“What Does It Mean?” Teach your kids the four senses of Scripture

This week at CatholicMom.com, I write an article about parish VBS programs and parish renewal, and reference a song I wrote to teach children the four senses of Scripture (set to the tune of “The Adam’s Family Theme”). I thought I’d share the lyrics here.

What does it mean? (clap, clap)
What does it mean? (clap, clap)
When we take a look in God’s Holy Book?
What does it mean? (clap, clap)

God showed his love in Jesus,
Who made the Church to lead us,
God’s Word, the Scriptures, show us,
That we’re God’s family.

The Church gives us for reading,
Four lights that show the meaning,
These Scripture senses leading,
They guide us as we read.

What does it say? (That’s the literal)
Who wrote it, what way?
Historical prose? Story or poem?
What does it mean?

Three senses categorical
Anagogical, allegorical
And don’t forget the moral
The spiritual senses, three.

What does it say? (That’s the literal)
For my life today? (The moral)
Does it point to Christ?
Or the end of our life?
What does it mean?

What does it mean? What does it mean?
Four senses we need
When God’s Word we read,
To know what it means!

Four senses we find,
Will light up our minds,
That’s what it means!

Four senses we’ll use
To find all the clues,
And know what it means!
(shout) THAT’S WHAT IT MEANS!

©2010 Heidi Hess Saxton. All rights reserved.

NOTE: These words may NOT be reprinted or used without permission of the author. Reprint requests should be sent to me at heidi.hess.saxton@gmail.com.

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Not-Quite-Silent Motherhood: A Miracle in Our Midst

One of my favorite ways to engage the Gospel is to imagine that I am a peripheral character in the story. In this week’s Gospel, for example,  we encounter a man who is both deaf and has a speech impediment, who is brought to Jesus for healing. We read:

He [Jesus] took him off by himself away from the crowd.
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
Ephphatha!”– that is, “Be opened!” —
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.

Listening to the story, I imagined what it would have been like to be this man’s mother. Imagine raising a child who could not hear her–but whose attempts to engage the world  were loud, unintelligible . . . and never-ending. Imagine what it would be like when that child grew into manhood. As his mother, she would have tended to his needs long beyond the time most children need their mothers. Well into the time when most children begin to contemplate tending to their elderly parents’ needs.

What must it have been like for her, to have been suddenly released from her role of caregiver? Did she feel a rush of relief? Unmitigated joy? Or was just a part of her a little worried about what her life was going to be like, now that her role (and her identity) was no longer so neatly defined. What were her son’s first words to her, once could express all the thoughts that had been bottled up in his heart?

All the healing miracles of Jesus were, strictly speaking, not primarily ordered toward the restoration of the human body. The healings were genuine, of course . . . and yet, the primary purpose of each healing was to point us toward something eternal. Often it was to reveal his divine power and authority toward a particular group of people, to liberate their bodies as a means to direct their attention toward their need for inner healing. This was as true for those who brought the man to Jesus as it was for the man himself.

The thing is, each time we approach Jesus, whether in his Word or in his eucharistic presence, we are reminded of that need for healing again. And I can tell you this with certainty: Nothing in forty-plus decades of human existence has reminded me of just how much I need that healing like parenting. Each fault and failing is magnified, until there is nothing to do but cast myself on the mercy of God, in full view of anyone who cares to watch.

As I thought about this, there in church, a loud moan rang out from the back of the sanctuary. A teenager, developmentally disabled and possibly deaf, was quickly led by her mother out of the church. Minutes later, they tried to slip back into the service . . . and quickly had to leave again when another eruption occurred. There was no miracle for this family, no possible way to remain silent and hidden in the pew. As a mom who has had to leave quickly from her share of services, I wanted to hug both of them and say, “Thank you for being here today. Your presence was a gift — you helped me to enter in to the story with all my senses, and see in a fresh way the miracle of Christ.”

NOTE: Would you like to learn more about lectio divine, the ancient spiritual practice of putting yourself in the Gospel scene in order to meditate on the story? Ascension Press recently released Walking Toward Eternity (and is in the process of developing a new faith formation program, Oremus), based on the ancient Catholic tradition of lectio divina. If you enjoyed Jeff Cavin’s The Bible Timeline or Quick Journey studies, check this one out!

Photo Credit: Original source unknown, entitled “Ephphatha” and linked from “Jonelliff.posterous.com” Ephphatha

Sky Gazers

When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord,
are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
throughout Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth.”


When he had said this, as they were looking on,
he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.
While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going,
suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.
They said, “Men of Galilee,
why are you standing there looking at the sky?
This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven
will return in the same way
as you have seen him going into heaven.”

From today’s reading: Acts 1:1-11

Catholicism is full of mystery. As much as it makes us squirm to think about it, there are some things we are not meant to understand in this lifetime. There are many reasons for this, one of the biggest ones being that the human mind is finite in its capacity, and is encumbered by all sorts of baggage: ignorance, prejudice, presumption, and pride chief among them.

Trying to grasp the Infinite with the human mind is like trying to contain the ocean in a sieve. I read that somewhere … St. Augustine said it, I think.

And yet, there are some things we are called to do, to say, and to be. “…why are you standing there, looking at the sky?” Yes, there is mystery. There is also revealed truth. We have our marching orders.

One of my Bible school teachers used to say to us, “Obedience precedes revelation. If you want God to show you more of Himself, you must follow the light you’ve been given so far.”

Are you acting on the truth you see right in front of you? Or are you stalling out of fear or stubbornness or an unwillingness to be misjudged by others?

Better that than to be mocked by the angels. You have light enough for the next step. Don’t just stand there … march!

(Image of Dome of the Ascension from photos.com)