But there’s no need to be alarmed. The voices that I’m hearing are the good kind; like remembering the sage advice of a long-dead relative. You see after reading When the Church Was Young: Voices of the Early Fathers by Marcellino D’Ambrosio PhD, I’ve become more aware of the influence that the Early Church Fathers had in the first few centuries after the death of Christ. The voices I’m hearing are theirs. Now I can’t go to Mass without hearing them. They’re especially loud when I recite the Creed and profess my faith.
In WTCWY, Dr. D’Ambrosio took on the overwhelming task of summarizing the centuries of theology and Tradition that were honed through the brilliant minds and fervent souls of the men who bridged the gap between the days of the Apostles and what we might call the “Modern Church.” Not only did he want to summarize it, he also wanted to do it in a way that would speak to regular people-people like us who don’t have theology degrees.
Despite the monumental task, Dr. D’Ambrosio accomplished what he set out to do. In When The Church Was Young, he brought the stories of the early Church Fathers into the spotlight for regular Catholics like you and me-the P.I.P.s (People in the Pews).
Before reading his book, I had little or no understanding of who the Early Fathers were or of what they did. The only thing I did know was that I should treat them with respect for the work they did to spread the Gospel. Now that I’ve read WTCWY, I still have respect for the Early Fathers but now I know why they deserve it.
Dr. D’Ambrosio does several things very well in his book; two of which really stood out to me. First, he did an excellent job of helping us to get to know the men behind the theology. But, he did this in a way that helped me to see their humanity and their imperfection rather than letting me stay safely separated from them in my mind because of their perceived perfection. After all, how could I relate to someone who was perfect and a great leader in the Church? Given the fact that I’m neither of those things, it would be easy for me to let the perception of perfection separate me from these great men. Marcellino doesn’t let that happen. Instead, he paints portraits of these leaders that show their greatness and their brokenness without letting one overshadow the other.
The other aspect of this book that stood out to me was how well the author depicts the confusion, tension, violence and persecution that took place during that time. Dogma that seems to us to be a given part of our faith (i.e.: Christ’s humanity and divinity, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, etc.), were hotly debated and points of real discord for hundreds of years. It was truly a turbulent and often scary time. After reading WTCWY, I have a much greater appreciation for the struggles of that time period. And, I have to confess, I’m thoroughly and completely thankful to God that I was not alive during that time. I’m already easily confused. Can you imagine what I would have been like back then?
So, if you’re like me and don’t really know much about the early days of the Church, pick up a copy of When The Church Was Young by Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio. You’ll have a greater appreciation of Tradition, apostolic succession, and the Nicene Creed and you might learn a thing or two (or three, or four…)
Copyright 2014 Laura Nelson