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

Dr. Matthew Bunson discusses the life, times and teachings of St. Peter Chrysologus

  • Born: 406 AD, Imola, Italy
  • Died: July 31, 450 AD
For more on St. Peter Chrysologus and his teachings

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.

People 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.

Archbishop Felix of Ravenna in the early eighth century collected and preserved 176 of his homilies. Various authors edited and translated these works into numerous languages.

Death and veneration

St Peter died circa or after 450 during a visit to Imola, the town of his birth. Older reference books say he died on 2 December, but a more recent interpretation of the ninth-century “Liber Pontificalis Ecclesiae Ravennatis” indicated that he died on 31 July. When in 1729 he was declared a Doctor of the Church, his feast day, not already included in the Tridentine Calendar, was inserted in the Roman Catholic calendar of saints for celebration on 4 December. In 1969 his feast was moved to 30 July, as close as possible to the day of his death, 31 July, the feast day of Saint Ignatius of Loyola.

Dr. Matthew E. Bunson is a Register senior editor and a senior contributor to EWTN News. For the past 20 years, he has been active in the area of Catholic social communications and education, including writing, editing, and teaching on a variety of topics related to Church history, the papacy, the saints and Catholic culture. He is faculty chair at Catholic Distance University, a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the author or co-author of over 50 books including The Encyclopedia of Catholic History, The Pope Encyclopedia, We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI, The Saints Encyclopedia and best-selling biographies of St. Damien of Molokai and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

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

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

Aware of the historical period in which he lived and of the change that was taking place – from pagan Rome to Christian Rome – in a period of profound crisis, Leo the Great knew how to make himself close to the people and the faithful with his pastoral action and his preaching. He enlivened charity in a Rome tried by famines, an influx of refugees, injustice and poverty. He opposed pagan superstitions and the actions of Manichaean groups. He associated the liturgy with the daily life of Christians:  for example, by combining the practice of fasting with charity and almsgiving above all on the occasion of the Quattro tempora, which in the course of the year marked the change of seasons. In particular, Leo the Great taught his faithful – and his words still apply for us today – that the Christian liturgy is not the memory of past events, but the actualization of invisible realities which act in the lives of each one of us. This is what he stressed in a sermon (cf. 64, 1-2) on Easter, to be celebrated in every season of the year “not so much as something of the past as rather an event of the present”. All this fits into a precise project, the Holy Pontiff insisted:  just as, in fact, the Creator enlivened with the breath of rational life man formed from the dust of the ground, after the original sin he sent his Son into the world to restore to man his lost dignity and to destroy the dominion of the devil through the new life of grace.

This is the Christological mystery to which St Leo the Great, with his Letter to the Council of Ephesus, made an effective and essential contribution, confirming for all time – through this Council – what St Peter said at Caesarea Philippi. With Peter and as Peter, he professed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. And so it is that God and man together “are not foreign to the human race but alien to sin” (cf. Serm. 64). Through the force of this Christological faith he was a great messenger of peace and love. He thus shows us the way:  in faith we learn charity. Let us therefore learn with St Leo the Great to believe in Christ, true God and true Man, and to implement this faith every day in action for peace and love of neighbour.

For more visit Vatican.va

Dr. Matthew E. Bunson is a Register senior editor and a senior contributor to EWTN News. For the past 20 years, he has been active in the area of Catholic social communications and education, including writing, editing, and teaching on a variety of topics related to Church history, the papacy, the saints and Catholic culture. He is faculty chair at Catholic Distance University, a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the author or co-author of over 50 books including The Encyclopedia of Catholic History, The Pope Encyclopedia, We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI, The Saints Encyclopedia and best-selling biographies of St. Damien of Molokai and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

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

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

Cyril’s writings – truly numerous and already widely disseminated in various Latin and Eastern translations in his own lifetime, attested to by their instant success – are of the utmost importance for the history of Christianity. His commentaries on many of the New and Old Testament Books are important, including those on the entire Pentateuch, Isaiah, the Psalms and the Gospels of John and Luke. Also important are his many doctrinal works, in which the defence of the Trinitarian faith against the Arian and Nestorian theses recurs. The basis of Cyril’s teaching is the ecclesiastical tradition and in particular, as I mentioned, the writings of Athanasius, his great Predecessor in the See of Alexandria. Among Cyril’s other writings, the books Against Julian deserve mention. They were the last great response to the anti-Christian controversies, probably dictated by the Bishop of Alexandria in the last years of his life to respond to the work Against the Galileans, composed many years earlier in 363 by the Emperor known as the “Apostate” for having abandoned the Christianity in which he was raised.

The Christian faith is first and foremost the encounter with Jesus, “a Person, which gives life a new horizon” (Deus Caritas Estn. 1). St Cyril of Alexandria was an unflagging, staunch witness of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, emphasizing above all his unity, as he repeats in 433 in his first letter (PG 77, 228-237) to Bishop Succensus: “Only one is the Son, only one the Lord Jesus Christ, both before the Incarnation and after the Incarnation. Indeed, the Logos born of God the Father was not one Son and the one born of the Blessed Virgin another; but we believe that the very One who was born before the ages was also born according to the flesh and of a woman”. Over and above its doctrinal meaning, this assertion shows that faith in Jesus the Logos born of the Father is firmly rooted in history because, as St Cyril affirms, this same Jesus came in time with his birth from Mary, the Theotò-kos, and in accordance with his promise will always be with us. And this is important: God is eternal, he is born of a woman, and he stays with us every day. In this trust we live, in this trust we find the way for our life.

For more visit Vatican.va

Dr. Matthew E. Bunson is a Register senior editor and a senior contributor to EWTN News. For the past 20 years, he has been active in the area of Catholic social communications and education, including writing, editing, and teaching on a variety of topics related to Church history, the papacy, the saints and Catholic culture. He is faculty chair at Catholic Distance University, a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the author or co-author of over 50 books including The Encyclopedia of Catholic History, The Pope Encyclopedia, We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI, The Saints Encyclopedia and best-selling biographies of St. Damien of Molokai and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

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

Dr. Matthew Bunson discusses the life, times and teachings of St. Jerome

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

Jerome was born into a Christian family in about 347 A.D. in Stridon. He was given a good education and was even sent to Rome to fine-tune his studies. As a young man he was attracted by the worldly life (cf. Ep 22, 7), but his desire for and interest in the Christian religion prevailed.
He received Baptism in about 366 and opted for the ascetic life. He went to Aquileia and joined a group of fervent Christians that had formed around Bishop Valerian and which he described as almost “a choir of blesseds” (Chron. ad ann. 374). He then left for the East and lived as a hermit in the Desert of Chalcis, south of Aleppo (Ep 14, 10), devoting himself assiduously to study. He perfected his knowledge of Greek, began learning Hebrew (cf. Ep 125, 12), and transcribed codices and Patristic writings (cf. Ep 5, 2). Meditation, solitude and contact with the Word of God helped his Christian sensibility to mature. He bitterly regretted the indiscretions of his youth (cf. Ep. 22, 7) and was keenly aware of the contrast between the pagan mentality and the Christian life: a contrast made famous by the dramatic and lively “vision” – of which he has left us an account – in which it seemed to him that he was being scourged before God because he was “Ciceronian rather than Christian” (cf. Ep. 22, 30).

In 382 he moved to Rome: here, acquainted with his fame as an ascetic and his ability as a scholar, Pope Damasus engaged him as secretary and counsellor; the Pope encouraged him, for pastoral and cultural reasons, to embark on a new Latin translation of the Biblical texts. Several members of the Roman aristocracy, especially noblewomen such as Paula, Marcella, Asella, Lea and others, desirous of committing themselves to the way of Christian perfection and of deepening their knowledge of the Word of God, chose him as their spiritual guide and teacher in the methodical approach to the sacred texts. These noblewomen also learned Greek and Hebrew.

After the death of Pope Damasus, Jerome left Rome in 385 and went on pilgrimage, first to the Holy Land, a silent witness of Christ’s earthly life, and then to Egypt, the favourite country of numerous monks (cf. Contra Rufinum, 3, 22; Ep. 108, 6-14). In 386 he stopped in Bethlehem, where male and female monasteries were built through the generosity of the noblewoman, Paula, as well as a hospice for pilgrims bound for the Holy Land, “remembering Mary and Joseph who had found no room there” (Ep. 108, 14). He stayed in Bethlehem until he died, continuing to do a prodigious amount of work: he commented on the Word of God; he defended the faith, vigorously opposing various heresies; he urged the monks on to perfection; he taught classical and Christian culture to young students; he welcomed with a pastor’s heart pilgrims who were visiting the Holy Land. He died in his cell close to the Grotto of the Nativity on 30 September 419-420.

Jerome’s literary studies and vast erudition enabled him to revise and translate many biblical texts: an invaluable undertaking for the Latin Church and for Western culture. On the basis of the original Greek and Hebrew texts, and thanks to the comparison with previous versions, he revised the four Gospels in Latin, then the Psalter and a large part of the Old Testament. Taking into account the original Hebrew and Greek texts of the Septuagint, the classical Greek version of the Old Testament that dates back to pre-Christian times, as well as the earlier Latin versions, Jerome was able, with the assistance later of other collaborators, to produce a better translation: this constitutes the so-called “Vulgate”, the “official” text of the Latin Church which was recognized as such by the Council of Trent and which, after the recent revision, continues to be the “official” Latin text of the Church. It is interesting to point out the criteria which the great biblicist abided by in his work as a translator. He himself reveals them when he says that he respects even the order of the words of the Sacred Scriptures, for in them, he says, “the order of the words is also a mystery” (Ep. 57, 5), that is, a revelation. Furthermore, he reaffirms the need to refer to the original texts: “Should an argument on the New Testament arise between Latins because of interpretations of the manuscripts that fail to agree, let us turn to the original, that is, to the Greek text in which the New Testament was written. “Likewise, with regard to the Old Testament, if there are divergences between the Greek and Latin texts we should have recourse to the original Hebrew text; thus, we shall be able to find in the streams all that flows from the source” (Ep. 106, 2). Jerome also commented on many biblical texts. For him the commentaries had to offer multiple opinions “so that the shrewd reader, after reading the different explanations and hearing many opinions – to be accepted or rejected – may judge which is the most reliable, and, like an expert moneychanger, may reject the false coin” (Contra Rufinum 1, 16).

Jerome refuted with energy and liveliness the heretics who contested the tradition and faith of the Church. He also demonstrated the importance and validity of Christian literature, which had by then become a real culture that deserved to be compared with classical literature: he did so by composing his De Viris Illustribus, a work in which Jerome presents the biographies of more than a hundred Christian authors. Further, he wrote biographies of monks, comparing among other things their spiritual itineraries as well as monastic ideal. In addition, he translated various works by Greek authors. Lastly, in the important Epistulae, a masterpiece of Latin literature, Jerome emerges with the profile of a man of culture, an ascetic and a guide of souls.

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).

For more visit Vatican.va

Dr. Matthew E. Bunson is a Register senior editor and a senior contributor to EWTN News. For the past 20 years, he has been active in the area of Catholic social communications and education, including writing, editing, and teaching on a variety of topics related to Church history, the papacy, the saints and Catholic culture. He is faculty chair at Catholic Distance University, a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the author or co-author of over 50 books including The Encyclopedia of Catholic History, The Pope Encyclopedia, We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI, The Saints Encyclopedia and best-selling biographies of St. Damien of Molokai and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

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

Dr. Matthew Bunson discusses the life, times and teachings of St. Augustine of Hippo (part 2)

Born: 13 November 354
Died: 28 August 430
For more on St. Augustine of Hippo and his teachings

Augustine of Hippo
– Confessions
– Letters
– City of God
– Christian Doctrine
– On the Holy Trinity
– The Enchiridion
– On the Catechising of the Uninstructed
– On Faith and the Creed
– Concerning Faith of Things Not Seen
– On the Profit of Believing
– On the Creed: A Sermon to Catechumens
– On Continence
– On the Good of Marriage
– On Holy Virginity
– On the Good of Widowhood
– On Lying
– To Consentius: Against Lying
– On the Work of Monks
– On Patience
– On Care to be Had For the Dead
– On the Morals of the Catholic Church
– On the Morals of the Manichaeans
– On Two Souls, Against the Manichaeans
– Acts or Disputation Against Fortunatus the Manichaean
– Against the Epistle of Manichaeus Called Fundamental
– Reply to Faustus the Manichaean
– Concerning the Nature of Good, Against the Manichaeans
– On Baptism, Against the Donatists
– Answer to Letters of Petilian, Bishop of Cirta
– Merits and Remission of Sin, and Infant Baptism
– On the Spirit and the Letter
– On Nature and Grace
– On Man’s Perfection in Righteousness
– On the Proceedings of Pelagius
– On the Grace of Christ, and on Original Sin
– On Marriage and Concupiscence
– On the Soul and its Origin
– Against Two Letters of the Pelagians
– On Grace and Free Will
– On Rebuke and Grace
– The Predestination of the Saints/Gift of Perseverance
– Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount
– The Harmony of the Gospels
– Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament
– Tractates on the Gospel of John
– Homilies on the First Epistle of John
– Soliloquies
– The Enarrations, or Expositions, on the Psalms

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

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.

For more visit Vatican.va

Dr. 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; the Encyclopedia of U.S. Catholic History; Pope Francis. His also the editor of OSV’s “The Catholic Answer” magazine.

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

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

Born: 13 November 354
Died: 28 August 430
For more on St. Augustine of Hippo and his teachings

Augustine of Hippo [
– Confessions
– Letters
– City of God
– Christian Doctrine
– On the Holy Trinity
– The Enchiridion
– On the Catechising of the Uninstructed
– On Faith and the Creed
– Concerning Faith of Things Not Seen
– On the Profit of Believing
– On the Creed: A Sermon to Catechumens
– On Continence
– On the Good of Marriage
– On Holy Virginity
– On the Good of Widowhood
– On Lying
– To Consentius: Against Lying
– On the Work of Monks
– On Patience
– On Care to be Had For the Dead
– On the Morals of the Catholic Church
– On the Morals of the Manichaeans
– On Two Souls, Against the Manichaeans
– Acts or Disputation Against Fortunatus the Manichaean
– Against the Epistle of Manichaeus Called Fundamental
– Reply to Faustus the Manichaean
– Concerning the Nature of Good, Against the Manichaeans
– On Baptism, Against the Donatists
– Answer to Letters of Petilian, Bishop of Cirta
– Merits and Remission of Sin, and Infant Baptism
– On the Spirit and the Letter
– On Nature and Grace
– On Man’s Perfection in Righteousness
– On the Proceedings of Pelagius
– On the Grace of Christ, and on Original Sin
– On Marriage and Concupiscence
– On the Soul and its Origin
– Against Two Letters of the Pelagians
– On Grace and Free Will
– On Rebuke and Grace
– The Predestination of the Saints/Gift of Perseverance
– Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount
– The Harmony of the Gospels
– Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament
– Tractates on the Gospel of John
– Homilies on the First Epistle of John
– Soliloquies
– The Enarrations, or Expositions, on the Psalms

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

n Milan, Augustine acquired the habit of listening – at first for the purpose of enriching his rhetorical baggage – to the eloquent St.-Augustine-iconpreaching of Bishop Ambrose, who had been a representative of the Emperor for Northern Italy. The African rhetorician was fascinated by the words of the great Milanese Prelate; and not only by his rhetoric. It was above all the content that increasingly touched Augustine’s heart. The great difficulty with the Old Testament, because of its lack of rhetorical beauty and lofty philosophy was resolved in St Ambrose’s preaching through his typological interpretation of the Old Testament: Augustine realized that the whole of the Old Testament was a journey toward Jesus Christ. Thus, he found the key to understanding the beauty and even the philosophical depth of the Old Testament and grasped the whole unity of the mystery of Christ in history, as well as the synthesis between philosophy, rationality and faith in the Logos, in Christ, the Eternal Word who was made flesh.

Augustine soon realized that the allegorical interpretation of Scripture and the Neo-Platonic philosophy practised by the Bishop of Milan enabled him to solve the intellectual difficulties which, when he was younger during his first approach to the biblical texts, had seemed insurmountable to him.

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 Vatican.va

Dr. Matthew E. Bunson is a Register senior editor and a senior contributor to EWTN News. For the past 20 years, he has been active in the area of Catholic social communications and education, including writing, editing, and teaching on a variety of topics related to Church history, the papacy, the saints, and Catholic culture. He is faculty chair at Catholic Distance University, a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the author or co-author of over 50 books including The Encyclopedia of Catholic History, The Pope Encyclopedia, We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI, The Saints Encyclopedia and best-selling biographies of St. Damien of Molokai and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

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

Dr. Matthew Bunson discusses the life, times, and work of  St. Ephrem of Syria

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 St.-Ephremexpressed 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

Dr. Matthew E. Bunson is a Register senior editor and senior contributor to EWTN News. For the past 20 years, he has been active in the area of Catholic social communications and education, including writing, editing, and teaching on a variety of topics related to Church history, the papacy, the saints, and Catholic culture. He is faculty chair at Catholic Distance University, a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the author or co-author of over 50 books including The Encyclopedia of Catholic History, The Pope Encyclopedia, We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI, The Saints Encyclopedia, and best-selling biographies of St. Damien of Molokai and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

St. Athanasius of Alexandria – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom w/ Dr. Matthew Bunson Podcast

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

Born: 296 AD, Alexandria, Egypt
Died: May 2, 373 AD, Alexandria, Egypt

For more on St. Athanasius of Alexandria and his teachings

Athanasius 

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.

In all likelihood Athanasius was born in Alexandria, Egypt, in about the year 300 A.D. He received a good education before becoming a deacon and secretary to the Bishop of Alexandria, the great Egyptian metropolis. As a close collaborator of his Bishop, the young cleric took part with him in the Council of Nicaea, the first Ecumenical Council, convoked by the Emperor Constantine in May 325 A.D. to ensure Church unity. The Nicene Fathers were thus able to address various issues and primarily the serious problem that had arisen a few years earlier from the preaching of the Alexandrian priest, Arius.

With his theory, Arius threatened authentic faith in Christ, declaring that the Logos was not a true God but a created God, a creature “halfway” between God and man who hence remained for ever inaccessible to us. The Bishops gathered in Nicaea responded by developing and establishing the “Symbol of faith” [“Creed”] which, completed later at the First Council of Constantinople, has endured in the traditions of various Christian denominations and in the liturgy as the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed.

In this fundamental text – which expresses the faith of the undivided Church and which we also recite today, every Sunday, in the Eucharistic celebration – the Greek term homooúsiosis featured, in Latin consubstantialis: it means that the Son, the Logos, is “of the same substance” as the Father, he is God of God, he is his substance. Thus, the full divinity of the Son, which was denied by the Arians, was brought into the limelight.

For more visit Vatican.va

Dr. Matthew E. Bunson is a Register senior editor and senior contributor to EWTN News. For the past 20 years, he has been active in the area of Catholic social communications and education, including writing, editing, and teaching on a variety of topics related to Church history, the papacy, the saints and Catholic culture. He is faculty chair at Catholic Distance University, a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the author or co-author of over 50 books including The Encyclopedia of Catholic History, The Pope Encyclopedia, We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI, The Saints Encyclopedia and best-selling biographies of St. Damien of Molokai and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

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

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

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

For more on St. Hilary of Poitiers and his teachings

Hilary of Poitiers
– On the Councils, or the Faith of the Easterns
– On the Trinity
– Homilies on the Psalms

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

To sum up the essentials of his doctrine, I would like to say that Hilary found the starting point for his theological reflection in baptismal faith. In De Trinitate, Hilary writes: Jesus St.-Hilary-1“has commanded us to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (cf. Mt 28: 19), that is, in the confession of the Author, of the Only-Begotten One and of the Gift. The Author of all things is one alone, for one alone is God the Father, from whom all things proceed. And one alone is Our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things exist (cf. I Cor 8: 6), and one alone is the Spirit (cf. Eph 4: 4), a gift in all…. In nothing can be found to be lacking so great a fullness, in which the immensity in the Eternal One, the revelation in the Image, joy in the Gift, converge in the Father, in the Son and in the Holy Spirit” (De Trinitate 2, 1). God the Father, being wholly love, is able to communicate his divinity to his Son in its fullness. I find particularly beautiful the following formula of St Hilary: “God knows not how to be anything other than love, he knows not how to be anyone other than the Father. Those who love are not envious and the one who is the Father is so in his totality. This name admits no compromise, as if God were father in some aspects and not in others” (ibid., 9, 61).

For this reason the Son is fully God without any gaps or diminishment. “The One who comes from the perfect is perfect because he has all, he has given all” (ibid., 2, 8). Humanity finds salvation in Christ alone, Son of God and Son of man. In assuming our human nature, he has united himself with every man, “he has become the flesh of us all” (Tractatus super Psalmos 54, 9); “he took on himself the nature of all flesh and through it became true life, he has in himself the root of every vine shoot” (ibid., 51, 16). For this very reason the way to Christ is open to all – because he has drawn all into his being as a man -, even if personal conversion is always required: “Through the relationship with his flesh, access to Christ is open to all, on condition that they divest themselves of their former self (cf. Eph 4: 22), nailing it to the Cross (cf. Col 2: 14); provided we give up our former way of life and convert in order to be buried with him in his baptism, in view of life (cf. Col1: 12; Rom 6: 4)” (ibid., 91, 9).

Fidelity to God is a gift of his grace. Therefore, St Hilary asks, at the end of his Treatise on the Trinity, to be able to remain ever faithful to the baptismal faith. It is a feature of this book: reflection is transformed into prayer and prayer returns to reflection. The whole book is a dialogue with God.
I would like to end today’s Catechesis with one of these prayers, which thus becomes our prayer:
“Obtain, O Lord”, St Hilary recites with inspiration, “that I may keep ever faithful to what I have professed in the symbol of my regeneration, when I was baptized in the Father, in the Son and in the Holy Spirit. That I may worship you, our Father, and with you, your Son; that I may deserve your Holy Spirit, who proceeds from you through your Only Begotten Son… Amen” (De Trinitate 12, 57).

For more visit Vatican.va

Dr. Matthew E. Bunson is a Register senior editor and senior contributor to EWTN News. For the past 20 years, he has been active in the area of Catholic social communications and education, including writing, editing, and teaching on a variety of topics related to Church history, the papacy, the saints, and Catholic culture. He is faculty chair at Catholic Distance University, a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the author or co-author of over 50 books including The Encyclopedia of Catholic History, The Pope Encyclopedia, We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI, The Saints Encyclopedia and best-selling biographies of St. Damien of Molokai and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.

DC30 St. Albert the Great – The Doctors of the Church: The Charism of Wisdom w/ Dr. Matthew Bunson Podcast

Dr. Matthew Bunson Doctors of the Church Podcast St. Albert the Great

Dr. Matthew Bunson discusses the life, times and teachings of St. Albert the Great

 

Born: 1193, Lauingen, Germany
Died: November 15, 1280, Cologne, Germany
Education: University of Padua

For more on St. Albert the Great and his teachings

From Vatican.va, an excerpt from the teachings oPope Benedict XVI 

From the General Audience on St. Albert the Great

One of the great masters of medieval theology is St Albert the Great.

The title “Great”, (Magnus), with which he has passed into history indicates the vastness and depth of his teaching, which he combined with holiness of life. However, his contemporaries did not hesitate to attribute to him titles of excellence even then. One of his disciples, Ulric of Strasbourg, called him the “wonder and miracle of our epoch”.

He was born in Germany at the beginning of the 13th century. When he was still young he went to Italy, to Padua, the seat of one of the most famous medieval universities. He devoted himself to the study of the so-called “liberal arts”: grammar, rhetoric, dialectics, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music, that is, to culture in general, demonstrating that characteristic interest in the natural sciences which was soon to become the favourite field for his specialization. During his stay in Padua he attended the Church of the Dominicans, whom he then joined with the profession of the religious vows. Hagiographic sources suggest that Albert came to this decision gradually. His intense relationship with God, the Dominican Friars’ example of holiness, hearing the sermons of Blessed Jordan of Saxony, St Dominic’s successor at the Master General of the Order of Preachers, were the decisive factors that helped him to overcome every doubt and even to surmount his family’s resistence. God often speaks to us in the years of our youth and points out to us the project of our life. As it was for Albert, so also for all of us, personal prayer, nourished by the Lord’s word, frequent reception of the Sacraments and the spiritual guidance of enlightened people are the means to discover and follow God’s voice. He received the religious habit from Bl. Jordan of Saxony.

After his ordination to the priesthood, his superiors sent him to teach at various theological study centres annexed to the convents of the Dominican Fathers. His brilliant intellectual qualities enabled him to perfect his theological studies at the most famous university in that period, the University of Paris. From that time on St Albert began his extraordinary activity as a writer that he was to pursue throughout his life.

Prestigious tasks were assigned to him. In 1248 he was charged with opening a theological studium at Cologne, one of the most important regional capitals of Germany, where he lived at different times and which became his adopted city. He brought with him from Paris an exceptional student, Thomas Aquinas. The sole merit of having been St Thomas’ teacher would suffice to elicit profound admiration for St Albert. A relationship of mutual esteem and friendship developed between these two great theologians, human attitudes that were very helpful in the development of this branch of knowlege. In 1254, Albert was elected Provincial of the Dominican Fathers’ “Provincia Teutoniae” Teutonic Province which included communities scattered over a vast territory in Central and Northern Europe.

He distinguished himself for the zeal with which he exercised this ministry, visiting the communities and constantly recalling his confreres to fidelity, to the teaching and example of St Dominic.

His gifts did not escape the attention of the Pope of that time, Alexander iv, who wanted Albert with him for a certain time at Anagni where the Popes went frequently in Rome itself and at Viterbo, in order to avail himself of Albert’s theological advice. The same Supreme Pontiff appointed Albert Bishop of Regensburg, a large and celebrated diocese, but which was going through a difficult period. From 1260 to 1262, Albert exercised this ministry with unflagging dedication, succeeding in restoring peace and harmony to the city, in reorganizing parishes and convents and in giving a new impetus to charitable activities.

In the year 1263-1264, Albert preached in Germany and in Bohemia, at the request of Pope Urban iv. He later returned to Cologne and took up his role as lecturer, scholar and writer. As a man of prayer, science and charity, his authoritative intervention in various events of the Church and of the society of the time were acclaimed: above all, he was a man of reconciliation and peace in Cologne, where the Archbishop had run seriously foul of the city’s institutions; he did his utmost during the Second Council of Lyons, in 1274, summoned by Pope Gregory X, to encourage union between the Latin and Greek Churches after the separation of the great schism with the East in 1054. He also explained the thought of Thomas Aquinas which had been the subject of objections and even quite unjustified condemnations.

He died in his cell at the convent of the Holy Cross, Cologne, in 1280, and was very soon venerated by his confreres. The Church proposed him for the worship of the faithful with his beatification in 1622 and with his canonization in 1931, when Pope Pius XI proclaimed him Doctor of the Church. This was certainly an appropriate recognition of this great man of God and outstanding scholar, not only of the truths of the faith but of a great many other branches of knowledge; indeed, with a glance at the titles of his very numerous works, we realize that there was something miraculous about his culture and that his encyclopedic interests led him not only to concern himself with philosophy and theology, like other contemporaries of his, but also with every other discipline then known, from physics to chemistry, from astronomy to minerology, from botany to zoology.

For this reason Pope Pius XII named him Patron of enthusiasts of the natural sciences and also called him “Doctor universalis” precisely because of the vastness of his interests and knowledge.

For more visit Vatican.va

For more from Dr. Matthew Bunson check out his Discerning Hearts page

Dr. Matthew E. Bunson is a Register senior editor and a senior contributor to EWTN News. For the past 20 years, he has been active in the area of Catholic social communications and education, including writing, editing, and teaching on a variety of topics related to Church history, the papacy, the saints, and Catholic culture. He is faculty chair at Catholic Distance University, a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, and the author or co-author of over 50 books including The Encyclopedia of Catholic History, The Pope Encyclopedia, We Have a Pope! Benedict XVI, The Saints Encyclopedia and best-selling biographies of St. Damien of Molokai and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.