Posted on

Garland of Madness

I think the air in Steubenville has made Danny Garland go mad. He posted this “Patristic Melody” (to the tune of “Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious”):

Superchristological and Homoousiosis
Even though the sound of them is something quite atrocious
You can always count on them to anathemize your Gnosis
Superchristological and Homoousiosis

Um diddle diddle um diddle ay
Um diddle diddle um diddle ay

Now Origen and Arius were quite a clever pair.
Immutable divinity make Logos out of air.
But then one day Saint Nicholas gave Arius a slap–
and told them if they can’t recant, they ought to shut their trap! …

And there’s still more. Go see for yourself!

Posted on

Digital Armenia

In the heart of Erevan, capital of Armenia, the Matenadaran houses seventeen thousand manuscripts and 30,000 documents, some dating back to antiquity. Texts on very varied subjects, written in Arabic, Persian, Syriac, Greek, Latin, Amharic, Japanese and certain Indian languages, are stored together in this museum-library, created at the same time as the Armenian alphabet in 405. Today the Matenadaran is entering the digital age thanks to UNESCO.

Read the rest of the story here.

See the stunning images here.

Thanks to PaleoJudaica.

Posted on

Papal Chain

Week before last, I was in Chicago for the Religious Book Trade Expo. I was there to promote my new collection of historical sketches, The Resilient Church: The Glory, the Shame, and the Hope for Tomorrow. The featured author for my other publisher, Our Sunday Visitor, was John Salza. I was pleased as any patristic nerd should be to receive a signed copy of John’s new book, The Biblical Basis for the Papacy. So nerdy am I that I started reading it that very night and couldn’t put it down till I was quite done. John is an attorney, and he knows how to work — economically and forcefully — with evidence. The book presents a concise but complete argument (actually many arguments, from many angles). Visitors to this blog will be especially pleased to read chapter eight, “What Did the Fathers Say,” a 27-page catena of texts on many aspects of the papacy, again usefully arranged. I highly recommend this book.

Posted on

Awe Cappella

From Zenit:

Pope: Church History a Lesson in Awe

Reflections on Eusebius of Caesarea

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 13, 2007 ( Benedict XVI says contemplating the history of the Church should lead the faithful to be awed by God’s great work of salvation.

The Pope said this today when dedicating his reflection at the general audience to Eusebius of Caesarea, the first to write a history of the Church.

Eusebius was born around the year 260 and lived during the first years of peace for the Church under Constantine. He was one of the main protagonists at the ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325.

The Holy Father explained: “Eusebius […] sought to reflect upon and take stock of the three centuries of Christianity, three centuries lived under persecution. He consulted, for the most part, the original Christian and pagan sources that had been preserved in the great library of Caesarea.

“He was the first to write a history of the Church, and to this day his work is still foundational, mainly due to the sources Eusebius puts forever at our disposal. His ‘History’ preserved from sure oblivion numerous events, people and literary works of the ancient Church. His work is therefore a primary source for knowing the first centuries of Christianity.”

The Pontiff showed that Eusebius covered various topics in his 10-volume “Ecclesiastical History”: “apostolic succession, as the structure of the Church, the spreading of the Message, errors, persecutions by pagans, and the great testimonies which constitute the shining light of this ‘History.’ Amid it all, shine the mercy and goodness of the Savior.”

He added that Eusebius’ writings have a “‘moral intent’ that gives direction to the narrative. Historical analysis is never an end in itself; it seeks not only to get to know the past, but it firmly points toward conversion and to an authentic witness of Christian life on the part of the faithful.”


Benedict XVI contended that Eusebius’ work and the style of his “Ecclesiastical History” invites Christians of today to self-examination.

He said: “[Eusebius] questions us too: What is our attitude toward the vicissitudes faced by the Church? Is it the attitude of someone who is interested out of mere curiosity, looking for sensationalism and scandal at all costs? Or is it rather the loving attitude, open to mystery, of one who because of faith knows that he can discern in the history of the Church the signs of God’s love and the great work of salvation he has accomplished?”

The Holy Father added that Christians “should feel invited to offer a more coherent and generous response, a more Christian testimony of life that will leave an imprint of God’s love for future generations as well.”

“Many centuries later,” the Pope continued, “Eusebius of Caesarea still today issues an invitation to believers. He invites us to be awed by and to contemplate the great work of salvation that God has accomplished in history. And with the same vigor, he invites us to a conversion of life. In fact, before a God who has loved us so much, we cannot remain unaffected. The very demand of love is that all of life be oriented toward the imitation of the Beloved.”

The Vatican’s summary notes that the pope also paid tribute to the great patrologist Jean Danielou.

Posted on

MySpace Confessions

Very cute — Augustine now has a page on MySpace. Knowing what we know about the correspondence between Jerome and Augustine, do you think Jerome would be added to young Augustine’s album of friends?

WASHINGTON (CNS) — St. Augustine of Hippo just got a whole lot hipper.

The fifth-century doctor of the church, perhaps known best for “Confessions,” an autobiographical account of his conversion to Christianity, now has a MySpace page.

Michael Dolan, the director of communications for the Augustinians of the Province of St. Thomas of Villanova, said he started the page on St. Augustine’s behalf as an engaging way to introduce visitors to St. Augustine and the Augustinians.

“The focus of the page is to give people a deeper sense of who Augustine was, but also to get them engaged in Augustinian spirituality,” Dolan told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview.

The popular social networking Web site allows users to post pictures and information about themselves on their personal pages. All users — and now St. Augustine — can add other users to their list of friends.

St. Augustine’s Myspace profile can be viewed at

As of the afternoon of June 12, St. Augustine had 87 MySpace friends, including two named Pope Benedict XVI; two fellow saints, Sts. George and Brigid; some guy named Josh; and Canadian singer Celine Dion.

Since the site launched in early May, Dolan said the page has had about 500 hits. Most of St. Augustine’s friends requested his friendship. Users can either request friendship from a user or accept a friendship. Dolan said he doesn’t know the true identity of the saint’s online friends and guessed they just happened upon the page or heard about it from another venue.

St. Augustine’s page features a picture of the saint and a welcoming message to visitors of the site. If the volume is turned up on the computer, St. Augustine’s page will play The Who’s hit “Who are You.” St. Augustine is, according to his page, 42 years old, single, a Scorpio and looking for networking and friends. His interests include praying, writing and hanging out with friends.

St. Augustine is 42, Dolan said, because that was his age when he wrote “Confessions.” Starting Aug. 28 — the saint’s feast day — St. Augustine will begin a Web log, or blog, about his “Confessions” on the site. The small print at the bottom of the area where the blog will be promises that entries will be an English translation, even though St. Augustine wrote in Latin. His entire book should be blogged over the course of the next school year.

Dolan hopes visitors to the site will include students and professors. He suggested they could post comments to the blog as part of classroom exercises.

To the best of his knowledge, Dolan said, none of the Augustinians he knows have MySpace pages. But the order seems to have embraced St. Augustine’s page, he said.

“People are enthusiastic and love the concept of it,” Dolan said.

Has St. Augustine rejected any friend requests?

A few, Dolan admitted, because the users appeared either inappropriate or fraudulent. But Dolan said the occasional strange friend request seems normal for MySpace.

As for St. Augustine’s future on MySpace, Dolan said he has no concrete plans about adding features beside “Confessions.” But he said more photos, links and videos will probably be added to provide additional information about Augustine and the Augustinians to MySpace surfers.

Posted on

Expect the Unexpected

Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, there was the Cairo Geniza. A Geniza is the storeroom in a synagogue where old, worn-out books were kept. In the Geniza of Cairo’s Ben Ezra synagogue, there were almost a quarter of a million manuscripts, some dating back to the ninth century. In the late 19th century a Jewish antiquarian realized the value of the documents and drew attention to them. Since then, they’ve occupied many academics, some of whom are deciphering layers and layers of palimpsest.

Jim Davila reports on a very cool, unexpected discovery — “a fragment of vellum containing a Latin text of a sermon by Saint Augustine — an unquestionably Christian text … probably one of the last things you’d expect to find in the Cairo Genizah … a piece of vellum containing Book 2 Chapter 24 of St. Augustine’s De Sermone Domini in Monte (the Sermon on the Mount).” Here’s a picture of the fragment.

Posted on

Rome Come of Age

A very cool virtual model of Rome in 320 A.D.

ROME (Reuters) – Tourists puzzled by the jumble of buildings in classical and modern Rome can now find their bearings by visiting a virtual model of the imperial capital in what is being billed as the world’s biggest computer simulation of an ancient city.

“Rome Reborn” was unveiled on Monday in a first release showing the city at its peak in 320 AD, under the Emperor Constantine when it had grown to a million inhabitants.

Brainchild of the University of Virginia’s Bernard Frischer, Rome Reborn ( will eventually show its evolution from Bronze Age hut settlements to the Sack of Rome in the 5th century AD and the devastating Gothic Wars.

Reproduced for tourists on satellite-guided handsets and 3-D orientation movies in a theatre to be opened near the Colosseum, Frischer says his model “will prepare them for their visit to the Colosseum, the Forum, the imperial palaces on the Palatine, so that they can understand the ruins a lot better”.

“We can take people under the Colosseum and show them how the elevators worked to bring the animals up from underground chambers for the animal hunts they held,” he said, referring to the great Roman amphitheatre inaugurated by Titus in 80 AD.

Frischer’s model is sourced from ancient maps and building catalogues detailing “apartment buildings, private houses, inns, storage facilities, bakeries and even brothels”, plus digital images of the vast “Plastico di Roma Antica” model built from plaster of Paris in 1936-74, which measures 16 by 17 meters.

The “reverse modeling” by Frischer and the Politecnico di Milano and University of Florence enables scholars to populate ancient monuments with virtual reality figures for experiments on practical details like ventilation, capacity or acoustics.

“For example, in scholarly literature the Colosseum has a great reputation for being a great people mover where people could find their seats very quickly. But estimates of the carrying capacity vary wildly from 35,000 to 78,000,” he said.

Engineers have populated his model with virtual spectators to narrow down that estimate to 48,000-50,000 people.

The model can also show how the Romans, who worshipped the sun and moon, aligned their buildings with the summer solstice.

Posted on

Fathers for Father’s Day

Our friends at Our Sunday Visitor have done something foolhardy. The newspaper turned over almost half of the editorial space in its June 17 edition to Yours Truly.

It’s all for Father’s Day. So they invited me to write a four-page pullout section titled “Fathers Know Best,” which is my best attempt at a pew-level introduction to patristics. Just a few hours after it appeared in the mail, an author I respect called to tell me it was the best popular intro he’s ever seen. So find yourself a Church that keeps a stack of OSV for distribution. Or call up with credit card in hand (1-800-348-2440) and ask that your own subscription begin with the June 17 issue.

Publisher Greg Erlandson makes an ardent pitch for patristics in his opening column:

Aquilina — who is well-known to many readers for his appearances on EWTN as well as for his numerous books and articles — helps us to understand the importance of the Fathers: who they are; what impact they have had on the Church; what wisdom they offer us today.

The Fathers (and the Mothers too) of the Church deepen our appreciation of the Bible and of our faith. They also give us some perspective on these times we live in.

Greg was OSV’s editor-in-chief when the company published the first edition of my book The Fathers of the Church. In fact, he’s encouraged me through four books on the early Church, all published by OSV.

Later in the same issue of the paper, my byline appears over the newspaper’s more traditional Father’s Day feature: “Lessons I’m Still Learning from Dad.” It’s a reflection on my pop’s virtuosity at fathering, and it includes a rare photo of the host of this blog, from younger, thinner, beardless days. In one of my books, I explain how my love for my father prepared me to appreciate the Church Fathers — even though I’m fairly certain that Pop’s only reading in patristics was in his youngest child’s books. Still, it was by living with him that I learned to look fatherward for good example, guidance, and wisdom; and that lesson served me well when I began to ponder the life of the Church.

I include many reminiscences about my dad in the book Love in the Little Things: Tales of Family Life. OSV had asked me to extract material on Pop from that book for their Father’s Day feature; but, after a couple of hours at the task, I found myself writing something new.

I hope you can lay hands on a copy of the June 17 OSV.

Posted on

You Filk Up My Senses

Maureen marks St. Ephrem’s day and invokes him as patron saint of filk.

Filk is, according to Wikipedia, “a musical culture, genre, and community tied to science fiction/fantasy fandom. I once worked with an award-winning filker named Randy; but I doubt he ever asked the intercession of St. Ephrem, as he was a devout and ardent Baptist.

Maureen even adapted one of our saint’s songs in this very modern idiom.