Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Ancient Path (Image Books)

When it comes to reading about the Church Fathers, one of the first names people think of is Mike Aquilina. Aquilina's works have introduced the Church Fathers and Mothers to a whole generation of Catholics and made them accessible and relatable. His most recent book, The Ancient Path, is a joint effort with John Michael Talbot. Talbot is most widely known for his music career, but he is also the founder of an integrated Catholic monastic community called the Brothers and Sisters of Charity. This book, The Ancient Path, is the result of conversations that Talbot and Aquilina had one November week in 2012.

The book begins with Talbot discussing his monastery, Little Portion Hermitage, and the events of what happened April, 29, 2008. There was a massive fire, which completely engulfed the chapel. In addition to the tragedy of seeing something you built by hand destroyed, the community also lost their library which consisted of thousands of volumes. I have never experienced this level of literary loss, but as someone who himself owns a large library of books, my heart ached for him and his community. Talbot, however, used this tragedy to teach us a lesson in both detachment to worldly goods and the fact that once you have read and pored over some works, they are forever etched on your heart. He then concludes the the chapter with a juxtaposition of physical fire and spiritual fire. His example for spiritual fire involves the popular story of Abba Joseph encouraging Abba Lot to become all flame.

Other topics discussed in this book include charity, community, and stewardship. Each chapter has roughly the same format. Talbot talks about his life, his community, and what the Church Fathers taught him as it applies to the specific topic. Chapter 6: The Prayer of the Heart talks about The Jesus Prayer, "Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner." Most Western Catholics aren't familiar with this prayer, but it is one of the chief prayers in Eastern Orthodoxy and Eastern Catholicism. The author does a great job discussing the history and evolution of the prayer, the impact it had on him; and also breaks the prayer down phrase by phrase. I do wish he would have offered a bit of caution in both practicing this prayer and reading the Philokalia. Someone advanced in their wisdom, like him, might not find it troublesome, but it is highly discouraged for a novice to attempt reading the Philokalia, and strongly urged you consult your spiritual advisor before trying.

Overall, this was an interesting book. It reminded me a lot of Aquilina's other works and Dr. Scott Hahn's early works. By that I mean, it mixes theology with personal experiences to make the subject matter more approachable. It also reminded me a bit of My Sister the Saints in that it read like a personal memoir with the Church Fathers serving as our guide through Talbot's life. If this sounds interesting to you or you can't get enough to read about the Church Fathers, then this book is for you.

This book was provided to me for free by Image Catholic Books in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!