St. Gregory the Great…with Mike Aquilina – Discerning Hearts

We talk with Mike Aquilina  about St. Gregor the Great, a father of the Church.

St. Gregory the Great…the tradition of the Church considers him one of the four great doctors of the Latin Church.  Born in Rome, Italy, in AD 540, St. Gregory was the son of Gordianus, a wealthy senator, and Silvia, who later became a saint.  (Saints make saints after all…).

His youth was a troubled one.  In his writings he chronicles the perpetual seiges that Rome endured at the hands of the barbarians.  Those nasty Lombards! Pillaging, raping, massacring, they would plague the Church and the people of the land for 200 years, you name any standard, they were bad!

Saint Gregory became the Prefect of Rome at the age of thirty, and the people loved him because he was able to keep them safe.  A few years later, like his parents, he gave his wealth away.  He became a Benedictine monk. But the pope of the time, recalled him to Rome to serve as a deacon and to help the city, which was again attacked by the Lombards.

On the third day of September in 590, after he had first been ordained a priest, Saint Gregory was consecrated Pope and Bishop of Rome, in Saint Peter’s Basilica. He was the first monk to become Pope.   The Holy Spirit didn’t waste anytime moving him to service!

Through Saint Leander and his brother, Saint Isidore of Seville, as well as the martyr Saint Hermenegild, Saint Gregory recovered Spain from the Arians. Through Queen Theodelinda, the wife of the Lombard King Agilulf, he was able to begin the conversion of the Lombard nation and the tempering of their ferocious and cruel natures. He won France back and began conversions in England. Saint Gregory was, above all else, a vigilant guardian of the Church’s doctrine, always the mark of a holy Pope. He ordained, early in his pontificate that the first four Ecumenical Councils of the Church should be treated with the respect given to the four Gospels. He worked unceasingly to stamp out heresy. He ordered that at the beginning of Lent the blessed ashes should be placed on the foreheads of the faithful, instead of only the head of the Pope — as had been the custom up to that time — and that the priest should repeat to each one, “Remember man, that dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return”. excerpted in part from an article by Sister Catherine Goddard Clark, M.I.C.M.

He is known for his magnificent contributions to the Liturgy of the Mass and Office. The “Gregorian Chant” is named in honor of Saint Gregory’s patient labor in restoring the ancient chant of the Church and in setting down the rules to be followed so that Church music might more perfectly fulfill its function.

Saint Gregory the Great died on the twelfth of March, 604, at the age of sixty-four. He was canonized immediately after his death. Later, because of the volume, the extraordinary insight and the profundity of his writings, the depth and extent of his learning, and the heroic holiness of his life, the Church gratefully placed him beside Jerome and Ambrose and Augustine. Saint Gregory the Great became the fourth of the Church’s four great Doctors of the West.  –

What would today be like without  a little Gregorian Chant in honor of our St. Gregory?



 Spiritual Writings:

– Pastoral Rule
– Register of Letters

The altar of St. Gregory the Great at St. Peter’s in Rome. One of my favorite places to pray at the Vatican. 

St. Peter Chrysologus (Peter of the Golden Words) with Mike Aquilina – Discerning Hearts

The ultimate homiliest… so much so that he is known forever after as St. Peter Chrysologus (Peter of the Golden Words).    Born in 380 and died July 30 45o A.D.  He was known for his short and inspired talks…make note: can be inspired AND short…wow!  He spoke out against all those nasty heresies of the time (Aranism to name just one) and encouraged daily communion.

Take a listen to Mike Aquilina (speaking of Mr. Golden Words) talk to us about this time in history and all those “isms”, and how the Holy Spirit worked through the Church to battle those false teachings

Favorite quotes:

“He is The Bread sown in the virgin, leavened in the Flesh, molded in His Passion, baked in the furnace of the Sepulchre, placed in the Churches, and set upon the Altars, which daily supplies Heavenly Food to the faithful.”

“Today Christ works the first of his signs from heaven by turning water into wine. But water [mixed with wine] has still to be changed into the sacrament of his blood, so that Christ may offer spiritual drink from the chalice of his body, to fulfill the psalmist’s prophecy: How excellent is my chalice, warming my spirit.”


St. Justin Martyr – A Father of the Church: “pioneer of positive engagement with philosophical thinking – albeit with cautious discernment…. ” with Mike Aquilina – Discerning Hearts

Join us a we discuss the life St. Justin Martyr with the wonderful Mike Aquilina

You can also read the following from



St Peter’s Square
Wednesday, 21 March 2007

St Justin, Philosopher and Martyr (c. 100-165)


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In these Catecheses, we are reflecting on the great figures of the early Church. Today, we will talk about St Justin, Philosopher and Martyr, the most important of the second-century apologist Fathers.

The word “apologist” designates those ancient Christian writers who set out to defend the new religion from the weighty accusations of both pagans and Jews, and to spread the Christian doctrine in terms suited to the culture of their time.

Thus, the apologists had a twofold concern: that most properly called “apologetic”, to defend the newborn Christianity (apologhía in Greek means, precisely, “defence”), and the pro-positive, “missionary” concern, to explain the content of the faith in a language and on a wavelength comprehensible to their contemporaries.

Justin was born in about the year 100 near ancient Shechem, Samaria, in the Holy Land; he spent a long time seeking the truth, movi
Finally, as he himself recounts in the first chapters of his Dialogue with Tryphon, a mysterious figure, an old man he met on the seashore, initially leads him into a crisis by showing him that it is impossible for the human being to satisfy his aspiration to the divine solely with his own forces. He then pointed out to him the ancient prophets as the people to turn to in order to find the way to God and “true philosophy”.ng through the various schools of the Greek philosophical tradition.

In taking his leave, the old man urged him to pray that the gates of light would be opened to him.
The story foretells the crucial episode in Justin’s life: at the end of a long philosophical journey, a quest for the truth, he arrived at the Christian faith. He founded a school in Rome where, free of charge, he initiated students into the new religion, considered as the true philosophy. Indeed, in it he had found the truth, hence, the art of living virtuously.

For this reason he was reported and beheaded in about 165 during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher-emperor to whom Justin had actually addressed one of his Apologia.

These – the two Apologies and the Dialogue with the Hebrew, Tryphon – are his only surviving works. In them, Justin intends above all to illustrate the divine project of creation and salvation, which is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Logos, that is, the eternal Word, eternal Reason, creative Reason.

Read more

St. Athanasius – Father and Doctor of the Church w/Mike Aquilina – Discerning Hearts

St. Athanasius is one of the great Father and Doctors of the Church…the Father of Orthodoxy. His extraordinary life is shared with us by Mike Aquilina. When we say “consubstantial” at mass it’s due in part to St. Athansius and the battle against the Arian Heresy. Take a listen and learn more…mikeaquilina-1

More on the life of St. Athanasius from Pope Benedict at


Paul VI Audience Hall
Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Continuing our revisitation of the great Teachers of the ancient Church, let us focus our attention today on St Athanasius of Alexandria.
>Only a few years after his death, this authentic protagonist of the Christian tradition was already hailed as “the pillar of the Church” by Gregory of Nazianzus, the great theologian and Bishop of Constantinople (Orationes, 21, 26), and he has always been considered a model of orthodoxy in both East and West.

As a result, it was not by chance that Gian Lorenzo Bernini placed his statue among those of the four holy Doctors of the Eastern and Western Churches – together with the images of Ambrose, John Chrysostom and Augustine – which surround the Chair of St Peter in the marvellous apse of the Vatican Basilica.

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.

Read more

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, a master in teaching the faith with Mike Aquilina – Discerning Hearts

Mike Aquilina offers us deep insight on the life of St. Cyril of Jerusalem.mikeaquilina

More on St. Cyril of Jerusalem from

Paul VI Audience Hall
Wednesday, 27 June 2007

st-cyril-of-jerusalemSaint Cyril of Jerusalem

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Our attention today is focused on St Cyril of Jerusalem. His life is woven of two dimensions: on the one hand, pastoral care, and on the other, his involvement, in spite of himself, in the heated controversies that were then tormenting the Church of the East.

Cyril was born at or near Jerusalem in 315 A.D. He received an excellent literary education which formed the basis of his ecclesiastical culture, centred on study of the Bible. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Maximus.

When this Bishop died or was deposed in 348, Cyril was ordained a Bishop by Acacius, the influential Metropolitan of Caesarea in Palestine, a philo-Arian who must have been under the impression that in Cyril he had an ally; so as a result Cyril was suspected of having obtained his episcopal appointment by making concessions to Arianism.

Actually, Cyril very soon came into conflict with Acacius, not only in the field of doctrine but also in that of jurisdiction, because he claimed his own See to be autonomous from the Metropolitan See of Caesarea.

Cyril was exiled three times within the course of approximately 20 years: the first time was in 357, after being deposed by a Synod of Jerusalem; followed by a second exile in 360, instigated by Acacius; and finally, in 367, by a third exile – his longest, which lasted 11 years – by the philo-Arian Emperor Valens.

It was only in 378, after the Emperor’s death, that Cyril could definitively resume possession of his See and restore unity and peace to his faithful.

Some sources of that time cast doubt on his orthodoxy, whereas other equally ancient sources come out strongly in his favour. The most authoritative of them is the Synodal Letter of 382 that followed the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (381), in which Cyril had played an important part.

In this Letter addressed to the Roman Pontiff, the Eastern Bishops officially recognized Cyril’s flawless orthodoxy, the legitimacy of his episcopal ordination and the merits of his pastoral service, which ended with his death in 387.

Of Cyril’s writings, 24 famous catecheses have been preserved, which he delivered as Bishop in about 350.

Introduced by a Procatechesis of welcome, the first 18 of these are addressed to catechumens or candidates for illumination (photizomenoi) [candidates for Baptism]; they were delivered in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. Each of the first ones (nn. 1-5) respectively treat the prerequisites for Baptism, conversion from pagan morals, the Sacrament of Baptism, the 10 dogmatic truths contained in the Creed or Symbol of the faith.

The next catecheses (nn. 6-18) form an “ongoing catechesis” on the Jerusalem Creed in anti-Arian tones.

Of the last five so-called “mystagogical catecheses”, the first two develop a commentary on the rites of Baptism and the last three focus on the Chrism, the Body and Blood of Christ and the Eucharistic Liturgy. They include an explanation of the Our Father (Oratio dominica).

This forms the basis of a process of initiation to prayer which develops on a par with the initiation to the three Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist.

The basis of his instruction on the Christian faith also served to play a polemic role against pagans, Judaeo Christians and Manicheans. The argument was based on the fulfilment of the Old Testament promises, in a language rich in imagery.

Catechesis marked an important moment in the broader context of the whole life – particularly liturgical – of the Christian community, in whose maternal womb the gestation of the future faithful took place, accompanied by prayer and the witness of the brethren.

St.-Cyril-of-JerusalemTaken 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.

Especially with neophytes of Greek origin, Cyril made use of the faculty of sight which they found congenial. It was the passage from the rite to the mystery that made the most of the psychological effect of amazement, as well as the experience of Easter night.

Here is a text that explains the mystery of Baptism: “You descended three times into the water, and ascended again, suggesting by a symbol the three days burial of Christ, imitating Our Saviour who spent three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (cf. Mt 12: 40). Celebrating the first emersion in water you recall the first day passed by Christ in the sepulchre; with the first immersion you confessed the first night passed in the sepulchre: for as he who is in the night no longer sees, but he who is in the day remains in the light, so in the descent, as in the night, you saw nothing, but in ascending again you were as in the day. And at the self-same moment you were both dying and being born; and that water of salvation was at once your grave and your mother…. For you… the time to die goes hand in hand with the time to be born: one and the same time effected both of these events” (cf. Second Mystagogical Catechesis, n. 4).

The mystery to be understood is God’s plan, which is brought about through Christ’s saving actions in the Church.

In turn, the mystagogical dimension is accompanied by the dimension of symbols which express the spiritual experience they “explode”. Thus, Cyril’s catechesis, on the basis of the three elements described – doctrinal, moral and lastly, mystagogical – proves to be a global catechesis in the Spirit.

The mystagogical dimension brings about the synthesis of the two former dimensions, orienting them to the sacramental celebration in which the salvation of the whole human person takes place.
In short, this is an integral catechesis which, involving body, soul and spirit – remains emblematic for the catechetical formation of Christians today.


The Story of St. Perpetua and St. Felicity with Mike Aquilina – Discerning Hearts

Mike Aquilina offers the compelling story of the St. Perpetua and her great friend and sister in the faith, St. Felicity.

From CNA:

Saints Perpetua and Felicity were martyrs who died for the faith around the year 203.

St. Perpetua was a young, well-educated, noblewoman and mother living in the city of Carthage in North Africa. Her mother was a Christian and her father was a pagan. In terms of her faith, Perpetua followed the example of her mother. Despite the pleas of her father to deny her faith, Perpetua did the very opposite, and fearlessly proclaimed it. At the age of 22, she was imprisoned for her faith. While in prison she continued to care for her infant child and put up with the tortures designed to make her renounce her faith. Perpetua remained steadfast until the end. St. Perpetua was sacrificed at the games as a public spectacle for not renouncing her faith.
St. Felicity was a pregnant slave girl who was imprisoned with St. Perpetua. Little is known about the life of St. Felicity because, unlike Perpetua, she did not keep a diary of her life. After imprisonment and torture, Felicity was also condemned to die at the games. Only a few days before her execution, Felicity gave birth to a daughter who was secretly taken away to be cared for by some of the Faithful.

The feast of these Saints is March 7.

St. Basil the Great – the “Doer” with Mike Aquilina – Discerning Hearts

Known as the “Doer”, St. Basil the Great is an extraordinary figure in our Christian heritage.

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI has said,

Saint Basil the Great, one of the most eminent Fathers of the Eastern Church, showed to all those who wished to give themselves completely to God the way of monastic life, “where the precept of concretely lived charity becomes the ideal of human coexistence, where the human being seeks God without limitation or impediment” (cf. Orientale Lumen, 9). Saint Basil is for you a model of perfect service of God and the Church. His whole life consisted in the harmonious exercise of the virtue of faith and in acts of practical love in the spirit of the evangelical counsels. Down the centuries the teaching of Saint Basil has borne mature fruits of religious life, especially in the East.

Take a listen to the interview above with Mike Aquilina and learn so much more about this “great” Father of the Church

St. Ambrose…father, and one of the four original doctors, of the Church with Mike Aquilina

“Remember always…a tranquil conscience and an assured innocence produce a blessed life”

Saint Ambrose (c. between 337 and 340 – 4 April 397), was a bishop of Milan who became one of the most influential Church figures of the 4th century. Mariologist, heresy buster, emperor tamer, lover of hymns, an answer to a mother’s prayer (ask St. Monica), you name it, St. Ambrose fills the bill…

Did you know that St. Ambrose was one of the first recorded instances of someone reading silently?  Interesting…

Did you know that he received, essentially, the sacramental Grand Slam all at once?  Wonder what that is?

…well let’s ask Mike Aquilina.  Take a listen

For a fuller a rendering of his life, visit New Advent

So, so much from St. Ambrose!  First, better to hear from the man himself (sort of…)
On Holy Mary

Next on Holy Repentance

A prayer of St. Ambrose

Lord Jesus Christ, I approach your banquet table in fear and trembling, for I am a sinner, and dare not rely on my own worth but only on your goodness and mercy. I am defiled by many sins in body and soul, and by my unguarded thoughts and words.

Gracious God of majesty and awe, I seek your protection, I look for your healing. Poor troubled sinner that I am, I appeal to You, the fountain of all mercy. I cannot bear your judgment, but I trust in your salvation. Lord, I show my wounds to You and uncover my shame before You. I know my sins are many and great, and they will fill me with fear, but I hope in Your Mercies, for they cannot be numbered.

Lord Jesus Christ, eternal king, God and man, crucified for mankind, look upon me with mercy and hear my prayer, for I trust in You. Have mercy on me, full of sorrow and sin, for the depth of your compassion never ends.

Praise to You, saving sacrifice, offered on the wood of the cross for me and for all mankind. Praise to the noble and precious blood, flowing from the wounds of my crucified Lord Jesus Christ and washing away the sins of the whole world. Remember, Lord, your creature, whom You have redeemed with Your Blood. I repent my sins, and I long to put right what I have done. Merciful Father, take away all my offenses and sins; purify me in body and soul, and make me worthy to taste the holy of holies.

May Your Body and Blood, which I intend to receive, although I am unworthy, be for me the remission of my sins, the washing away of my guilt, the end of my evil thoughts, and the rebirth of my better instincts. May it incite meto do the works pleasing to You and profitable to my health in body andsoul, and be a firm defense against the wiles of my enemies.

St. Augustine of Hippo, “Late have I loved you”

The importance of his life and contribution to the Church cannot be overstated. St. Augustine, one of the greatest of the Church Fathers, has not only influenced the Church, but the thought of the world as we know it.  The story of his conversion as chronicled in his “Confessions”, would be enough, but then add the body of his theological work and you have nothing less than a glimpse of what is truly the power of  “grace and mercy”.

Mike Aquilina is one of the best at bringing this great saint’s life into perspective.

For a more detail accounting of St. Augustine’s  life, you can visit  Lives of the Saints



Spiritual Writings:

– 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

For me, out of all the St. Augustine’s work,  this is the piece that deeply touches my heart and is one of my all-time favorite prayers:

Late Have I Loved You
A Prayer of Saint Augustine

Late have I loved you, O Beauty, so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!
And behold, you were within me and I was outside, and there I sought for you, and in my deformity I rushed headlong into the well-formed things that you have made.

You were with me, and I was not with you. Those outer beauties held me far from you, yet if they had not been in you, they would not have existed at all.

You called, and cried out to me and broke open my deafness; you shone forth upon me and you scattered my blindness.

You breathed fragrance, and I drew in my breath and I now pant for you.

I tasted, and I hunger and thirst; you touched me, and I burned for your peace.

This prayer is from his book, “Confessions.”


St. Maximus the Confessor, last Father and first Doctor of the Church with Mike Aquilina – Discerning Hearts

St. Maximus the Confessor lived approx. 500 years after Hippolytus.  He is one of the last fathers of the Church  and is consider one of the first of her doctors.  A beautiful writer and homelist he said this once:

The sun of justice, rising into the clean mind, reveals Himself and the reasons of all that He created and will create.

Love defeats those three: self-deception, because she is not proud; Interior envy, because she is not jealous; Exterior envy, because she is generous and serene.

All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are inside our hearts hidden.

Faith without love does not act in the soul the illumination of the divine knowledge.

When the mind receives the ideas of things, by its nature is transformed according to each and every idea. If it sees the things spiritually, it is transfigured in many ways according to each vision. But if the mind becomes in God, then it becomes totally shapeless and formless, because seeing Him who has one face it comes to have one face and then the whole mind becomes a face of light. taken from Speech on Love