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Signs of Life: 40 Catholic Customs and Their Biblical Roots

4.23  ·  Rating Details ·  793 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
Scott Hahn, the bestselling author of The Lamb’s Supper and Reasons to Believe, celebrates the touchstones of the Catholic life, guiding readers to a deeper faith through the Church’s rites, customs, and traditional prayers.

Signs of Life is beloved author Scott Hahn’s clear and comprehensive guide to the Biblical doctrines and historical traditions that underlie Cathol
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published November 3rd 2009 by Image (first published 2009)
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The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à KempisCatechism of the Catholic Church by Pope John Paul IIStory of a Soul by Thérèse de LisieuxMere Christianity by C.S. LewisThe Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Books for Catholics
99th out of 430 books — 132 voters
Catechism of the Catholic Church by Pope John Paul IIRome Sweet Home by Scott HahnConfessions by Augustine of HippoOrthodoxy by G.K. ChestertonThe Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis
Books that explain the Catholic faith
52nd out of 153 books — 51 voters

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Community Reviews

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Apr 03, 2014 Patrick rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
This is a wonderful resource book, best read in small doses. Hahn restrains himself to good effect: there are no corny puns here, as there are in the chapter headings of some of his other books.

What catapults this effort into five-star territory for me is the homework that Hahn did to supplement his own words with quotes from other Catholics through the ages, each of whom closes a chapter by offering wisdom that readers are encouraged to "Ponder in your heart."

That organization is a stroke of
Jan 23, 2011 Michelle rated it liked it
Having grown up RC (and now being Protestant), I find myself wondering from time to time just what it all meant. Reading Hahn does not convert me back, but it does enlighten me about where I was, what lay behind my grandparents' and parents' faith, and even better understanding where some of my friends are moving today. Hahn is an interesting author as he applies his many years of Protestant insight (he converted to the RC faith during grad school I believe) and instruction into (of all places!) ...more
Nov 06, 2013 Arlene rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I have had the pleasure of watching Dr Scott Hahn on EWTN as he explains Catholic beliefs. So when I purchased this book, it was almost as if I could hear his voice reading it to me! Dr Hahn explains many Catholic beliefs and customs in a way Protestants can understand. As he was once Protestant himself, he knows what Protestants believe and how it differs from Catholic Doctrine. If you would like to know more about your Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ, this would be a good book with whi ...more
Aug 26, 2015 Thadeus rated it it was amazing
It is pretty amazing to me what Scott Hahn has packed into very succinct, 3-5 page discussions of Catholic customs and beliefs. Such great descriptions and information in such a brief presentation style. Each of the sections also includes a meditation or short writing from a Church Father or Pope that are good to ponder as well.

I highly recommend this book for non-Catholics and Catholics alike. It is packed with great information, and is very readable and useful!
Jul 05, 2010 Lydia rated it it was amazing
As a young Catholic I am always looking for answers to questions about my faith. Due to the transition in religious education (from a "do-it-because-it's-always-been-done" to a "here's-why-we-do-it" mindset), it seems more information is available to help me understand my faith. This book is a fabulous resource. It is easy to read and satisfactorily explains the "why" behind traditions and beliefs in the Catholic church. I have saved this book with the rest of my useful Catholic resources:).
Aug 03, 2011 Paul rated it really liked it
Scott Hahn always does a good job of explaining the Catholic truths from a deep Biblical and historical basis. The traditions and customs outlined in the book show the richness of the Catholic faith and help us to live out a faith that has many dimensions.
Oct 02, 2016 Megan rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016, deployment
Anything Scott Hahn writes is good, and this was no exception. It was a good introduction to the Biblical basis for many Catholic customs and doctrines, and it definitely made me want to do more research about a few of them.
Feb 23, 2015 Stuart rated it it was amazing
The Catholic (and Orthodox) Church have a long history that stretches all the way back to the time of Christ and His Apostles. In that history, we have developed traditions, customs, devotions, and practices. Dr. Scott Hahn penned a book entitled Signs of Life in which he looks at forty of these traditions and their Scriptural roots. These forty "signs of life" are divided into nine categories: 1. Life Begins, 2. Life Times, 3. A Day in the Life, 4. Life Lessons, 5. Stages of Life, 6. Spice of L ...more
Aug 29, 2011 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: catholic
"For this reason the laity, dedicated to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and wonderfully prepared so that ever more abundant fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them. For all their works, prayers, and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if pateintly borne - all these become "spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God ...more
May 30, 2010 Brian rated it it was ok
Recieved today 01/13/2010.

Preview: 02/21/10
Cover art: "The Annunciation" by Botticelli
Acclaim on the back of the dust jacket mostly from Archbishops.
Inside jacket flaps: more praise this time by a priest. Back jacket flap has an author bio.

Introduction, Epilogue and Notes
Nine sections each containing the word "Life."
Each section has anywhere from 3-6 chapters within it.

Each chapter ends with a short thought provoker called "Ponder in Your Heart"

I started to read the book t
Dec 07, 2013 Jeanette rated it really liked it
What enthusiasm this author holds and then releases- like a transistor beam! His language too, makes dogma less stodgy than it definitely could be. This is a great Advent or Lenten read for Christians of any variety, IMHO- as well as a explanation for Protestants. And even after 12 years of R.C. schools when young, and 15 at the end of my work life as my employer (R.C. university)- I was happily reminded too, of some of the best experiences and growth in faith and love of my own past. Other than ...more
Jan 05, 2014 Ashley rated it liked it
Shelves: christianity
Scott Hahn put together a collection of common Catholic customs (incense, almsgiving, the Rosary, etc), and explained, in brief, their biblical roots and how the Catholic Church came to practice these customs. Not all of the explanations were entirely clear to me. Sure, entire volumes could be written on each of these topics and shoving 40 into one book means you're left with only the highlights. To me it went like this: (insert Scripture passage here)..."and obviously because of this that's why ...more
Nicole Ziemann
Jan 05, 2015 Nicole Ziemann rated it really liked it
Signs of Life was a quick review of the most fundamental elements of a Catholic Christian lifestyle. Scott Hahn's writing is simple but accurate, steeped in plenty of references to scripture and writings from various holy men of Judeo-Christian faith traditions.

I would not recommend this to someone who is not Catholic, though Hahn claims that this would be a good introductory boon for such a person. Hahn uses many theological terms that, while familiar to a practicing or formerly practicing Cat
Michele Pittman
Feb 19, 2015 Michele Pittman rated it really liked it
Dr. Scott Hahn has an excellent writing style and is easy to understand. I just plain love his books. There were some new devotions/traditions explained in the book that I have never given much thought as to why catholics do them, but the explanations of where they were instituted from Scripture makes for great revelation.

The last chapters were especially significant to me at this time because of the loss's we have gone through in this past year...discussing preparation for death and prayers for
Apr 20, 2010 Rochelle rated it liked it
Received a copy of this book from Goodreads.

As a non Catholic as well as a non Christian, I found the book very interesting from a different perspective.

Mr. Hahn succeeded in showing the derivation of many of the practices and customs of the church as rooted in the Old Testament and showed them as a seamless continuum to modern day Catholicism.

Especially well documented were the references to the number 40 as being special in the Bible, something I had never noted before.

His inclusion at the e
Aug 28, 2016 Bob rated it really liked it
For Catholic friends, mostly. Or anyone who may feel uninformed or confused about what Catholics believe about certain things. Scott Hahn comes from a Protestant background, so he has a special insight on how to deliver the Catholic faith understandably. 40 topics of the Catholic faith. 40 short essays to explain them in simple terms. This is a great resource for Catholics to "brush up ", or non-Catholics to improve their understanding. Easily read, but take it in short bursts so as to absorb i ...more
Dec 11, 2014 Francine rated it really liked it
I've been through this book twice now; it's a good reference book and helpful in getting adult students of Catholicism off to a good start when they have questions.

This is my first Scott Hahn book; he is a convert to Catholicism so that helps me understand how this book came to be in 2009.

If you like this book you might also like Andrew Greeley's Catholic Imagination (2001), Why Do Catholics do that? Kevin Orlin Johnson (1995) and Robert Barron's Catholicismm (2011). Religious seekers and Cathol
Nov 29, 2009 Jodi rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Catholics
Picked this one up at the library to increase my knowledge of my faith to help me teach CCD this year. The book explains various Catholic traditions such as confirmation, advent, lent, sign of the cross, penance, etc. It was a little dry but provided some insight for me. I was surprised at the beginning of the book and then when I read the author's information that he is affiliated with Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. I have never set foot on the campus but I have 18 graduate credit ...more
Feb 04, 2015 Kevin rated it liked it
Shelves: catholicism
Signs of Life is divided into forty short chapters, each discussing a Catholic custom. The design of the book makes it an excellent read for Lent, and the material is easy to understand. Each chapter also ends with a short quote from a famous Catholic saint, theologian, or layperson. The book was good, but it wasn't what I expected. I was hoping for more of an in-depth and historical explanation of each custom.
Jane Lebak
Apr 26, 2014 Jane Lebak rated it really liked it
Shelves: catholic
While I liked the book and found it interesting, I wasn't able to get as "into" this book as I normally do with Scott Hahn's books. I really like when Scott Hahn immerses you in the subject matter and takes you in deep, but because of the structure of this book, we have only an overview of 40 separate practices. He does link them, and I think he does a good job at what he intended to do, but it wasn't as eye-opening to me as his other books have been. Still four stars, though.
Jun 07, 2010 Kim rated it really liked it
This book explains the roots of Catholicism and the rites, customs and prayers that are its backbone. Its a comprehensive overview of what Catholics believe and why they believe it. I'm a lifelong Catholic and I learned alot about practices that I have always taken for granted. Each chapter concludes with how to apply these teachings to your everyday life. Very well written and easy to sit and read.
Chaffee Viets
Sep 11, 2013 Chaffee Viets rated it really liked it
Absolutely fantastic look at Catholic customs. Nearly every major question a Catholic (or a Protestant/Orthodox) might have about Catholic practice is treated in brief. My only complaint is that some of Hahn's linkages to "Biblical Roots" are not especially helpful. Nonetheless, I have found it to an essential part of my Christian library.
Tom Spiva
Jul 17, 2016 Tom Spiva rated it it was ok
I just didn't feel like his book delivered as promised. Instead of describing historical roots of these practices in many cases it merely turns into an exhortation to practice these things themselves. Which, OK that's interesting, but the cover promises biblical roots. In some cases, the passages cited are far from self evidently relating to the Catholic practice as written.
AJ Conroy
Mar 24, 2013 AJ Conroy rated it it was ok
Reading for Lent. 40 chapters. One a day. Perfect. But actually, kinda disappointing. The author's approach was to provide a quote or two to prove his thesis instead of exploring the catholic customs. There didn't seem to be much critical thought-- which is what I was seeking. I was disappointed.
Dec 26, 2011 Grace rated it really liked it
This book consists of beautiful meditations on and explanations of 40 Catholic customs and practices, including the biblical roots for each. I read the book from cover to cover in a few days, against the advice of the author in his introduction, but I do intend to go back and read it a little at a time. It is certainly worth multiple reads.
Sep 10, 2016 Elizabeth rated it liked it
Shelves: religion, 2014
I was a little bit disappointed in this book. I thought that some of the topics he chose were a bit to weighty to discuss so quickly.
The chapters on novenas, making the sign of the cross, blessing with holy water, going on retreats, and other sacramentals were all excellent.

But the actual sacraments... they felt to big to be included in this book. I ended up skimming those chapters.
Apr 12, 2012 Tess rated it really liked it
The explanations were shorter than I would have liked, but I appreciated the explanation of the Biblical connections of the various Catholic rites and customs. This book also contains writings and quotes from other big thinkers in the the Christian faith (Augustine, etc.) that I found to be a good introduction to some of their writings.
Adam Shields
Short review: A good look at Catholic spiritual practices and why they are done. I am reading this to learn more about Catholic theology as a Protestant. So it wasn't directly written for me. But it was interesting. Formatted as 40 short devotional styled chapters.

My full review is at my blog at
Nov 02, 2015 Elyse83 rated it liked it
Great introduction/refresher course on Catholic customs and traditions such as genuflection, veneration of the saints, the Rosary, and all the other "little" things I sometimes take for granted(ie. Holy Water fonts at the church entrance.) Short chapters. Recommended for all.
Nov 03, 2014 Megan rated it it was ok
Shelves: religion, non-fiction
I found this dry and also aimed towards those who have more general knowledge of Catholicism that I do. (I was raised Protestant, but have questions about Catholicism and my somewhat Catholic husband usually gives me an answer of "I dunno" to my questions).
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Dr. Scott Hahn was born in 1957, and has been married to Kimberly since 1979. He and Kimberly have six children and are expecting their twelfth grandchild. An exceptionally popular speaker and teacher, Dr. Hahn has delivered numerous talks nationally and internationally on a wide variety of topics related to Scripture and the Catholic faith. Hundreds of these talks have been produced on audio and ...more
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“If we do not fill our mind with prayer, it will fill itself with anxieties, worries, temptations, resentments, and unwelcome memories.” 63 likes
“The first Christians were eucharistic by nature: they gathered for “the breaking of the bread and the prayers.” They were formed by the Word of God, the “apostles’ teaching.” When they met as a Church, their worship culminated in “fellowship”—the Greek word is koinonia, communion. The Mass was the center of life for the disciples of Jesus, and so it has ever been. Even today, the Mass is where we experience the apostolic teaching and communion, the breaking of the bread and the prayers.” 1 likes
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