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Being Spouses: from Celibate Observation by Fr. Stephen Joseph Wolf is a very timely book. Essentially the 83-page volume can be used in a variety of ways: as an individual reader, a married couple, or perhaps a faith-sharing group. The book is a reflection by Fr. Wolf who after 14 years as a CPA decided to become a priest. It’s about sacramental matrimony and Fr. Wolf has some great insights. As he points out, “Being with spouses in the sacred moments of their lives is a true blessing. When they integrate their joyful permanence and their love for life and their faithful fidelity, the rest of us see Christ alive. And that is what we mean by ‘sacrament,’ a tangible way that Christ the Risen Lord is in reality present to us.” The two appendices: Appendix A – Church: The People of God, and Appendix B – The Nature of Sacred Liturgy Sources & For More, are worth the price of the book. Available for $6.95 (Quantity pricing available) from St. Mary’s Bookstore, 1909 West End Ave. Nashville, TN 37203. Tel: (615) 329-1835. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web site: www.idjc.org.
from celibate observation
Permanence, Fidelity, Children
"What can a celibate Catholic priest have to say about marriage?," asked Nashville priest Stephen Joseph Wolf, the only never-married of eight brothers, one of whom told him, "You can't know," when he dared offer a thought on the topic. Well, there must be some things, since parishioners keep bringing marriage questions and troubles to his ear. Those "some things" are the fruit of his book Being Spouses: from celibate observation.
"Most of my time with married folk are in spiritual direction and how they might pray about what is going on," says Rev. Steve Wolf, serving currently at St. Andrew Church in Sparta, Tennessee. Like all parish priests, he helps couples prepare for marriage and witnesses their marriages to each other.
"I tell engaged couples my hope that they might understand the rich Church teaching about the sacrament of marriage, and our goal is their 50th wedding anniversary," reports Rev. Wolf. "Much of what I say that is worthwhile comes from having walked the frustrating annulment journey with good people."
An annulment does not declare that a couple was never married. Rather the process seeks to discover whether a particular marriage was and so is a sacrament. In other words, a divorced spouse has to discern in the conscience whether his or her prior marriage is a sacrament. This calls for gut honesty and clear thinking in prayer. It is from this angle that Fr. Steve describes the sacrament of marriage as
when a grown-up baptized bride and a grown-up baptized groom with a good sense of who they are reveal themselves to each other and then come together in freedom and in freedom exchange mutual consent to bond in (1) permanence, and (2) fidelity, and (3) openness to children.
But Being Spouses is not a book about annulments or divorce. "Much of what I have learned about marriage is from the flip side, but my best teachers about marriage have been those couples who by God’s grace do the marriage thing so well," says Wolf. "Being with spouses in sacred moments of their lives is a true blessing. When they integrate their joyful permanence and their love for life and their faithful fidelity, the rest of us see Christ alive. And that is what we mean by ‘sacrament,’ a tangible way that Christ the Risen Lord is in reality present to us. This I say is the real reason we like to go to weddings and witness two who have been engaged now through their baptismal priesthood confer the sacrament of marriage on each other."
The six chapters of Being Spouses are flexibly designed for faith sharing groups of 8 to 12 people meeting weekly for six weeks, or for one married couple wanting to talk about their marriage, or for the individual curious reader. This book can also be helpful for people in close friendships, including everyone in that intimate friendship with the one God.
"Please do not expect Being Spouses to say everything that can be said about marriage," the former Director of Vocation Formation warns and then confidently declares: "But every couple would be blessed to have discussed its questions, and to have it on the family bookshelf."
He likes to bluntly tell those in marriages "you will know you are living your vocation the day you challenge God with something like, ‘You got me into this and I need your help right now.’" As is true of any vocation, marriage is first a response to a call from our Maker as the way this one man or woman might best love and be loved. Part Two of this vocation call is "to marry this particular person." A vocation begins with being created uniquely in God’s image, continues with the grace of self-awareness, and culminates in a yes of trust in God’s guiding providence, in good times and in bad.
Being Spouses is the eighth title for faith-sharing groups by Stephen Joseph Wolf, joining Pondering Our Faith, Tree of Life, Forty Penances for Spiritual Exercise, God's Money: Where Faith Meets Life in the World, Anger-Grief the Jesus Way, Twelve-Step Spirituality for Christians, and Planning My Own Funeral?. He has also compiled ten prayerbooks including Hinge Hours for Ordinary Time, eight 31-day meditation booklets available separately or collected in A Jesus Breviary, a book for men recovering from an abortion experience (Sons of Adam), and one book of poetry (Seeking Holy Honesty).
1. Marriage Sacramentality
2. The Domestic Church
5. Openness to Children
Being Spouses: from celibate observation, a 5" by 8" 83 page $6.95 2014 paperback, is available in Nashville at St. Mary's Bookstore (1909 West End Avenue, 615-329-1835) and can be ordered at fine bookstores everywhere, distributed by Ingram. A $2.99 e-book edition is available at amazon.com.
Several parishioners at St. Andrew are participating in a new version of the Retreat At Home this Easter Season. The retreat readings are from A Jesus Breviary, but the retreat booklet also lists the scripture passages for those who plan to pray with their personal Bibles. This 32 page booklet is currently available only as a pdf file, which may be copied freely for individual use or for a parish or a faith sharing group.
Ready for a retreat?
A Jesus Breviary
Is there in you a lenten hunger to spend time alone with the Lord in the Great Story of Jesus?
Would your life be enriched with simple parish-tested ways of pondering the faith?
Do you look for understandable access to the psalms and canticles to pray as do monks and nuns?
There may be something here for you.
Consider A Jesus Breviary 4.37"x7" 339 page $12.95 2015 paperback for meditation in 31-day doses. It is a collection of the eight small 31-day $4.25 books:
31 Days of God's Love-Call - These are all from the Hebrew Bible, to help sit with God saying, "I love you" for as long as we can stand it. If a new awareness of sin surfaces, be not afraid.
31 Days of Jesus Incarnate - That God would enter human history as one like us in all things but sin was unexpected and laughed at when preached, the surprise of the Word made flesh.
31 Days of Jesus Miracles - The Son of God shows forth the divine dynamic power in signs opening minds, hearts, souls, and strength.
31 Days of Jesus Parables - Which parable leaves you most perplexed? You will want to waste a lot of time on it. Which one seems clear-cut? that one too, until you are perplexed again.
31 Days of Jesus Sayings - these are in Sunday gospel readings in the 3 year cycle.
31 Days of Jesus' Paschal Mystery - The full gift of the self of Jesus in his scandalous cross shows through death and resurrection to Easter joy.
31 Days of the Holy Spirit - Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, will teach us all things (John 14:26), the Holy Breath of God.
31 Days on the Christian Life - These timeless readings from the letters attributed to Saints Peter, Paul, John, and James are drawn from Morning and Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours.
A Jesus Breviary is also available as a $2.99 ebook.
July 1, 2014 REVISION of HINGE HOURS EXPERIMENT
HINGE HOURS for ORDINARY TIME is now available at St. Mary's Bookstore in Nashville, and on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and fine bookstores everywhere that place orders through Ingram Books.
The Experiment was published in 2011 after years of praying the Liturgy of the Hours with several different translations of the psalms and canticles. The major change in the revision is the use of Sayings of Jesus as antiphons for the psalms. The Sayings are available in a separate booklet arranged for 31 days of prayer.
Coming soon are be HINGE HOURS for ADVENT & CHRISTMAS and HINGE HOURS for LENT & EASTER. An experiment with all four seasons in one volume, and it was felt to be too bulky.
Fresh Looks at the Tradition of Franciscan Prayer:
Saint Francis of Assisi composed a simple prayerbook for his brothers in their life of begging and humble preaching. The psalms in this prayerbook give us a picture of the psalm fragments Francis himself would have prayed. Indeed his life story is one of long hours alone with God, after the pattern of Jesus spending massive amounts of time with his Abba.
Saint Bonaventure was an influential early leader of the Franciscan Order and wrote classic meditations on the life of Christ drawn from the gospels and Franciscan prayer.
For families, faith-sharing groups, and individual pray-ers seeking more simple ways to give God praise and encounter the Jesus story, A Simple Family Breviary and Tree of Life can be the answer.
A Simple Family Breviary
For his friars, Saint Francis compsed fifteen "psalms" from psalm fragments, gospel verses, and creed phrases, and gave suggestions for how to use them for the days of the week in the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter. For ordinary time, parish priest Stephen Joseph Wolf attempts to follow Francis by adding "psalms" of psalm fragments from the Commons of the Saints. Praying A Simple Family Breviary (5” by 8” 103 page $9.95 2012 paperback)flows easily from the season or the month of the year: a choice of traditional songs, a traditional psalm or canticle for the season or month, and a "psalm" compiled by Saint Francis (for the seasons) or by Rev. Steve Wolf (for the months of Ordinary Time). The process makes sense after two or three prayer sessions.
As pastors of the domestic church of the family, parents are leaders of prayer in the home, and so the best teachers of children in ways of prayer. In the priesthood of believers, spouses pray for each other, for their extended families, for the universal Church, and for the entire human family. A Simple Family Breviary is also available in a large print hardback version (8.5” by 11” $16.95 hardback) suitable for parents praying with a small child. Illustrations by Angie Bosio allow a child to personalize the prayerbook. If giving the large print edition to a family, Wolf advises the additional gift of a box of crayons.
Advent, Christmas, January, February, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, July, August, September, October, November, December
Connons of Apostles, Martyrs, Holy Women, Pastors & Doctors, Holy Men, Virgins, and Mary
Tree of Life
Tree of Life (5” by 8” 99 page $6.95 2012 paperback) is forty-eight meditations on the life of Jesus Christ. Saint Bonaventure gives us something like stained-glass windows inviting the reader to ponder the mysteries of the Incarnation, Passion, and Ressurection. Some think that Saint Ignatius of Loyola would have known of this work, and that his famous Spiritual Exercises may have been influenced by it. If so, the Spiritual Exercises add for the retreatant extended meditations on the three year public ministry of Jesus, which Tree of Life might seem to summarize. Still, Tree of Life draws a picture of a saint in love with Jesus.
For faith sharing groups, Rev. Wolf suggests a full minute of silence after each one-page meditation. "I realize," Fr. Wolf admits, "that silence feels contradictory. We humans are social beings, and God made us to be in community. Well, God also wants us to be intimate with God, and intimacy will eventually demand silence."
One faith-group member described how he "felt a little uncomfortable with the silence at first; but each week, after a couple of meditations the silence made sense. Our story-telling became real." And Rev. Wolf reminded the group about the point of sharing the faith, looking for those places where our life experiences and our faith tradition and our culture intersect, and being open to the fruit of evangelization in the telling and hearing of our own stories of faith.
Mystery of the Incarnation: Origin and Humility
Mystery of the Incarnation: Power and Piety
Mystery of His Passion: Trials and Bad Treatment
Mystery of His Passion: Torture and Death
Mystery of His Glory: Resurrection and Ascension
Mystery of His Glory: Judgment and Kingdom
It is all God’s money.
That is how a retired Nashville accountant, now active as a pastor, sees it. “Money is in the news every day, and we talk as if is yours, mine and ours. A biblical ethic will tell us that it is all God’s money,” says Rev. Steve Wolf, pastor of St Stephen Catholic Community in Hermitage, Old Hickory and Mt. Juliet.
God’s Money was written originally by the pastor for his parish’s faith sharing groups in the Fall of 2006. He revised the six chapters extensively after hearing suggestions from parishioners. “God’s Money offers a way to see and think about human joys and struggles with money through God’s eyes. It is written for everyone who has from time to time been consumed with either a lack or an excess of money, for all who seek to better understand why we do what we do with money, and how it can be simpler and more real,” says Wolf. “I wrote with both the accountant and members of my own family in mind.”
God’s Money draws on years of praying over, wrestling with, and preaching on countless passages on good use and misuse of money in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. “It would be unfair to say that any one specific passage can say it all,” says Wolf, “but this verse has stayed at the center of my reflections:”
Think! The heavens, even the highest heavens,
belong to the Lord, your God,
as well as the earth and everything on it.
New American Bible
Rev. Wolf has written about money before, having co-authored with accounting firm partner Eric Dahlhauser, CPA, in 1992 Money and Freedom: The New American Game. They were praised for writing in “simple language” with concepts that are “reliable, realistic and workable.”
“While writing Money and Freedom, Eric and I imagined more versions of it and something like God’s Money was at the top of the list. God’s Money stays with the same basic outline of tools that Eric and I came to see as pieces of a well done personal financial plan.”
God’s Money is arranged so that a faith sharing group may easily use it, with suggestions for scripture readings and songs based on psalms and canticles written to tunes familiar to many Christians, including All Creatures of Our God and King and Beethoven’s Hymn to Joy. Discussion questions and even snack suggestions are suggested for each weekly chapter. Its design can easily be used by individuals or couples as well as groups.
Authored by a Catholic priest God’s Money is accessible to all people of all faiths who want to sit with biblical wisdom about money. Rev. Wolf makes the claim that since “the faith sharing groups in our parish include individuals and spouses of other faith traditions, God’s Money does not have an exclusively Catholic feel.”
God’s Money also provides a simple four-page Monthly Budget worksheet that the author used in ministry with the working poor during his seminary days, and which he recommends to those of means and those living on a priest’s salary. “I thank Catholic Charities in Waukegan, Illinois for this simple worksheet. I worry less about my personal finances today than I did as a CPA, but I still get myself in a money fix from time to time, and this worksheet has helped me to stay grounded,” says the pastor. “The scripture passes and the budget worksheet keep bringing me back to this book. Parishioners tell me they enjoy the many stories.”
1. Micah’s Vine & Fig Tree
2. Daily Bread This Day
3. Building a Bigger Barn
4. Parables of Stewards
5. When Life Is Changed
6. Community of Believers
God’s Money, a 5½ by 8½ inch 88 page $9.95 2008 paperback is available in Nashville at St. Mary’s Bookstore (1909 West End Avenue, 615-329-1835) and can be ordered at fine bookstores everywhere.
A. parish discount is available to parishes ordering ten or more books from idjc press.
An e-book edition entitled God’s Money: Where Faith Meets Life in the World became available in 2014 at amazon.com,
A free pdf copy of the four page budget worksheet now called Simplicity in Abundance can also be downloaded at idjc.org.