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Reliquary Roundup

Archeological discoveries (and inventions, Helenesque and otherwise) have been piling up …

Asia Times reports on joint efforts of Israel and the Vatican to excavate, preserve, and promote holy sites.

CNS gives a history (with photos) of Rome’s ancient Mamertine prison, where, according to tradition, St. Peter was incarcerated.

See photos of Psalms inscribed in a cave near Nag Hammadi in Egypt (where the Gnostic cache was found).

The Jerusalem Post visited the Jewish catacombs at Rome’s Villa Torlonia (echoes of my book Signs and Mysteries: Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols, illustrated by Lea Marie Ravotti).

A manuscript found in an Ethiopian monastery could be world’s oldest illustrated Christian work — fourth-century Gospels in Ge’ez.

And I’m sure you’ve read and heard all about the supposed “discovery” of John the Baptist’s relics in Bulgaria.

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You Go, 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’ve talked about St. Augustine on the KVSS “Spirit Morning Show” with Bruce and Kris McGregor. 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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The Good Kind of Jansenism

My friend and editor Gary Jansen has a new book out, Exercising Your Soul: Fifteen Minutes a Day to a Spiritual Life. I love the book. Gary has an endearing, attention-deficit quality that lets him deliver big lessons not only painlessly, but humorously. He goes deep, and takes us readers deep, without even a whiff of pious unction. For Jansen, a tattooed foot on the subway is the start of a mystical flight. By the end of the story, we know that these everyday distractions should be graces for us as well.

Kris McGregor talked with Gary about the book and podcasted the conversation. So we get to be the proverbial fly on the wall.

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OK, so I took up Kris McGregor’s challenge from yesterday. It’s an experiment, and I don’t know how far I’ll go with it. But the Facebook page is up. It’s the one with my photo.

Now my mom is the only one without an account.

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I just found out there’s a Mike Aquilina fan page on Facebook. I didn’t do it, and neither did my 93-year-old mom. Neither of us has a Facebook account! (Just in case you’re wondering why my mother doesn’t appear among my fans.)

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Update: Howell, with Joy

Thanks to those of you who wrote on behalf of a patrologist in need. Here’s a good-news update:

Catholic professor reinstated by University of Illinois for fall term

WASHINGTON (CNS) — A Catholic professor barred from teaching courses on Catholicism after he defended in class the church’s teaching on homosexual behavior has been reinstated by the University of Illinois. Kenneth Howell, an adjunct professor in the university’s religious studies department, learned of the decision July 29. He did not return phone calls from Catholic News Service seeking comment. The reinstatement came days after a deadline for suing the university set by the Alliance Defense Fund, which had taken on Howell’s case. Based in Scottsdale, Ariz., the alliance is a nonprofit Christian legal defense organization specializing in religious liberty, sanctity of life and protection of family issues. Attorney Jordan Lorance, part of the alliance’s legal team working on Howell’s case, told CNS the university’s decision came as a surprise. He charged that the university had violated Howell’s First Amendment right of free speech by firing him. “The matter is resolved for the moment and we’ll be watching to make sure this is a long-term resolution to the matter,” Lorance said, noting that Howell’s teaching status for the spring semester is unknown. Howell was dismissed in May following the spring term after a student described as “hate speech” his explanation of the church’s teaching that homosexual acts are morally wrong. The reinstatement was announced in a press release from Robin Neal Kaler, the university’s associate chancellor for public affairs. The release said Howell will be on the university’s payroll when he teaches “Introduction to Catholicism” this fall.

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Yo! I’m heading back to my hometown of Pittston, Pa., October 2, 2010, to celebrate Our Lady of the Rosary with a big procession, fireworks, and a marching band. I’ll be the guest of the Guardian of the Redeemer Catholic Men’s Fellowship. Read all about it here.

I’ll be talking to the guys. Bishop Bambera will offer the Holy Mass. Maybe we’ll get some Old Forge pizza. You up for it? Guys can pre-register here.

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My son treks from our little suburb into the big city (Pittsburgh) for Mass on Sunday nights, because he likes to go to Mass at the Oratory. “The Oratorians give it to you straight,” he says. I tag along every now and then, so I know he’s right. Most of the times I go, it’s Father David Abernethy saying Mass. His liturgical manner is edifying, his homilies memorable and quite clear about what we’re supposed to be doing.

So it’s a joy for me to announce Father David’s entry into the patristiblogosphere. He’s discussing the Desert Fathers at Philokalia. Check it out!

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Roots for the Home Team!

Hey, the new book is in!


I just finished taping a 10-part series on the book with Kris McGregor of KVSS Radio. But don’t wait to hear what I have to say about it. Listen to the experts:

Most Reverend Donald W. Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, says:

The Fathers of the Church have so much to say and Mike Aquilina, in his latest book Roots of the Faith: From the Church Fathers to You, helps us clearly to hear their voice.  This book opens the reader onto the wisdom of the Church’s great living tradition.  Here we find the Church Fathers’ insights on some of the most important questions of our day: marriage, the defense of human life and the meaning of human sexuality. Readers who are new to the writings of the Church Fathers will find this book inviting, engaging and a welcome guide for learning how to think with the mind of the Church.

Father Thomas Weinandy, noted patrologist and the U.S. bishops’ chief doctrinal official, says:

Mike Aquilina’s ardent faith in Jesus and his informed love for the Church and for her traditions splendidly shine forth in his new book: Roots of the Faith: From the Church Fathers to You.  He manifests this love by presenting to the reader the teachings of the early Fathers of the Church on subjects of contemporary importance, such as, the Mass, Confession, the Bible, marriage and family life, and the dignity of human life.  Aquilina’s own style is clear, lively, and imaginative.  This is an excellent book for laity and clergy alike.  It is not only informative, but it is also fun to read.

Bob Lockwood, author of A Guy’s Guide to the Good Life, says:

It is a question every Christian has to ask – do I believe what the early Christians believed? Mike Aquilina looks at our Catholic faith and the faith of our fathers (and mothers) to give a clear answer – if you could hop in a time machine and go back to the Church in its infancy, you’d find the faith you know today. With a scholar’s depth and a journalist’s gift to make it all simple, this is a book you read with a pen in hand to mark the good stuff on every page. Because Mike Aquilina defends the faith with a prayer…and a punch.