Dr. Matthew Bunson – Insights on the Church Yesterday and Today

Dr. Matthew BunsonDr. Matthew Bunson, Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, is one of the United States’ leading authorities on the papacy and the Church.

His books include: The Encyclopedia of Catholic History; The Encyclopedia of Saints; Papal Wisdom; All Shall Be Well; Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire; and The Angelic Doctor: The Life and World of St. Thomas Aquinas; The Pope Encyclopedia; We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI, the first Catholic biography of the Holy Father in the English language; and most recently, St. Damien of Molokai: Apostle of the Exiled.

He is presently completing The Encyclopedia of the American Catholic Church for Our Sunday Visitor.

DC22 St. John Chrysostom pt 2 – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom w/ Dr. Matthew Bunson

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an excerpt from the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI General Audience 2009:
Chrysostom is among the most prolific of the Fathers: 17 treatises, more than 700 authentic homilies, commentaries on Matthew and on Paul (Letters to the Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians and Hebrews) and 241 letters are extant. He was not a speculative theologian.

Nevertheless, he passed on the Church’s tradition and reliable doctrine in an age of theological controversies, sparked above all by Arianism or, in other words, the denial of Christ’s divinity. He is therefore a trustworthy witness of the dogmatic development achieved by the Church from the fourth to the fifth centuries.

His is a perfectly pastoral theology in which there is constant concern for consistency between thought expressed via words and existential experience. It is this in particular that forms the main theme of the splendid catecheses with which he prepared catechumens to receive Baptism.

On approaching death, he wrote that the value of the human being lies in “exact knowledge of true doctrine and in rectitude of life” (Letter from Exile). Both these things, knowledge of truth and rectitude of life, go hand in hand: knowledge has to be expressed in life. All his discourses aimed to develop in the faithful the use of intelligence, of true reason, in order to understand and to put into practice the moral and spiritual requirements of faith.

DC21 St. John Chrysostom – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom w/ Dr. Matthew Bunson

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Born: 347 AD, Antioch, Turkey
Died: September 14, 407 AD, Comana Pontica

For more on St. John Chrysostom and his teachings
From Vatican.va, an excerpt from the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI General Audience 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This year is the 16th centenary of St John Chrysostom’s death (407-2007). It can be said that John of Antioch, nicknamed “Chrysostom”, that is, “golden-mouthed”, because of his eloquence, is also still alive today because of his works. An anonymous copyist left in writing that “they cross the whole globe like flashes of lightening”.

Chrysostom’s writings also enable us, as they did the faithful of his time whom his frequent exiles deprived of his presence, to live with his books, despite his absence. This is what he himself suggested in a letter when he was in exile (To Olympias, Letter 8, 45).

He was born in about the year 349 A.D. in Antioch, Syria (today Antakya in Southern Turkey). He carried out his priestly ministry there for about 11 years, until 397, when, appointed Bishop of Constantinople, he exercised his episcopal ministry in the capital of the Empire prior to his two exiles, which succeeded one close upon the other – in 403 and 407. Let us limit ourselves today to examining the years Chrysostom spent in Antioch.

He lost his father at a tender age and lived with Anthusa, his mother, who instilled in him exquisite human sensitivity and a deep Christian faith.

DC20 St. Peter Damian – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

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From Vatican.va, an excerpt from the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI General Audience 2009

St Peter Damian, who was essentially a man of prayer, meditation and contemplation, was also a fine theologian: his reflection on various doctrinal themes led him to important conclusions for life. Thus, for example, he expresses with clarity and liveliness the Trinitarian doctrine, already using, under the guidance of biblical and patristic texts, the three fundamental terms which were subsequently to become crucial also for the philosophy of the West: processio, relatio and persona (cf. Opusc. XXXVIII: PL CXLV, 633-642; and Opusc. II and III: ibid., 41 ff. and 58 ff). However, because theological analysis of the mystery led him to contemplate the intimate life of God and the dialogue of ineffable love between the three divine Persons, he drew ascetic conclusions from them for community life and even for relations between Latin and Greek Christians, divided on this topic. His meditation on the figure of Christ is significantly reflected in practical life, since the whole of Scripture is centred on him. The “Jews”, St Peter Damian notes, “through the pages of Sacred Scripture, bore Christ on their shoulders as it were” (Sermo XLVI, 15). Therefore Christ, he adds, must be the centre of the monk’s life: “May Christ be heard in our language, may Christ be seen in our life, may he be perceived in our hearts” (Sermo VIII, 5). Intimate union with Christ engages not only monks but all the baptized. Here we find a strong appeal for us too not to let ourselves be totally absorbed by the activities, problems and preoccupations of every day, forgetting that Jesus must truly be the centre of our life.

DC19 St. John Damascene pt 2 – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

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From Vatican.va, an excerpt from the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI General Audience 2008

John Damascene extends these fundamental ideas to the veneration of the relics of Saints, on the basis of the conviction that the Christian Saints, having become partakers of the Resurrection of Christ, cannot be considered simply “dead”. Numbering, for example, those whose relics or images are worthy of veneration, John states in his third discourse in defence of images: “First of all (let us venerate) those among whom God reposed, he alone Holy, who reposes among the Saints (cf. Is 57: 15), such as the Mother of God and all the Saints. These are those who, as far as possible, have made themselves similar to God by their own will; and by God’s presence in them, and his help, they are really called gods (cf. Ps 82[81]: 6), not by their nature, but by contingency, just as the red-hot iron is called fire, not by its nature, but by contingency and its participation in the fire. He says in fact : you shall be holy, because I am Holy (cf. Lv 19: 2)” (III, 33, col. 1352 a). After a series of references of this kind, John Damascene was able serenely to deduce: “God, who is good, and greater than any goodness, was not content with the contemplation of himself, but desired that there should be beings benefited by him, who might share in his goodness: therefore he created from nothing all things, visible and invisible, including man, a reality visible and invisible. And he created him envisaging him and creating him as a being capable of thought (ennoema ergon), enriched with the word (logo[i] sympleroumenon), and orientated towards the spirit (pneumati teleioumenon)” (II, 2, pg 94, col. 865a). And to clarify this thought further, he adds: “We must allow ourselves to be filled with wonder (thaumazein) at all the works of Providence (tes pronoias erga), to accept and praise them all, overcoming any temptation to identify in them aspects which to many may seem unjust or iniquitous, (adika), and admitting instead that the project of God (pronoia) goes beyond man’s capacity to know or to understand (agnoston kai akatalepton), while on the contrary only he may know our thoughts, our actions, and even our future” (ii, 29, pg 94, col. 964c). Plato had in fact already said that all philosophy begins with wonder. Our faith, too, begins with wonder at the very fact of the Creation, and at the beauty of God who makes himself visible.

DC18 St. John Damascene pt 1 – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

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An excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI audience 2009:
John Damascene, a personage of prime importance in the history of Byzantine Theology, a great Doctor in the history of the Universal Church. Above all he was an eyewitness of the passage from the Greek and Syrian Christian cultures shared by the Eastern part of the Byzantine Empire, to the Islamic culture, which spread through its military conquests in the territory commonly known as the Middle or Near East. John, born into a wealthy Christian family, at an early age assumed the role, perhaps already held by his father, of Treasurer of the Caliphate. Very soon, however, dissatisfied with life at court, he decided on a monastic life, and entered the monastery of Mar Saba, near Jerusalem. This was around the year 700. He never again left the monastery, but dedicated all his energy to ascesis and literary work, not disdaining a certain amount of pastoral activity, as is shown by his numerous homilies. His liturgical commemoration is on the 4 December. Pope Leo XIII proclaimed him Doctor of the Universal Church in 1890

DC17 St. Isidore of Seville – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

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From Vatican.va, an excerpt from the teachings ofPope Benedict XVI General Audience 2008

To understand Isidore better it is first of all necessary to recall the complexity of the political situations in his time to which I have already referred: during the years of his boyhood he was obliged to experience the bitterness of exile. He was nevertheless pervaded with apostolic enthusiasm. He experienced the rapture of contributing to the formation of a people that was at last rediscovering its unity, both political and religious, with the providential conversion of Hermenegild, the heir to the Visigoth throne, from Arianism to the Catholic faith. Yet we must not underestimate the enormous difficulty of coming to grips with such very serious problems as were the relations with heretics and with the Jews. There was a whole series of problems which appear very concrete to us today too, especially if we consider what is happening in certain regions in which we seem almost to be witnessing the recurrence of situations very similar to those that existed on the Iberian Peninsular in that sixth century. The wealth of cultural knowledge that Isidore had assimilated enabled him to constantly compare the Christian newness with the Greco-Roman cultural heritage, however, rather than the precious gift of synthesis it would seem that he possessed the gift of collatio, that is, of collecting, which he expressed in an extraordinary personal erudition, although it was not always ordered as might have been desired.

DC16 St. Gregory the Great pt. 2 – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

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From the audience given by Pope Benedict XVI on St. Gregory the Great:

Before concluding it is necessary to say a word on the relationship that Pope Gregory nurtured with the Patriarchs of Antioch, of Alexandria and of Constantinople itself. He always concerned himself with recognizing and respecting rights, protecting them from every interference that would limit legitimate autonomy. Still, if St Gregory, in the context of the historical situation, was opposed to the title “ecumenical” on the part of the Patriarch of Constantinople, it was not to limit or negate this legitimate authority but rather because he was concerned about the fraternal unity of the universal Church. Above all he was profoundly convinced that humility should be the fundamental virtue for every Bishop, even more so for the Patriarch. Gregory remained a simple monk in his heart and therefore was decisively contrary to great titles. He wanted to be – and this is his expression -servus servorum Dei. Coined by him, this phrase was not just a pious formula on his lips but a true manifestation of his way of living and acting. He was intimately struck by the humility of God, who in Christ made himself our servant. He washed and washes our dirty feet. Therefore, he was convinced that a Bishop, above all, should imitate this humility of God and follow Christ in this way. His desire was to live truly as a monk, in permanent contact with the Word of God, but for love of God he knew how to make himself the servant of all in a time full of tribulation and suffering. He knew how to make himself the “servant of the servants”. Precisely because he was this, he is great and also shows us the measure of true greatness.

DC15 St. Gregory the Great – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

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Born: 540 AD, Rome, Italy
Died: March 12, 604 AD, Rome, Italy
For more on St. Gregory the Great and his teachings

From Vatican.va, an excerpt from the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI General Audience 2008

Today I would like to present the figure of one of the greatest Fathers in the history of the Church, one of four Doctors of the West, Pope St Gregory, who was Bishop of Rome from 590 to 604, and who earned the traditional title of Magnus/the Great. Gregory was truly a great Pope and a great Doctor of the Church! He was born in Rome about 540 into a rich patrician family of the gens Anicia, who were distinguished not only for their noble blood but also for their adherence to the Christian faith and for their service to the Apostolic See. Two Popes came from this family: Felix III (483-492), the great-great grandfather of Gregory, and Agapetus (535-536). The house in which Gregory grew up stood on the Clivus Scauri, surrounded by majestic buildings that attested to the greatness of ancient Rome and the spiritual strength of Christianity. The example of his parents Gordian and Sylvia, both venerated as Saints, and those of his father’s sisters, Aemiliana and Tharsilla, who lived in their own home as consecrated virgins following a path of prayer and self-denial, inspired lofty Christian sentiments in him.

But the cloistered withdrawal of Gregory did not last long. The precious experience that he gained in civil administration during a period marked by serious problems, the relationships he had had in this post with the Byzantines and the universal respect that he acquired induced Pope Pelagius to appoint him deacon and to send him to Constantinople as his “apocrisarius” – today one would say “Apostolic Nuncio” in order to help overcome the last traces of the Monophysite controversy and above all to obtain the Emperor’s support in the effort to check the Lombard invaders. The stay at Constantinople, where he resumed monastic life with a group of monks, was very important for Gregory, since it permitted him to acquire direct experience of the Byzantine world, as well as to approach the problem of the Lombards, who would later put his ability and energy to the test during the years of his Pontificate. After some years he was recalled to Rome by the Pope, who appointed him his secretary. They were difficult years: the continual rain, flooding due to overflowing rivers, the famine that afflicted many regions of Italy as well as Rome. Finally, even the plague broke out, which claimed numerous victims, among whom was also Pope Pelagius II. The clergy, people and senate were unanimous in choosing Gregory as his successor to the See of Peter. He tried to resist, even attempting to flee, but to no avail: finally, he had to yield. The year was 590.

DC14 St. Peter Chrysologus – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

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Born: 406 AD, Imola, Italy
Died: July 31, 450 AD

For more on St. Peter Chrysologus and his teachings

From Wikipedia:
Peter was born in Imola, where Cornelius, bishop of Roman Catholic Diocese of Imola, baptized him, educated him, and ordained him a deacon. He was made an archdeacon through the influence of Emperor Valentinian III. Pope Sixtus III appointed Peter as Bishop of Ravenna (or perhaps archbishop) circa 433, apparently rejecting the candidate whom the people of the city ofRavenna elected. The traditional account, as recorded in the Roman Breviary, is that Sixtus had a vision of Pope Saint Peter the Apostle and Saint Apollinaris of Ravenna, the first bishop of that see, who showed Sixtus a young man, the next Bishop of Ravenna. When a group from Ravenna arrived, including Cornelius and his archdeacon Peter from Imola, Sixtus recognized Peter as the young man in his vision and consecrated him as a bishop.

St.-Peter-ChPeople knew Saint Peter Chrysologus, the Doctor of Homilies, for his short but inspired talks; he supposedly feared boring his audience. His piety and zeal won universal admiration. After hearing oratory of his first homily as bishop, Roman Empress Galla Placidia supposedly gave him the surname Chrysologus, meaning “golden-worded.” Empress Galla Placidia patronized many of projects of Bishop Saint Peter.

In his extant homilies, bishop Peter explained Biblical texts briefly and concisely. He also condemned Arianism and Monophysitism as heresies and explained beautifully the Apostles’ Creed, the mystery of the Incarnation, and other topics in simple and clear language. He dedicated a series of homilies to Saint John the Baptist and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Peter advocated daily reception of Eucharist. He urged his listeners to confide in the forgiveness offered through Christ. He shared the confidence of Saint Pope Leo I the Great (440-461), another doctor of the Church.

A synod held in Constantinople in 448 condemned Eutyches for Monophysitism; Eutyches then appealed to Saint Peter Chrysologus but failed in his endeavour to win the support of the Bishop. The Acts of the Council of Chalcedon(451) preserves the text of letter of Saint Peter Chrysologus in response to Eutyches; Peter admonishes Eutyches to accept the ruling of the synod and to give obedience to the Bishop of Rome as the successor of Saint Peter.

DC13 St. Leo the Great – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

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Dr. Matthew Bunson discusses the life, times and teachings of St. Leo the Great Born: Tuscany, Italy Died: November 10, 461 AD, Rome, Italy For more on St. Leo the Great and his teachings Leo the Great, Pope (c. 395-461) - Sermons - Letters   From Vatican.va, an excerpt from the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI General […]

DC12 St. Cyril of Alexandria – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

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Dr. Matthew Bunson discusses the life, times and teachings of St. Cyril of Alexandria Born: 378 AD, Alexandria, Egypt Died: June 27, 444 AD, Alexandria, Egypt For more on St. Cyril of Alexandria and his teachings Clement of Alexandria - Who is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved? - Exhortation to the Heathen - The Instructor - The Stromata, or Miscellanies - Fragments From […]

DC11 St. Jerome – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

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St. Jerome –
Born: 347 AD, Štrigova, Croatia
Died: September 30, 420 AD, Bethlehem

What can we learn from St Jerome? It seems to me, this above all; to love the Word of God in Sacred Scripture. St Jerome said: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ”. It is therefore important that every Christian live in contact and in personal dialogue with the Word of God given to us in Sacred Scripture. This dialogue with Scripture must always have two dimensions: on the one hand, it must be a truly personal dialogue because God speaks with each one of us through Sacred Scripture and it has a message for each one. We must not read Sacred Scripture as a word of the past but as the Word of God that is also addressed to us, and we must try to understand what it is that the Lord wants to tell us. However, to avoid falling into individualism, we must bear in mind that the Word of God has been given to us precisely in order to build communion and to join forces in the truth on our journey towards God. Thus, although it is always a personal Word, it is also a Word that builds community, that builds the Church. We must therefore read it in communion with the living Church. The privileged place for reading and listening to the Word of God is the liturgy, in which, celebrating the Word and making Christ’s Body present in the Sacrament, we actualize the Word in our lives and make it present among us. We must never forget that the Word of God transcends time. Human opinions come and go. What is very modern today will be very antiquated tomorrow. On the other hand, the Word of God is the Word of eternal life, it bears within it eternity and is valid for ever. By carrying the Word of God within us, we therefore carry within us eternity, eternal life.

I thus conclude with a word St Jerome once addressed to St Paulinus of Nola. In it the great exegete expressed this very reality, that is, in the Word of God we receive eternity, eternal life. St Jerome said: “Seek to learn on earth those truths which will remain ever valid in Heaven” (Ep. 53, 10).

DC10 St. Augustine of Hippo (part 2) – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

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St. Augustine of Hippo (part 2) -

From Pope Benedict’s audience:

After his Baptism, Augustine decided to return to Africa with his friends, with the idea of living a community life of the monastic kind at the service of God. However, while awaiting their departure in Ostia, his mother fell ill unexpectedly and died shortly afterwards, breaking her son’s heart. Having returned to his homeland at last, the convert settled in Hippo for the very purpose of founding a monastery. In this city on the African coast he was ordained a priest in 391, despite his reticence, and with a few companions began the monastic life which had long been in his mind, dividing his time between prayer, study and preaching. All he wanted was to be at the service of the truth. He did not feel he had a vocation to pastoral life but realized later that God was calling him to be a pastor among others and thus to offer people the gift of the truth. He was ordained a Bishop in Hippo four years later, in 395. Augustine continued to deepen his study of Scripture and of the texts of the Christian tradition and was an exemplary Bishop in his tireless pastoral commitment: he preached several times a week to his faithful, supported the poor and orphans, supervised the formation of the clergy and the organization of mens’ and womens’ monasteries. In short, the former rhetorician asserted himself as one of the most important exponents of Christianity of that time. He was very active in the government of his Diocese – with remarkable, even civil, implications – in the more than 35 years of his Episcopate, and the Bishop of Hippo actually exercised a vast influence in his guidance of the Catholic Church in Roman Africa and, more generally, in the Christianity of his time, coping with religious tendencies and tenacious, disruptive heresies such as Manichaeism, Donatism and Pelagianism, which endangered the Christian faith in the one God, rich in mercy.

And Augustine entrusted himself to God every day until the very end of his life: smitten by fever, while for almost three months his Hippo was being besieged by vandal invaders, the Bishop – his friend Possidius recounts in his Vita Augustini – asked that the penitential psalms be transcribed in large characters, “and that the sheets be attached to the wall, so that while he was bedridden during his illness he could see and read them and he shed constant hot tears” (31, 2). This is how Augustine spent the last days of his life. He died on 28 August 430, when he was not yet 76. We will devote our next encounters to his work, his message and his inner experience.

DC9 St. Augustine of Hippo (part 1) – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

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DC8 St. Augustine of Hippo (part 1) – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

Born: 13 November 354
Died: 28 August 430

From Pope Benedict XVI Wednesday Audience 2008:

“Thus, Augustine followed his reading of the philosophers’ writings by reading Scripture anew, especially the Pauline Letters. His conversion to Christianity on 15 August 386 therefore came at the end of a long and tormented inner journey – of which we shall speak in another catechesis -, and the African moved to the countryside, north of Milan by Lake Como – with his mother Monica, his son Adeodatus and a small group of friends – to prepare himself for Baptism. So it was that at the age of 32 Augustine was baptized by Ambrose in the Cathedral of Milan on 24 April 387, during the Easter Vigil.” For more visit post….

DC8 St. Ambrose of Milan (part 2) – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

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DC6 St. Ambrose of Milan (part 2) – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

From Vatican.va, an excerpt from the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI General Audience 2007

Dear brothers and sisters, I would like further to propose to you a sort of “patristic icon”, which, interpreted in the light of what we have said, effectively represents “the heart” of Ambrosian doctrine. In the sixth book of the Confessions, Augustine tells of his St.-Ambrose-1meeting with Ambrose, an encounter that was indisputably of great importance in the history of the Church. He writes in his text that whenever he went to see the Bishop of Milan, he would regularly find him taken up with catervae of people full of problems for whose needs he did his utmost. There was always a long queue waiting to talk to Ambrose, seeking in him consolation and hope. When Ambrose was not with them, with the people (and this happened for the space of the briefest of moments), he was either restoring his body with the necessary food or nourishing his spirit with reading. Here Augustine marvels because Ambrose read the Scriptures with his mouth shut, only with his eyes (cf. Confessions, 6, 3). Indeed, in the early Christian centuries reading was conceived of strictly for proclamation, and reading aloud also facilitated the reader’s understanding. That Ambrose could scan the pages with his eyes alone suggested to the admiring Augustine a rare ability for reading and familiarity with the Scriptures. Well, in that “reading under one’s breath”, where the heart is committed to achieving knowledge of the Word of God – this is the “icon” to which we are referring -, one can glimpse the method of Ambrosian catechesis; it is Scripture itself, intimately assimilated, which suggests the content to proclaim that will lead to the conversion of hearts.

Thus, with regard to the magisterium of Ambrose and of Augustine, catechesis is inseparable from witness of life. What I wrote on the theologian in the Introduction to Christianity might also be useful to the catechist. An educator in the faith cannot risk appearing like a sort of clown who recites a part “by profession”. Rather – to use an image dear to Origen, a writer who was particularly appreciated by Ambrose -, he must be like the beloved disciple who rested his head against his Master’s heart and there learned the way to think, speak and act. The true disciple is ultimately the one whose proclamation of the Gospel is the most credible and effective.

Like the Apostle John, Bishop Ambrose – who never tired of saying: “Omnia Christus est nobis! To us Christ is all!” – continues to be a genuine witness of the Lord. Let us thus conclude our Catechesis with his same words, full of love for Jesus: “Omnia Christus est nobis! If you have a wound to heal, he is the doctor; if you are parched by fever, he is the spring; if you are oppressed by injustice, he is justice; if you are in need of help, he is strength; if you fear death, he is life; if you desire Heaven, he is the way; if you are in the darkness, he is light…. Taste and see how good is the Lord: blessed is the man who hopes in him!” (De Virginitate, 16, 99). Let us also hope in Christ. We shall thus be blessed and shall live in peace.

DC7 St. Ambrose of Milan (part 1) – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

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Dr. Matthew Bunson discusses the life, times and teachings of St. Ambrose of Milan (part 1)

Born: 340 AD
Died: January 1, 397 AD

From Vatican.va, an excerpt from the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI General Audience 2007
Until that moment, Ambrose had been the most senior magistrate of the Empire in northern Italy. Culturally well-educated but at the same time ignorant of the Scriptures, the new Bishop briskly began to study them. From the works of Origen, the indisputable master of the “Alexandrian School”, he learned to know and to comment on the Bible. Thus, Ambrose transferred to the Latin environment the meditation on the Scriptures which Origen had begun, introducing in the West the practice of lectio divina. The method of lectio served to guide all of Ambrose’s preaching and writings, which stemmed precisely from prayerful listening to the Word of God. The famous introduction of an Ambrosian catechesis shows clearly how the holy Bishop applied the Old Testament to Christian life: “Every day, when we were reading about the lives of the Patriarchs and the maxims of the Proverbs, we addressed morality”, the Bishop of Milan said to his catechumens and neophytes, “so that formed and instructed by them you may become accustomed to taking the path of the Fathers and to following the route of obedience to the divine precepts” (On the Mysteries 1, 1). In other words, the neophytes and catechumens, in accordance with the Bishop’s decision, after having learned the art of a well-ordered life, could henceforth consider themselves prepared for Christ’s great mysteries. Thus, Ambrose’s preaching – which constitutes the structural nucleus of his immense literary opus – starts with the reading of the Sacred Books (“the Patriarchs” or the historical Books and “Proverbs”, or in other words, the Wisdom Books) in order to live in conformity with divine Revelation.

It is obvious that the preacher’s personal testimony and the level of exemplarity of the Christian community condition the effectiveness of the preaching. In this perspective, a passage from St Augustine’s Confessions is relevant. He had come to Milan as a teacher of rhetoric; he was a sceptic and not Christian. He was seeking the Christian truth but was not capable of truly finding it.
What moved the heart of the young African rhetorician, sceptic and downhearted, and what impelled him to definitive conversion was not above all Ambrose’s splendid homilies (although he deeply appreciated them). It was rather the testimony of the Bishop and his Milanese Church that prayed and sang as one intact body. It was a Church that could resist the tyrannical ploys of the Emperor and his mother, who in early 386 again demanded a church building for the Arians’ celebrations. In the building that was to be requisitioned, Augustine relates, “the devout people watched, ready to die with their Bishop”. This testimony of the Confessions is precious because it points out that something was moving in Augustine, who continues: “We too, although spiritually tepid, shared in the excitement of the whole people” (Confessions 9, 7).

DC6 St. Gregory of Nazianzus – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

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From Vatican.va, an excerpt from the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI General Audience 2007:

It was because of these orations that Gregory acquired the nickname: “The Theologian”.

This is what he is called in the Orthodox Church: the “Theologian”. And this is because to his way of thinking theology was not merely human reflection or even less, only a fruit of complicated speculation, but rather sprang from a life of prayer and holiness, from a persevering dialogue with God. And in this very way he causes the reality of God, the mystery of the Trinity, to appear to our reason.

In the silence of contemplation, interspersed with wonder at the marvels of the mystery revealed, his soul was engrossed in beauty and divine glory.

While Gregory was taking part in the Second Ecumenical Council in 381, he was elected Bishop of Constantinople and presided over the Council; but he was challenged straightaway by strong opposition, to the point that the situation became untenable. These hostilities must have been unbearable to such a sensitive soul.

What Gregory had previously lamented with heartfelt words was repeated: “We have divided Christ, we who so loved God and Christ! We have lied to one another because of the Truth, we have harboured sentiments of hatred because of Love, we are separated from one another” (Orationes 6: 3; SC 405: 128).

Thus, in a tense atmosphere, the time came for him to resign.

In the packed cathedral, Gregory delivered a farewell discourse of great effectiveness and dignity (cf. Orationes 42; SC 384: 48-114). He ended his heartrending speech with these words: “Farewell, great city, beloved by Christ…. My children, I beg you, jealously guard the deposit [of faith] that has been entrusted to you (cf. I Tm 6: 20), remember my suffering (cf. Col 4: 18). May the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all” (cf. Orationes 42: 27; SC 384: 112-114).

Gregory returned to Nazianzus and for about two years devoted himself to the pastoral care of this Christian community. He then withdrew definitively to solitude in nearby Arianzo, his birthplace, and dedicated himself to studies and the ascetic life.

It was in this period that he wrote the majority of his poetic works and especially his autobiography: the De Vita Sua, a reinterpretation in verse of his own human and spiritual journey, an exemplary journey of a suffering Christian, of a man of profound interiority in a world full of conflicts.

He is a man who makes us aware of God’s primacy, hence, also speaks to us, to this world of ours: without God, man loses his grandeur; without God, there is no true humanism.

Consequently, let us too listen to this voice and seek to know God’s Face.

In one of his poems he wrote, addressing himself to God: “May you be benevolent, You, the hereafter of all things” (Carmina [dogmatica] 1: 1, 29; PG 37: 508).

And in 390, God welcomed into his arms this faithful servant who had defended him in his writings with keen intelligence and had praised him in his poetry with such great love.

IP#233 Dr. Matthew Bunson – Pope Francis “the interviews” on Inside the Pages

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It was great to discuss with Dr. Matthew Bunson the interviews given by Pope Francis to America Magazine and La Republicca . We discuss the poor translations, issues which have arisen from some of the “statements”, and the reaction of Catholics to this new “genre” of papal reporting. Dr. Bunson is a master of seeing through the fog to the heart of the matter. Great insights!!!

DC5 St. Basil the Great – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

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From Vatican.va, an excerpt from the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI General Audience 2007:
With zeal and courage Basil opposed the heretics who denied that Jesus Christ was God as Father (cf. Basil, Letter 9, 3: PG 32, 272a; Letter 52, 1-3: PG 32, 392b-396a; Adv. Eunomium 1, 20:PG 29, 556c). Likewise, against those who would not accept the divinity of the Holy Spirit, he maintained that the Spirit is also God and “must be equated and glorified with the Father and with the Son (cf. De Spiritu Sancto: SC 17ff., 348). For this reason Basil was one of the great Fathers who formulated the doctrine on the Trinity: the one God, precisely because he is love, is a God in three Persons who form the most profound unity that exists: divine unity.

In his love for Christ and for his Gospel, the great Cappadocian also strove to mend divisions within the Church (cf. Letters, 70, 243), doing his utmost to bring all to convert to Christ and to his word (cf. De Iudicio 4: PG 31, 660b-661a), a unifying force which all believers were bound to obey (cf.ibid. 1-3: PG 31, 653a-656c).

To conclude, Basil spent himself without reserve in faithful service to the Church and in the multiform exercise of the episcopal ministry. In accordance with the programme that he himself drafted, he became an “apostle and minister of Christ, steward of God’s mysteries, herald of the Kingdom, a model and rule of piety, an eye of the Body of the Church, a Pastor of Christ’s sheep, a loving doctor, father and nurse, a cooperator of God, a farmer of God, a builder of God’s temple” (cf. Moralia 80, 11-20: PG 31, 864b-868b).

This is the programme which the holy Bishop consigns to preachers of the Word – in the past as in the present -, a programme which he himself was generously committed to putting into practice. In 379 A.D. Basil, who was not yet 50, returned to God “in the hope of eternal life, through Jesus Christ Our Lord” (De Baptismo, 1, 2, 9).

He was a man who truly lived with his gaze fixed on Christ. He was a man of love for his neighbour. Full of the hope and joy of faith, Basil shows us how to be true Christians.

DC4 St. Cyril of Jerusalem – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

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Born: 313 AD, Caesarea Maritima, Israel
Died: March 18, 386 AD, Jerusalem, Israel

From Vatican.va, an excerpt from the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI General Audience 2007:
Taken as a whole, Cyril’s homilies form a systematic catechesis on the Christian’s rebirth through Baptism.

He tells the catechumen: “You have been caught in the nets of the Church (cf. Mt 13: 47). Be taken alive, therefore; do not escape for it is Jesus who is fishing for you, not in order to kill you but to resurrect you after death. Indeed, you must die and rise again (cf. Rom 6: 11, 14)…. Die to your sins and live to righteousness from this very day” (Procatechesis, 5).

From the doctrinal viewpoint, Cyril commented on the Jerusalem Creed with recourse to the typology of the Scriptures in a “symphonic” relationship between the two Testaments, arriving at Christ, the centre of the universe.

The typology was to be described decisively by Augustine of Hippo: “In the Old Testament there is a veiling of the New, and in the New Testament there is a revealing of the Old” (De catechizandis rudibus 4, 8).

As for the moral catechesis, it is anchored in deep unity to the doctrinal catechesis: the dogma progressively descends in souls who are thus urged to transform their pagan behaviour on the basis of new life in Christ, a gift of Baptism.

The “mystagogical” catechesis, lastly, marked the summit of the instruction that Cyril imparted, no longer to catechumens but to the newly baptized or neophytes during Easter week. He led them to discover the mysteries still hidden in the baptismal rites of the Easter Vigil.

Enlightened by the light of a deeper faith by virtue of Baptism, the neophytes were at last able to understand these mysteries better, having celebrated their rites.

For more visit Vatican.va

DC3 St. Ephrem of Syria – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

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Born: 306 AD, Nisibis, Turkey
Died: June 9, 373 AD, Edessa, Turkey
Full name: Ephrem of Nisibis

From Vatican.va, an excerpt from the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI General Audience 2007:
The figure of Ephrem is still absolutely timely for the life of the various Christian Churches. We discover him in the first place as a theologian who reflects poetically, on the basis of Holy Scripture, on the mystery of man’s redemption brought about by Christ, the Word of God incarnate. His is a theological reflection expressed in images and symbols taken from nature, daily life and the Bible. Ephrem gives his poetry and liturgical hymns a didactic and catechetical character: they are theological hymns yet at the same time suitable for recitation or liturgical song. On the occasion of liturgical feasts, Ephrem made use of these hymns to spread Church doctrine. Time has proven them to be an extremely effective catechetical instrument for the Christian community.

Ephrem’s reflection on the theme of God the Creator is important: nothing in creation is isolated and the world, next to Sacred Scripture, is a Bible of God. By using his freedom wrongly, man upsets the cosmic order. The role of women was important to Ephrem. The way he spoke of them was always inspired with sensitivity and respect: the dwelling place of Jesus in Mary’s womb greatly increased women’s dignity. Ephrem held that just as there is no Redemption without Jesus, there is no Incarnation without Mary. The divine and human dimensions of the mystery of our redemption can already be found in Ephrem’s texts; poetically and with fundamentally scriptural images, he anticipated the theological background and in some way the very language of the great Christological definitions of the fifth-century Councils.

Ephrem, honoured by Christian tradition with the title “Harp of the Holy Spirit”, remained a deacon of the Church throughout his life. It was a crucial and emblematic decision: he was a deacon, a servant, in his liturgical ministry, and more radically, in his love for Christ, whose praises he sang in an unparalleled way, and also in his love for his brethren, whom he introduced with rare skill to the knowledge of divine Revelation.

For more visit Vatican.va

DC2 St. Hilary of Poitiers – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

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Dr. Matthew Bunson discusses the life, times and work of St. Hilary of Poitiers

Born: 310 AD,
Died: May 2, 367 AD,

DC1 St. Athanasius of Alexandria – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom with Dr. Matthew Bunson

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Dr. Matthew Bunson discusses the life, times and work of St. Athansius of Alexandria

From Vatican.va, an excerpt from the teachings of Pope Benedict XVI General Audience 2007:
Athanasius was undoubtedly one of the most important and revered early Church Fathers. But this great Saint was above all the impassioned theologian of the Incarnation of the Logos, the Word of God who – as the Prologue of the fourth Gospel says – “became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1: 14).
For this very reason Athanasius was also the most important and tenacious adversary of the Arian heresy, which at that time threatened faith in Christ, reduced to a creature “halfway” between God and man, according to a recurring tendency in history which we also see manifested today in various forms.

IP#227 Dr. Matthew Bunson – Lumen Fidei on Inside the Pages

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Dr. Matthew Bunson joins us to discuss the recent encyclical issued by Pope Francis, “Lumen Fidei”

St. Damian of Molokai, apostle of the exiled w/ Dr. Matthew Bunson

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Dr Matthew Bunson co-wrote, with Margaret Bunson, a compelling biography of St. Damien. Dr. Bunson took time to share many more aspects of the life of this incredible saint.

IP#208 Dr. Matthew Bunson – Pope Francis on Inside the Pages

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Yet another very special conversation with good friend and Discerning Hearts contributor, Dr. Matthew Bunson about his new book “Pope Francis”. He once again demonstrates why he is one of our leading Church historians! No one articulates a moment with more grace and vision, than Dr. Bunson. More than just a “biography” of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina (which is offered beautifully in this volume), he places, in context, the extraordinary events and emotions leading to the election of the 265th successor of St. Peter…Pope Francis. The who, what, where, why and how are offered in vivid compelling detail. From the moment of Pope Benedict XVI’s earth shaking resignation and its implications, to the Holy Spirit led deliberations of the Cardinals, Dr. Bunson masterfully sets the stage for the first presentation to the world of Pope Francis on the loggia of St. Peter’s. We get the first in-depth look at the life and times of this “son of St. Ignatius”, the challenges, controversies, triumphs of his life thus far, and what we might expect given Bergoglio’s response to his election as the “bishop of Rome”. Matthew Bunson is a joy to read…don’t miss this definitive account of this truly remarkable story.

IP#177 Dr. Matthew Bunson – St. Kateri on Inside the Pages

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Once again we are joined by the fantastic Dr. Matthew Bunson! We discuss his new work which brings us the life of “St. Kateri: Lily of the Mohawks”. The humble daughter of a Mohawk chief and a Roman Catholic mother, Kateri (named after St. Catherine of Siena) Tekakwitha lived a short life (she died at the age of 24). But she was such a powerful witness, so much so, that even the famed “black robe” Jesuit missionaries were awed “by her perfection of the virtues, her mystical prayer life, and her total love for Christ.” Her last words were: “Jesus, I love you.” No one tells a story like Dr. Bunson, and he doesn’t fail to captivate this time when describing the life of this remarkably holy woman.

IP#174 Dr. Matthew Bunson – St. Hildegard and St. John of Avila on Inside the Pages

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On October 7, at the beginning of the Synod on the New Evangelization, Pope Benedict XVI will declare St. Hildegard von Bingen and St. John of Avila as Doctors of the Church. On this special edition of Inside the Pages I talk with Dr. Matthew Bunson about the significance of this declaration. We talk about the lives and work of both saints and how their teachings can touch our lives today.

St. Robert Bellarmine and Galileo w/ Dr. Matthew Bunson (the other side of the story)

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A Doctor of the Church, a distinguished Jesuit theologian, writer, and cardinal, born at Montepulciano, October 4, 1542; died 17September, 1621.

When you look up the word “prudence” in the dictionary, you may find his picture. Why? Does the name “Galileo” ring a bell. Many think they know the story…but do you? If you’ve never heard St. Robert Bellarmine’s role and thoughts on the matter, than you haven’t heard the whole story. Take a listen to Dr. Matthew Bunson break open the “Galileo issue” from a truly Catholic perspective. Fascinating

IP#43 Dr. Matthew Bunson – John Paul II’s Book of Saints on Inside the Pages

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Matthew and Margaret Bunson did an incredible job of chronicling all those holy men and women who were brought Matthew-Bunsonforward by our late great Holy Father, Pope John Paul II. The only thing that even comes close to reading this great book is hearing Dr. Matthew Bunson talk about those tremendous Blesseds and Saints. “John Paul II’s Book of Saints” is truly a treasury of sanctity!

The Chair of St. Peter – the gift of the Papacy

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The Feast of the Chair of St. Peter is not so much a feast celebrating a “chair”, but more a feast celebrating what the chair symbolizes…the gift of the Papacy. I remember seeing it for the first time…not only the stunning piece used to preserve it  by Bernini…but the whole altar piece setting at St. […]

IP#52 Dr. Matthew Bunson – Pope Benedict’s Verbum Domini part 2 on Inside the Pages

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Part 2 – A very special edition of “Inside the Pages” as we explore Pope Benedict’s Apostolic Exhortation, “Verbum Domini” (The Word of the Lord), with Dr. Matthew Bunson. A magnificent gift for the Church, Dr. Bunson breaks open in part 2 of our discussion the liturgy, homelitics and the significance of the document.  We encourage you […]

IP#49 Dr. Matthew Bunson – Pope Benedict’s Verbum Domini part 1 on Inside the Pages

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A very special edition of “Inside the Pages” as we explore Pope Benedict’s Apostolic Exhortation, “Verbum Domini” (The Word of the Lord), with Dr. Matthew Bunson. A magnificent gift for the Church, Dr. Bunson breaks open in part 1 of our discussion the significance of the document and how it was comprised.  We encourage you to […]

IP#8 Matthew Bunson – Pope Benedict XVI and Sexual Abuse Scandal pt 2 on Inside the Pages

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Here is part 2 of the discussion with Dr. Matthew Bunson, with the emphasis on the renewal and reform that has occured in the Church since the outbreak of the sexual abuse scandal.  Dr. Bunson is once again EXCELLENT in articulating the problems which have surfaced, but also the response of the Church from its heart to the issue.  It […]

IP#7 Matthew Bunson – Pope Benedict XVI and Sexual Abuse Scandal pt 1 on Inside the Pages

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For 100+ reasons, I love Dr. Matthew Bunson.  No one I know has quite the depth of knowledge that he has and the ability to calmly disseminate it!  His new book, co-authored with Gregory Erlandson, is OUTSTANDING!  Please don’t say you have  formed your final opinion on this tragic period in Church history without reading […]

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Dr. Bunson is on the faculty of the Catholic Distance University where he teaches Church History, including Catholic-Islamic relations and Medieval and American Catholic History. In addition, he is a contributing editor and columnist for This Rock magazine and moderator of the Church History forum for EWTN.com.

Dr. Bunson has also served as a consultant to MSNBC, NBC News, CBS Radio, and the BBC, as well as other media outlets. He was special consultant on Catholic affairs forDr. Matthew Bunson USA Today during its coverage of the 2005 papal funeral and conclave. He appears regularly as a guest on Relevant Radio and Catholic Answers Live and hosts the radio program “Faithworks” for Redeemer Radio.

He earned his Doctor of Ministry degree from the Graduate Theological Foundation, and also holds a B.A. in History, an M.A. in Theology, and a Master of Divinity degree. He is presently working toward a Ph.D. in Church History from the Graduate Theological Foundation.  Dr. Bunson lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana

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