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**I’ve noticed that the blog hasn’t posted anything for the last couple of days, as it’s important to keep up content, I’ve decided to post an excerpt from my notes for the newly formed Parish Six-Week Discussion group that will be given this Wednesday, after the discussion group, the entire presentation notes will be posted on either my personal blog or this one. **

What exactly is a Church Father? Who is included? One definition that I’ve heard is that the Church Fathers are basically the followers of the Apostles. However, the problem with this definition is that some Church Father’s like St. Augustine lived nearly 350 years after the Apostles. In Marcellino D’Ambrosio’s book When the Church was Young, the author writes, “One often finds the following standard definition in encyclopedias and text books ”The Fathers of the Church are those characterized by orthodoxy, holiness, antiquity, and Church approval.”[1] D’Ambrosio goes on to mention that this definition is, of course, ambiguous as there are several Church Fathers who have not been canonized as saints like Origen and Tertullian.

The definition that is finally articulated by D’ambrosio in his book is “The Church Fathers are those great Christian writers who passed on and clarified the teaching of the apostles from approximately the second through the eighth centuries.”[2] I believe this to be a very distinct and thorough definition but if one is looking for a more generalized definition, Catholic Apologist Jimmy Akin provides a more generalized definition explaining, “In time, the concept (Church Fathers) came to be applied in a general way to those who shaped the faith and practice of the Church in its earliest centuries. They became “Fathers” not only for their own age but for all ages that would follow. Some of these—the ones who heard the preaching of the apostles themselves or lived very shortly after the time of the apostles—came to be called the “Apostolic Fathers” or “Sub-Apostolic Fathers.” Together with the Fathers of later ages, they were important witnesses to the apostolic Tradition.[3]
Why is studying the Church Father’s important? First off, by learning about their lives and studying their writings, we learn why we belief the doctrines of our faith, how those doctrines developed when both Christ and the Apostles were gone and how to defend what we believe.

For example, similarities can be drawn from ancient Arian heresy’s denial of Christ being consubstantial (ever wonder why we use this word in the Nicene Creed?) with the Father and Jehovah Witness beliefs on the Trinity that Christ was created by God, the Father, and his subordinate to Him. By studying the Church Fathers, we can learn from them that the Church in its earliest conception believed Jesus to be also one with the Father and how to articulate that to those who we encounter in the world. Simply, knowing the Fathers and what they taught, gives us the tools to better evangelize the world.

Blessed John Henry Newman, the famous English convert, lays out in one of the most graceful pieces of work in the English language the Apologia Pro Vita Sua the reason for his courageous conversion from Anglicanism to Catholicism lies with the Church Fathers.

Newman writes, “When they (the Church Fathers) speak of doctrine, they speak of them as being universally held. They are witnesses to the fact of those doctrines having been received not here or there, but everywhere. We receive those doctrines which they thus teach, not merely because they teach them, but because they bear witness that all Christians everywhere then held them…they do not speak of their own private opinion; they do not say, ‘This is true, because we see it in Scripture’—about which there might be differences of judgment—but, ‘this is true, because in matter of fact it is held, and has ever been held, by all the Churches, down to our times without interruption, ever since the Apostles.”[4]

[1] Marcellino D’Ambrosio, When The Church Was Young: Voices of the Early Fathers (Servant Books: San Francisco, 2014), 1.

[2] Ibid, 2.

[3] Jimmy Akin, The Fathers Know Best: Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church (San Diego, CA: Catholic Answers, 2010), 23.

[4] Dave Armstrong, Quotable Newman (Sophia Press: Manchester, 2012), 169-70.

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