Thanks to Dr. Daniel A. Keating, professor of theology at Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Michigan Area members had a fascinating beginners’ course in the Church Fathers and their contributions to the faith.
The May 20 symposium, “Introduction to the Church Fathers,” was held at the Solanus Casey Center in Detroit and attended by 28 members and candidates. The event opened with a continental breakfast and fellowship time, and included lunch provided by the Solanus Casey Center.
Dr. Keating explained that Church Fathers are defined as such on the basis of four criteria: 1) orthodox doctrine; 2) holiness of life; 3) antiquity (belonging to the period of the early Church), and 4) approval by the Church. Next to the Apostles, the Church Fathers have been “the planters, irrigators, builders, pastors, feeders of the church,” said Dr. Keating, citing Instruction on the Study of the Fathers in the Formation of Priests (1990). Using maps of the ancient world, Dr. Keating illustrated how the early Church spread from Jerusalem. Greek was initially the dominant language in early Christianity, with Latin re-emerging in the West about 175-200 A.D. and Syriac becoming the main language of the Church in the east.
The symposium included the Office of Readings for the day, in which participants read and reflected on a passage from 1 John in light of the accompanying reading from St. Augustine. The event concluded with a “lightning round” in which Dr. Keating commented on various Church Fathers as participants called out their names. Asked to comment on St. Jerome, Dr. Keating noted that he became a saint in spite of having a notoriously caustic and overly sensitive personality: “He could dish it out but he couldn’t take it!” St. Jerome is best known for translating the Bible from Greek into Latin, but – unusual for that time – he also learned Hebrew and consulted rabbis to make sure his translation was accurate.
A graduate of the University of Michigan, where he earned a B.A. in history, Dr. Keating has master’s degrees in theology (Sacred Heart Major Seminary) and Christian doctrine (Oxford University). He earned his Ph.D. in Theology from Oxford University. Dr. Keating is the author of The Appropriation of Divine Life in Cyril of Alexandria (2004), Deification and Grace (2007), First and Second Peter, Jude (2011), and co-author of Athanasius and His Legacy (2017) and other books.