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Posted December 20, 2014

Book: The Ancient Path: Old Lessons from the Church Fathers for a New Life Today
Author: John Michael Talbot with Mike Aquilina
Image. New York. 2015. Pp. 203

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

The bestselling author of The Lessons of St. Francis offers practical insight into how the early Church Fathers can offer guidance and inspiration in our modern lives.

In the 1070s, John Michael Talbot was new to the Christian faith and developed a habit of looking to the Church Fathers, including St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. August, and Gregory the Great for guidance. This book tells the story of how these men helped Talbot through spiritual and professional challenges throughout his life, and how these ancient Christians are relevant to the lives of modern believers today.

An Excerpt from the Book:

We honor men like Hippolytus of Rome, Basil of Caesarea, John Chrysostom, and Gregory the Great because they were liturgical reformers. They challenged their congregations to engage more deeply and personally in the Church's great act of worship. And the number of such reformers is legion. From this we must conclude that the liturgy is often, if not always, in need of reform. In the nineteenth century, men like Prosper Gueranger revived interest in the Fathers in the hope that patristic liturgy would renew modern liturgy. Popes Pius X and Pius XII took up the same project as they encountered scholarship of the Fathers and the early liturgies.

The call is always out for liturgical reform, and it's probably always needed. In our own day we hear from Catholic progressives who say they get hives from Gregorian chant and can't bear to have a priest turn his back on them. From the other side, we hear from hyper-traditionalists who say they have a strong suspicion that the Mass is use since 1970 is invalid. We also hear from the vast majority in the middle who just want a richer and more personal encounter with Jesus Christ and with others when they go to Mass.

Ours is a big Church, and it has room for both extremes and every shade of liturgical opinion in between. The struggle between tradition and progress makes for a good dynamic, a creative tension. We hold ourselves accountable to the past. We have been given our heritage as a trust. Yet an important part of that heritage is periodic liturgical reform --- sometimes quite extensive. And another important inheritance is the model of enculturation we find in the missionary work of the ancient Fathers. The liturgy celebrated by the Maronites in Lebanon looks, sounds, and smells significantly different from the Mass in a typical American Latin Rite parish; but the priests at both altars are presiding over the same Eucharistic feast. The essentials are the same, though the rite has changed as it has moved from place to place and from time to time.

When we feel the urge to bash the liturgy, we should ask how we might change ourselves first. How might we improve our dispositions at Mass? How might we make our own participation fuller, more conscious, and more active?

. . .If you travel to Beirut, or Kerala, or Kiev, or Athens, or Jerusalem, you may encounter a liturgy that is strikingly different --- in language, in the use of music, in the style of church decoration, and in the order of prayers --- but all of the Church's Eucharistic liturgies are fundamentally the same, composed (since the first century) of the same basic elements. Certainly there has been times there have been many liturgical families in the Church --- Malabar, Melkite, Maronite, Chaldeans, Ambrosian, and Mozarabic, to mention just a few. The liturgy always finds a form that will fulfill the varying needs of different peoples. But there is only one Eucharist.

Table of Contents:

1. You can become all fire
2. Our spiritual fathers
3. Jesus Christ
4. Salvation
5. Community
6. Prayer of the heart
7. The public work
8. Nothing without the bishop
9. Charity
10. Stewardship of the earth
11. Heart and hands and voices
12. On the road again
13. The God-bearer