Being a high school theology teacher, I am always on the look-out for new Scripture study programs that can help enhance what I do each day in the classroom. As you can imagine, there are a ton of different programs out there, with new ones seemingly being created and promoted each year. When opportunity came about to review Catholic Scripture Study's Luke: The Gospel of Mercy published by Saint Benedict Press, I was very happy to do so. I am glad I did, since this is the first CSS Bible Study that I have had a chance to review.
Let me say, at the start, that this CSS Bible Study is beautifully produced and packaged. When I first flipped through the over 300-page study guide, I remarked to my wife that it may be the most beautiful produced Catholic Bible study guide I had ever laid my eyes on. Authored by popular Catholic writer Dr. Paul Thigpen and Fr. Jeffrey Kirby, each of the 18 lessons through Luke are lavishly illustrated with sacred art, photos, maps, and in-text information boxes that provide helpful supplemental information at strategic points in the text. These helpful in-text boxes contain "Voices of the Saints", "Rome to Home", and "Catechism Connections". To emphasize how well they are placed in the text, one of the "Voices of the Saints" that I really appreciated came from St. Ambrose, where the authors quotes him saying, "Luke writes his Gospel to Theophilius, that is, to the one whom God loves. But if you love God, it was also written to you. And if it was written to you, you too must fulfill the duty of an evangelist. Diligently keep this token of Luke's friendship close to your heart (10)." I found this quote to be quite fantastic and a perfect to beginning my journey through the CSS's Luke: TheGospel of Mercy.
The text, itself, is large and very readable, suitable to almost any setting. Each lesson provides over five pages of "study notes" that gives the reader a considerable amount of contextual insight into the text. Next you will find a prompt to view the section of the DVD that accompanies the study guide, with space for notes and annotations. The final section of each lesson provides questions, both exegetical and life application in scope. These can be used for personal, as well as group study.
The DVDs, in coordination with the study guide, are divided into 18 lesson. Each lesson contains two sections, one led by Dr. Thigpen which focuses on providing the background necessary to studying the given text, with the second being a shorter life application reflection given by Fr. Kirby. Dr. Thigpen's teaching usually is around ten minutes each in length, while Fr. Kirby's reflections are half that amount. Both selections, for each lesson, are well-produced, with Dr. Thigpen's portion being taped in a studio, while Fr. Kirby's life application reflections are on location in Rome. Viewing many of the presentations on the DVDs, not only did I learn some new information about Luke, but I was also edified and confirmed in my faith. The three DVD's contain almost five hours worth of instruction.
Having read through the material, I would say that this study is intended for anyone who is a beginner as well as one who has been a long-time veteran of attending and leading bible study. I highly recommend this, particularly to those of you who are looking for a home study. I plan on using some of the materials for my high school class, since it is so well done. Bravo to CSS and Saint Benedict Press for creating this.
Saint Benedict Press provided this bible study to me with the understanding that I would give an honest review.