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St. Anthony’s Find

Egypt’s Al Ahram is upgrading its site, so it’s redirecting to Google pages. Last week’s edition has a nice piece on “the world’s oldest monastery,” the Monastery of St. Anthony. It’s essentially a rehash of a story that’s a couple months old, but it does include some photos. Egypt’s had some real PR debacles recently — with the weird non-unveiling of Maimonides’ synagogue and the violence at Nag Hammadi. So we’ll probably keep hearing this good-news story again and again.

During restoration work, archaeologists stumbled upon what is believed to be the ruins of the original monks’ living cells dating from the fourth century. The ruins are now protected under a glass floor that leaves it visible to pilgrims.

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Clergy Invited to Exorcism Conference

A semi-public service announcement.

On May 25-27, 2010 the International Association of Exorcists will put on a conference on exorcism ministry at the Gilmary Catholic Retreat Center in the Pittsburgh diocese. This conference is not open to the public, only clergy and others that are approved will be admitted. Topics will include: the place of exorcism in the Church, training exorcists, diocese team formation, the new and old exorcism rite, exorcism vs. deliverance, law and liability, occult crime, canonical perspectives, and ethics.

The following are presenting: Fr. Giancarlo Gramolazzo, president of IAE (Vatican, health allowing). Dr. Richard Gallagher (governing body IAE), Fr. Clement Machado (Vatican), Fr. Brian Welding (canon lawyer), Captain Jim Dooley (NYPD). Other speakers are pending.

There is a growing awareness in our Church of the harmful influence of Satan in the lives of believers and non-believers alike. In his foreword to Fr. Fortea’s book Interview With an Exorcist, Bp. Samuel J. Aquila of Fargo, ND writes: “When needed, the Church continues to exercise this ministry of Jesus up to the present day, carefully discerning when true possession is present and permitting those priests, who have been trained in the rite of exorcism and with the permission of their bishop, to perform it.” This conference seeks to address these and related issues.

The cost for the Conference is $250.00 which includes food and lodging. The shuttle to and from the airport can be provided by Charlie Brown’s Airport Parking ($5 each way paid to them, call 412-262- 4931 when at airport). Priests may bring an alb and stole for the celebration of Mass.

Gilmary Catholic Retreat Center is at 601 Flaugherty Run Road Coraopolis, PA 15108. Phone: 412-264-8400. Email:

Please make fees out to the Diocese of Pittsburgh. If you have any special housing or dietary needs please let us know as soon as possible. Please send your name, title, mailing address, contact information and fee to: Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, c/o Rev. Brian Welding, 111 Blvd. Of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.

Please direct any questions to Adam Blai at

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The Beginning of the End of Child Abuse

BMCR reviews a very important work, “Let the Little Children Come to Me”: Childhood and Children in Early Christianity, by Cornelia B. Horn, John W. Martens.

Through an exhaustive analysis of nearly every quote pertaining to children in the canonical New Testament, with some references from early patristic texts and some extracanonical, especially the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, the authors attempt to answer a basic and important question: what “significant differences Christianity made in the lives of children, historically, sociologically, and culturally” in the first few centuries? The answer they posit is that “Christianity made life better for children” … “Christian criticism of practices of abuse, infanticide, abortion, and exposure led to improved lives for numerous children, in significant part because the Roman state embraced the Christian moral code in the course of the fourth and fifth century.”

Also important, on the same topic: When Children Became People: The Birth of Childhood in Early Christianity, by O. M. Bakke.

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Grave Matter

In Syria, archeologists are digging patristic-era graves.

Syrian archaeologists working for Damascus Countryside Governorate has announced the unearthing of 5 archaeological graveyards in old Darya City near Damascus, dating back to the 3rd and 4th Century AD.

The discovered graveyards, mostly dating back to the roman and byzantine era, contain tens of skulls, Mahmoud Hamoud, Damascus Countryside archaeology director told local news and media.

Hamoud disclosed that some other findings were also found as part of burial materials, including clay and glass tools, bracelets, rings, ring-bells, beads, eardrops, made of bronze, iron, glass, wood, and precious stones, as well as eardrops made of gold.

Earlier, Damascus Countryside Archaeology Directorate announced the finding of a basalt-built mass graveyard in ‘Ashrafiat Sihnaya’, dating back to same period, with several skulls and other burial materials, made of glass, wood, and metal.

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Verse-Case Scenario

Edward G. Mathews, Jr., reviews Christos Simelidis’s Selected Poems of Gregory of Nazianzus in BMCR.

Gregory of Nazianzus is one of the most consistently celebrated of the early Christian writers … However, this sustained popularity was generally due to his theological acumen and his extraordinary rhetorical skills, not to his poetry, which both Jerome and the Suda numbered at 30,000 verses (only about two-thirds of them have actually survived) …

Simelidis’ work is a revised version of his Oxford doctoral dissertation. It offers a lengthy introduction to Gregory’s poetry (pp. 21-102), critical editions of the Greek texts — no translations — of four of Gregory’s poems … This is an extraordinarily detailed and erudite study that ought to lay down the path for any future study of Gregory’s poetry. Gregory stands as a unique transitional point between classical/hellenistic poetry and Byzantine poetry.

Some of Gregory’s poems are available in English translation, in the Popular Patristics series: On God and Man: The Theological Poetry of St. Gregory of Nazianzus.

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In Today’s Mail

Looks very interesting.

Vines Intertwined: A History of Jews and Christians from the Babylonian Exile to the Advent of Islam, by Leo Duprée Sandgren (Hendrickson).

The study of Jewish/Christian history in antiquity is experiencing a renaissance. Textual witnesses and archaeological sites are being reevaluated and revisited. As a result, author Sandgren asserts, the relationship between Jews and Christians has shifted from a “mother-daughter” paradigm to one better described as “siblings.”

Recognizing that Judaism and Christianity are what they are because of each other and were not formed in isolation, Sandgren provides readers and researchers with a comprehensive generation-by-generation political history of the Jews—from the fall of the First Temple and the Babylonian Exile through the rise of Christianity out of Judaism—to the conquest of Jerusalem by Muslim Arabs and the rise of Christianity out of Judaism, to the point where both are fully defined against each other at the start of the Middle Ages.

With a good subject index and a strong chronological framework, this book is a convenient reference work to this extended period of antiquity, with sufficient “bookends” of history to show where it began and how it ends. Making use of numerous contemporary studies as well as often neglected classics, Sandgren thoroughly develops the concept of “the people of God” and the core ideology behind Jewish and Christian self-definition. A ready resource for both students and scholars, pastors and laypeople, this accessible reference also includes a bibliography and an ancient sources index as well as a CD. The attached CD will have the entire book as a searchable PDF as well as a list of names of emperors, rabbis, and church fathers.

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Irenaeus: The Comeback Tour 2010

Word has arrived of a newly-typeset edition of Irenaeus’s “Against the Heresies.” The text is that of the ANF, with the original page numbers embedded in the text. The only revision is to the introduction, to fill out some of the background on Pope Victor and St. Irenaeus; the new editors have removed Bp. Coxe’s anti-Catholic footnotes, while retaining the original numbering on the remaining notes. The book is available in  softcover and  hardcover.

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Your iPod Is a Reliquary

If you’ve visited this blog more than twice, you know by now that I’m a big fan of Rod Bennett’s book Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words. It’s a novelistic re-telling of the earliest Christian history, using the very words of the Apostolic Fathers. It’s one of the great “imaginative entries” into the world of the Fathers that I’m always recommending, especially for young Christians.

Here’s the great news: Four Witnesses is now available for download in a professionally produced audio edition. So you can do your daily aerobics with the Apostolic Fathers. You can drive with the Apostolic Fathers. You can cook with the Apostolic Fathers. The possibilities are innumerable.