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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’s recommended books by Joseph Ratzinger are on sale for $5.99 through the end of the month.

New to Verbum? Try it for 30 days, no credit card required.

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.

The Word of God in the Liturgy of the New Covenant

This month, you can get Letter and Spirit, vol. 1: Reading Salvation: Word, Worship, and the Mysteries for free plus two more volumes from the Letter and Spirit collection for less than $5! Throughout May, we’re sharing excerpts from Letter and Spirit, vol. 1 to give you a preview of thoughtful and thought-provoking scholarship you can expect from this month’s free book.

Today’s excerpt comes from the essay “The Word of God in the Liturgy of the New Covenant” by Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B., Mount Angel Seminary, Oregon Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm, Rome: [Read more…]

November Preview Resources


For the month of November, Verbum Now members enjoy free access to:

Modern Christian Theology

Christopher Ben Simpson tells the story of modern Christian theology against the backdrop of the history of modernity itself. Modern Christian Theology examines the many ways that theology became modern while seeing how modernity arose in no small part from theology. These intertwined stories progress through four parts, spanning from the beginnings of modernity in the late Middle Ages and progressing through the Protestant Reformation, the Enlightenments and awakenings of the eighteenth-century, the nineteenth-century, and through the twentieth-century’s crisis—covering each key personalities or movements from Karl Barth to the nouvelle théologie, liberation theology, and conservative Protestantism in America.

The Apostolic Fathers, part 1, vol 1 and vol 2: St. Clement of Rome

Joseph Barber Lightfoot was an important nineteenth-century Anglican scholar of the Apostolic Fathers, who published editions and translations of them and is particularly known for his defense of the authenticity of the letters of St. Ignatius. Part 1 of his Apostolic Fathers includes his edition and studies on the writings of St. Clement of Rome.

Save Now on Previous Preview Resources

For a limited time, Verbum Now members also enjoy discounts on the following resources, which were featured as previews over the last three months:

T&T Clark Companion to the Septuagint
The International Theological Commentary: Joel
Classic Studies on the New Testament Apocrypha (12 vols.)
Collected Homilies of St. John Chrysostom
History of Old Testament Interpretation Collection (14 vols.)
Romans through History and Culture Series (5 vols.)

Not yet a Verbum Now member? Join today to get these great benefits, access to all the latest Verbum features, and more!


15 Best Books of 2015

2015 in Review

You, our valued Verbum users, have spoken! We pored over last year’s data and discovered the 15 best-selling books on If you don’t already own these resources, you may want to give them a second look—they come recommended by fellow Verbum users, after all!

1. Verbum 360 Training

An indispensable addition to every Verbum library, this training was created by two power-user priests. With over 4 hours of video content, you’ll learn to master all Verbum’s powerful features.


2. Verbum Now – Annual Subscription

Verbum Now subscriptions grant you immediate access to new features, datasets, and media resources as soon as they’re developed. Why wait for major software releases when you can get everything now?


3. Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament, Genesis, Exodus, and the RSV2CE

This collection combines a popular Catholic biblical translation (the RSV2CE) with extensive commentary on the New Testament, Genesis, and Exodus. The Verbum version is cheaper than the physical books and easier to use, making it an obvious choice for any serious student of Scripture.


4. The New Jerusalem Bible: Reader’s Edition (NJB)

This classic Catholic Bible was translated directly from the original Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic texts. Reading it side-by-side with the NABRE or RSVCE delivers fresh insight into the meaning of every passage.


5. Jimmy Akin’s Studies on Mark (3 vols.)

Jimmy Akin wrote a commentary set exclusively for Verbum. It’s no wonder that this product was funded in a matter of days!



6. The Joy of the Gospel: Evangelii Gaudium

Pope Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation, like all Church Documents, is a perfect fit for Verbum. With 217 footnotes and 225 references to Scripture, it’d be tedious to study it in any other format.


7. Fulfilled in Christ: The Sacraments. A Guide to Symbols and Types in the Bible and Tradition

Fr. Devin Roza (one of the priests who recorded the Verbum 360 Training series) created this comprehensive guide to biblical typology. This work is such a boon to typological study that Scott Hahn endorsed it as “an indispensable tool for the New Evangelization.”

8. The Watchers in Jewish and Christian Traditions

When Darren Aronofsky’s Noah hit theaters in 2014, it sparked widespread fascination with “The Watchers”—the rarely-mentioned “Nephilim” of the Bible. This volume explores these intriguing characters in light of both Jewish and early Christian literature.


9. Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (11 vols.)

This series is one of the most relevant, approachable, and distinctly-Catholic commentaries currently available. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput went so far as to say that it “should be on the shelf of every committed Catholic believer”—though it’s better in a Verbum library than on a bookshelf!

10. Sacra Pagina New Testament Commentary Series (18 vols.)

If you’re hungry for a more academic commentary, Verbum users love the Sacra Pagina (along with the Berit Olam, its Old Testament counterpart). This series is read and respected by Catholic and non-Catholic scholars alike.


11. New American Bible, rev. ed. (NABRE)

The NABRE is, arguably, the most popular contemporary Catholic biblical translation. Aside from the original NAB, this version is the most similar to the text used in the Lectionary for Mass.



12. Catechism of the Catholic Church

Promulgated by Pope St. John Paul II in 1992, this monumental work is a “sure and authentic reference text for teaching Catholic doctrine.” Despite being included in every Verbum library, the book itself is frequently purchased by new users and non-Catholics who are curious about Church teaching.


13. Exploring Catholic Theology: Essays on God, Liturgy, and Evangelization

Released shortly before Fr. Robert Barron was appointed auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, this book features a collection of essays on contemporary Catholic theology. Bishop Barron is known for his masterful synthesis of pop culture and orthodox exposition, making this volume particularly relevant in this era of the “New Evangelization.”

14. Fathers of the Church Series (127 vols.)

This series from the Catholic University of America is, simply put, the pinnacle of modern patristic scholarship. Comprising nearly 50,000 pages of comprehensively-tagged content, the Verbum version is the most affordable and efficient way to study the Fathers of the Church.

15. Catholic Study Bible, 2nd ed.

Intended for use with the New American Bible, rev. ed., this supplemental volume includes detailed commentary, reading guides, maps, and other aids to help the reader comprehend Scripture in its entirety. It’s been available in Verbum for a number of years, but it remains a bestseller to this day.


To add 2015’s best books to your library, visit!


Celebrate National Bible Week with Verbum!

National Bible Week

This week the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is celebrating National Bible Week 2015. In keeping with the Synod of Bishops on the Family and Pope Francis’ historic visit to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, this year’s theme is “The Bible: A Book for the Family”.

In order to help you, your family, and your parish celebrate National Bible Week, we’ve discounted a bunch of relevant resources:

The USCCB has also put together several free resources for parishes and families, encouraging greater engagement with the Word of God. Take a look at their page for tips on making the Word part of your home life, to learn about the sacred practice of Lectio divina, or access an outline for a Scripture Vigil on the themes of Catholic social teaching.

National Bible Week ends on November 21—don’t miss this valuable opportunity to study Scripture with the greater Catholic community!

Mark Wheeler’s Favorite Resources: Now with a Bundling Discount!

Several months ago, Verbum Sales Representative Mark Wheeler had an idea to combine some of his favorite resources. He says, “I noticed a lot of high quality resources that would go well together. Also, I wanted to see people get the best deal possible.”

The result was The Liturgical Press Academic bundle, which includes the following series:

If  you’ve already purchased any of these resources on their own, you’ll get a dynamic pricing on the complete bundle. That means you won’t be charged for what you already own, and you still get a great bundling discount on everything new. It’s a fantastic deal!

Available for several months, this bundle has been very popular, especially with customers who already own parts of it.

The Liturgical Press Academic bundle “fills a much-needed gap for Catholic biblical scholarship,” Mark notes, adding, “Rarely has such excellent Catholic scholarship been accessible at such a reasonable price.”

Thank you for taking the initiative, Mark!

Liturgical Press Academic bundle

Special Savings on Fathers of the Church

Verbum Sales Associate Preston Morrison talks about his favorite Verbum resource, the Fathers of the Church Series from Catholic University of America in 127 volumes—now with extra savings through the end of the month!

Preston says:

I love Fathers of the Church because I can actually see what the Church Fathers taught and thought. From a scholarly perspective, I can read the Christian writers who came immediately after Christ. I grew up in a different faith tradition, and I didn’t even know the Church Fathers existed until recently!

The sheer size of the series is most impressive: 46,317 pages of text in 127 volumes. Also, the translations from the original languages are fairly recent, with introductions and notes for each author.

Fathers of the Church Series is at the top of my list because I haven’t found any other resource that compares to the quality of translations, number of authors, and comprehensive coverage of Christian writings for the first 500 years of Christianity.

I find that this series is popular with customers across denominations, and they love it! Once you realize how much content you’re getting, it’s practically a must-own resource.

For a limited time, you can save over $500 on the Fathers of the Church Series as part of the Verbum Monthly Sale. Don’t miss out—the sale ends July 1!

Fathers of the Church

Take 26% off Verbum’s 13‑volume Homilies Bundle

Verbum’s power extends beyond pure Bible study: some of its most useful features have to do with researching and preparing homilies. And, with features like the Catholic Topical Index, homily prep has never been easier.

Verbum’s new Homilies Bundle gives you insight from some of today’s leading homiletics experts. You can browse hundreds of homilies on a variety of liturgical events, from Sunday and daily Masses to feast days, weddings, and more.

Of course, all these homilies are linked and fully searchable, so you can study your homily side by side with relevant Bible verses, Catechism references, and Church documents.

Plus, with Verbum’s lectionary layout, you can open up a homily right next to the Lectionary, Roman Missal, and Bible for extra inspiration.

Homily preparation can be time-consuming. Verbum speeds it up—as you study, you’ll find references to works you may not have even considered looking up, all thanks to the way that Verbum organizes your library and links it together.

Want to learn more about Verbum and homiletics? See how Verbum can help you by watching this quick video.

Take 26% off the Homilies Bundle today!

Take 24% off the CUA Studies in Early Christianity!

For just a little while, you can pre-order the Catholic University of America Studies in Early Christianity collection for 24% off!

The collection delves into the history of language, literature, social context, and patristic thought to bring you a rich overview of the ancient Church and its development over time.

These seven volumes give you brilliant original translations of key ancient texts, as well as dozens of critical essays on important historical documents like the Book of Steps, Liber Graduum,and more.

Discover the context and influence of Syriac texts in Christian thought. Examine how Christianity was spread by writers, readers, and translators in the second through seventh centuries. Analyze how the early Church Fathers dealt with ethical dilemmas, and apply their methods to twenty-first-century problems.

What makes this collection special is its brilliant historical scholarship. If you’re serious about exploring Church history, this collection is one you won’t want to pass up.

Deepen your understanding of history, language, patristics, and more. Pre-order the Catholic University of America Studies in Early Christianity collection for 24% off!

The Dark Night of the Soul

I remember beginning the Ascent of Mount Carmel some three or four years ago—before converting to Catholicism—and thinking something along the lines of, “this is the most profound piece of spiritual literature I’ve ever read.” At the time, I didn’t really think about the fact that St. John of the Cross was Catholic; I just knew that here was a man who understood the soul in a different way. I felt that I was reading a text by a man who truly knew the radical path to union with God.

The axiom guiding all of St. John’s works is that in order for the soul to be filled by God, it must first be completely emptied by plummeting into the depths of detachment from the things of this world. This “dark night of the soul” is dark because the soul must pass through a point where it is bereft of the desire of “all pleasure in all the things of this world.” St. John of the Cross says that “this is as night for every desire and sense of man.” He then says that the darkness is deepened because the soul, in order to accomplish this task, must travel the road of faith, and that “faith is obscure, like night, to the intellect.” Finally, the darkness is made deepest of all because the soul’s goal is union with God—God who is “incomprehensible and infinite, who in this life is as night to the soul.

I recall being struck by two things when I first started reading St. John of the Cross: First was what appeared to be a close similarity to Buddhist thought. The Buddha taught that the only way for humans to overcome the reality of suffering and unhappiness that surrounds us is to learn to cease desire itself. It seemed to me, as I continued turning the pages of The Ascent to Mount Carmel, that this was something like the position that St. John of the Cross was taking. Second, I was taken aback by the sheer intensity of John of the Cross’ language. He would say things like, “He . . . who loveth anything beside God renders his soul incapable of the Divine union and transformation in God, for the vileness of the created is much less capable of the dignity of the Creator than darkness is of light” (13). I remember being amazed at reading words like, “The whole creation, compared with the infinite Being of God, is nothing; and so the soul whose affections are set on created things is nothing” (14). I think that, for the first time, I truly understood that a life devoted to the imitation of Christ—of uniting ourselves with God in the truest and fullest way—was a life that was full of passion, suffering, and immense strength.

Indeed, the impression one gets from reading the works of St. John of the Cross is that only a spiritual juggernaut could ever hope to accomplish the kinds of ascetic practices and intense forms of devotion depicted therein. But St. John is quick to dispel the despair of the reader who wishes to embark on such a journey but finds it beyond their capability:

The happy lot of the soul, then, consists of being led by God into this night from which so great a blessing results, but into which it could not have entered of itself, because no one is able in his own strength to empty his heart of all desires, so as to draw near unto God.

It is in this sense that the mystical thought of St. John of the Cross differs drastically from the kind of Eastern philosophical thought promulgated especially in the Buddhist tradition. Though The Ascent to Mount Carmel is centered on the principle of self-denunciation, St. John of the Cross makes it clear that the only way that one can ascend to such spiritual perfection is through the external help of God. It is only by Divine Grace that one is able to attain union with God, but we must be willing to receive and cooperate with it. Whereas the Buddha proclaims that the existential problem facing humanity is suffering, and the only way to stop suffering is to stop desire, St. John of the Cross makes it clear that suffering is something that we must go through, but something that we welcome so that we may ultimately find our souls’ true desire.

The Christian tradition is one of finding perfect happiness within the soul in the context of right relationship with its maker. St. John tells us that Christianity is not about seeking suffering for its own sake—nor about trying to run away from it—but about struggling through it for the sake of our own souls. Christianity, thus, is not about ceasing desire, but about rightly ordering our corrupt desires—desires that ultimately lead to unhappiness and death. St. John of the Cross teaches that only when the soul is stripped of its idolatrous attachments can it contain the fullness of God, the ultimate end to which we were created, and enter into true and real happiness.

The works of Saint John of the Cross stretch much deeper than any single blog post can touch, but it is worth meditating—if only shortly—on the profound truth that our souls were created to desire God. St. John teaches us that as it stands, our souls are disordered in such a way that we have made the things of this world our god, and it is only through a dark and painful night that we may wake unto a glorious morning.


This post highlights St. John of the Cross, whose works are included in the Post-Reformation Catholic Thought and Piety collection, available on Community Pricing. This collection—currently priced at only $80 in Community Pricing—would normally cost $500 or more in print. This is a truly rare and special offer, highlighting 27 volumes of some of the most influential and thought-provoking post-Reformation Catholic writing available in the English language. 

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