In reviewing my new book, A Year with the Church Fathers, David Scott at Catholic News Agency has written an appreciation of my work over the last decade and a half. He calls me “the unofficial family historian of the Catholic Church” and portrays me as the “eager younger brother” in God’s family — the family member who’s always pulling down old photo albums, letters and deeds. I’m profoundly moved by the review, though I’ve always pictured myself more as the batty uncle who embarrasses the family by showing up on the TV show “Hoarders.”
It’s a strange feeling having such a tribute come from a writer I’ve admired through most of my professional life. Non sum dignus. I can’t say I agree with David about the degree to which I’ve succeeded, but it’s gratifying to know that someone sees what I’m trying to do. It’s a long review, but here’s a snip.
The enthusiasm that Aquilina brings to his task is infectious, and he is diligent in sharing his discoveries. He blogs daily on Church history, archeology, and spirituality at FathersoftheChurch.com. His voice can be heard almost daily somewhere in America on some Catholic radio station. And he’s a familiar smiling face on EWTN, where he hosts regular series with his friend and colleague, the theologian Scott Hahn, with whom he founded the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology a few years back.
Most scholars of “paleo-Christianity” — the first centuries of the Church — are word guys. They study the paper trail — homilies, letters, teaching manuals, works of theological disputation, even the court records kept by the persecutors of the early Church.
Aquilina loves the words, too. But he also finds the sermon in the stuff, the theology expressed in the little things that the first Christians left behind — fading murals on catacomb walls, pottery and dishware, pieces of coinage, ancient hymns and Mass prayers, common household items … The point is that for Aquilina, the little things matter — because they tell us big things about what Catholics believe and how they look at the world …
Aquilina’s latest book is his most beautiful and most ambitious.
“A Year with the Church Fathers” is a kind of culmination of Aquilina’s efforts to turn the water of archeology and scholarship into the new wine of piety, devotion, and spirituality.