The History and Teachings of the Early Church Fathers
Nothing speaks to us better than getting to know the history of any enterprise that we undertake: we usually learn all we can about the company we work for so that we can relate to others how it came to be and what the philosophy was of the entrepreneurial beginnings of the company. Part of that history is learning about the founder and the early leaders of the company and their vision of the company and their successful leadership as well as their single mindedness in reaching the goal of the founder. At least that is something we salesmen study when we go to work for a new company with a long history. It lends credibility to the company that we are representing and unites us in some small way to a participation in the company’s goals.
It is no different in the new Catholic, who represents the Church in the world to all who meet and talk with them. Why then, do so few Christians spend almost no time at all looking at our history and the Early Church Fathers who forged the beginnings of the largest institution on the face of the planet: 1.2 billion members yoked to the teachings of the Church?
It is this history, which the Bible initiates as our first introduction or orientation to the Catholic Faith. Her structure and our adherence to doctrine were discussed somewhat in the last post; Part III. But for further information which is to our great benefit to read, we have the accounts of the earliest Christians and the beliefs that they held from the beginning. Even a cursory reading of these great men and pioneers of our Faith, add their mark of approval on most of our beliefs and practices still in place over almost 2 millennia.
The belief in the real presence of Christ residing, body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist, our heightened honor that is afforded our Blessed Virgin Mary, our honoring of the saints and martyrs, our belief in the Pope as being the sovereign leader of the Church, the idea that a priest can forgive us our sins if we are contrite and sorry for them and willing to amend our ways, the need for Baptism and the efficacy of the other sacraments of the Church, the love and adherence that we give to the books of the Bible, the gravity of abortion and sins of the flesh, and the knowledge that we are bound to an authority that is beyond our mortal world but embodied in the ministry that was founded by Christ Himself. All of these things and more can be verified by the writings which came from the earliest Christians: these we call the Early Church Fathers.
The latest historical find which dates back as far as the oldest entries in the New Testament is called the Didache or Teaching of the Twelve. I would recommend that every Christian read the document and understand that it was a small handbook that was widely carried throughout the Christian world a mere 30 to 50 years after the death of our Lord and Savior.
Much, therefore, that I heard from non-Catholic sources, who mocked and ridiculed Catholic beliefs and practices were, besides being condescending, proved wrong: to be sure, the faith of our fathers is being faithfully carried forward into our modern age by the Catholic Church.
Since this is just a short post, for those who want to get into the meat of the proofs concerning the Catholic Tradition, one should at the very least read the Didache and the writings of the Early Church Fathers for illuminating insight into what our earliest Christians believed.
You will quickly come to the conclusion that the Catholic Church stands with these founding fathers and does not make up new and novel doctrines to force on their members. Without this tie to Christ, the apostles and the earliest known Christians, how could anyone have faith that their way of understanding, living or teaching a particular brand of Christianity is truly authentic? History provides us with that reassurance and gives me the Reason for My Hope within the Catholic construct of the Christian faith.