Saturday, June 12, 2010

Review: The Fathers Volume II by Pope Benedict XVI

No doubt about it, Pope Benedict XVI is a born educator -- his speaches and writings are amazing learning/teaching tools to elucidate the Catholic faith. In addition, his writings are always very accessible to even this non-theologian/non-academic!

Since I'm such a fan, I jumped at the chance offered by The Catholic Company to review his latest volume:  The Fathers Volume II, based on Pope Benedict's Wednesday audiences given in 2008 and 2009.  These particular audiences (given in Italian) focused on the Fathers of the Catholic Church.  This book, published by Our Sunday Visitor, contains the official English translations of the 25 audiences.  [For a great overview of the Fathers of the Church, read NewAdvent's article  -- this will explain who the fathers are and why we rely on their writings/teachings to help learn more about our faith.]

What are "Wednesday General Audiences"?  From the Pontifical North American College website, the purpose of general audiences is explained as:
So the Wednesday audience is used by the Holy Father as a chance to teach the faithful ... and Pope Benedict used many of his audiences during 2008 and 2009 to teach all of us about the foundations or our Catholic faith, using the Fathers of the Church as the theme.  Each audience (and "chapter" in this book) covers a different "Father of the Church":
Each Wednesday, the Holy Father holds a general audience in Vatican City at 10:30 a.m. During the audience, a Gospel passage is read and is followed by a reflection given by the Holy Father. After this reflection, the Holy Father will greet many of the large groups present at the audience. At the end, he imparts his Apostolic Blessing upon the pilgrims present, their family and friends, as well as any religious objects.

1. St. Leo the Great
2. Boethius and Cassiodorus
3. St. Benedict of Nursia
4. Pseudo-Dionysius, the Areopagite
5. St. Romanus the Melodist
6. St. Gregory the Great
7. St. Columban
8. St. Isidore of Seville
9. St. Maximus the Confessor
10. John Climacus
11. Bede, the Venerable
12. St. Boniface, the Apostle of the Germans
13. Ambrose Autpert
14. Germanus of Constantinople
15. St. John Damascene
16. St. Theodore the Studite
17. Rabanus Maurus
18. John Scotus Erigena
19. Sts. Cyril and Methodius
20. St. Odo of Cluny
21. St. Peter Damian
22. Symeon the New Theologian
23. St. Anselm
24. Peter the Venerable
25. St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Each of these men have one thing in common -- they each wrote or preached in the first and second generations after the Apostles, helping to defend the newborn Christian faith, helping to elucidate the tenets of the Catholic Church, helping to "create a timeless anchor of faith that extends through the challenges of today."

Now, some of these guys I'd heard of -- Sts. Cyril and Methodius who helped bring the Faith to Eastern Europe, St. Boniface who evangelized the Germanic peoples, St. Bernard of Clairvaux who is famous for his great devotion to the Blessed Mother as well as some others.  But, about a quarter of these men, I'd never read about before:  Boethius and Cassiodorus, Ambrose Autpert, Germanus of Constantinople, St. Theodore the Studite, and Rabanus Maurus.  But, this little book ... with its half-a-dozen pages on each man's life and works, has taught me so much about our Faith, has helped me to understand the underpinnings of some of the Catechism I take for granted.

This is a great read but also a great book to have on each Catholic's shelves (as would Volume 1, which discusses the fathers from St. Clement (the third pope) to St. Augustine of Hippo).  This is a wonderful reference book or meditation and I will be using it next Fall when teaching my own kids about our Catholic faith.

This book was sent to me as a part of the Catholic Company's book review program.  I was only required to write a review, but the above comments are my true and honest opinion of this work.  For further information about this book, please check the Catholic Company's website.

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