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Soldier Saint

BMCR reviews Nikos Litinas’ book Greek Ostraca from Abu Mina.

If you come here often, you know that the ancient shrine of Abu Mina is one of my odd interests. My post titled The Lourdes of the Ancient World attracted some notice. I followed it up with related posts here and here.

Those of you who share my interest, but also have a JSTOR account, can read more about the saint in a recent article published in Dumbarton Oaks Papers, An Officer and a Gentleman: Transformations in the Iconography of a Warrior Saint.

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Patristic Digs

I’m behind in posting archeological news, and there’s plenty of it, from all corners of the world of the Fathers.

In Egypt, archeologists exploring under “the world’s oldest monastery” found “a cell for monks dating back to 400 AD with paintings in the ancient Coptic language.” Restoration is under way.

Israel has uncovered an ancient wine press as well as a Byzantine-era road.

Turkey is restoring a Roman-era church (dates are confusing in the story … lost in translation).

Syria has turned up a cave with evidence of Roman-era habitation. These were often hideaway worship spaces.

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Patristics Going Platinum?

Some time back (here and here) I mentioned several odd instances of the Fathers appearing in modern English poetry. Before long, we had collected enough examples to fill a small anthology.

This week I noticed that, over time, we’ve accumulated some significant patristic pop songs. For example:

Dion’s The Thunderer (on St. Jerome)

Marie Bellet’s Late Have I Loved You (St. Augustine)

Bob Dylan’s I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine

If we want to stretch it a little, we can add Stray Cat Brian Setzer’s St. Jude.

That’s not enough for a K-Tel collection. Any other candidates?

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He Disappeared in the Dead of Winter

I learned, from an obituary in our diocesan newspaper, that Fr. Christopher Rengers, OFM Cap., died on January 25. He was 92.

Fr. Christopher was a noted confessor, spiritual mentor — and author of some excellent works on the Church Fathers. He’s best known for his book The 33 Doctors Of The Church. He is the man who started, back in 1977, the custom of observing an all-night prayer vigil in the crypt church of the Basilica of the National Shrine on the eve of the March for Life. The event has grown since then. It’s quite huge now. He was a kind and gentle man, brilliant but childlike. He ended every conversation with a request to pray together with you. Such habits die hard, if at all. I suspect he’ll continue all these customs for the duration.

The 33 Doctors Of The Church includes excellent brief biographies of many figures from the patristic era, namely:

St. Gregory the Great
St. Ambrose
St. Augustine
St. Jerome
St. John Chrysostom
St. Basil
St. Gregory Nazianzus
St. Athanasius
St. Isidore
St. Peter Chrysologus
St. Leo the Great
St. Hilary of Poitiers
St. Cyril of Alexandria
St. Cyril of Jerusalem
St. John Damascene
St. Ephrem

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The Real St. Valentine: Get Ready for V. Day

Today I spoke with the Great and Powerful Al Kresta about The Real St. Valentine. Watch us here. (OK, so I’m a little stiff. I was nervous.)

You’ll find a great — and FREE — graphic novel about St. Valentine at the website of Catholic Heroes of the Faith. It’s written by yet another hero of the faith, Carl Sommer.

Catholic Heroes of the Faith is building up an impressive array of free graphic novels, including three about subjects from the patristic era. Little kids with a patrological bent have never had it so good.

And don’t forget: if you register at the Catholic Heroes of the Faith website, you can download Perpetua’s Song for free.

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A Little Bit Country, A Lot of Patristics

I just got back from Music City — Nashville, Tennessee — where I was featured speaker at Aquinas College‘s annual St. Thomas Aquinas Forum. This year’s theme was “Champions of Orthodoxy: The Fathers of the Church,” and I gave four talks. Among the other speakers was Richard H. Bulzacchelli, author of Judged by the Law of Freedom: A History of the Faith-Works Controversy, who delivered an excellent “how to” lecture on patristic biblical interpretation. I believe the good Dominican Sisters are making the talks available on CD.

I traveled with my lovely daughter Mary Agnes, who runs my book table. We ended up stranded in Tennessee because of the snowstorms. There was no storm in Nashville, so the extra time made for a great vacation. We went out for a night on the town with Bill and Marie Bellet. Marie is a country and Gospel singer, and I’m a longtime fan. She must be the only country artist EVER to set a Church Father to music. Check out “Late Have I Loved You” on her album Ordinary Time. You’ll come to know and to believe: St. Augustine was born for the Grand Ole Opry.

While in town, we also enjoyed a leisurely lunch with Michael Gilstrap, who is the U.S. representative of Rome’s Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, a charity well worth a portion of your tithe.

The highlight of the trip was lots of time spent with my former colleague Joan Watson, who’s now working in campus ministry and catechetics at Aquinas College. You probably remember her as the blogger Joan in Rome.

The college is an amazing place. Parents and prospective students, take note!

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The Passing of a Mentor

One of my great mentors and benefactors died yesterday at age 89. The newspapers identified him this way: Philip Klass, Major science fiction writer in 1940s, 1950s. When I was nineteen years old and quite undeserving, Phil awarded me the internship that turned into my first job in the publishing industry. He was a man of great wit, great accomplishments, and tremendous integrity. Please remember him and his family. I can never repay the debt I owe him. Whenever there are meals on my family’s table, he helped to put them there. The day he offered me that internship, I had no idea where I was going in life. He picked me up and placed me on the road I’ve walked ever since. Read his books. His satirical fiction deserves the praise it has received, and it deserves still more. I’m pleased to have published one of his nonfiction works — a powerful essay that moves from his experience liberating the death camps at the end of WW2 to his arrival in the strange world of liberal academia in the 1960s. That piece appears in this book.

He ranks prominently among my “Fathers.” Thus I’m categorizing this under “patristics.” May he rest in peace.