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Seton Hall University

Interview with Steven Smith, Diaconate Convocation Keynote Speaker  

Steven SmithOn November 5, the Center for Diaconal Formation at Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology will host its first ever Permanent Diaconate Convocation. As the event's keynote speaker, the Center will proudly welcome Steven Smith, Ph.D., associate professor of sacred scripture at Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Smith is the author of The Word of the Lord: 7 Essential Principles of Catholic Scripture Study and his newest book, The House of the Lord. His website,, is dedicated to Catholic biblical teaching.

Want to learn more about this engaging speaker? Read on!

Your teachings and presentations center largely on scripture. What inspired this particular focus?
While I was raised Catholic, there were many years in which I did not really grasp "the biblical story." As I like to say, I didn't know Adam from Adam: I didn't know what Adam and Eve had to do with the Gospels, and I really didn't know the story of the Gospel well either. My "ignorance of Scripture," to quote St. Jerome, left me relatively ignorant of Christ.

Fortunately, I had a profound conversion experience in my mid-20s. I met Christ in Scripture, prayer, and praise - but found myself away from the Catholic Church and embracing instead Evangelical Christianity. For the next 10 years, my faith grew in leaps and bounds, and with it my love for Scripture - and Christ.

Only in 2000 did I (and my wife, a wayward Catholic as well) return to the Catholic faith. I was determined to dedicate the rest of my life helping other Catholics to know their faith and live their faith - with an emphasis on Sacred Scripture. My hope has been, and is, simple: to help people to get beyond my own young adult experience and fall deeper in love with Jesus.

You've done a number of presentations on a variety of biblical and theological topics. Is there any one presentation that sticks out in your mind?
In 2012, my first book was released, The Word of the Lord: 7 Essential Principles for Catholic Scripture Study from OSV PRESS. Following its release, I traveled around the United States and spoke with many people about my own experiences and about the principles in the book that can help all of us to approach Scripture on solid ground as Catholics today. Over and over again, I was struck by how many people had similar stories to tell as my own, and how many, too, had come back to the Faith, or went deeper into their experience of the Faith. It was an unforgettable experience and underscored my belief that there is a need for Catholics to help one another to go deeper into Sacred Scripture.

ChaliceYou also present pre-Cana programs to engaged couples. What is the single most important piece of advice you share with these couples, based on your marriage to your wife Elizabeth?
To quote the great Winston Churchill, "Never give up, never give up, never give up." Some may find it preposterous to apply Churchill's WWI quote to the institution of marriage. I don't.

First, he said it as a Commencement speech (just those nine words). Second, there is a sense in which marriage is embattled and under siege, from our divorce-culture, to things like poor communication skills, economic anxieties, psychological issues such as depression and prolonged stress … and a big marriage killer, a loss of hope.

My message is simple: make your marriage more than an arrangement, more than the routine of the work-a-day world, hoping that a week's vacation a year will keep things together. It takes daily effort, it takes time, and above all, it takes prayer.

It's sad that many people unfortunately lose hope and simply believe that "things will never get better." They can! Things can change for the better, marriages can make strides, marriages can be restored. God can heal us.

I also stress that there are patterns of hurt that people fall into. They are, at worst, like a pit. Something needs to change when you can't "climb your way out" on your own as a couple. GET HELP. Seek counseling, marriage therapy, find a willing priest to provide spiritual direction. Pray together. Remember back to the good you shared, the love you both felt. Commit to work on the relationship - and be patient. Real growth can take time … but even small incremental changes (e.g. "He smiled at me this morning") can begin to motivate both man and woman. And there is a kind of "forward momentum" that can come into play.

Above all, never give up!

What was the motivation behind your website, What do you hope to achieve through the site?
Three things: (a) See #1 above; (b) to give people a place to go to follow my teaching ministry and to know where I'm next speaking; and (c) to order teaching CDs on a number of topics --- from the Gospel of John, to the Rosary in Scripture, to my newest set called The House of the Lord, a 20+ hour series on the temple in the Old Testament and New Testament.

Do you have any new projects (books, CDs, etc.) developing in the near future that you feel comfortable discussing?
Yes! I just finished the follow-up to The Word of the Lord (my first book) that presents seven key principles everyday Catholics can make use of to encounter Scripture in a genuinely Catholic fashion. The new book, due out soon, is called The House of the Lord: A Catholic Biblical Theology of the Temple in the Old and New Testaments. It's kind of a tour-de-force that is about more than the Temple alone; it's about God's holy presence with His people in Scripture, and how Jesus embodied God's holy presence - in Person. I also deal with "priesthood" in Scripture, and in the book's Epilogue, I describe the early Christian sanctuaries in the Holy Land, i.e., the Church of the Nativity and the Holy Sepulchre, and how, in some sense, these sacred basilicas have many elements in common with the Temple of the Old Testament. In the end, the book really points to Jesus, and how Jesus IS the new Temple, the "place" - the Person where we see God.

What will my third book be? Who knows … but I have in mind a final installment, perhaps called The Face of the Lord.

How will you draw upon your background and area of expertise to reach the audience at the Diaconal Convocation, which consists of deacons, deacon candidates, aspirants and their wives?
In addition to what I've already explained, I'd only add that I want to talk about Jesus and mercy --- and how much we need to be nourished by God's mercy, and how we're called to embody God's mercy.

Categories: Faith and Service

For more information, please contact:

  • Deacon Andrew Saunders
  • (973) 313-6335
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