Do you know the Bible Lady and her wonderful work with Catholic Scripture Study International? Gail Buckley is a remarkable woman who is deeply passionate about sharing the power of Scripture with the world. Her energy is amazing and her passion for Christ and the Church are inspiring.
She is the Founder and President of Catholic Scripture Study International, the world’s fastest-growing Catholic Bible study program. CSS, as it is better known, has thousands of members throughout the U.S. and in 40 countries around the world. In addition to her work with CSS, Gail serves on the Board of Directors of Catholics United for the Faith (CUF) and is President of the Catholic Leadership Conference.
Gail is a convert to Catholicism and her story was featured on The Journey Home with Marcus Grodi. She has been a speaker at several national Catholic conferences and a featured guest on many Catholic radio shows.
I had a recent opportunity to interview Gail and discuss her ministry and the newest offering of CSS about Angels in Scripture.
Gail, what was the catalyst behind you starting Catholic Scripture Study International?
There’s only one answer for that – God. I went through an amazing conversion of heart, like St. Paul’s in that it was quick and profound. Then through a series of supernatural events, God led me home to His Church. I thought that was it – that He just wanted me to be Catholic but I soon realized He had further plans for me. I just put myself in His hands and followed His lead. It’s difficult to explain but during that time I “knew” what God wanted me to do and I would do it. Often I questioned Him about “where” He was leading me and what His plan for me was, especially when He had me attending R.C.I.A. classes while at the same time attending a Protestant Bible study. (I was asked by a Protestant friend to go to the Bible study – If I were following my own will, I would have declined as I was becoming Catholic and I knew that there were differing opinions on many Biblical texts, but God made it very clear to me that I was supposed to go so I did). I was perplexed but at the same time “knew” I was supposed to be doing both things. It was only in hindsight that I finally realized why. I had no idea when I was attending the Protestant Bible study that God was preparing me to one day start a Catholic Bible study. When I did finally realize it, I was reluctant as I didn’t feel worthy or capable and felt that surely God had made a mistake or I was misunderstanding what He wanted me to do. I even tried compromising with God but He would have none of that. As so often is the case, God had to finally hit me between the eyes with a two by four to get me to understand that He was in charge and that I only needed to have faith in Him. It was true, that on my own I could have never done this, but as Scripture says, with God all things are possible (Mt. 19:26) and without Him we can do nothing (Jn 15:5).
What impact have you observed with the countless people who read the work of your organization? Do you have a story you can share?
There are so many stories, Randy, that I wouldn’t know where to begin or which one to choose. Comments shared in my parish CSS class are typical of the ones that I hear from around the world, such as, “I’ve been a Catholic all my life, attended Catholic schools, Mass, etc. but I never understood this or that Catholic teaching until I took this study.” Often at the end of a study people will cry when talking about all that they have learned. Their tears are tears of joy because they finally get it and are so thankful to now know and understand about the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist or Mary’s role in Salvation history, why Baptism is so important or even why we use incense. In our studies we not only help students see better understand the ties between the OT and NT but by also bringing in teachings from the Catechism, the early Church Fathers, Popes and Saints, they come to better understand the teachings of the Church and everything makes much more sense.
There is one story I’d like to tell – something that happened at our first CSS conference in Charlotte, NC. On the last day of the conference I was in the hotel lobby saying goodbye to a group of attendees when someone stuck their hand through the crowd, extending a piece of folded notebook paper to me. I grabbed it, put it in my pocket, kept talking and forgot about it. Later that day I found it in my pocket and took it out to read. It was a note from a woman in Iowa. She told me that she was a life-long Protestant, married to a Catholic for many years. She said she would never attend Church with her husband because she had always been taught that Catholics didn’t know or believe in the Bible and so she didn’t want to have anything to do with the Church. Over the years she said her husband had tried many times to talk to her about his faith but she wouldn’t listen. Then one day when on the Internet she saw our Bible Conference advertised. She was shocked to know that Catholics had “Bible Conferences” so she immediately went to her husband and told him she wanted to go to this conference and see for herself what Catholics had to say about the Bible. She went on to say that they drove from Iowa to NC (quite a long road trip) and that she will be eternally grateful that they did. She was amazed at what she heard over the weekend of talks and she actually bought a Catholic Bible! She said that her heart was completely changed and that on their trip back home she planned to talk to her husband all the way about the Catholic faith and that when she got home she was going to tell her friends at her church that she’s leaving and becoming Catholic!! Praise God!! That’s not all though. She signed the note, “Kimberly Hahn” and then added a P.S. which said, “Yes, I know, there’s another Kimberly Hahn who is well known to Catholics as I’ve heard that over and over while here at the conference, so I just wanted you to know I’m not THAT Kimberly Hahn. How ironic!!
Catholic Scripture Study International has a new study out on the Angels. Who wrote the study and can you give us some info on it?
Every fall, CSS premiers a new Bible study – this study is not on a book of the Bible as most of our studies are but rather about Angels in Scripture. This is a two- part study – the first part is entitled “Entertaining Angels” and is written by Mike Aquilina and the second part is “Angels Throughout the Ages” by Dr. Richard Bulzacchelli. The two books combine to make a 25-week study. The studies can also be purchased individually as two separate books. Entertaining the Angels is a 10- lesson study and Angels Throughout the Ages is 15 weeks. Both studies not only include notes from the Catechism, Saint and Papal quotes that relate to each lesson but also the answers to the study questions are found in the back of the books.
You usually have video lectures that accompany CSS studies. Does this study include lectures on DVD?
Yes, Fr. Mitch Pacwa, who has done many video lectures for CSS does the lectures that accompany both parts of this study. So not only do you have the vast knowledge on angels from these two wonderful authors but you get the great insights of Fr. Mitch and his pastoral comments on each lesson as well.
Why did you choose Mike Aquilina and Dr. Buzacchelli to write these studies?
I knew that Mike has not only great knowledge of the angels but also a great love and devotion to them. He’s written two wonderful books on angels and he and I have talked at length on my radio show about the angels so I knew that he would be our best choice as an author on this study. We started with Mike writing a 10-week study but then I decided that this should be one of our featured full-length studies for groups as well as individuals and therefore we needed to make it into a 25 week study for all our loyal groups who come back each year for our “featured fall study”. Mike recommended his friend, Dr. Richard Bulzacchelli to write an accompanying study featuring both the good angels and the “fallen” angels and expanding on the history of the angels to make this the most thorough study on angels available. Dr. Bulzachelli is a theologian, professor of Theology at Aquinas College and serves as a Senior Advisor at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and he and Mike didn’t leave a stone uncovered in this study. It really is a very comprehensive and fascinating study on the angels. I think people will be amazed at how little they really knew about angels until after they did this study.
Are CSS studies just for Bible study groups or can individuals purchase the books and study on their own?
Both! CSS is celebrating our 10th anniversary this year and when we started, our studies were limited to group study because the majority of our clientele were parish bible study groups – not only here in the U.S. but around the world; however, over the years we have changed our business model and now we offer both 25-28 week studies that most groups like to do over the course of a school year but we also have short studies that range from 6 to 16 week studies. We are also not limited to Bible studies but also offer studies on Lent, Advent, the Mass, Vatican II a men’s study and more.
And we have the “cream of the crop” of authors and lecturers including not only Mike and Rich but Dr. Scott Hahn, Steve Ray, Fr. Mitch Pacwa and many others.
Quotes regarding the Angels study by the authors and Lecturer:
Quote from Fr. Mitch Pacwa:
“The study of the angels in Scripture and Catholic Tradition was typically ignored in the post- Vatican II era. Oddly, New Age practitioners gave more attention to the existence of angels, though they ignored the process of discerning whether the angels belonged to God or to the kingdom of darkness. This CSS study on the angels both highlight their very important role in the life of Christian Faith, and they help the readers understand how to discern the good spirits from the bad. We hope you enjoy this important Bible study and my presentations on these topics.” - Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J.
Quotes from Mike Aquilina:
“People who have no devotion to the angels simply don’t know what they’re missing.”
“The biblical doctrine is quite clear. We were created to live in friendship with the angels. Friendship — that’s what St. Augustine called our bond with them. And God created the angels to guard and serve us.”
“In the Bible we see Zechariah, Daniel, Mary, and Peter conversing with God’s messengers. Why are these passages there? God wants to show us something. He wants us to imitate these good biblical models.”
“My hope is that people will learn from their angels a better way of living with others — a better way of loving. Angels want us to help us get along with the people in our families — our spouses, our kids, our grandkids, our parents. The good news is that the angels really can help. The Scriptures teach us how to lean on our angels.”
Quote from Dr. Richard Bulzacchelli:
“I was especially interested in writing a study that would consider the angels—and also the demons—not only from the point of view of abstraction in general terms, but at a personal level as real entities who affect our lives in both positive and negative ways, even though we usually do not have any direct conscious experience of them. It had become clear to me over time that the concept of angels had become an important element of the tradition precisely for this reason, and that, in our own time, we had lost a sense of the angels and demons as real, acting beings. Some people might find it worrisome that I ask them to spend so much time thinking about demons in the study, though, but I would point out to them that the Desert Fathers themselves spent an awful lot of time thinking about the demons, because they saw their lives in the hostile wilderness as a constant confrontation with them. They knew that they were fighting on the front lines of a cosmic battle that had been raging silently all around us from the beginning of time. When C. S. Lewis wrote The Screwtape Letters, he did so because he thought it a mistake not to be aware of how the demons work against us, just as it would be a mistake to discount our own weaknesses and failings and think the demons are responsible for every evil in our lives. Understanding who they really are and how they work against us is important in the development of our spiritual lives—as part of our spiritual “wellness plan”. But thinking about the angels in the same way is also important, because it helps us to see exactly how and where God wishes to encourage our spiritual growth in positive ways. It also reminds us that, in a very real sense, we’re nobler creatures in God’s eyes than the angels who serve us. They may be more intelligent than we are, but God chose to become of us, not one of them, and in that way to draw the whole cosmos, in both its spiritual and material dimensions, back to himself. As I point out in this study, this fact really seems to be the very point of contention between the angels and the demons, where the angels delighted in God’s plan for the universe while the demons refused to accept it.” - Dr. Richard H. Bulzacchelli
Looking for a Catholic Speaker? Check out Randy’s speaker’s page and the rest of the ICL Speaker’s Bureau.
Randy Hain, Senior Editor and co-founder of The Integrated Catholic Life™, is the author of The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work which was released by Liguori Publications. The Catholic Briefcase was voted the Best Catholic Book of 2011 in the About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards.
Randy Hain’s exciting new book, Along the Way: Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith was released by Liguori Publications in November, 2012. Along the Way was recently named Runner-Up in the About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards for Best Catholic Book of 2012. Learn more here. His third book, Something More: A Professional’s Pursuit of a Meaningful Life, was released in February, 2013. All of Randy Hain’s books can also be purchased at your local Catholic bookstore, Amazon or www.liguori.org.
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