In high school, I slept through history class and aced it. In college, I told my honors advisor that I would take science classes instead of history. He argued with me, insisting that history was so easy and on and on. I didn’t care. I’d had enough classroom naps.
Fast forward a few years, and a friend of mine lent me The Frontiersman, by Allan Eckert. My husband—who does not, I should not, think of reading as a hobby or as a fun-to-do evening activity—whipped through it in a week. I finally picked it up and couldn’t put it down.
That was my first taste that I’d been misled in my belief that history was boring. Over the course of the next several years, I realized something stunning: history is just storytelling with facts!
As a lover of fiction and storytelling, this was a revelation to me. But it didn’t make me seek out history books or drag myself to any Church history classes when Father offered them for catechists. Old habits die hard.
So when Marcellino D’Ambrosio’s new book, When the Church Was Young: Voices of the Early Fathers (Servant Books, 2014), came across my desk, I was torn. Though I’ve long been a fan of his writing, I still battled that “history is boring” mindset. And the Church Fathers? Aren’t they ancient theologians who wrote inaccessible things that I’ll never understand anyway?
I didn’t expect it, but this book was gripping, compelling, and fast-moving. It’s hard to believe it’s about a bunch of old dead guys. D’Ambrosio inspires a love of history, crafts a great story, and plants an appreciation for where we are 2000 years later. I’ve wanted to learn more in the 300-page adventure with this book than I have since college.
D’Ambrosio doesn’t just bring the past alive: he makes it relevant and he makes the Church Fathers into the superheroes they deserve to be.
This book would be the perfect companion for new Catholics. It will fill your reference shelf with information that’s fun to revisit. And, best of all, it will make you understand what happened back when the Church was brand-new.
Dare I suggest you may see some parallels in modern life? I couldn’t help but think of that old saw, “There’s nothing new under the sun,” and nod with some of the challenges and heresies that aren’t so different than what we see now.
Homeschooling moms, converts, people who like to read: take note. This is a book you’ll want to buy two copies of (because no, I’m not letting you borrow mine).