Sunday, March 13, 2011

On My Lenten Reading List

Church Fathers and Teachers
by Pope Benedict XVI
Ignatius Press (Kindle Edition)

Quite some few years ago, I can remember going out to breakfast with the pastor of my cousin's parish and driving past the family home. The pastor offered, as we drove by, that he had asked the principal of the grade school if the youngest boy was as smart as his older sisters, who were all quite brainy. Sister had responded with a smile that he was indeed and perhaps even smarter; it was just that he was a "lazy boy". Reading this collection of Wednesday Audience talks of the Holy Father reminded me of that conversation and of the fact that I'd have to class myself as a "lazy boy" when compared with the great monks of the Middle Ages whom Pope Benedict XVI discusses in the course of this very agreeable little book. I recommend it highly for all, but especially for those who are looking for something to enrich themselves during Lent, longer than a daily meditation from MAGNIFICAT though not a full book. You won't need lots of time or a dictionary to benefit from these marvelous teachings about our fathers in faith. Any of the collections of general audience talks from the Holy Father would fit the bill, as each Wednesday is really stand alone, but yet most edifying and thought provoking.

My special joy from this volume, which treats the last of the Church Fathers and a goodly number of teachers or doctors of the faith from the Middle Ages, is to be impressed by these men, most of whom spent at least part of their lives in a monastery or two. The "lazy boy" thing comes in as I marvel at men who were entrusted to the monks yet as children and who fell in love with monastic prayer (communal and personal), with study and hard work. All of them became accomplished Latinists and not few mastered the ancient Greek language as well. They were not only repositories of the wisdom of the ages; they mediated in a cultural dialog across centuries, contributing to a new synthesis which included both the ancients and the new peoples of the Continent. I envy them for giving themselves generously from their youth to their studies, learning Latin and in some cases Greek, and reading the great philosophers and the early Fathers of the Church. If only I hadn't been such a "lazy boy"! If I missed out on the "study" part of the triad, I guess I have to compensate with hard work in other areas and dedication to prayer.

The "lazy boy" came home to me in another way as I was reading the couple talks the Holy Father dedicated to distinguishing between "monastic" and "scholastic" theology. I must have been asleep at my desk the day the professor explained the reason why we call it Scholastic Theology. I got the school (scholastic) part, but somehow I missed the part about cathedral school as opposed to monastery school, as in Monastic Theology! It's never too late, even past 60, to learn!

If you don't have a Kindle or a Catholic book store near by, I hope you have a Catechism of the Catholic Church at home. Make 10 minutes study per day yours for this Lent! If you haven't already, now is the time to break out of the "lazy boy" mode!

(I almost forgot! I also learned why a certain St. Theodore was called "The Studite"... Check it out for yourself!}

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