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Way of the Fathers with Mike Aquilina

Religion & Spirituality Podcasts

A podcast about the Fathers of the Church—the foundational figures in Christian history. Hosted by popular Patristics author Mike Aquilina.

A podcast about the Fathers of the Church—the foundational figures in Christian history. Hosted by popular Patristics author Mike Aquilina.


United States


A podcast about the Fathers of the Church—the foundational figures in Christian history. Hosted by popular Patristics author Mike Aquilina.




31—Gregory of Nyssa: Zero to Hero

Gregory of Nyssa was born into a family of high achievers. His brother was Basil the Great; his sister was Macrina the Younger. In Gregory’s young life, however, he was something of a disappointment. It’s not that he was a sinner or unbeliever, but he seemed to lack the holy ambition and drive that were characteristic of his older siblings. Basil often reprimanded him as a bumbler. But at Basil’s death Gregory came into his own and suddenly emerged a major player on the world scene—a master...


30—Gregory Nazianzen: Greatness in the Passive Voice

All Gregory wanted was a quiet place where he could relax with his books and a few close friends. From young adulthood he believed God was calling him to the contemplative life, and to old age he never lost that sense. But history kept dragging him into its current. First, his father (a bishop) coerced him into ordination to the priesthood. Then his closest friend, Basil the Great, pressured him to be ordained a bishop. Both times he put up little resistance, but later resented the actions...


29—Basil and the Beginning of Christian Social Thought

History calls him "Basil the Great," and his greatnesses were many. He was a brilliant theologian; and anyone today who writes about tradition or the Holy Spirit must engage his works, which are foundational in the field. He also produced some of the earliest sustained reflections on the social order implicit in the Gospel. But he didn't just think about these things. He did something about them. As bishop he was a model administrator, marshaling the resources of Christians in order to build...


28—Ephrem, Symbolist

As a theological poet, he is peerless but for Dante. Yet Ephrem’s fame rests not only on his words, but also on his heroic deeds. He lived almost his entire life in a war zone. He helped invent the hospital and the women’s choir. He served tirelessly in times of famine and natural disaster—and he died caring for the sick during a pandemic. More than 500 of his hymns have survived into our time. Links Ephraim the Syrian, The Nisibene Hymns...


27 - Aphrahat: Parsee Sage Primary in Time

Aphrahat is known in the tradition as "the Persian Sage." He is the first Father in our series to live, geographically and culturally, outside the Roman Empire. Born in the late third century in the Persian Empire, he flourished amid persecution. Aphrahat is the earliest prominent witness to Syriac Christianity. He wrote in a dialect of Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus. He maintained close contact with Judaism and demonstrated a profound knowledge of Hebrew Scriptures and Jewish...


26 - Hilary of Poitiers: Exile and Understanding

He is often called the Athanasius of the West, and the two men had much in common. They defended the Council of Nicaea and opposed the emperor ... and suffered exile for their trouble. But Hilary's approach to controversy differed from that of Athanasius. He listened to his opponents, read their works, and found common ground when he could. When he couldn't, he was able to address their concerns clearly and directly. He was even willing to work with heretics as they opposed more radical...


Ep. 25—Eusebius: History from the Wrong Side of History

Every Christian historian or history buff is dependent upon the work of Eusebius of Caesarea. He didn’t invent Church history, but his writings made it a serious discipline. He was the first to attempt a comprehensive, universal history of Christianity. He wanted his account to be the official story. Yet in his own lifetime he showed the perils and ironies of living within history. He did this by aiding and abetting true villains and assisting in the persecution of saints and...


Ep. 24—Athanasius against the World

The world awoke to find itself heretic, but one man would not accept the situation. Athanasius stood fast against emperors, bishops, and even synods of bishops. Ordained as a young man, he lived to reign as bishop for 45 years. But 17 of those years he spent in exile. He was exiled five times at the orders of four different emperors. Athanasius became symbolic—the face of the Council of Nicaea, with its creed and its special word: “consubstantial.” As the fortunes of Nicaea waxed and waned,...


Ep. 23—Alexander’s Lagtime Stand

Alexander can’t say he wasn’t warned. His predecessor as bishop of Alexandria, Peter, had told him not to trust Arius. But Alexander ignored the advice. Then Arius went into open rebellion, and then his heresy spread throughout the world. And then Alexander had to act decisively, arguing strongly against the Arian heresy and prevailing at the Council of Nicaea in 325. Links St. Alexander of Alexandria, Letter to the Bishop of...


Ep. 22 - Anthony of the Desert: The Solitary Celebrity

Through one man’s witness, monasticism took the world by storm. Anthony of Egypt became history’s least probable celebrity. He gave up his money and possessions. He couldn’t read or write. He fled to the desert to be alone with God. Yet he drew disciples wherever he went. His desert became a city populated by monks and hermits. Philosophers and emperors sought his sage advice. In the course of his life he exercised a profound influence on the history of religion. Links St. Athanasius, Life...


Ep. 21 - Lactantius: The Fall & Rise of the Christian Cicero

He was the greatest rhetorician in the Latin-speaking world. Born in North Africa, Lactantius was summoned to serve at the imperial court. He converted to Christianity and, with the persecution of Diocletian, lost his job and lived in poverty. He continued writing to strengthen the faithful. With the rise of Constantine and the legalization of Christianity, he was restored to glory. In his writings we have a unique eyewitness account of one of history’s most important transitional...


Ep. 20 - Origen, Part 2: Hero, Heretic - or Hybrid?

It’s hard to be an intelligent Christian without somehow handling Origen’s ideas. He set the ground rules for scientific study of the Bible. He wrote foundational works in spirituality, apologetics, and fundamental theology. In this episode, we look at those big accomplishments, but also examine the ideas that got him into trouble. Do souls exist before they get bodies? Does Satan get saved in the end? Does allegory trump history when we read the Bible? And did Origen really say all these...


Ep. 19 - Origen: The Most Controversial Christian Ever?

Origen of Alexandria was one of the most important figures in Christian antiquity—most brilliant and most productive—yet also one of the most complicated. He was widely influential and widely despised. He was praised for his accomplishments and blamed for disasters. He wrote thousands of books and invented several academic disciplines, including scientific biblical studies, fundamental theology, and spiritual theology. Toward the end of life he endured tortures rather than deny the faith;...


Ep. 18 - The Short, Happy Life of Cyprian of Carthage

He was a believer for little more than a decade, but in that time he managed to set one of the pre-eminent examples of Christian leadership. Before his conversion, Cyprian had lived the Carthaginian dream. He was wealthy and successful, but miserable and maybe addicted to drink and other pleasures. With his baptism came a transformation. Within a year he was ordained a priest. In two years he was bishop over all of North Africa. His years in office were a time of unprecedented crisis. His...


Ep. 17 - The Long, Strange Trip of Hippolytus of Rome

He started as a papal critic, became history's first antipope, and today is honored — with the pope he rejected — as a saint whose feast day is universal. Go figure. Hippolytus of Rome is one of the great curiosities of early Christian history. In ancient times he was known for his encyclopedic books of theology, which became standard reference works in the centuries to follow. The Church revived his Mass prayers in the last century, and they're still in use today. Links The Refutation of...


Ep. 16 - Clement of Alexandria: Teacher in a New Kind of School

Alexandria, in Egypt, was the intellectual capital of the Greco-Roman world, and as the second century turned to the third it emerged as an influential center of Christian thought. Its first impression was spectacular — and it all came from a teacher named Clement. He was a seeker after truth, and had traveled the Mediterranean to study under the greatest Christian teachers. He settled in Alexandria, the site of a newly founded school, and eventually he came to lead the school. Several of...


Ep. 15 - Perpetua: A Rare Female Voice from Antiquity

Perpetua of Carthage is almost unique in the literature of her time. She is a woman and a writer. Over the course of centuries, traditional Greco-Roman culture produced very few female writers. Nor did ancient literature bother much with the particular concerns of women. So Perpetua stands out as a witness to women’s experience in the third century—and the changed status of women in the Church. A Christian martyr, she kept a diary while in jail. The diary records ordinary details, such as...


Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast Announcement

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Ep. 14 - Tertullian: Who Forged Words and Invented Freedoms

Thank Tertullian of Carthage for his role in forming a distinctively western Christianity. He gave us words in our own language to express the inexpressible: words like Trinity and Sacrament. He also introduced the world to the idea of freedom of conscience. Our civilization rests on his ideas. Links Tertullian, Apology https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/fathers/view.cfm?recnum=1662 Tertullian, To...


Ep. 13 - Tertullian and the Theology of Sarcasm

Sarcastic, bombastic, and brilliant, Tertullian of Carthage may be the most entertaining of the Church Fathers. He also did more than anyone else to launch theology in the Latin language. His life and his work were provocations to his opponents—who included many pagans and more than a few Christians. Learn about him (and the fascinating world of early North African Christianity) in this episode. Links Tertullian,...