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Catholic Spiritual Direction

How can I learn more about the early Christian Fathers?

November 13, 2011 by  
Filed under Apologetics, Books, Church Teaching, Dan Burke, Resources

Dear Dan, I saw your conversion story on EWTN’s Journey Home Program and I am very interested in learning more about the Fathers of the Church. I am a protestant and do have a personal relationship with Christ but I am trying to better understand more about the early Church. Thanks in advance for your assistance.

A: It was a joy to do the show and even more so to engage in the behind-the-scenes conversations with so many who are seeking to either deepen their relationship with Christ or to really uncover what this Catholic thing is all about. A few have posed some form of this question so I thought I would provide a few resource ideas for those exploring these important source documents. It is worth noting that one of the key turning points in my journey was when I decided to ask the Catholic Church what it meant by what it said rather than allowing those outside of the Church to dictate the entirety of my understanding.

One of the ways I did this was through reading the early Christian Fathers. After all, it seemed absurd to ignore the perspective of those who were either direct disciples of the Apostles themselves, or the disciples of the disciples of the Apostles. Not only did they live and walk with them, many were tortured and murdered because they would recant their faith. As you might imagine it was a bit odd to me that my Evangelical friends insisted on a consistent and contextual interpretation of scripture (i.e. the analogy of faith) but they readily dismissed the context from which the bible itself emerged – the Catholic Church. The scriptures did not drop from the sky. They emerged and were preserved and assembled by the Bishops of the Catholic Church. How is it that we can trust scripture and then completely dismiss those whom God used to bring it to us?

So, the best way, in my opinion, to learn about the early Church Fathers today is through two very trustworthy sources/books:

Blessings to you on your journey and exploration. I pray that whatever you learn and uncover will only serve to deepen your love for God and your relationship with Him.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the founder of Catholic Spiritual Direction, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and author of the award winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God. Beyond his “contagious” love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN’s National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN’s Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Walter

    Dear Mr. Burke, I have heard your conversion story on The Journey Home and the follow-up on Deep in Scripture. I was impressed with your manner in which you engaged with Marcus Grodi on both programs. It was a joy to listen to thoughtful and intelligent men discussing their relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Dear Walter – thank you very much. It was a delight to spend time with Marcus. He is a good man.

  • Guest

    God bless you, Dan.  I loved that Interview.  Your statement above says it all. “As you might imagine it was a bit odd to me that my Evangelical friends
    insisted on a consistent and contextual interpretation of scripture
    (i.e. the analogy of faith) but they readily dismissed the context from
    which the bible itself emerged – the Catholic Church. The scriptures did
    not drop from the sky. They emerged and were preserved and assembled by
    the Bishops of the Catholic Church. How is it that we can trust
    scripture and then completely dismiss those whom God used to bring it to
    us?”. 

    Sadly, all Protestant Churches believe the same as the Evangelicals. Yet the Truth is there for those who genuinely want hear it.  And truly the Holy Spirit led you to find that Truth and you arrived “Home”.  The Catholic Church has all these 2000+ preserved, taught and proclaimed God’s Truth, He Who reveals Himself in Jesus Christ.  She is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, wherein the Holy Spirit dwells to inspire, guide and ensure Her Teachings shall remain authentic, unerring and She shall at all times faithfully and lovingly shepherd Chris’s Sheep until He comes again. That is His Promise; that is God’s Truth. 

  • 4verderbers

    I love how the Holy Spirit works.  Why didn’t I think to get book requests from you.  I just ordered Church Fathers:  From Clement to Rome to Augustine by Pope Benedict XVI and The Fathers of the Church by Mike Aquilina.  Have you read either of them?  I’m wondering if I should start with your suggestions first.

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      You have chosen good resources!

  • Catherine Teresa, OCDS

    Also the entire works of the Early Church Fathers are online at http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/. There are quite a few.

  • Catherine Teresa, OCDS

    Hi Dan,

    I also watched you on EWTN and resonated especially with you when you mentioned that you knew someone who left the faith because they no longer believed. You said something to the effect suggesting maybe they really never knew Christ and/or the faith to begin with as how can you be speaking say to Marcus Grodi and then turn around and say I don’t believe Marcus Grodi exists or is true or something similar. This is my feeling about a lot of Catholics who leave the faith to join other churches. They have never really known or perhaps never deeply studied or learned and/or experienced the truth of the Catholic faith. Not pointing any fingers but if people would take the time to study the documents of the church and Catechism, to pray regularly and to decide to be obedient to the teachings of Christ and the Church no matter way, they would come to know the truth of the Catholic faith in my opinion. If we accept and do what God has taught us through the Jesus Christ and his Church (Scriptures and the official church teachings) then we will know it is true and all we need to do also is to ask God to help us to live these truths as we can’t do it alone but need to be connected to Christ (i.e. Jesus said, “I am
    the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you
    will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”) John 3:16. There is a online resource at http://www.catholicspiritualdirection.org/catholicbooksonline.html that has many links to various Church teachings as well as writings of the saints.

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      I agree…

  • Patti Day

    I watched JH Monday and the encore on Saturday because your jouney gave me much to think about. Unlike you, I was a dropout from Catholicism for many years. I half-heartedly tried Baptist, Buddist, and new age alternatives, non of which satisfied. I regret the years I was away from my faith. I’m trying to make up for rejected and lost opportunities to experience the beauty and tradition of Catholicism. I credit my return in great part to the Catechism taught to me by very faithful IHM sisters in grade school. That teaching was there in the dusty catalog in my head just waiting to be accessed again. So much to learn, so little time.  

  • Pamela

    Yes I am a protestant too and completely agree with the above comments.  The exploration of the early church fathers has been the most thrilling and inspirational journey of my christian faith.  When the scriptures say in Hebrews 11: “For we are surrounded by such a great host of witnesses” – this is a direct reference to the apostles and early church fathers and saints.  I have found a study of the writings of St Teresa of Avila has revolutionized my experience on prayer and deepened my relationship with Jesus in a way I had never dreamed possible.  Pamela from Johannesburg South Africa

    • http://www.spiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Thanks for your comments Pamela!

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