Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Why Patrology Matters For the Average Catholic

I had this flash of insight during my lunch at the local Chinese restaurant. Not to run down the place, but I bet they couldn't tell a pot sticker from a pot bellied stove.

When I was in the seminary, Msgr. Richard Malone taught patrology. Patrology concerns studying the works of the early bishops and writers of the Church. These writings give us a glimpse into the world of the early Church. And it was fascinating reading. That class was both one of the best and most disorganized classes I ever took.

If you asked the average Catholic who the Church Fathers were, you would get head scratching and ponderous thinking. And yet, they are the most underutilized and most important reading, after the Bible, for any Christian. Why?

Is it because they give insight into the early Church? No, not necessarily. The reason for their import rests on the fact that we are living in those days again. For the early Church Fathers, every aspect of the faith had to be struggled for. Facing persecution, striving to understand the mystery, and trying follow Christ in a world ignorant and often ambivalent, usually hostile, to Him. And we have been sitting in the water, getting wrinkly and par-boiled, while the world decays around us. These writings will break us out I think.

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