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Booking Like a Banshee

Yesterday I paid brief homage to Maureen (aka Suburban Banshee), who runs two of my favorite blogs, Maria Lectrix and Aliens in This World. On the first site Maureen posts audio recordings of hard-to-find and out-of-print books, including many patristic titles. On the second site she’s begun to post actual text of hard-to-find and out-of-print books.

I quadruple my homage because she is now posting, in installments, a book that’s been on my wish list for many years. It’s called The Blessed Virgin in the Fathers of the First Six Centuries, an 1893 book that I borrowed from Scott Hahn way back when. Since then I have not seen a copy on sale for under $300! It’s easily worth that much. My problem is that my entire estate’s probably not worth that much. But Maureen is toiling so that we can all live like kings. Stop by to thank her for all she does to bring us great books, absolutely free. Her blogs are an incredible service to the world and the Church.

UPDATE: She’s also, as of tonight, posted links to other public-domain Catholic books available online. Just give yourself time to browse the stacks of this Banshee’s sites. You’ll find medieval Irish poetry, her musings on science fiction, her own musical compositions, and other odd lots. Never a dull moment, it seems, in this particular mind.

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The Mandatory Fathers

Seminarians, get happy.

I’m lifting this directly from Fr. Z’s blog, because it’s that important. Fr. Z tells us that the U.S. bishops have “issued a program for formation for US seminaries. Inter alia the conference has codified that Patristics (study of the theology of the Fathers of the Church) is to be included. Here are the relevant paragraphs.”

201. Patristic studies constitute an essential part of theological studies. Theology should draw from the works of the Fathers of the Church that have lasting value within the living tradition of the Church. The core should include Patrology (an overview of the life and writings of the Fathers of the Church) and Patristics (an overview of the theological thought of the Fathers of the Church). [FOOTNOTE: See Congregation for Catholic Education, Instruction on the Study of the Fathers of the Church in the Formation of Priests (1989)].

210. In historical studies, the core should include courses on the history universal and the history of the Catholic Church in the United States that way which reflects her multicultural origins and ecumenical context. The study of patristics and the lives of the saints are of special importance.

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On Coercion and Conversion

The indefatigable and always timely Maria Lectrix has posted audio of St. Cyprian’s (third-century) treatise “On the Lapsed.” It’s a great antidote to the nonsense some people are saying about the two kidnapped journalists who were persuaded at gunpoint to convert to Islam. Lectrix also posted some wise comments on the matter at her personal site, Aliens in This World. God help us all.

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Meet Me in Rome in May 2007

There’s nowhere I’d rather be next May than walking — with you — in the footsteps of the apostles, the martyrs, the popes, and the Church Fathers. So I’m pleased to announce the details of the pilgrimage I hinted at a few months ago.

Our sponsor is the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology (of which I’m vice-president), and we’ll be making the pilgrimage May 16-25, 2007, along with my friends Scott and Kimberly Hahn.

Here’s the scoop. Pilgrims will leave the United States on Wednesday, May 16, and arrive in Rome around noon the next day. Our first visit will be to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls for a guided tour followed by our opening Mass. From there we’ll check in at the Grand Hotel Fleming for a dinner and reception. In the days that follow, we’ll spend time in the Catacombs of St. Callistus; the Basilicas of St. Peter, the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, St. John Lateran, and St. Mary Major; the churches of St. Clement, the Pantheon, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, St. Augustine, St. Peter in Chains, and Saints Praxedes and Pudentiana. In these holy places rest the relics of so many of the ancients: Saints Peter and Paul, Saints Simon and Jude, St. Lawrence, St. Jerome, St. Gregory the Great, St. Leo, St. Monica, and many martyrs whose names have been lost to history …

We’ll tour the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. We’ll pray before the original image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. We’ll climb the Holy Stairs. We’ll pray the Stations of the Cross in the Colosseum. We’ll wander the Roman Forum, see the Arch of Constantine, the Arch of Titus that depicts his return with the plunder of Jerusalem. We’ll visit the tombs of many Jesuit saints at the Church of St. Ignatius. And we’ll stroll through Piazza Navona and have time to stop for gelato or shopping.

And that’s just a sampling of what we’ll do and see!

We’re slated to see Pope Benedict XVI twice, at his Wednesday audience and his Sunday Angelus address.

On Wednesday afternoon we’ll leave for Assisi, to spend two days touring the scenes of the life of Saints Francis and Clare.

Every day’s program will also include talks from your hosts (Scott, Kimberly, and yours truly) on historical, scriptural, and spiritual themes. Since the tour will be in May, the pilgrimage will certainly have a Marian character.

The group returns home on Friday, May 25.

Pricing and other details follow, below. I welcome any questions, too. Don’t hesitate to send me a note — or contact Wendt Touring directly.

$3,499 per person based on double occupancy
$3,999 per person for single room
$2,999 per child (2-11 years)

* Round-trip scheduled air from Newark, NJ, including airport departure taxes
* Eight nights’ lodging with private facilities
* Continental breakfast & dinner daily
* Deluxe motorcoach transportation
* All sightseeing & admissions
* Daily seminars, Mass & prayer
* Baggage handling at hotels
* English-speaking guides

PAYMENT PLAN: A $500 per person deposit is due to secure your reservation with the balance due by Feb. 16, 2007.

CANCELLATION POLICY: Full refund for cancellations made by Feb. 16, 2007. Cancellations made after February 16 are subject to penalties assessed by airlines, hotels and land operators.

TRIP CANCELLATION/TRIP INTERRUPTION INSURANCE: $225 per person due with initial trip deposit.

To Reserve Your Space, Contact:
Wendt Touring
401 Market Street – Suite 707
Steubenville, Ohio 43952
740-282-5790 or toll-free 877-565-8687

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Archaeology magazine gives us a distressing follow-up story on the recent threats to the cultural heritage of Iraq’s Assyrian and Chaldean Christians. We’ve discussed that heritage often (see, for example, here and here). The threat we discussed most recently here. Pray for Iraq. Pray for these Christians, that they may know safety and peace, and that the memories they guard for us will not be lost.

UPDATE: CNS reports on the dangers and displacement faced by Chaldean Christians. According to Joseph Kassab, head of the Chaldean Federation of America, Chaldeans have been targeted for violence because “the Iraqi Christians are a peaceful people. They are not divided into tribes. They don’t have a militia to protect them like the Shiites or the Sunnis or the Kurds.”

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Googling Patristics

Who’d a thunk it? Google maps can now help you get more out of the preaching of the Fathers.

Check out the remarkable pages for The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Pharos (lighthouse) at Alexandria, for example, is a place and a metaphor you’ll encounter fairly often. Cassian uses it metaphorically. So does Basil, in a warm tribute to his friend and correspondent Athanasius: “You see everything in all directions in your mind’s eye like a man looking from some tall watchtower, while at sea many ships sailing together are all dashed one against the other by the violence of the waves.”

Among the Seven Wonders of the Medieval World, you’ll find the Mother Church of Byzantine culture, Hagia Sophia, whose story we told here.

Hat tip: Junior.

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Listen to R.L. Wilken, Free

The St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology has posted audio of Robert Louis Wilken’s outstanding 2005 address “‘Bread From Both Tables’: Scripture and Tradition in the 21st Century Church.” Dr. Wilken delivered the address as the Center’s inaugural Father Ronald Lawler Memorial Lecture. The dean of American patristic scholars, he is author of many books, including The Spirit of Early Christian Thought. (You’ll find my effusive review of that book here.)

This year’s Lawler Lecturer is another hero of mine, the noted theologian and Capuchin Father Thomas Weinandy. Father Weinandy will speak on “St. Athanasius of Alexandria and the Divinity of the Holy Spirit.” His lecture will be the culmination of the Center’s annual Letter & Spirit Conference.

Father Weinandy taught at Oxford University for more than a decade, and he is the author of a dozen books, including The Theology of St. Cyril of Alexandria: A Critical Appreciation. He is the chief doctrinal official with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The theme of this year’s Letter & Spirit Conference is “Love and Sacrifice.” The event will take place October 27-28, 2006, at St. Paul Seminary, near Pittsburgh. Other speakers include:

• Dr. David Fagerberg of Notre Dame, on “Divine Love and the Divine Liturgy.”

Dr. Brant Pitre of Holy Cross College, on “Jesus, the Bridegroom-Messiah.”

• Tim Gray of St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver, on “The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving in the Cult of Ancient Israel.”

• And, of course, the Center’s founder, Dr. Scott Hahn.

Registration costs $69 and includes all meals and talks as well as a copy of the Center’s journal, Letter & Spirit. You can register or get more details right here. Scholarships are available for Catholic seminarians. Call (740) 264-9535 for details.

If you can travel to Pittsburgh, you don’t want to miss this conference. And you really can’t beat the price.

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A Fuss About Gus

Where to begin to recognize St. Augustine on his feast day? He makes regular appearances in these pages, and on the sites of other patristibloggers. Father Z has been accused of favoring an “All Augustine, All the Time” format; and he has not contested the charge. Phil from Canada credits the man from Hippo with his conversion.

I’m inclined to agree with the judgment of Pope Pius XI, who said that “of all those who have lived since the beginning of the human race until today … almost no one, or certainly very few, can be compared” to Augustine. Apart from the biblical writers, he is the author most frequently cited in the teachings of the Catholic Church. His ideas on governance shaped the political development of the West through the Middle Ages. Literary scholars say he practically invented the genre of autobiography. He established the foundations of western monasticism, which Benedict would later build upon. He can even be seen as one of the early practitioners of what today we call scientific method. He conducted experiments on peacock flesh to see if it was truly resistant to decay, as common wisdom had it.

But it was all for the sake of souls. He told his congregations that he didn’t want to be saved without them. And he worked and prayed so that, if they somehow avoided salvation, they couldn’t blame any lack of effort on Augustine’s part. He preached constantly. (He even preached about his experiments with peacock flesh!) He wrote letters prodigiously. He composed massive theological works that are, still today, the standard equipment in any true theological education: “On the Trinity” (De Trinitate), “City of God” (De Civitate Dei), “On Christian Doctrine” (De Doctrina Christiana).

And I haven’t even mentioned his books on philosophy, scriptural interpretation, and morals. His surviving works fill many volumes and even entire library shelves. And long-lost pieces still turn up occasionally — sermons, letters, and such.

Nevertheless, no one gets to be such a giant without having detractors; and Augustine has had his share in every age. To modern secularists, he seems a fideist, a simp who would stop an argument in its tracks just because Rome said so. On the other hand, some Eastern Christians (a vocal minority) have accused him of rationalism. Augustine revered both faith and reason as gifts from God, each having its place in Christian life, each complementing and strengthening the other. To intellectuals who were struggling with faith, Augustine would say: Believe, that you may know. To fideists who denigrated philosophy he would say: Know, that you may believe.

I’ll be talking about St. Augustine today on the KVSS “Spirit Morning Show” with Bruce and Kris McGregor. The show runs 6:30 to 9 a.m. (central time). You can listen to a live feed here. In the days afterward, KVSS usually archives my interviews on its Mike Aquilina page.

There’s lots of Augustine to read online, in every language. And he is readable. He’s the guy who said: “I prefer to be criticized by the grammarians rather than not to be understood by the people.” You can find good pictures for screen-savers here.

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St. Monica the Mom

Regular visitors to this blog know that, early in life, St. Monica was fond of visiting the graves of the saints and celebrating their feast days there. Since today’s her memorial, isn’t it the least we can do for her? She’s entombed at the church named for her more famous son, St. Augustine, not far from Piazza Navona in Rome.

Listen, if we can’t make it to Rome by midnight, let’s at least meet at Fr. Z’s place, where he’s posted wonderful photos and information about this great and holy lady. When I’m in Rome, her church is the place where I habitually go to pray. I probably picked up the habit just because I was staying next door. But there are no accidents, and it’s a habit I’ve made no effort to shake. I have six kids. If I could learn parenting from anyone, it would be St. Monica.

Though she was probably only minimally literate, Monica appears in Augustine’s autobiographical works (Confessions and Dialogues) as a teacher of theologians. The lady prayed. Over the course of decades, she prayed her wayward son back into the Church. She went to Mass daily, and she attended funeral Masses of strangers, again almost daily, just so she could hear the Word of God proclaimed once more. No one better exemplifies the maxim of Evagrius: A theologian is one who prays, and one who prays is a theologian. I count her farewell to Augustine in the Confessions among the most beautiful passages in world literature. At the trinket shop in the back of Sant’Agostino, I bought my wife a sturdy image of the scene, as it reminded me of my own lovely lady and our son, our firstborn. (The painting’s titled “Ecstasy at Ostia.” I don’t remember the artist. Amy Welborn has it up at her blog today.)

Another place to visit on St. Monica’s feast: St. Monica Institute for Patristic Studies.

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Iraq and a Hard Place

It’s heartbreaking to see how much of the Chaldean and Assyrian Christians’ heritage survived from the age of the Fathers, only to be destroyed in the turmoil of the twentieth century and our current war. PhDiva links to a detailed report of the ancient churches and monasteries of Iraq that have been destroyed in recent years, mostly by the Christians’ countrymen and mostly during the rule of Saddam Hussein. Some of these sites are linked to the lives of saints we’ve covered on this blog — St. James and St. Aphrahat, for example.

In somewhat related news, The Manchester Guardian reported today that Donny George, the president of Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities — and a Christian — has fled for Syria. He cited the country’s dire security situation and increasing pressures from radical Islamist groups.