Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I might have mentioned it before, but there was a time when I used or at least tested every new trend in Internet software out there. I was an early adopter of what would eventually become AOL. I used Internet Relay Chat long before AIM became fashionable. I download new programs by FTP before GNU was a bastion of free, quality software, and BitTorrent allowed huge files to be quickly downloaded.
This might actually be a trend that is related to the fact that I'm old as dirt. I can remember a time when I had read every Science Fiction book in the stacks of the Chicago Public Library, which was effectively every Sci-Fi book which had been published in English up to that time. The number was not really that large. Likewise there was a time when I at least tested out every Role Playing Game, and a good percentage of the commercially produced wargames on the market.
Those times are long past. The Science fiction section of Barnes and Noble has more selections than I would ever have time to read. While Role Playing Games are in a decline, with only one or two companies still making enough to exclusively publish them as a full time business, there are still dozens of hobby companies who turn out hundreds of games a year which are available via the Internet, if not from stores locally.
As for Internet technology. I don't have the time to investigate trends like Second Life, World of Warcraft or Facebook, each of which could take months of use to actually get proficient with.
In some ways it might seem that the Christian is in a similar boat. We have two thousand years of supporting documentation for the twin pillars of Scripture and Tradition. Everything from St. Clement of Alexandria to Benedict XVI is available to us. How can anyone possibly expect to read what has been written?
Well you can't. Does that mean we should sit back and leave it to the theologians? Not hardly. To start with we should realize that striving for a greater appreciation of our faith, through the reading and study of the great teachers of Christendom, The Fathers of the Church, the Doctors of the Church, the writings of the Saints, and even the works of present scholars, is the work of a lifetime. We will never be able to read them all, but we should read what we can.
Start with the Church Fathers. Much of what we believe was defended and explained by them. Not all were Saints, and a few were even heretical at some portion of their lives. The combined wisdom of these men are the basis upon which much of the scholarship of the succeeding generations were built.
Certainly the Doctors of the Church should also be included in your reading list. As given by Wikipedia: "The Doctors' works vary greatly in subject and form." Some were mystics, others systematic theologians, some defenders against heresy, others illuminators of doctrine.
The easiest way to actually accomplish this study is not to go it alone. Reading Aquinas as a book club selection seems much more useful to me than spending time on a sleazy bestseller. Many of these volumes have study guides available to assist a group in reading them.
So gather together a group of like minded friends and set out to explore the foundations of our faith. Just remember there's always more to explore and you'll never see it all this side of the vale.

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