Church Fathers: From Clement of Rome to Augustine, by Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger)★★★★
This book is a series of homilies that Benedict gave (mostly) in St. Peters’ Square every Wednesday in late 2007. Each homily (chapter) is a short vignette of an early church saint, with a few saints receiving two chapters, and Augustine five. Benedict is salutatory toward each of these saints, save for perhaps a few comments regarding the separatist nature of Tertullian. Benedict skillfully brings out the significance of these people to our current lives. He instructs as to the holiness and wisdom of these church fathers, traits that call all of us to adapt. A few of the saints were from the eastern desert of Syria, saints that I was unfamiliar with.
My only criticism of this work is Benedict’s inability to also instruct us as to the flaws of these fathers. Cyril of Alexandria was a most belligerent and unkind character; Origin’s speculative theology caused many including his contemporaries to accuse him of heresy, Jerome was a mean, surly character, and so on. To have flaws does not diminish one’s importance as an early church father, which must be remembered.
My criticism aside, this text has charm, and will help the Christian toward gaining a better understanding of a few of the saints who went before us. Their holiness, their steadfastness in spite of persecution and death, give us all a reminder that our faith is not a cheap faith, but rather was purchased by the blood of many of our forefathers.