Tuesday, February 20, 2007

the Mommas and the Poppas

Not the 60's singing group... the writers and thinkers who, as a body, have most influenced Catholic thought, ...AKA "the Church Fathers" and "Doctors of the Church."

Examples: Polycarp of Smyrna, Augustine of Hippo , Teresa of Avila. Many of them were instrumental in my own conversion to Christ and to Catholicism. What can I say? I read Augustine's Confessions while working as a motel night auditor during college. Yes, I know its geeky, but God chooses differing treatments based on the needs of the patient. Guilty as charged. I cried when I read about Polycarp's Martyrdom as part of my Classical languages curriculum.

So, when I ran across this quote toward the end of Michael Casey's excellent book, Sacred Reading:The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina I knew I had to post it. The whole book is very helpful, full of practical advice on how to begin and continue a practice of meditative reading of sacred texts. This section in particular has made me think long and hard about the function of sacred texts, indeed, of theology in general, within the life of the Church and in my own life.

"Another reason for their importance is that nearly all of the Church Fathers had pastoral responsibilities. They wrote to help people come to grips with the teachings of Christ. As far as I know, theology was not seen as profession or occupation in the first millenium. It was considered more as a concomitant of pastoral care, an essential component of the office of the bishop and his helpers.

Saint Benedict, likewise, demanded that abbots and other officials be chosen not only for their exemplary lives, but for their abilities to communicate to others the values by which they lived. Texts written from such a perspective tend to be existential, experiental, and practical.

Theory is not allowed to run loose. So much heresy was simply a matter of one aspect of the truth being taken to extremes, whereas pastoral concern restrains theory within the bounds of moderation."

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