It is said that no Church reform
worthy of its name has ever worked without looking back at the Fathers of
the Church. "They" states Pope John Paul II, "had presented
Christian doctrines over and above cultural considerations."
There was no such thing as Greek
or African or Latin Catholicism. It was just One, Holy, Catholic and
Because of the great confusion
within the Church today, a growing awareness of the importance of the
Fathers, those great early saints who explained Catholic doctrines simply,
completely and ascetically, has arisen. But the reader is faced with a
problem: most writings of the Fathers are not available in English. And the
first English translations are out of print.
A "Father" is a
teacher of the spiritual life that leads to heaven. He teaches the way to be
"born again." They make up the greater bulk of the first saints of
the Catholic Church. . .up to roughly the 8th century.
Abbe Migne (1880-75) collected
many of their writings: 222 volumes of the Latin Fathers and 161 volumes of
the Greek Fathers.
St. Vincent of Lerin described
them as "those who, in diverse times and places persevered in the
communion and faith of the one Catholic Church as approved teachers."
Today, we add the requirement that he be learned and a saint.
The triple test of the early
Church wherewith all the Fathers qualified and which, I think, most priests
today would fail are "quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus."
Or universitas, antiquitas and consensio.
The authority of the Fathers
lies, firstly, on asceticism, i.e. they teach us what we must do to go to
heaven. And, secondly, on dogma, i.e. what we must believe to go to heaven.
Most of them wrote on other topics but this is outside our present interest.
"There can be no true
formation of Christians without the Tradition of the Fathers of the Church.
The Catholic Faith rests on the Word of God and the Tradition of the Fathers
as permanent foundation."