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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. Season 1 covers all the Fathers in chronological order. Season 2 covers the Ecumenical Councils. Episodes without season number are miscellaneous topics. A production of CatholicCulture.org.

A podcast about the Fathers of the Church—the foundational figures in Christian history. Hosted by popular Patristics author Mike Aquilina. Season 1 covers all the Fathers in chronological order. Season 2 covers the Ecumenical Councils. Episodes without season number are miscellaneous topics. A production of CatholicCulture.org.


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A podcast about the Fathers of the Church—the foundational figures in Christian history. Hosted by popular Patristics author Mike Aquilina. Season 1 covers all the Fathers in chronological order. Season 2 covers the Ecumenical Councils. Episodes without season number are miscellaneous topics. A production of CatholicCulture.org.




2.2 The Council of Nicaea: First and Foremost

Nicaea (325 A.D.) is the first of the ecumenical councils, not only in chronology, but also in importance. It occupies a certain primacy. The phrase "Nicene Faith" is sometimes used as an equivalent term for classic Christian doctrine. That's how we see it after centuries of development. But what did it mean to those who attended? LINKS Eusebius of Caesarea, Oration in Praise of the Emperor Constantine https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/fathers/view.cfm?recnum=2883 Eusebius...


2.1 Where Councils Come From: An Introduction

When the Church is in crisis, its bishops meet in council. Since the generation of the Apostles, this has been the customary way of settling major disputes over doctrine and discipline. In the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 15, the Twelve met with certain elders and chosen experts to exercise an authority that was different from the authority that any of them possessed individually. This established a practice for the ages to follow. The councils in the time of the Fathers—the first seven...


Martyrdom and the Mass

In the first three centuries of Christian history, the practice of the faith was a capital crime, and many gave their lives as the ultimate testimony. The Church called them “witnesses”—in Greek, martures, whence we get the English word martyr. To speak of martyrdom, the early Fathers employed language usually reserved only for the Eucharist. So what does martyrdom have to do with the Mass? LINKS Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, “Eucharist and Mission,” in Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith: The Church...


Through Hymns, With Hymns, In Hymns: The Fathers & Music

Music formed the early Christians in faith. It catechized them. Inspired them. Unified them. Healed them. The Fathers — from Ignatius of Antioch to John of Damascus — testify to this fact. Many of them wrote music. Augustine wrote a book about music. At a time when most people could not read, music was the most effective delivery system for doctrine. The decisions of the councils would have been dead letters apart from their placement in musical settings. In this episode, early Christian...


Apocrypha Now! On the Myth of the Lost Gospels

Why is it big news when someone claims to find a fragment of a lost "gospel"? Why do people say that these ancient apocrypha threaten to overturn everything Christians believe? In the second century, some of these pseudonymous books appeared and quickly landed in the remainder bin, called into question by giants such as Irenaeus and Tertullian. They're news today because of a modern myth, crafted by one of the renowned literary critics of the 20th century — and sustained by ivy-league...


The Paradoxical Prestige of the Deacon in the Early Church

Most lowly and most loved, deacons played supremely important roles in the early Church. Think Lawrence of Rome. Think Ephrem of Syria. They were consistently voted most likely to be pope. Jerome wryly observed that when a bishop wanted to demote a deacon, he ordained him to the priesthood. LINKS Ignatius of Antioch, The Epistle to the Trallians https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/fathers/view.cfm?recnum=1630 Ignatius of Antioch, The Epistle to the Philadelphians...


Catena — The Chain That Set Scripture Free

Ever wonder how Bible study was done in the early Church? It was done with chains. The CATENA did the work that Bible software does for us today. It did the work of concordances and even entire shelves of commentaries. Catena is Latin for chain, and the links in these long-ago chains were extracts from the sermons and letters of earlier interpreters of Scripture. LINKS Roger Pearse’s blog entries on ancient catenae https://www.roger-pearse.com/weblog/category/catena/ St. Thomas Aquinas,...


How Clericalism Happened: A Tale of Theodosius

When asked what’s wrong with the Church, commentators from Pope Francis to Russell Shaw will blame an elusive beast named “clericalism.” But what is clericalism, and where did it come from? In this episode we track the beast to its birthplace, the Church of the fourth century. Our native guides are Augustine, John Chrysostom, and others—who offer us good counsel for defeating it in our own time. LINKS Anonymous, The Epistle to Diognetus https://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0101.htm Minucius...


The Healing Imperative: How Christians Invented the Hospital

The hospital arose as a Christian institution, dependent on the Christian principles of charity and hospitality. There were no pre-Christian hospitals. This episode tells the story of how it happened—how the early Church changed the practice of medicine forever. LINKS Mike Aquilina, The Healing Imperative: The Early Church and the Invention of Medicine as We Know It https://catholicbooksdirect.com/products/mike-aquilina-the-healing-imperative Gary B. Ferngren, Medicine and Health Care in...


Women and Children First: Reconfiguring the Roman Family

The Empire faced a crisis in the year 9 A.D. Romans were not reproducing. They weren’t even marrying. Caesar Augustus recognized that this posed a dire threat to the Roman way of life—the empire’s cultural and intellectual heritage, and its homeland security. He made new laws to encourage fertility. He even proposed a pagan “theology of the body.” His successors made more laws. All failed, and eventually it was Christianity that restored and revived the Roman family and Roman world. Here’s...


56—John of Damascus: Last Witness to a Lost World

John of Damascus, the last of the Fathers, was born into a world newly conquered. In the seventh century, many lands that were once home to Eastern Christianity, had fallen to the invading armies of Arab Muslims. John’s father and grandfather, both devout Christians, served as treasury officials for the Muslim caliphate. So John was able to provide a rare outsider’s view of Islam when it was new on the world scene. In Christian history he is known as the great defender of the practice of...


55—Isidore of Seville: Last of the Red-Hot Latin Fathers

Isidore of Seville lived at a time when the memory (or fantasy) of a homogeneous Roman culture was rapidly fading. It was a time to gather the last of the classical harvest into the barns. The conquering “barbarians,” the Visigoths, had now been ruling in Spain for centuries. They were no longer foreigners. Rather, a new culture was forming, a “melting pot” of Roman and northern elements. A man of holy ambition, Isidore laid strong foundations for the medieval European culture that would...


54—Maximus the Confessor: Where East and West Meet

By the seventh century, Christian thinkers of East and West were settling into scholastic methods, synthesizing and systematizing the thought of their Greek or Latin forebears. Maximus represents the best mind (by far) in this movement. Greek by origin, he spent decades living in Latin lands. His writing reflected the beauty and brilliance of piety and theology on both sides of the Mediterranean. In Maximus (to steal a phrase from Pope John Paul II) the Church breathed with both lungs. He...


53—Gregory and His Greatness

His name retains its greatness, even in modern times—even for Christians who don’t know much history. They know Gregorian Chant, and maybe Gregorian Masses. Who was the Gregory behind those monuments? Born into nobility, he held vast estates in Italy and Sicily, but gave them up to be a monk. Then he gave up being a monk so that he could serve the Church. Elected pope, he recast the papacy as a full-time exercise of servitude. He was “servant of the servants of God,” and as such he reformed...


52—Benedict of Nursia: The Elusive Man Behind the Rule

Benedict was not the first monk to compose a rule for living in community — but he's certainly the most influential. He wrote the Rule that the Emperor Charlemagne would propose as guidebook for all monks in the West. Yet Benedict himself was self-effacing in the extreme, and he remains elusive for historians. Lately, he has emerged as a patron and model for people whose civilization could be entering a Dark Age. Know anybody like that? LINKS Benedict of Nursia, The Rule...


51—St. Patrick: Paternal and Patristic

Forget the shamrocks. Pour the green beer down the sink, and drive the snakes from the Emerald Isle of your imagination. Listen up and encounter the real St. Patrick, author of two passionate, fascinating Christian works—deserving of a place with the Church Fathers. Patrick arrived in pagan Ireland in the fifth century, first as a slave and then as an itinerant bishop. By the end of his life, Ireland was a Christian nation. LINKS Patrick of Ireland, Confessio...


50—Peter Chrysologus: The Doctor of (Short) Sermons

Peter Chrysologus is known as the “Doctor of Homilies,” and he always preached with brevity. Every word was golden. He was archbishop of Ravenna during that city's brief term as capital of the Western empire. His sermons rang like poems, rich with biblical insight and glimpses of ordinary life in a fifth-century urban center. LINKS Peter Chrysologus, a sermon in the Office of Readings https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=173 Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 148...


49—Romanus the Melodist: Through Hymns, with Hymns, in Hymns

Romanus the Melodist looms large from his lifetime in the sixth century. Today he is much sung and little known—at least with certainty. Beautiful legends have filled in the cracks of his biography. According to one, he was tone-deaf and non-musical when heaven granted him the gifts of composition and vocal performance. He went on to compose many verse homilies, kontakia, which are still sung in the Eastern churches today. Having lived in Homs, and then Beirut and Constantinople, he...


48—Leo the Great: Who Roared with the Voice of Peter

Though prolific in his words and prodigious in his deeds, Leo was utterly self-effacing. Classically educated, he never quoted the classics. He preached with Gospel simplicity. He strove always to let Christ shine through his sermons and his letters. Yet he made history for three world-changing interventions. It was Leo who stopped Attila the Hun’s rampage through Europe. It was Leo who put a decisive end to the ancient heresies about the natures of Christ. And it was Leo who kept the...


47—Vincent of Lerins: Believed Everywhere, Always, by All

All Christians respected the authority of Scripture, but already in the fifth century the Church was riven by conflicting interpretations of Scripture. A monk in Gaul, Vincent of Lerins, developed a formula to determine true doctrine from false. "All possible care must be taken," he said, "that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all." Conservative by temperament, Vincent nonetheless allowed for development in religion through the ages. He emphasized the special...