Building Your Spiritual Life with the Early Church Fathers
- 2 hours on-demand video
- 7 articles
- 10 downloadable resources
- Full lifetime access
- Access on mobile and TV
- Certificate of Completion
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- You will learn how the Early Church Fathers understood a "personal relationship with Jesus"
- You will grow in your understanding of the role of the Holy Eucharist in your spiritual life.
- You will deepen your appreciation of the role of Sacred Scripture in your spiritual life.
- You will come to understand the importance of being united to the Church through your bishop.
- You will be challenged not to go with the flow of the culture, but to be true salt and light for the world.
- The course will make frequent references to Fathers of the Church, 3rd Edition by Mike Aquilina
- This is a non-academic spirituality course. Basic knowledge of Catholic doctrine is helpful but not necessary.
What can the Early Church Fathers teach us about building a healthy spiritual life?
The teaching and example of the Early Church Fathers can help us to build our spiritual life on a firm foundation.
In this course you'll learn
- How the Early Church Fathers understood a "personal relationship with Jesus" (and what this phrase can not mean)
- Why the Holy Eucharist is so central not only to our faith but to your spirituality as well (hint: it has a lot to do with what you'll learn about having a personal relationship with Jesus)!
- What role Sacred Scripture should have in our spiritual lives (and how to read the Bible most effectively)
- Why it's so important to be united to the Church as the Body of Christ and the Family of God (you may never see your bishop in the same way again)
- How we can navigate a culture that hates Christianity and lulls us in to a lax, lazy lukewarm faith at the same time.
- This course is intended for believing Catholics - and other Christians open to a Catholic perspective on Church history and spirituality - who are looking to enhance their spirituality using the ancient wisdom that comes from the early Church.
- Please do not take this course if your intention is to debate Catholic doctrine.
Do Catholics have a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ"? On one hand it seems like the answer would be an unqualified YES. Catholics SHOULD have a personal relationship with Jesus if they want any kind of real spirituality. On the other hand we have to be careful how we understand this idea of a personal relationship. In this lesson we'll explore what the term "personal relationship with Jesus" does NOT mean for us as Catholics.
The Early Church Fathers did not see the sacraments as mere rituals or rites of passage (as they're often seen today). They saw the Sacraments as entryways into the Divine Mystery of intimacy and love with the Holy Trinity and as fonts fo grace. In this lesson we'll see how the Early Church Fathers spoke about the Sacraments in a way that included God's great love for us and also our entry into an awesome, inexhaustible, Mystery.
If we have a personal relationship with Jesus, we would leave ritual and rote prayer behind and just talk to our friend . . . right? Well, not so fast! In this lesson we'll see how Tertullian encourages us to turn to the formula prayers first as prayers that lead us properly to the Mystery of the Holy Trinity, and then to secondarily approach God confidently with our own prayers. But to Tertullian, using formula prayers means anything BUT simply reciting them from memory.
By now you've heard multiple times that our relationship with God is more than a simple friendship. That's why Catholic spiritual tradition (starting with Sacred Scripture and the Early Church Fathers) talk about it in terms of marital intimacy instead of friendship. A relationship with an eternal, infinite God is by its very nature infinite and inexhaustible. In fact, it's so inexhaustible that our relationship with God on earth can lead us feeling greater emptiness - not because God is not with us, but because He opens us to the possibility of receiving more and more of Him. But the fulness of our relationship with and in the Holy Trinity will only be realized in Heaven. So on earth, our relationship with God is marked by growing desire. In this lesson we hear Saint Augustine describe this desire, sounding much like the later spiritual master Saint John of the Cross.
We just learned how the Early Church Fathers understood a personal relationship with Jesus. Let's review what we learned before we move on to the next section. Next, we're going to explore the role of the Holy Eucharist in our intimacy with the Lord.
Not only did the Early Church Fathers believe that the Holy Eucharist was truly Jesus' Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, they used belief in Jesus' "Real Presence" in the Eucharist as a measuring rod of authentic Christianity!
The Early Church Fathers put a lot of emphasis on the Holy Eucharist - not only doctrinally but also spiritually. The Eucharist is the closest intimacy we can have with Jesus in this world. It's such a great intimacy that the Early Church Fathers describe it in terms of marital love.
The image of the "Sacred Feast" is recurring in Sacred Scripture. The Sacred Feast means enjoyment of the goods of Creation as signs of God's love, but it is ultimately focused on union with God Himself. The focus of the Sacred Feast is always union with God. The Early Church Fathers saw the Holy Eucharist as the quintessential Sacred Feast.
When people are in a relationship of intimacy with each other, they participate in each other's lives. Intimacy means moving from an outside observer to an active participant. So intimacy with God must mean that we participate in His Divine Life. If that's the case, and if it's real participation, it must mean that we participate in some way in the very relationship and life of the Holy Trinity? But how is that even possible? Two answers: grace and the Holy Eucharist. In this lesson we hear Saint Augustine teach how the Holy Eucharist makes us active participants in the life of the Holy Trinity.
We have seen in this module how important the Holy Eucharist is to our spirituality. We can see why the Second Vatican Council called the Holy Eucharist the "source and summit" of our faith. So how do we translate this into practical steps for spiritual growth? In this final lesson of the module we'll explore some practical ways to make the Holy Eucharist more central in our own spiritual lives.
We'll talk about a simple way to use the "senses of Scripture" given to us by the Early Church Fathers to get more out of our own reading and praying of Sacred Scripture.
Most Catholics separate themselves from the Church - not formally, but through their attitude. Our focus is so much on the "local church" (by which we tend to mean the parish). The diocese is seen as a bureaucracy that imposes its will on the local parish and interferes with parish life. But the Early Church Fathers had a very different way of seeing the Church. And their way of seeing the Church can lead us to even greater unity.
In the next unit we're going to explore what the Early Church Fathers teach us about navigating a culture that hates Christianity but at the same time offers an environment that makes it easy to be lax in our faith. But first let's review what the Early Church Fathers taught about unity with the Church.
Most of the Early Church Fathers died as martyrs for the faith. While most of us won't be called to that ultimate sacrifice, we are called by jesus to the same level of love. Let's see what we can learn from the Early Church Fathers about what it really means to love God with our whole heart, mind and soul.
If we really live the faith in our culture, we will face alienation and vilification. Thankfully, the Early Church Fathers faced even worse persecution and give us a model for how to stand for the truth in love, how to be courageous, faithful and loving in the face of those who hate us.
After the Edict of Milan ended three centuries of persecution, Christians continued searching out ways to commit themselves to Jesus in loving sacrifice. This gave birth to the monastic movement. Saint Basil the Great was instrumental in helping Christians discern their vocation to love Jesus and live their lives completely for Him.