Original Writings of Church Fathers Arranged Topically

In 01 Essential Background on 2012/06/26 at 9:01 AM

Over the years I’ve been asked for my recommendation reading lists, particularly on the Church Fathers.  For Biblically committed persons, I suggest the works of the men who fixed the original canon of the Holy Scriptures in the third and fourth centuries.

Many of you are aware of who, when, where the New Testament was originally put together and combined with the Old Testament. The men who gathered together to discuss what books would be included and, even though of value, were not to be included, did follow a criteria. Of great importance is that they stopped with the death of John the Evangelist and did not put any of their works even though some were contemporaries or disciples of John.

Reading, studying, pondering their works, I have not found anything in their writings which is not found clearly expounded in either the Old Testament or the New Testament, particularly in the Psalms and Gospels.

I have recommended non-Catholics in particular as well as persons who have spouses that are of a different religion than theirs, a book on the Fathers which is available through Ignatius Press as well as Barnes and Noble. They have told me if has led to many hours of valuable exchanges with their spouses.

John Willis, SJ, THE TEACHINGS OF THE CHURCH FATHERS is arranged by topics within 13 categories: Revealed Religion, The Church, Sacred Scripture and Tradition, One God, The Triune God, Creation, Sin, Actual Grace, Habitual Grace, The Incarnate Word, Mary, Sacraments, Last Things.

The value of this books lies in that one does not have to ferret out the materials from within the thousands of pages that constitute the voluminous collection known as the WRITINGS OF THE CHURCH FATHER (which is a very expensive collection).

Instead Fr. Willis categorizes the Doctrines giving under each topic  what each father who wrote on the topic had to say on it.   Examples:
Heading #141 The two natures of Christ are untied by a personal union:  Hilary, Nazianzen & Augustine, Lerins, Leo the Great, Origen.
Heading #142: There are two operations in Christ: one divine, the other human; Origen, Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Ambrose.
There are 250 topics in 480 pages.


John Willis graduated from Amherst College in 1939 and was first in his class at Hartford Seminary. He earned a doctorate in American church history in 1946 from Yale University.

Ordained in the Congregational Church in 1943, Fr. Willis served parishes in New Jersey and in Maine, where from 1948-55 he taught at Bates College.

Willis converted to Catholicism in 1955, and entered the Society of Jesus that same year.   Fr. Willis joined Boston College as A&S dean in 1964, after having completed his tertian year of Jesuit formation in Ghent, Belgium. Serving as dean until 1969, Fr. Willis also taught in the History Department. After retiring from BC in 1982, he held the Flannery Chair at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., from 1986-88. In 1988, he returned to Massachusetts and taught church history and modern philosophy at the Pope John Seminary in Weston.  Former Dean of Arts and Sciences Rev. John R. Willis, SJ, died at the Campion Center in Weston. He was 83.

The author of several books, Fr. Willis was best known for his four-volume work A History of Christian Thought and Pleasures Forevermore, which explored the theology of C.S. Lewis, and for The Fathers of the Church. Regarding this book, one vendor expresses: The Fathers of the Church have been a vital source of wisdom and inspiration for countless saints, popes, peasants, and converts throughout the history of the Church. In this powerful one-volume library, Father Willis presents more than 250 selected doctrinal topics in an exhaustive selection of writings from the major sources of the Fathers. He lets the Fathers speak for themselves on a wide variety of spiritual themes.

I invite you to let the Fathers speak to you personally.


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