Capuchin Father Thomas Weinandy, the chief theologian to the U.S. bishops, has published an excellent apologia for studying patristics: “Why Ask the Fathers? The Dynamics of a Living Tradition.” It appeared in the debut issue of American Theological Inquiry, an ecumenical journal. (You can download the whole issue as a PDF here.) A few nuggets from a rich vein:
[I]f one wants to take theology seriously, it is absolutely essential to possess a good grasp of the Fathers of the Church, particularly the manner in which they undertook the theological enterprise, the issues that they confronted and clarified, and the answers they provided … [O]nly if one has some sense of the patristic tradition … can one truly and fully appreciate the truth of the Gospel and the wealth of wisdom and life it contains. To be ignorant of the Fathers is to be ignorant of one’s own Christian and Catholic patrimony …
[T]heology is more than an abstract intellectual business. True theology can only be done properly by a mind and heart steeped in prayer … The Fathers often made reference to the principle that like is known only by like. Thus, for the Fathers, a true theologian must be a saint, for only a saint is truly in communion with the mysteries he is seeking to understand.
Father Tom is a true theologian and a national treasure. He’s author of great studies of Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria. To hear his lecture on “St. Athanasius and the Divinity of the Holy Spirit,” go here and scroll to the bottom of the page.