Church Fathers and Mothers

Getting to know the great Patristic era can help us understand the present life in and of the Church. What is does “patristic” mean? The definition of the word patristic is “the branch of Christian theology that deals with the lives, writings, and doctrines of the early Christian theologians.” We can’t rely on the theological work of the past 100 years; there exists many fascinating thinkers of the early church who have given us a beautiful and often critical ways of knowing Jesus, and the life of the Church.

Our proposal is to study the Fathers and Mothers of the Church because they lived through difficult times and they guided the Church as lights in an age of darkness because they knew Christ in a deep way. They are trusted, they are reliable and they are faithful people who show us the path to Christ.

Who are these Father and Mothers? Here are some names (saints, pastors, teachers, confessors and witnesses) with which to familiarize yourself: Ambrose, Athanasius, Augustine, Bladina, Clement, Justin Martyr, John Chrysostom –the “Hammer of the Heretics”, Egeria, Maximus, Basil and the 2 Gregorys, Hilary, Cyril of Alexandria, Leo the Great and Gregory the Great, Macrina, Bede the Venerable, Cyprian of Carthage, Origen, Proba the Poet, Tertullian, and Thecla.

Some print resources:

Mike Aquilina and Christopher Bailey, Mothers of the Church: The Witness of Early Christian Women, Our Sunday Visitor, 2012.

Mike Aquilina, The Church Fathers, 3rd Edition edition, Our Sunday Visitor, 2013.

Mike Aquilina, The Witness of Early Christian Women: Mothers of the Church, Our Sunday Visitor, 2014.

John Chryssavgis, In the Heart of the Desert: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, revised edition, World Wisdom, 2008.

Marcellino D’Ambrosio, When the Church Was Young, Franciscan Media, 2014.

Christopher A. Hall, Reading Scripture with the Church FathersInterVarsity Press, 1998.

Christopher A. Hall, Living Wisely with the Church Fathers, InterVarsity Press, 2017.

Thomas Merton, The Wisdom of the Desert, revised edition, New Directions, 1970.

Boniface Ramsey, Beginning to Read the Fathers: Revised EditionPaulist Press, 2012.

Marjorie Strachey, The Fathers Without Theology: The Lives and Legends of The Early Church Fathers, Kessinger Publishing, 1958.

Laura Swan, OSB, Forgotten Desert Mothers, The: Sayings, Lives, and Stories of Early Christian Women, Paulist Press, 2013.

Benedict Ward, The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection, Liturgical Press, 1984.


Some video resources:

Saved on a Turbulent Sea: St. Gregory of Nazianzus on Jesus Christ by Fr. Andrew Hofer, OP.

Father Andrew Hofer, O.P., grew up as the youngest of ten children on a Kansas farm. He entered the Dominican Province of St. Joseph in 1995 and professed simple vows the following year. He made his profession of solemn vows in 2000, and was ordained a deacon in 2001 and a priest in 2002.

Father Andrew earned his BA from Benedictine College (Atchison, KS), the M. Litt., University of St. Andrews (Scotland), M.Div./S.T.B., S.T.L., Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception (Washington, DC) and the Ph.D., University of Notre Dame.

Father Andrew was on sabbatical in fall 2019 as a visiting lector at the Blackfriars Studium, Oxford and in spring 2020 as a visiting fellow at Yale Divinity School. During this sabbatical, he is at work on a book tentatively titled Patristic Preaching: The Word of God Becoming Flesh, funded by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship’s Teacher-Scholar grant.

He is a superb scholar and preacher in the tradition of St. Dominic.


Can Palamism and Thomism be Reconciled? with Matt Fradd and Father Peter Totleben, O.P.

On the Second Sunday of Great Lent the Melkite Church we honor the Holy Relics and liturgically commemorate Saint Gregory Palamas. This presentation is really a conversation between a Catholic apologist Matt Fradd and Dominican friar currently working on his doctorate in Rome, Father Peter Totleben, O.P. Father Peter has a keen interest in Eastern Christianity.

I’d recommend listening to the conversation if nothing else it will familiarize yourself with some key theological terms and concepts and the persons of Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Gregory Palamas. Stick with the conversation even when it sounds too dense, vague or even boring.