stronger than preference. We’re called together by the Mystery, an encounter with Christ. And what we’re living is a movement called Communion and Liberation. Read about the founder of this popular lay movement, Fr. Giussani, in the Wipf and Stock collection from Verbum.

Communion and Liberation (CL) is a lay movement within the Catholic Church. Originating in Italy in the 1950s, CL grew out of the charism of Don Luigi Giussani (1922–2005), a Catholic priest and high school teacher in Milan. In 1954, Giussani noticed how disconnected his students were from their faith. “Religion” to them was something abstract—an outside addition to their lives—rather than a way to live. In order to educate them toward an awareness of a concrete relationship with the person of Christ, Giussani began a method of catechesis with them that eventually became known as School of Community.

Today, CL is present in over 80 countries. It is mostly made up of lay people, but there are also groups of religious and consecrated laity—notably Memores Domini and the Priestly Fraternity of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo. John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis were all favorable to CL. In fact, Benedict XVI’s papal household was made up of members of Memores Domini, and he attended weekly School of Community with them.

Schools of Community range from thousands of people in a conference room in Milan, to two or three in a living room in Bellingham, to women suffering from HIV at a medical center in Uganda. Groups of high school students, university students, retirees, adult workers, and families all find a common thread in the charism of Luigi Giussani.

When curious people ask, “Hey, what’s this CL thing? Do you have a mission statement?” The general response is, “Come and see.” We’re not trying to be cagey, it’s just that CL isn’t something you explain, it’s something that you live. It is based in amazement at the fact that Christ is present, here and now. That at some point, he entered history, became a person who awakened us to our own humanity. The method of CL is, in part, developig the way we respond to that reality. Around the globe, the Schools of Community are singing together, praying, and reading the same text—often books written by Giussani, or reflections such as the annual Fraternity Exercises given by Carrón. The goal of these readings, prayers, and companionship, are to educate us toward Christian maturity. Communionand Liberation doesn’t solve our problems; it helps us live them!


Celebrate St. Augustine!

It would be hard to imagine a more influential figure in Western Civilization than St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.). Both towering intellect and sympathetic convert, Augustine’s thought and compelling life story have shaped Christianity through the centuries. In celebration of his feast day August 28th, we bring you an excerpt from his Memoirs, Book 8, Chapter 12. Verbum’s Fathers of the Church collection features 15 volumes of Augustine’s writings! Here, Augustine recalls the moment in which he turns to God through a mysterious constellation of events:

Baptism-Of-St.-Augustine,-1702 (1)

Baptism of St. Augustine by Louis de Boulougne (1702)

Now, when profound consideration had pulled out from the hidden depth and heaped together the whole of my wretchedness before the gaze of my heart, a mighty storm arose, bringing a mighty rain of tears. And, in order to shed the whole of it, with its accompanying groans, I stood up…I threw myself down under a fig tree, unconscious of my actions, and loosed the reins on my tears. They burst forth in rivers from my eyes, an acceptable sacrifice unto Thee. Not, indeed, in these words, but with this meaning, I said many things to Thee: ‘And Thou, O Lord, how long?96 How long, O Lord, wilt Thou be angry unto the end? Remember not our former iniquities.’ For I still felt that I was held by them and I uttered these wretched words: ‘How much longer, how much longer? “Tomorrow” and “tomorrow”? Why not right now? Why not the end of my shame at this very hour?’

I kept saying these things and weeping with the bitterest sorrow of my heart. And, behold, I heard from a nearby house the voice of someone—whether boy or girl I know not—chanting, as it were, and repeating over and over: ‘Take it, read it! Take it, read it!’ And immediately, with a transformed countenance, I started to think with greatest concentration whether it was the usual thing for children to chant words such as this in any kind of game, and it did not occcur to me that I had ever heard anything like it. Having stemmed the flow of my tears, I got up, taking it to mean that nothing else was divinely commanded me than that I should open a book and read the first passage that I should find. For I had heard about Anthony that he had been admonished from a reading of the Gospel on which he had come by chance, as if what was being read was said for him: ‘Go, sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, and by such a revelation he was at once converted to Thee.

And so I went hurriedly back …to the place where I had placed there the copy of the Apostle, when I had got up from the place. Snatching it up, I opened it and read in silence the first passage on which my eyes fell: ‘Not in revelry and drunkenness, not in debauchery and wantonness, not in strife and jealousy; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and as for the flesh, take no thought for its lusts.’ No further did I desire to read, nor was there need. Indeed, immediately with the termination of this sentence, all the darknesses of doubt were dispersed, as if by a light of peace flooding into my heart.


Enrich and Deepen Your Faith with Scott Hahn’s 2-Volume Set!

This guest post was written by James Battle, Catholic Marketing Specialist here at Verbum

As a Catholic convert, two Verbum books have especially encouraged and accelerated my faith. I own hard copies of both of them:  one I read cover-to-cover, but the other was far denser, and I never finished it. Buying a book I do not finish is not unusual for me. I know, like many other bibliophiles, that there are many books bought in the heat of the moment, and sit on the shelf unfinished, waiting for the proper mood or motivation. What is unusual, though, is that both books were written by the same author: Scott Hahn.

The Lamb’s Supper  is a book I picked up early in my conversion process, shortly after I began attending Mass. I was consistently struck by the way the liturgy is packed full of scriptural references and symbolism from the book of Revelations. It was truly eye-opening! The Lamb’s Supper very quickly made the initially confusing Mass sensible, especially since I was an outsider who had a particular fascination with St. John’s prophetic and strange symbolism. It was easy to read, and served as a guidebook that tied scripture to the liturgy. I enjoyed Dr. Hahn’s writing so much that I eventually picked up Hail, Holy Queen—although I was warned that it was not bedside table reading.

That advice turned out to be quite accurate. Hail, Holy Queen was not merely peppered with scriptural references—there were often many in each paragraph—but also, there were many references to Catholic tradition: the Church Fathers, Vatican II documents, papal encyclicals, and the Catechism. These were all much newer to me at the time, and so the book sat.

After picking up the 2-volume Scott Hahn collection in Verbum, however, The Lamb’s Supper turned from a scriptural guide into a base camp for scaling the mountain of Catholic tradition regarding marriage, the Communion of Saints, apostolic succession, and much more.

It was Hail, Holy Queen that I found most profoundly transformative, however. Since all of the footnotes and references to Church documents and tradition are just a click away in Verbum, I ditched my hard copy and read the digital version. Using my Verbum library, I followed Dr. Hahn’s line of thought much more easily than with the printed book, because I could read up on source material instantly and was able to fully understand what the author was communicating. In short: I didn’t know what I didn’t know. That is, until I was able to dive in with just a few clicks.

Even if you have favorite books in paper form—get the Verbum edition! You will love reading your favorite passages in a new light with the source material right at hand. If you have books in print that you’ve never finished—get the Verbum edition! Regardless of what motivated you to purchase the book in the first place, Verbum will make all the information contained with the text easier to access and understand. Also, you can always join the Verbum group on Faithlife, and find like-minded friends who will be glad to read along and explore the Faith with you.

This 2-volume set from Scott Hahn is discounted through the end of July. Take advantage of the opportunity to enrich and deepen your faith today!


Pre-Publication Special: Crossing the Tiber by Steve Ray

Get Crossing the Tiber: Evangelical Protestants Discover the Historical Church for 20% off today!

Steve Ray’s conversion story is a moving account of a Baptist turned Catholic. You’ll learn how hostility towards the Church was overcome by a combination of serious Bible study and copious amounts of research into the writings of the early Church Fathers.

Steve Ray offers an in-depth treatment of baptism and the Eucharist in Scripture and the ancient Church, while narrating the story of his conversion. The book is replete with biblical and patristic quotations, pointing to other books and stories for further research.

Crossing the Tiber is a fantastic apologetics resource for anyone wanting to better understand the Catholic faith, and it offers a sound response to some of the most popular and persisting Protestant critiques against Catholicism. The last two parts of the book, “Baptism in the Scriptures and in the Ancient Church” and “The Eucharist in the Scripture and in the Ancient Church,”are chock-full of helpful historical analysis, but the first section is what really sets Crossing the Tiber apart—Steve and Janet’s compelling personal story is sure to resonate with readers everywhere.

Karl Keating, founder and president of Catholic Answers remarks,

“This is really three books in one that offers not only a compelling conversion story, but documented facts that are likely to cinch many other conversions.”


This volume is particularly useful in Verbum, where all of Steve’s footnotes and citations are linked to Bibles, Church documents, and other resources in your Verbum library.

Pre-order Crossing the Tiber today for 20% off, and add this fantastic book to your library!

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