Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Year With The Church Fathers: An Extraordinary Book in Every Way

I always know that anything Mike Aquilina writes is going to have solid worth behind it. When it is a book that has anything to do with the Church Fathers then I know it will be solid gold. Aquilina's passion for the wisdom of the Fathers always is passed on to readers in such a way that they appreciate the Fathers for themselves, which is no easy feat when one considers how long ago they wrote.

In A Year with the Church Fathers: Patristic Wisdom for Daily Living, Aquilina has surpassed himself. This is not simply a collection of interesting or informative excerpts from the Church Fathers' archives. It is a well-planned, daily retreat that is designed to progress through a year with the ancient Fathers as spiritual guides. The 365 meditations are intended to move the reader, with prayer and contemplation, to a deeper life with Jesus Christ.

Each day's title and brief summary from Aquilina put the reader in the subject. The selected Father's brief commentary then expounds on a topic. Lest one should worry that the language will be difficult, Aquilina made sure it is contemporary and accessible while retaining the full meaning intended by each author. This is followed by a question or two which help readers relate fully to what was just read. A brief but specific prayer end the session.

Tan Books has done this book proud. This book is a beautiful thing that reflects the value of the words within it to our souls. The cover may not be actual leather but it certainly feels like it. Pages are gilt-edged. A sturdy ribbon marker matches the cover. Moreover, the book design is elegant and decorative in an understated but classic way. A Year with the Fathers is not only useful but a book that could become an heirloom in your family. Readers will know that I do not give this praise lightly.

This book arrived at exactly the right time for Tom and me. We were resolved to return to a neglected habit of reading aloud to each other a brief spiritual piece each day. In the few days that we have been using this devotional resource, we have been mightily impressed by how easy it is to understand and by how there is always a point or two that speaks to one of us for further thought. Mike Aquilina has given the Church another treasure in this resource which I cannot recommend highly enough.

I am sharing the first day's meditation in order to show the simplicity with which ideas are put, but the elegance and far reaching thought that is achieved. This is extremely timely both in beginning "at the beginning" and also in subject matter for modern times. (Note: Aquilina advises beginning with a prayer by simply saying, "Come Holy Spirit.")
Day 1
Put God at the beginning

No matter what scientific explanation you come up with for the origin of the universe, says St. Basil, you'll go far wrong if you don't put God at the beginning of it.

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."

I stop struck with admiration at this thought. What shall I say first? Shall I demonstrate the vanity of the Gentiles? Shall I praise the truth of our faith?

The philosophers of Greece have tried very hard to explain nature, and not one of their systems has remained firm and unshaken. They are enough in themselves to destroy one another. Those who were too ignorant to rise to a knowledge of God could not allow that an intelligent cause presided at the birth of the universe—a primary error that trapped them in sad consequences.

Some fell back on material principles and attributed the origin of the universe to the elements of the world. Others imagined that atoms, and invisible bodies, molecules and tubes, unite to form the nature of the visible world.

It is because they did not know how to say, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Fooled by their inherent atheism, they thought that nothing governed or ruled the universe, and that everything was given up to chance.

To keep us from this error, the writer on creation, from the very first words, enlightens our understanding with the name of God: "In the beginning God created."
-St. Basil, Hexameron, 1.2

In God's Presence Consider...
In a world where science has made so much progress, what does it mean to put God at the beginning?

Closing Prayer
Father, you alone are eternal, and you alone live in unapproachable light. I thank you that you have made me in your image; have mercy on my sins, and save me through your Son Jesus Christ.


  1. I have it. It is wonderful, just as you describe.

    I think that's 365 days.

  2. 365 ... 356 ... my crazy fingers! Thanks for the catch on that. :-)

  3. Does this follow the liturgical year, or is it simply random?

  4. Since it is the Church Fathers, it is just a progression from simple to more complicated ... not connected to the liturgical year or Mass readings.

  5. Since I am brand new here, I feel rather lost as to "who's who" and where their "depth-of-expertise" comes from. It's not that I doubt anyone but it's that I have experienced individuals who are "less-than-Roman" in their Catholicism and with my almost 60 years as a Roman Catholic, I value my Faith so much that I don't want to be mislead. Please don't misunderstand my doubtfulness here. I'm simply looking for a trustworthy site to share my Catholic Faith and learn and experience it more. God Bless ya'll.

  6. Anon., I completely understand. One really cannot be too careful, especially when reading blogs. :-)

    You can read more about Mike Aquilina here. His blog is here. He is faithful to the magisterium and writes a great deal about the Fathers of the Church. If you read his book Roots of the Faith you will be able to see evidence of his faithfulness.

    As for me, I am a convert of about 10 years standing. Definitely I believe that what the Church teaches is true. Period.

    Hope that helps a bit. :-)