Q: A reader asked about the Apostolic Fathers.
Answer: After Jesus’ death, his followers were dedicated to spreading and preserving his messages.
First, we have the good news of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Matthew, Mark, Luke are known as the synoptic gospels because their narrative styles are similar. John’s gospel is different in style and message. The gospels were written between AD 70 and 100.
Apostolic Fathers were those individuals and their writings from the first and second centuries. Their associations with the disciples and their writings revealed important insight into the critical period of the early church.
The name Apostolic Fathers was first applied in the sixth century.
For this short column, I will only note a few of the Apostolic Fathers. The complete list of the fathers and their writings can be found online.
Clement of Rome wrote the earliest extant epistle from a church father. He asked the Christians in Corinth for harmony and order.
Ignatius of Antioch was a church bishop and had been a student of the Apostle John. He wrote about the sacraments and the Incarnation of Christ. Polycarp was a bishop of Smyrna and a martyr. The people of this bishop’s town asked for his execution. When positioned to be burned, the fire did not engulf him. The executioners stabbed him, and his blood put out the flames.
It is clear that the Apostolic Father’s lives and writings were meaningful to the church.
In addition to the Apostolic Fathers, many Christians have been called Church Fathers. The study of these Christian writers is called Patristics. They were writers of the period from AD 100 or after the death of the disciple, John to around AD 604. Their writings gave continuity to the history of the Christian church.
Q: After church, a person asked if we should have hope.
Answer: We must remain prayerful to be hopeful.
Several times, I have written about my hopes and prayers that people of faith would help vulnerable people.
I am now amazed at the involvement of so many individual churches, denominations and groups who are providing resources to reduce the problems for asylum seekers and migrant children. Although serious problems remain, it is moving to witness the contributions of those who help people in need and follow the tenets of their religions. I believe, “This is who we are!”
From the many involved churches and organizations, I can only cite a few words from church leaders who have spoken about our better nature.
The Episcopal Church has responded to the immigration problems. “We are children of the one God who is the Creator of us all,” said Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. “Our sisters, brothers, and siblings are seeking protection and asylum, fleeing violence and danger. The crisis at the border is a test of our personal and public morality and human decency. Being a Christian is not essentially about joining a church or being a nice person, but about following in the footsteps of Jesus, taking his teachings seriously, and in so doing helping to change the world from our nightmare into God’s dream.” episcopalchurch.org
Carl Anderson, Supreme leader of the Knights of Columbus, offered help to the refugees on the southern border and said, “This is not a political statement. This is a statement of principle. This is about helping people who need our help right now.” (The full speech at the convention can be found online.)
The following words have been taken from a letter signed by 5,000 religious leaders supporting refugee resettlement.
“Together, representing our faiths, we decry derogatory language that has been used about Middle Eastern refugees. Inflammatory rhetoric has no place in our response to this humanitarian crisis. We ask our elected officials to recognize that new Americans of all faiths and backgrounds contribute to our economy, our community, and our congregations. Refugees are ambassadors of the American Dream and our founding principles of equal opportunity, religious freedom, and liberty and justice for all. As people of faith, our values call us to welcome the stranger, love our neighbor, and stand with the vulnerable, regardless of their religion. We pray that the plight of refugees will touch your hearts. We urge you to be bold in choosing moral, just policies that provide refuge for vulnerable individuals seeking protection.” interfaithimmigration.org
“Hold fast to dreams. For if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.” — Langston Hughes