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Signs of Life: 40 Catholic Customs and Their Biblical Roots Hardcover – November 3, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


"Lifelong Catholics realize that it usually takes a convert to help us appreciate and better understand the customs and practices we too often take for granted. Scott Hahn does just that in this immensely reable yet substantive loving look at Catholic prayer, devotions, and beliefs." — Most Reverend Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York

"There is genius in Catholicism and once again Scott Hahn unveils it like the masterpiece that it is. Every chapter of Signs of Life is filled with insights and practices that will change the way you live your life and celebrate your faith."
— Matthew Kelly, New York Times bestselling author of Rediscovering Catholicism and The Rhythm of Life

"Things done for too long can become a habit — and habits have a way of losing their meaning.  In this long awaited treasure of a book, Scott Hahn reveals the historical and biblical roots of so many Catholic practices.  Finally Catholics will not only know what to do, but why they do it." — Raymond Arroyo, New York Times bestselling author and host of EWTN's The World Over Live

"Professor Hahn's purpose is both devotional and apologetic.  In showing how Catholic popular piety is scripturally grounded, he explains practices that shape Catholic life and help us grow in grace.  This is a book that will be helpful to individuals and to the Church as a whole." — Francis Cardinal George, OMI, Archbishop of Chicago

"For decades non-Catholics and even some perplexed Catholics have questioned a number of the beliefs and especially the devotional acts of the Catholic Church. Scott Hahn addresses these questions in Signs of Life, producing crystal-clear explanations of the Church's traditional practices. His own background as a convert makes him the perfect person to write this book." — Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, CFR

"Scott Hahn has given us a great contribution in connecting the scriptural and traditional foundations of Catholic devotions and practices. This book will enrich both the spiritual life and theological understanding of every reader." — Fr. Michael Scanlan, TOR, chancellor of Franciscan University of Steubenville and author of What Does God Want?

"One of the best ways to break free from spiritual dryness is to learn precisely why we do things. Dr. Hahn's discussion of 'why Catholics do what they do' is thoroughly researched and thoroughly enjoyable. It can help lifelong Catholics appreciate the treasures they've always had, and help non-Catholics appreciate what they may only have seen from afar. Read this book for your own enrichment, but buy one to give away and help someone discover the richness of the Catholic 'Signs of Life'." — Marcus Grodi, host of EWTN's The Journey Home

"Scott Hahn gets me excited about my faith. He shares the biblical truth of our deep tradition in a simple way. Signs of Life gives us hope that all Christians can unite as ONE Catholic faith." — Justin Fatica, author of Hard as Nails

"Learning more about our Catholic life and practices is always a joy. Professor Scott Hahn, in his new book Signs of Life, explains forty Catholic customs and practices as pathways to a richer spiritual life. He uses a unique approach, interweaving these familiar realities with the different stages of the life of a Catholic, highlighting their biblical roots. This handbook should prove very useful to both individuals and faith-sharing groups seeking a deeper understanding of Catholic devotion."
— Most Reverend Donald W. Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington

"In Signs of Life, Scott Hahn has provided a wonderful resource of Catholic belief and practice, as well as an excellent reference for Catholics who want to understand their Faith and its traditions more deeply. Once again, Dr. Hahn has masterfully used his great teaching skills to invite his readers to a richer understanding of Catholic faith, tradition and practice."
— Most Reverend David A. Zubik, Bishop of Pittsburgh

About the Author

Scott Hahn is founder and president of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology ( A professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville, he also holds the Pope Benedict XVI Chair of Biblical Theology at St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. He is the author of many books, including The Lamb’s Supper (Doubleday), Hail, Holy Queen (Doubleday), Kinship by Covenant (Yale), and A Pocket Guide to the Bible (Our Sunday Visitor). His academic work has appeared in Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Journal of Biblical Literature, and Currents in Biblical Research. Dr. Hahn is editor of the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible and Letter & Spirit: A Catholic Journal of Biblical Theology. He lives in Steubenville, Ohio.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Image (November 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385519494
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385519496
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. Scott Hahn is the author (or editor) of over forty books, including several recent titles (Joy to the World, Evangelizing Catholics, Angels and Saints, and Consuming the Word), along with best-selling titles like Rome Sweet Home, The Lamb's Supper, Hail Holy Queen, A Father Who Keeps His Promises, Lord Have Mercy, First Comes Love, Swear to God, Understanding Our Father, Scripture Matters, Spirit and Life, Understanding the Scriptures, Catholic Bible Dictionary, Many Are Called, Signs of Life, Reasons to Believe, Answering the New Atheism, Ordinary Work Extraordinary Grace, and Living the Mysteries. His academic publications include Kinship by Covenant: A Canonical Approach to the Fulfillment of God's Saving Promises (Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library), The Kingdom of God as Liturgical Empire: A Theological Commentary on 1-2 Chronicles, Covenant and Communion: The Biblical Theology of Pope Benedict XVI, Letter and Spirit: From Written Text to Living Word in the Liturgy, and Politicizing the Bible: The Roots of Historical Criticism and the Secularization of Scripture (1300-1700). He is the editor of the academic periodical, Letter & Spirit: A Journal of Catholic Biblical Theology, and co-editor of the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible.

An exceptionally popular speaker and teacher, Dr. Scott Hahn has delivered thousands of popular talks and academic lectures, nationally and internationally, on a wide range of topics related to Scripture, Theology and the Catholic faith. Hundreds of these presentations have been recorded and distributed by Lighthouse Catholic Media. He has appeared on hundreds of television programs on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), where he has also been the regular host and presenter on several popular 13-week series (including Our Fathers Plan, The Lamb's Super, Genesis to Jesus, Consuming the Word).

Founder and President of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology ( / ), Dr. Hahn holds the Fr. Michael Scanlan, TOR Chair of Biblical Theology and the New Evangelization at Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he's taught since 1990. He also holds the William and Lois McEssy Distinguished Visiting Professor of Biblical Theology and the New Evangelization at Mundelein Seminary in Chicago. In 2005, he was awarded the Pope Benedict XVI Chair of Biblical Theology and Liturgical Proclamation at St. Vincent Seminary (Latrobe PA), which he held through 2011. He also held the Cardinal Laghi Chair of Catholic Theology from 2002-2004 at the Pontifical Seminary Josephinum (Columbus OH).

Scott graduated from Grove City College in 1979 with his BA in Theology, Philosophy and Economics (magna cum laude). He graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 1982 with his M.Div (summa cum laude). Scott received his Ph.D. in Theology from Marquette University in 1995 (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa). He was ordained in 1982 at Trinity Presbyterian Church (Fairfax VA). He entered the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil, 1986.

Dr. Scott Hahn was born in 1957, and has been married to Kimberly since 1979. They live in Steubenville Ohio and have six children and twelve grandchildren.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

125 of 131 people found the following review helpful By G. Beattie on December 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What a phenomenal book! I tend to rubber stamp just about anything from Hahn. But with this particular book I had to question, as a lifleong Catholic and as a catechist, whether or not I was really going to get anything out of it. Considering the current price cut, I said, "What the heck?" and figured I'd just hand it on to someone else if it turned out to be a sleeper for me. Well, I've read about 15 of the 40 chapters thus far and I think I've learned something new in every single chapter!! The book is educational but it's also "devotional" too, both in terms of the style of Hahn's writing and the brief reflection he places at the end of the chapter, after the text. Whether you're a lifelong Catholic or completely new to the faith in some way, consider it as a daily chapter-by-chapter read for this coming Lent!
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Stratiotes Doxha Theon VINE VOICE on January 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For many, sacraments and sacramentals seem little more than superstitious baggage of the middle ages easily discarded by the modern enlightened Christian. Dr. Hahn lets us know what rich blessings we forgo with such an attitude. In place of misunderstanding that leads to indifference (or even hostility) toward these disciplines, Dr. Hahn provides biblical and historical/traditional roots to the disciplines and in the process gives us a renewed sense of devotion to their practice. Practiced in their proper context, these devotional disciplines can lead to a closer communion with Jesus.

In the introduction to this work Dr. Hahn provides a brief definition of sacraments and sacramentals in order that the reader understands the difference and the significance of both. The work is then divided into phases of life that remind us of these disciplines: birth, life progresses in time, each day in the life of the Christian, disciplines through the entirety of life, significant stages in life, enjoyment of life, the abundant life, devotions to the saints we love, and the end of life. Each phase provides brief descriptions of one or more devotional practices describing their biblical and historical roots in the Church. On my own spiritual journey, I was amazed at the number of these practices already forming in the first and second century. Dr. Hahn has found the same continuity with the Apostles and with scripture.

To his credit, Dr. Hahn does not shrink from such difficult topics as indulgences. And, he does not describe the practices in such a generic manner as to lose the context of the Church as their proper home. The discerning reader wishing special depth on a particular topic will want to look elsewhere for that detail. What Dr.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Antoinette Klein on October 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I don't know who would benefit most from this book: cradle Catholics who have become stagnant in their worship practices or non-Catholics seeking to understand why Catholics do what they do. No matter which group you might fit into, there's plenty of enriching information
for everyone in this book.

Hahn is able to take 40 of the most common Catholic traditions and explain the Biblical foundation for the practice. He also includes information from leading theologians and first-hand accounts from his own experience. More than that, however, he concludes each chapter with a "Ponder in Your Heart" section which is great food for thought for the rest of your day. Because of this format, the book lends itself beautifully to a chapter-a-day meditation for Lent or any other 40 day period.

As a life-long Catholic and participant in numerous Catechism classes and Bible studies, I thought I knew it all. But Hahn opened my eyes and heart to the symbols of my Faith in ways I had never considered.

The customs he discusses are: Holy Water, the Sign of the Cross, Baptism, the Mass, Guardian Angels, the Liturgical Calendar, Lent and Easter, Advent and Christmas, Novenas, posture, Morning Offering, Prayers of Aspiration, the Angelus, Grace at Meals, Examination of Conscience, Bible Study, Spiritual Reading, Retreat, Confirmation, Marriage, Priesthood, Anointing of the Sick, Incense, Candles, Sacred Images, Relics, Fasting, Confession, Indulgences, Intercession of the Saints, Pilgrimages, the Presence of God, Almsgiving, The Trinity, the Rosary, Scapulars and Medals, Mental Prayer, the Tabernacle, Preparation for Death, and Prayers for the Dead.

Truly, this is a mind-opening book for anyone who wants to understand the Catholic faith more completely.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Diane Bettesworth on October 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I like all Scott Hahn's books - but this one is a different style! In short pithy chapters he fleshes out - with his usual wit and choice of words - the history and meaning of these customs lived in the Catholic Church - most of them for many centuries.

Why is the Sign of the Cross so extraordinarily meaningful? - You will never want to be distracted again!
And Holy Water: my grandmother always had a little font with holy water on the second floor - now I really appreciate why and I make sure to use it each day! His brief explanations of the Mass, Holy Communion and the benefits of confession are masterpieces of brevity and depth.

I strongly recommend this book to everyone - but particularly for those just entering the Church (it shows a wonderful way to live out one's faith in deeds) and those who really don't remember much of what older people used to do and wonder what these customs are all about. Yes they have been missing out: these customs are well worth knowing about.
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