Posted on

Pat Answers

On the Vigil of the Ascension, I had the great pleasure of spending an hour on air with my old friend Patrick Coffin. We talked about the Fathers with callers, who called in from all over the map.

For those of you who have as much gray as I have: Patrick was the guy who took the photo that ran with my column when I edited New Covenant magazine. Unlike Yours Truly, Patrick doesn’t age.

He has a new blog. Do visit, and watch the tremendous video he stuck up in his first post. It’s unforgettable.

And while you’re at it, buy his new book: Sex au Naturel: What It Is and Why It’s Good for Your Marriage.

Posted on

Pilgrim’s Progress

Last year, while I was roaming the Holy Land, I was reading Pilgrimage in Graeco-Roman and Early Christian Antiquity: Seeing the Gods, a pricey book, but worth its weight in the gold of Ophir, thanks especially to the gorgeous essay by Wendy Pullan: “‘Intermingled until the End of Time’: Ambiguity as a Central Condition of Early Christian Pilgrimage.” My reading of that in situ led to a talk on the subject at my parish, and I’m expanding that talk for the pilgrim group that’s going to Rome next week with me and Scott Hahn.

That’s a windy way for me to begin to say that BMCR has posted a review of a book that promises an interesting follow-up to Pullan’s study: Benjamin H. Dunning’s Aliens and Sojourners: Self as Other in Early Christianity.

Posted on

Since You Asked

Someone asked if the image up top of the blog is a family photo. It’s not. It’s actually a detail from a large mosaic at S. Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy, and it dates from the sixth century. I chose this image not only because it dates from the era of the Fathers, but also because it depicts several of the Fathers. Visible in the detail above is St. Polycarp of Smyrna (second from left), the teacher of St. Irenaeus and disciple of St. John the Apostle. Alongside St. Polycarp are St. Demetrius, St. Vincent, and St. Pancras — all martyrs. Elsewhere in the same large sequence are Clement, Sixtus, Lawrence, Hippolytus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Cassian, John, Paul, and others. On the opposite wall are the women martyrs. The saints’ names appear above them: “SCS” is the abbreviation for “Sanctus,” which means “Saint” or “Holy.” They hold crowns because they are martyrs; it is a symbol of their victory, as winning athletes were crowned at the end of their events. The palm fronds beside them are another sign of athletic or military victory. Martyrdom was often portrayed as victory in a “contest” with the world, the flesh, and the devil. But you already knew all that if you read my book Signs and Mysteries: Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols, which is lavishly illustrated by Lea Marie Ravotti.

Posted on

Mysteries in Season

Some years back, Scott Hahn and I compiled a collection of readings from the Fathers, designed to be read devotionally during the “mystagogy” phase of RCIA — or by anyone, really, over a fifty-day period. The book’s called Living the Mysteries. It just received a very nice review from Patty Bonds at Abba’s Little Girl.

I just finished the most amazing book. It’s called “Living The Mysteries” by Scott Hahn and Mike Aquilina. Actually, the meat of the book is written by several of the Early Church Fathers who write on the mysteries of the faith. It is the perfect book for this time of year for those who have just entered the faith. I wish I had been taken through this book as part of the RCIA program I was involved in. We all know how woefully lacking so many RCIA programs are. (Except for St. Thomas the Apostle, where RCIA is what it was meant to be.)

The Fathers take us through each of the Sacraments. Not just what they mean and how they are administered, but what their basis is and what they will accomplish in our lives if we are open to them. It’s like a tour through the channels of grace that bring us new life from the author of life. I’ve never read anything that explains the Sacraments so well…

Read on. It’s a lovely review.

Posted on

Hip Hip …

A rousing cheer goes up for Rick Tomsick, Tertullian scholar at Ursuline College in Ohio, who finished admirably in the Pittsburgh Marathon day before yesterday.

Among Rick’s titles are “Tertullian’s Menagerie: De Idololatria and the Rule of Faith,” “Structure and Exegesis in Tertullian’s Ad Uxorem and De Exhortatione Castitatis,” “An Imperative to Defend: Tertullian’s Influence on the Definition of Doctrine in de Praescriptione Haereticorum,” “Early Christians and Culture,” and “What, Then, Can We Do? Symmetry and Substance in Tertullian’s Early Disciplinary Works.”

Maybe next he’ll turn to De Spectaculis.

Posted on

Palms for Psalms

I just learned that The Bible Today reviewed Praying the Psalms with the Early Christians, the book I co-authored with Chris Bailey. The reviewer is none other than Sister Dianne Bergant, biblical scholar and devoted sister of my beloved St. Agnes.

The book is a guide for praying thirty-four of the one hundred fifty psalms of the Psalter. Each chapter includes the Revised Standard Version translation of the psalm under consideration. A short phrase or two from the psalm serves as the focus of the examination. This is followed by a reflection, taken from the writings of one of the ancient Christian writers, that addresses the theology found in that phrase. For example: death is the focus chosen from Psalm 73; St. Jerome’s musing on the death of a friend is the selected reflection. Each chapter ends with two questions that invite the readers to bring the implications of the reflections into their own lives. Each entry opens with a few sentences that provide a brief explanation of the psalm. However, this book is meant to lead the reader into a form of lectio divina, not biblical interpretation. Besides introducing the reader to a few of the early Christian writers, it is a fine guide for this form of prayer.