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The Feast of St. John the Evangelist

The Church celebrated the feast of St. John the Evangelist on December 27th. Since St. John’s feast day is so close to Christmas, we decided to wait a little while to feature him in our blog.

To give St. John his due, here is an excerpt from Verbum’s Navarre Bible: Saint John’s Gospel, “The Relationship between the Gospel of St. John and the Synoptic Gospels:”

If we enter St John’s Gospel after reading the Synoptics, we sense that we are entering a different atmosphere. Even in the prologue the evangelist soars towards the heights of divinity. It is not surprising that St John is symbolized by an eagle. The evangelist “soars very high, mounts beyond the darkness of the earth and fixes his gaze on the light of truth …(St. Augustine, On the Gospel of John 15,1).


The Eagle of St. John the Evangelist by Andrei Rublev, c. 1400.

St John himself gives us one reason why his Gospel is different. He says that it is a testimony to what he has seen and heard. Rather than speak of evangelizing or preaching, the Fourth Gospel prefers to use “testify” or “bear witness” or “teach”. Thus, he presents the preaching of the Baptist as an instance of testimony to Christ (cf. Jn 1:7, 19, 32, 34; 3:26; 5:33). Our Lord is always the object of this testimony, which comes from different directions in the Fourth Gospel: first and foremost, it comes from the Father who has sent Jesus to bear witness to him (cf. Jn 5:37)… [...]

Another unusual feature of St John’s Gospel is that it is a “spiritual gospel,” in the words of Clement of Alexandria (on account of which St John has been called “the theologian”). This refers to John’s desire to explore and explain the deeper meaning of Jesus’ words and actions. In St John’s account our Lord usually begins his teachings with an intriguing remark or question, to awaken the curiosity of his listeners, and then moves on to explain some point of doctrine. For example, in the case of Nicodemus, when he speaks about being born again; or his conversation with the Samaritan woman about living water: what Jesus is saying obviously means much more than one would get from a first glance at the text. In fact, it is only when the Holy Spirit comes that the disciples grasp the full meaning of the Master’s words (cf. Jn 14:26)… The Master, when he sees they cannot grasp his meaning, consoles them by promising the “Spirit of truth,” who will guide them into all the truth (Jn 16:13).[...]

St John insists that he “has seen” all this; that he has “touched” it with his hands (Jn 1:14; 19:35; 1 Jn 1:2). After a lifetime of preaching and prayer, it is only logical that he should see it all from a deeper, clearer perspective. St Augustine is right when he says that St John “soared beyond the flesh, soared beyond the earth which he trod, beyond the seas which he saw, beyond the air where birds fly; soared beyond the sun, beyond the moon and the stars, beyond all spirits which are unseen, beyond his own intelligence and the very reason of his thinking soul. Soaring beyond all these, beyond his very self, where did he reach, what did he see? ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’” (St. Augustine, On the Gospel of John 20,13) Therefore, what he narrates, far from contradicting what we read in the Synoptics, takes it as read, and fills it out.

St John on Patmos by Joannes Gleismuller, 1490.

St John on Patmos by Joannes Gleismuller, 1490.

Feast of the The Epiphany

The Verbum Christmas Sale ends tomorrow! Don’t miss out—check out

Every year, on the twelveth day after Christmas—this year, January 6th—the church celebrates the feast of the Epiphany.

From Scott Hahn’s Catholic Bible Dictionary:

MAGI Ancient wise men who were specialists in dream interpretation, astrology, and sometimes magic. In the Septuagint, the Greek term magoi is given to the Babylonian court magicians called in to interpret King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams (Dan 1:20; 2:2, 10, 27). In the New Testament, a “magi” once refers to a practitioner of occult magic (Acts 13:6). More significantly, the name “magi” was given to the foreign dignitaries who traveled to Palestine from the east to pay homage to the infant Jesus. These are often identified with members of a priestly caste from Persia who specialized in dream analysis and astrology (see, e.g., the description in Herodotus, Hist. 1.101). Their occupation explains their interest in unusual astral phenomena (the star of Bethlehem), and their origin makes them the first Gentiles to recognize and give reverence to the Kingship of Christ.
On the basis of the Old Testament (cf. Ps 72:10; Isa 49:7; 60:3, 6) the tradition arose that the Magi were three kings, even though Matthew does not state their number. The idea that there were three of them is inferred from the three gifts, and the idea that they were kings arises from OT prophetic texts (Ps 72:10–11; Isa 60:3, 6). Christian legend names them Balthasar, Gaspar, and Melchior. Later interpreters attached a symbolic meaning to the three gifts: gold, because Jesus was a King; frankincense, because he was God; and myrrh, because he became a mortal man.

Adoration of the Magi by Andrea Mantegna, 1500.

Adoration of the Magi by Andrea Mantegna, 1500.

Feast of St. Basil the Great

Acquaint yourself with the fascinating life and writings of St Basil (born 330), one of the the early champions of Christianity!  Although they were written over 1600 years ago, Basil’s sermons are fresh and vivid, and have much to say to us today. Here is an excerpt from St Basil’s sermon, “I Will Tear Down My Barns“:

The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God. Lk 12:16–21

[...] God brought showers upon the earth that had been cultivated by this man’s greedy hands, and gave sunshine to gently warm the seeds and multiply their produce in abundance. From God comes everything beneficial: fertile soil, temperate weather, plenty of seeds, cooperation of the animals, and whatever else is required for successful cultivation. But human beings respond with a bitter disposition, misanthropy, and an unwillingness to share. Such characteristics are what this man offered back to his Benefactor. He did not remember that he shared with others a common nature, nor did he think it necessary to distribute from his abundance to those in need. He did not keep even a word of the commandments: “Do not neglect to do good for the needy,” and “Do not let mercy and loyalty forsake you,” and “Share your bread with the hungry.” He did not heed the urgings of all the prophets and teachers.



The Rich Fool by Rembrandt, 1627.

The Rich Fool by Rembrandt, 1627.

Though his barns were filled to bursting with the abundance of his goods, his miserly heart was still not satisfied. By constantly adding more to what he already possessed, augmenting the existing surplus with annual increases, he fell into this intractable dilemma. He refused to be satisfied with what he already had on account of his greed, yet neither could he store the new harvest on account of its abundance. His purposes thus reached an impasse, and he was at a loss how to proceed. “What should I do?” he wondered. Who would not have pity on someone so besieged with troubles? He was made miserable by abundance, wretched by the good things he possessed, and still more wretched by the good things he still expected to receive. The land does not produce revenue for him, but rather brings forth sighs of discontent; he does not harvest an abundance of produce, but rather cares and sorrows and severe hardship. He laments like those afflicted with poverty. Or rather, do even those hard pressed by poverty give forth such piteous cries? “What should I do? What will I eat? What will I wear?” These things the rich man also exclaims. He is sorely afflicted; his heart is eaten away with cares. What would cause others to rejoice causes the greedy person to waste away. He does not rejoice at all the good things he has in store, but is rather pricked to the heart by the wealth that slips through his fingers, lest perhaps, as it overflows the storehouses, some of it should trickle down to those outside his walls, so as to become a source of aid for those in need.[...]

Do not suffer the same thing yourselves. Indeed, it was for this purpose that these things were written, so that we might avoid a similar fate. Imitate the earth, O mortal. Bear fruit as it does; do not show yourself inferior to inanimate soil. After all, the earth does not nurture fruit for its own enjoyment, but for your benefit. But whatever fruit of good works you bring forth, you produce for yourself, since the grace of good works redounds to those who perform them. You gave to the poor, and in so doing not only did you make what you gave truly your own, but you received back even more. For just as grain, when it falls upon the ground, brings forth an increase for the one who scatters it, thus also bread cast to the hungry yields considerable profit at a later time. Therefore, let the end of your harvesting be the beginning of a heavenly sowing. As the Scripture says, “Sow for yourselves righteousness” (Hos 10:12).  

Christmas Sale: 12 Deals & iPad Giveaway!

We read your Christmas wishlists and discounted 12 of Verbum’s most-requested resources. But we’ve also got another Christmas surprise: we’re giving away an iPad Mini and Verbum 6 Scholar!

Check out the sales and enter to win at

Here’s a taste of what’s on sale:

The Christmas sale and iPad giveaway both end on January 6. Don’t wait—visit today!

Merry Christmas from Verbum!

We at Verbum wish all of our software users a very Merry Christmas! This is a picture of our team at our department retreat in November at the Archbisop Brunett Retreat Center in Federal Way, Washington.

May all the blessings of the season be yours!

department photo 2


Advent Sale—Last Chance!

Don’t Miss Your Advent Deals!

Wednesday, December 24, is the final day of the Advent season. It’s also the final day to take advantage of Verbum’s Advent deals!

Make sure you check out the Advent calendar for daily surprises, or see what’s on sale so far.

If you haven’t been following along, here’s a taste of what’s been revealed up to today:



The Birth of Our Lord, Jesus Christ by James Tissot


Don’t miss out on any deals or surprises—visit before Christmas!

New in Verbum 6: Wikipedia

Verbum 6 makes Wikipedia work for you.

If you still find yourself starting from Wikipedia—handy for quick overviews of foreign concepts—start from Wikipedia in Verbum. Verbum helps you go from Wikipedia to in-depth answers and allows you to uncover deeper layers of scholarship.

Say I’m reading the Summa and I encounter David of Dinant. I can right click and immediately pull up Wikipedia in the software:

David of Dinant

But besides giving me quick information about who he was, Verbum’s Wikipedia tool lets me take notes and highlight right in the Wikipedia article. So I can flag this or save it for future reference.


Once the note is in place, Verbum keeps track of edits made to that page on Wikipedia, so my note won’t get lost or deleted.

If you already use Wikipedia as part of your workflow, you will find that Verbum has made it even easier and more powerful.

Check out the Wikipedia tool in all our Verbum 6 libraries.

Anne Catherine Emmerich on Joseph’s Search for Lodging

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich’s mysterious visions have been a subject of ongoing discussion in the Catholic Church. When she was beatified in 2004 by Pope John Paul II, the authenticity of the transcriptions of her visions was thoroughly investigated. Interestingly, her beatification was based on grounds completely apart from the writings associated with her.

These visions have continued to fascinate believers for generations—even the 2003 film The Passion of the Christ was inspired by Emmerich’s vivid visions of Jesus’ crucifixion. We may never be able to prove or disprove these private revelations to Emmerich, but one thing is certain: these accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion and Mary’s life  will draw you you to a closer devotion to the Holy family.


THEY then entered into Bethlehem, in which the houses were separated from each other by considerable spaces. They entered across some rubbish and by a gate which was fallen into decay. Mary remained quietly with the ass at the end of the street, and Joseph searched in vain for a lodging in the first houses, for there were many strangers in Bethlehem and many people were running here and there. He returned to Mary and told her that he could find nowhere to lodge there, and that they must go on further into the city. He led the ass by the bridle whilst the Blessed Virgin walked by his side. When they were come to the end of another street Mary remained again near the ass while Joseph went from house to house without being able to find one where they would receive him. He soon returned very much troubled. This was repeated several times, and sometimes the Blessed Virgin had a long time to wait: everywhere the place was taken up, everywhere he was repulsed, and he ended by telling Mary that they must go to another part of Bethlehem, where they would be sure to find what they wanted. They then retraced their steps in the direction contrary to that which they had taken in coming when they turned to the south. They then passed through a street which seemed rather a country road as the houses were isolated and on slight elevations.

Arrived at the other side of Bethlehem, where the houses were still more scattered, they found a large empty space situated in a hollow; it was like a deserted field in the city. There was there a kind of shed, and a short distance from it a large tree, like a lime tree, with a smooth trunk, whose branches extended widely and formed a kind of roof over it. Joseph led the Blessed Virgin to this tree; he arranged a convenient seat for her with bundles at the foot of the trunk, in order that she might rest whilst he sought again for a lodging in the neighbouring houses. The ass stood still with its head turned towards the tree. Mary remained at first standing, leaning against the trunk of the tree. Her robe of white wool had no belt, and fell about her in folds; her head was covered with a white veil. Many persons passed by and looked at her, not knowing that their Saviour was so near them. How patient, humble, and resigned she was. She had to wait a long time, and at last she sat down upon the rugs, her hands joined on her breast, and with her head bowed down. Joseph returned to her in great trouble: he had not found a lodging. The friends of whom he had spoken to the Blessed Virgin would scarcely notice him. He shed tears, and Mary consoled him. He went again from house to house; but as, in order the more to induce them to consent, he had spoken of the near approach of his wife’s confinement, this drew upon him a more distinct refusal.

The place was solitary; but in the end some people passing by looked from a distance with curiosity, as is usual if any one is seen remaining a long time in the same place towards the close of the day. I believe that some of them spoke to Mary and asked her who she was. At last Joseph returned; he was so much troubled that he hardly dare come near her. He told her it was of no use, but that he knew further on in the city a spot where the shepherds often stayed when they came to Bethlehem with their flocks, and that they would find there at least a shelter. He knew the place from his youth: when his brothers tormented him he had often retired there to escape from their persecutions. He said if the shepherds came there he could easily arrange with them, but that they were rarely here at this season of the year. He added, when they were quietly settled he would make further inquiries. They then went away by the eastern side of Bethlehem, following a deserted path which turned to the left. It was a road like one which is found in walking by the side of the dilapidated walls, ditches, and fortifications of a small city in ruins. The road at first rose a little, it then descended the slope of a small hill, and led them a few minutes to the east of Bethlehem, before the place they were seeking, near a hill or an old rampart, in front of which stood some trees. They were green trees (firs or cedars), and other trees which had little leaves like box leaves.

Emmerich, A. C. (1899). The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. (G. Richardson, Trans.) (pp. 69–75). London; New York; Cincinnati; Chicago: Burns and Oates; Benziger Brothers.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas

From J.N. Tylenda’s Saints and Feasts of the Liturgical Year:

The shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, on the outskirts of Mexico City, is the most famous shrine of our Lady in the Western Hemisphere, and today we commemorate her appearances to a native Mexican convert, St. Juan Diego, on Tepeyac Hill. On December 9, 1531, our Lady appeared to him and asked that a church be built on the site, and on December 12 she again appeared and urged him to take her message to the bishop. To offer proof that he was our Lady’s messenger, she told him to gather the flowers he found blooming there in mid-December. When Juan Diego stood before Bishop Juan de Zumárraga, he opened his cloak, and as the flowers cascaded to the floor, those present saw on the rough cloth an image of our Lady—the image still preserved at the shrine. The first sanctuary was built in about 1533; the second was begun in 1556; and the third was built in 1695. The present basilica dates from 1976. In 1746, Our Lady of Guadalupe became the patroness of Mexico, and in 1754 Pope Benedict XIV established December 12 as the feast. In 1945, when Pope Pius XII was speaking of Our Lady of Guadalupe, he called her “Queen of Mexico and Empress of the Americas.” The pope went on to say that the image on the cloak was done “by brushes that were not of this world.” The prayer in the Mass today affirms that by the Virgin Mary’s appearance at Tepeyac, God has brought blessings to the Americas (273-294).


Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico

Deacon Kevin’s Reflections for the 3rd Week of Advent

This guest post is by Deacon Kevin Bagley, Director of Verbum.

As we light the rose-colored candle on the Advent Wreath, we enter the Third Sunday of Advent. The rose candle is used to identify Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is a Latin word meaning “rejoice.” We rejoice that the coming of the Lord is near, and recognize that our spiritual preparation for the birth of the Christ child is almost complete.

In the First Reading, Isaiah shares his joy in serving the Lord, the same joy we receive when we listen and follow the teachings of Jesus. Remember how you felt when you received wonderful news? Perhaps it was getting the job you wanted, settling on the house, or finding out a loved one was cancer-free. This is the joy we can experience when we turn ourselves over to the Lord. This is the promise and hope we have for eternal life in the Kingdom!

Saint Paul continues this theme of joy and celebration in and with the Lord, and that we can receive the peace of God and become holy and blameless while we await the coming of Jesus.

In the Gospel reading, John the Baptist is questioned by the people who are seeking the Messiah, wondering if he is the One. John was sent to prepare the people, to urge them to make ready to receive the Lord. We also await the Savior, not only at Christmas time, but when Christ comes at the end of time. Are we ready to receive Christ fully, completely, and without reservation? He is coming; prepare!

We must live our lives in expectation that Christ could come to us at any moment. As we prepare our homes for Christmas, we must also be preparing our hearts for the Lord. We must be open and receptive to hear His word, to follow his commands, and to be of service in His name. How will you say “Yes” to the Lord, today? How will you show compassion and mercy? How will you repair a broken relationship? What are you waiting for, Christmas? Behold, it is right around the corner!

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