The Secret to Overcoming Today’s Crisis: Sacred Scripture (Guest: Dr. John Bergsma)

I’m convinced that one of the best ways to overcome the crisis in the Church today is for Catholics to dive into Sacred Scripture. A new online program is designed to help Catholics to do just that.

Crisis Point
Crisis Point
The Secret to Overcoming Today's Crisis: Sacred Scripture (Guest: Dr. John Bergsma)


Dr. John Bergsma is a professor of theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville and the Vice President for Biblical Theology and Mission Effectiveness at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. He’s the author of numerous books, including “A Catholic Introduction to the Bible: Old Testament,” “Stunned by Scripture: How the Bible Made Me Catholic,” and “Bible Basics for Catholics.” He’s also a presenter in the new Emmaus Academy from the St. Paul Center.



Eric Sammons:

I’m convinced that one of the best ways to overcome the crisis in the church today is for Catholics to dive into sacred scripture. A new online program is designed to help Catholics do just that, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today on Crisis Point.

Hello, I’m Eric Sammons, your host and editor-in-chief of Crisis Magazine. Before we get started, I just want to encourage people to smash that like button and subscribe to the channel so other people can know about it. Also, you can follow Crisis Magazine at Crisis Mag, all of the major social media channels. You already know what they are, so just go to them.

So today our guest is Dr. John Bergsma. He is a Professor of Theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and the Vice President for Biblical Theology and Mission Effectiveness at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. That’s a mouthful, I admit.

He is the author of numerous books, of which you probably already know if you’re watching this, including A Catholic Introduction to the Bible: The Old Testament. I’m going to interrupt here. I love that, by the way. It’s very good. I admit, I’m not a big Old Testament guy, I’m much more into the New Testament, but that was a great… It’s a great book. It’s excellent. Also, Stunned by Scripture: How the Bible Made Me Catholic, and Bible Basics for Catholics. I’m starting to see a theme here in your books. He’s also a presenter of the new Emmaus Academy from the St. Paul Center. Welcome to the program, John.

Dr. John Bergsma:

Hey, it’s great to be on with you, Eric. Thanks so much.

Eric Sammons:

So I think people who have watched this podcast before have heard me talk about the St. Paul Center. I’ve recommended it a few times. How about you, just for people who don’t know what it is, give us an overview of kind of the purpose and what the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology does.

Dr. John Bergsma:

Absolutely. So the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology was the inspiration of Scott and Kimberly Hahn and Mike Aquilina, probably some 25 years ago, who were praying together, and suddenly got a vision to start an institute that would transform biblical study in the U.S. and around the world, such that when people moved to a new town, they would ask around for a Bible study in the area and hear that the best Bible study in the city was at a Catholic parish.

They really wanted to realize that vision such that, again, biblical studies would be superior and not inferior within Catholic orbits. So that’s how it began, and we really have a twofold mission, and that is biblical literacy for the laity, and fluency for the clergy. And so we have a lot of beginner Bible studies for folks that maybe are beginning scripture from the scratch. Things like our Journey Through Scripture Series, Genesis to Jesus, kind of our flagship video Bible study.

But then, we also have an academic arm that’s publishing books for scholars, called Emmaus Academic, and we put on these priest conferences. Some of the largest priest conferences in the country are sponsored by the St. Paul Center, three a year, one in California, one in Texas, one in West Virginia. So we have this multi-pronged approach. We’re trying to both reach those in the pew and those who are preaching, to those in the pew from the pulpit.

Eric Sammons:

I think younger people today, Catholics, don’t realize how bad it was before the St. Paul Center. I’m trying to be a little bit diplomatic here, but it really was. Because I became Catholic in 1993, and so this is before St. Paul Center existed. And I remember as a Protestant becoming Catholic, it was not very good, as far as scripture studies for Catholics. I mean, which is sad, because of course we have 2000 years of great scripture studies from the best theologians and saints and scholars.

But as of the early 1990s, at least in this country, oh boy, it was pathetic. And as a Protestant coming in, I at least knew my Bible enough to know how pathetic the Catholic Bible studies were. And so obviously the St. Paul Center I think has done just great work. I mean, others have too. I’m not saying it’s just the St. Paul Center, just the fact that today there are so many resources that just didn’t exist. There really isn’t an excuse now for Catholics not to be able to dive into the Bible.

Dr. John Bergsma:

No, there really isn’t.

Eric Sammons:

And before we talk specifically about Emmaus Academic, I’m sorry, Emmaus Academy. I knew I was going to say Emmaus Academic at some point. They’re too much alike in their name, the Emmaus Academy. I just want to talk a little big picture of, why is it important for Catholics to really know the Bible on an individual level. I mean, we hear it at mass, obviously, but why should the individual lay Catholic, not a priest, I think most people get, yeah a priest probably should know the Bible. Why should just Joe Catholic or Joe Catholic in the pew, know the Bible beyond just what they hear from the homily?

Dr. John Bergsma:

Well, we come back to that classic statement by Saint Jerome. Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ. So if you don’t know your Bible, you don’t know Jesus. And that’s most obvious with the gospels because the gospels are his biographies. But it’s also true of the rest of scripture, because if you don’t understand the Old Testament, you don’t get the point of what Jesus is doing half of the time in the gospels.

You have to know the backstory. Reading the New Testament is great. I do advocate it. I carry a New Testament with me, which I learned actually from a Catholic. Get this. I was converted by a Catholic at the University of Notre Dame who had the practice of carrying around a New Testament. And when I pressed him on Catholic doctrine, he would pull out his Bible and go all chapter and verse on me.

Eric Sammons:

Oh man, that warms your Protestant heart, didn’t it?

Dr. John Bergsma:

I know. Exactly. And so I actually picked up that practice from him. So it’s great to read the New Testament, and I read it daily and advocate that for everyone. But only ever reading the Old Testament is like watching a movie starting about two thirds of the way in, and never getting all the front matter that you’re missing. So it’s super important that all Catholics, not just the clergy but the laity as well, read scripture to understand the mission of Jesus who is the God man.

And in that process we develop what’s called a biblical world view. You begin to really look at the world through the lens of God’s word. And when you do that, boy, things look very different. For example, right now, if you look at our world in America through the lens of scripture, it’s insanity, all the gender confusion, confusion about what marriage is. That’s fundamental to society. I mean, if you read the Bible that the story of salvation begins with marriages, like the marriage of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob, and all that leads to the church.

And if they hadn’t gotten marriage, and they didn’t completely, but enough that God could work with them through the covenant. Again, we would not have the church. And so we need to develop that biblical worldview. And then there’s also that practical aspect of being able to witness to others. And so often other Christians, our separated brothers, Protestants, et cetera, are turned off from the Catholic Church because they don’t encounter Catholics who know the scripture. It reminds me of one of my brothers who’s a Protestant pastor.

And after I came into the church in 2001, I was talking with him about Catholic teaching, and he kind of just shut me down as I was trying to present the scriptural arguments for the papacy and Mary, et cetera. He just shut me down and said, “You know what? My major problem is, I have never encountered a Catholic who knew his Bible.” And that on a personal level just turns people off to the Catholic Church. So again, it’s very important that we as Catholics become literate and the scriptures, know our way around the Bible, so that we can encounter Jesus ourselves, but also so that we can share him with others.

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, I know for myself, I very much advocate obviously reading through the Gospels and reading St. Paul and things like that, but I’ve found one of the best, and I do this… The last time I did this was 2020, and I do this every few years, maybe five years is, I read through the entire Bible in a year, because there’s a lot of different programs that help you to do that. I actually have the book, I think it’s from Augusta Institute or something like that, the Bible that actually goes through and makes it easy so you don’t have to flip around.

And I found that doing that is a good reset in that, like you just said, it helps you to understand the world we live in now, which might sound a little bit funny to people who haven’t done it, but I was reading it during 2020, which was one of the craziest years on record, of course. And it just put things in perspective because for example, when you’re reading through the Old Testament, things are insane all the time in Israel, and yet God continually leads them back to him, continually takes care of them. But it’s not like it was all roses for the ancient Israelites. They’re usually rejecting God more often than not.

And so just seeing that and it just gave, like you said, the biblical worldview, it gives you a perspective of when you’re in an insane world, you don’t go insane then because you see, “Okay, this has happened before, and God used it for good, and used it as a part of salvation history.” And so there’s lots of different ways to go about the Bible, but I just wanted to put a plug in there for at least every maybe five years or so, spend a year just reading through the Bible.

Just read through the whole thing, because it gives you that big picture that, like you said, if you read the gospels alone, that’s great, but you do miss a lot of things that are going on if you haven’t read everything. So specifically now, the great thing about today is there are tools for Catholics, unlike 30 years ago. There are tools for Catholics to help read the Bible, understand it, and at St. Paul Center there’s a lot. But then this is a new one from St. Paul Center, it’s the Emmaus Academy. So why don’t you first just give us an overview of what the heck is the Emmaus Academy?

Dr. John Bergsma:

So the Emmaus Academy is an initiative that we started to address that problem of those who are kind of in the middle ground. So you become familiar with the scriptures, maybe done some introductory studies, et cetera. You can find your way around the Bible. So you’re beyond what the beginning resources are. On the other hand, you’re not ready to quit your job and go get a master’s degree at Franciscan University, or what have you.

And so in that middle ground, you want that further depth, that further education. And at the St. Paul Center we have so many amazing resources, not only our in-house scholars, but folks in our region and folks who are in contact with us, just amazing experts on different aspects of bringing the Bible home to life. And we thought, “How can we make this available to people in a accessible way, this kind of mid-range biblical education.”

And so that’s what Emmaus Academy is. The bread and butter of Emmaus Academy is these short courses that you can take with, for example, I’m working through myself, Father Boniface Hicks, is this amazing Benedictine mystic from Latrobe, which is two hours from us, here in Steubenville. And he’s got this fantastic book out, called Personal Prayer. Even my students have been coming across it and delving into this great introduction to mental prayer. And he did a short course for us, just talking about getting into lectio, how do you follow these monastic practices of prayer as a layperson? How do you enter more deeply into the contemplative life? And he just unpacks that.

Eric Sammons:

Okay. So I wanted to show… I have actually here, let me just pull this up for a second. For those who are just listening and can’t see this, sorry, but I’ll kind of explain it. This is a screenshot from one of the courses, actually your course, which we’ll talk about in a minute. And it just shows what we’re talking about as far as being able to take a course at Emmaus Academy, in that you have these videos. And I think this course has nine videos, this is the evangelist, which Dr. Bergsma is the teacher of this. And so basically you have… How long are probably each of the lessons typically? It says on there, but I can’t remember, they’re usually about 20 minutes or so?

Dr. John Bergsma:

Yeah, we try to keep them from 20 to 25 minutes.

Eric Sammons:

Okay. So there’s nine courses. So this is going to be an overview on the evangelists. And so you have nine courses of about 20 minutes that you watch with whoever the presenter is, and we’ll talk about some of the other presenters here in a minute. And I believe there are also quizzes that you take. So it’s more than just, because the problem is when you just listen, that can kind of go in one ear and out the other. So why don’t you break down, just so we can get a sample list. Your course on the evangelist, how deep are you going and what is somebody going to learn from this, and after they are finished with, what will they know?

Dr. John Bergsma:

So most faithful Catholics, devout Catholics are familiar with the stories of the gospels, but it’s all decontextualized. It’s all just a mishmash. And we go to mass, and one day we hear something from Luke, and the next day it’s a feast day and we’re reading from Matthew. And so we’re familiar with the content, but it’s spread out, it’s amorphous, it’s disorganized. So this is of course on the evangelist to help get that content schematized, help get it structured. And very importantly, to get to know the evangelists as persons, as saints, as men to whom you can go to ask for their intercessions.

Men who knew the Lord personally, men who wrote biographies of Jesus. And so we give a broad overview of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Try to explain it in a general way how they are distinct from one another, what their different backgrounds were, what their literary style is, the essential structure of their book. And then we delve into each one. Matthew, the most Jewish of the gospels in a certain sense, explicit quotations from the Old Testament, clearly a man from a Pharisee background who understands Jesus’ logic and his exegesis of scriptures from that Jewish academic framework.

Then we jump into Mark, the shortest of the gospels, very Roman, very action oriented. Everything is happening right away immediately. It’s the action film of the gospels. And then Luke, Luke, the scholar, polished, kind of the Shakespeare of the New Testament. The finest Greek stylist giving this vision of Jesus, the cosmic savior who’s come for all men, including the Gentiles, including the Greeks and the Romans. And then finally John, the capstone gospel, contemplative, mystical, deceptively simple.

It looks like it’s about two inches deep, And then you step in and you drop off into the Mariana Trench, in terms of its theological depth. So we give that overview over. It’s actually more about 12 sessions on the Gospels, looking at their literary and theological emphases, and then particular passages where we’ll do a deep dive to give a sample of the distinctiveness of each of these four authors.

And so at the end, again, I hope that Catholics have gone through this course and come to know these biographers of Jesus as persons, real living persons of the first century, and come to know that culture, and that usually Jewish background a little bit better, in order to appreciate what is going on at mass so that when we hear a reading from one of these four gospels in mass, like, “Oh, okay, I know who this is. I know the perspective from which he’s coming. I have an idea of where this falls within the entire gospel that he wrote.” And when we understand better, we can love more, because you can’t love what you don’t know. And so love and knowledge kind of grow together. And that’s the goal of this gospel course.

Eric Sammons:

So how would you say… One of the frustrations, I know a lot of Catholics, I’ve heard from a lot of Catholics when they will do a typical scripture study, is that it’s very heavy often on the historical critical method. And so literally the first lesson in your study on the gospel, Matthew tells you how it wasn’t Matthew who wrote it, and that it was written in the year 120 or something like that. And they’ll make statements like they’re facts. How does the St. Paul Center in general, but also Emmaus Academy kind of balance modern scripture knowledge?

Which I would be the first to say, a lot of it’s very useful what we’ve learned. But a lot of it’s, frankly, I mean it’s destructive. I’ve been at masses where the deacon’s giving the homily. I remember this, reading from Mark, and all he could talk about is how Mark was definitely the first gospel, and that it was written. And then a guy who wasn’t Matthew, and he was just like… Nobody cares, first of all, but you could tell he heard it in some class somewhere. So how does St. Paul Center and Emmaus Academy kind of deal with those issues and try to bring it all together in a faithful Catholic way?

Dr. John Bergsma:

So I totally get what you’re talking about, Eric. When I was going to daily mass in my early years as a Catholic at the University of Notre Dame, there was a particular priest who had every Tuesday daily mass. And his homily was always the same. It was nothing actually happened in the scripture readings, but they have a nice moral. So it was so predictable. So predictable. So at the St. Paul Center we’re coming from the perspective of faith. And Pope Benedict the 16th called for a critique of historical criticism.

Historical criticism itself has a kind of sociological and intellectual history, it’s not some kind of timeless methodology that drops from heaven and is perfect or something like this. It is a concatenation or a combination of different methods, and it’s usually described as being text criticism, source criticism, form criticism, and redaction criticism. Folks don’t need to obviously memorize that by any means.

But those different kinds of criticism historically developed in Europe during the 17th through the 19th centuries, and they have peculiarities to them. And frequently these methods are based on outmoded and particularly 18th and 19th century European philosophies and biases and assumptions about the ancient world. And so, we can’t stand still in biblical scholarship and remain in the 19th century. We got to move forward, and we have to realize that some of these methods are conditioned by the time period when they arose.

In the intervening years, there’s been a lot of progress in archeology, in history, in the development of language. And we have a better appreciation now, for example, how Jewish the gospels really are, and how embedded they are into the first century. And the way this works out, Eric, is that the finest modern scholarship really validates the fact that the gospels are documents written, basically within the lifetime of Jesus.

You gave that illustration of the deacon talking about Mark being written in the year 120 or something like this. So within the Dead Sea Scrolls, we find these parallel literary phrases to the gospel, literary phrases from the Gospel of John, that up until that time at about the mid 20th century had been attributed to the influence of Greek philosophy on the supposedly anonymous author of the Gospel of John, from the second or third century AD. Well, none of the scrolls were written after the year 70. So that validates that these phrases are authentic Jewish religious language from the 1st century AD.

Basically from the lifetime of Jesus and the Apostles. And scholars were wrong to attribute them to later centuries. And in light of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we can say that the Gospel of John, by all appearances, is a 1st century Jewish document that comes from this time period that it claims for itself. So that’s what we’re trying to do at the St. Paul Center is, again, combine the stance of faith, which is a hermeneutic of trust in the scriptures and what they claim for themselves, with the very best of modern scholarship. And we find and we believe that those two really go together. And using the tools of modern scholarship, you can validate what the church has traditionally believed.

Eric Sammons:

And it’s one of the things I like about the St. Paul Center, because what I’ve found is that I understand Catholics who really reject modern biblical scholarship because they’ve seen it abused so much. I mean, like I said, they go to homilies where they hear the priests say, “None of this actually happened, but let’s get a message out of it somehow.” “Okay, great.”

And they use all of the terminology of historical critical method and they say the latest scholarship. I get why the average Catholic might just be like, “Well, forget any of that, I’m just going to only read something from a hundred years ago,” which honestly, probably isn’t that bad. So I’m not saying don’t do that. But the nice thing about St. Paul Center is, you take all of this stuff from a hundred years ago and a thousand years ago, but then combine it with the modern scholarship methods, kind of put it together into a new…

Not a new thing, but just a continuation of the tradition. You’re not going against St. Thomas Aquinas, for example, or anything like that in what you’re doing. And so now who are some of the other… Like you’re doing a class, obviously a course for the Emmaus Academy, which is great. And then who else are doing courses as of right now, at least?

Dr. John Bergsma:

Oh man, we got such a fantastic lineup. Some of my best friends and most esteemed colleagues from the center and from Franciscan University to, well, obviously a big hitter is Dr. Scott Hahn. He’s got an introduction to St. Paul as a short course offered on Emmaus Academy. That’s like taking St. Paul with St. Paul himself. I mean, it’s like the spirit of St. Paul really rests strongly on Dr. Scott Hahn, and that’s amazing. I can’t wait to get through it. I’m going to tackle that as soon as I get through this course on prayer with the amazing mystic, Father Boniface Hicks.

But then my dear colleague, Dr. Mike Sirilla, what an amazing man himself, what a dramatic conversion story. He has, ask him about it some time. He went from following the Grateful Dead to being a Professor of Catholic Theology at Franciscan University. And he has a class on the Magisterium. Boy, that is so pertinent right now. He explains what the Magisterium is, what it isn’t, how you should show deference and respect and obedience to the Magisterium, and when also to recognize that the Magisterium has not declaimed definitively on an issue.

And that’s very complicated, and it can be confusing to so many Catholics. And so what a poignant and timely course for him to deliver for the academy. And then my good friend, Matthew Breuninger, again, amazing story himself, his journey into the church, but his expertise is in psychology and in counseling. He runs his own counseling center right here in the Steel Valley, where we’re located in basically the Ohio Valley in Steubenville area. And so he has personal experience helping so many people come to recognize their value in God’s eyes, and using all of the tools of modern psychological sciences.

Eric, we were just talking about the tools of modern biblical science and applying those in a way that’s consonant and has a hermeneutic of continuity with the tradition, with Thomas and the fathers of the church. Well, Dr. Breuninger is really doing that in the psychological sciences, really sharing what we can glean, what is useful from modern advances, but what is also in continuity with what the saints and the doctors of the church have said about the human soul and the human person. So again, his is another course I can’t wait to get to after I get through the others.

I really want this stuff for myself. Dr. Breuninger has been so helpful. He’s counseled me. He’s counseled members of my family. And to see him on a platform where he’s accessible to anyone in the country who just subscribes to Emmaus Academy service, it just really warms my heart and gives me hope for the future of the families and Catholic mental health, et cetera, in our communities around the country, because it’s great to have these resources available in such a widespread accessible format.

Eric Sammons:

I think what your example show is, it’s not just scripture studies that you guys are offering. If you didn’t mention Mike Sirilla’s course, I was going to. He’s a good friend of mine. And I think you’re absolutely right that, particularly I think for people who are in the crisis audience, let’s just say, who understand there’s a crisis going on, and a lot of confusion out there, not always sure what to think about what various church leaders say.

Mike does a great job of saying, “Okay, here’s what the Magisterium is, here’s what it can do, here’s what it can’t do. Here’s where we have to just basically follow him no matter what. And here’s where things that are called the Magisterium aren’t really the Magisterium, and we have some freedom.” So he’s just, yeah, I mean, Mike’s great. Literally, this guy has been studying ecclesiology and theology of the church and all that for years, and he knows his stuff, and he’s very solid. So I highly recommend that.

And just the idea though that it’s not just Bible studies, but just tools that use the Bible, but to help Catholics in today’s world, which I think is great. Now, so you have a course, Mike has other courses and stuff like that. Now, how does it work as far as… I actually should know this, but I was going to look at it beforehand, but I didn’t. When somebody wants to sign up for that, do they sign up for your course directly and that’s it, and then they pay for your course, and then they sign up for another course, or do they get all of them together? I mean, how does that work?

Dr. John Bergsma:

It’s a $25 a month subscription fee. And for that, you have access to all of the courses. You can begin each one at your own leisure, your own convenience, but there are some mild accountability procedures there. The site will ask you to specify what kind of commitment you’re making. Are you going to spend one hour a week, two hours a week doing this, et cetera, kind of prompt you for a kind of personal commitment toward that course. And then the site will also give you little quizzes.

And at first I didn’t know what to think about that, but as I began to use it, I realized, “Oh, this is really good. It solicits a kind of mental commitment that this is what I’m going to devote to studying this material.” And I’ve actually come to really like the little quizzes because they help kind of solidify or synthesize the knowledge that you get, because like you said, if there’s no accountability at all, it’s kind of like, it can be in one ear and out the other.

You don’t spend that mental energy to condense what you’ve experienced into the basic principles that have come from your education. And so again, Eric, that’s what it is, a $25 a month subscription fee gives you access to these courses. You can take them in any order. You can also jump around within the lessons, but the site will prompt you to finish what you’ve committed to, beginning. And there’s just a treasure trove. And when you sign up for Emmaus Academy, you also get all of the legacy media products that the St. Paul Center has produced throughout the years, and that is invaluable as well.

So if folks are interested, for example, in having video bible studies that they can share with their men’s group or their local parish, that comes along with Emmaus Academy. So you could be taking the courses in Emmaus Academy. You also have access to, for example, Journey Through Scripture, Genesis Through Jesus, kind of the flagship Bible study product that the St. Paul Center has used over the years.

You can show that you’re a parish for an eight-week introductory Bible study for an adult education group at your local parish. And again, that comes along free with Emmaus Academy. And a lot of other practical stuff like courses on how to teach scripture to your children, or women in the Bible, or women’s Bible studies, et cetera, come along with that. So just a wide range of fantastic products for the monthly subscription fee.

Eric Sammons:

So I logged in beforehand, and I think I saw that there’s maybe about a dozen or so courses right now in Emmaus Academy directly. Are there plans then to continue to add to them, and at what rate will you be doing that?

Dr. John Bergsma:

Absolutely. We’re committed to add at least one course a month, but the way it’s cracking up, it’s going to be more like three new courses a month in the foreseeable future. And so we’re really cranking stuff out. I could speak personally. I’ve just done another course on the Psalms, that’s going to drop in a couple of months. And I’ve scheduled for recording the prophets over the summer, and that’s going to drop in the fall. And everybody else involved is hard at work. So we’re shooting a video and producing these things, basically as fast as we can to get it out there, and it’s really going to be a tremendous resource.

Eric Sammons:

Okay, that sounds great. Now one last question I want to ask kind of, aside from the Emmaus Academy, and I’ll have a link by the way, for everybody in the description to how you can go and sign up for that, so it’ll be very easy for people. But taking a step back, I mean, you’re a professor of theology, you’re one of the top, frankly, I think one of the top scripture scholars in the country. What would you just say, beyond Emmaus Academy, what would you recommend to Catholics who want to just know the Bible better? They’re intimidated. What best practices do you recommend to them?

Dr. John Bergsma:

Best practices for the study of scripture? Obviously, what I come back to is Acts 8:31, where Philip being led by the Spirit is directed to run alongside the chariot with the Ethiopian eunuch. And the eunuch is reading one of the classic interpretive cruxes of the ancient world, which was Isaiah 53, what on earth is going on in Isaiah 53, who is the prophet speaking of? And Philip runs alongside and hears the eunuch reading, because of course everybody read aloud in the ancient world, silent reading wasn’t invented until the Middle Ages.

But he hears the eunuch reading and he says, “Do you understand what you’re reading?” And the eunuch replies, “How can I? Unless somebody guides me.” And so we need guides, that’s very Catholic. I come from a Protestant background. It was like, “I’m going to go off by myself with my Bible. I’m going to pray to the Holy Spirit, I’m just going to get this enlightenment.” And of course, that led to a lot of aberrations and problems. But within the Catholic faith, we know we need this kind of chain of discipleship, and we need these guides.

So in terms of getting deeper into scripture, I do recommend carrying a New Testament with you. I have a little pocket edition that comes from Scepter press, it’s called the Kahn Fraternity Pocket Edition, that’s divided up into readings throughout the year, about three to five minutes daily throughout the year. I recommend doing that. I recommend reading from the Book of Psalms. You can read five Psalms a day, and in that manner you can complete the book of Psalms each month, and it’s a tremendous exercise in prayer.

Read a psalm every three hours, five a day, it’s fantastic. You can read one chapter of Proverbs a day for each day of the month. There’s 31 chapters of Proverbs. So on 31 day months, you get through the entire book of Proverbs. And then as you recommended, periodically reading through the Bible sequentially is a great practice. If folks are getting into the Bible for the first time, I have written a bunch of books precisely for folks that are getting into the scripture, so I recommend starting with Bible Basics for Catholics.

And then as a sequel, New Testament Basics and Psalm Basics. I also have a book recently out called Love Basics, which kind of goes through the Bible looking at the theme of love and marriage. And then these resources that we’ve been talking about, the stuff on Emmaus Academy is incredible. When you subscribe you get access not only to these courses, like take St. Paul with Dr. Scott Hahn. Normally you’d have to pay about $2,000 to take that course, and you’d have to move to Steubenville, Ohio to do that. Take it through Emmaus, the road, it’s going to be an incredible experience.

And then you also have access to all of Dr. Hahn’s legacy audio instruction where he goes through the prophets, the Psalms, the Gospel of John, just an amazing resource there. So again, these are some ideas for how you can delve further into scripture. There’s such an embarrassment of resources out there in the contemporary church. And as we said towards the beginning of the program, there’s really no excuse for Catholics anymore to say, “Hey, I just didn’t have the opportunity to delve into scripture.”

Eric Sammons:

Yeah, that’s for sure. So I just, again, recommend people check out the St. Paul Center. And exciting news, I was there a few months ago in Steubenville, and I was there a couple of weeks ago, a few weeks ago for my daughter’s graduation. And the building is coming along because St. Paul Center has a new… Here’s the thing, these guys have been around for 25 years, they’re not throwing money around, living high off the hog.

If you people have seen their offices, I’m not trying to boot on it, but let’s be honest, they’re very modest, we’ll just say that. What you guys have been using for 25 years, very much keeping things on the cheap as possible as far as that goes. But now you’re finally getting a new building, and it looks like it’s going to be magnificent. I think it’s supposed to be set up this fall 2023, right, it’s supposed to be finished?

Dr. John Bergsma:

Yeah, we’re hoping to have a rollout later in October or November.

Eric Sammons:

Okay. I am definitely coming out for that. I mean, I got two kids who live in Steubenville, so I always find an excuse to get out there, but I definitely can’t wait to see that. So I want people to know about St. Paul Center and support as much as they can. Also, how can people find out about things that you’re up to outside of just going to St. Paul Center?

Dr. John Bergsma:

Sure, yeah. Check out my website,, it will redirect there. I lead pilgrimages, I’m taking off at the end of June to lead one, and if folks want to, they can sign up for next summer’s pilgrimage. And also check out the events at the St. Paul Center website. That’s just, not even any www, it’s just And check out our upcoming events because Dr. Hahn and I have been really pushing the Bishops Eucharistic Revival efforts, and we’ve been traveling all around the country doing Eucharistic revivals at individual parishes.

And we may be coming to a parish near you, just check out our upcoming calendar. You can do the events’ dropdown menu from the St. Paul Center website and see where we’re going to be next. But those things have been tremendously fun. We’ve had so much enjoyment in the Holy Spirit, in places as diverse as Miami or Central Illinois or Upstate Minnesota. So it’s really been great.

Eric Sammons:

That sounds good, that sounds like it’d be very helpful for people. Okay, so we’re going to wrap it up there. I really appreciate you coming on the program. Again, I’ll have links to everything we kind of talked about here. I’ll put links in the description for people to follow them easily. But keep up the good work. And I encourage people, if you really want to know the Bible, get some of Dr. Bergsma’s books, obviously Dr. Hahn’s as well, and check out the St. Paul Center. So thanks again for coming on.

Dr. John Bergsma:

Thanks, Eric.

Eric Sammons:

Okay, everybody, until next time, God love you.

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