… is a GREAT read!

Our Sunday Visitor has been publishing many of Pope Benedict’s catechetical general audiences, compiling them in books and spreading the Pope’s great wisdom to readers. The latest entry in the OSV collection is titled Great Teachers; this is a compilation of the Pope’s general audiences given from October 2009 through July 2010. In these audiences, Pope Benedict describes the writings of the theologians of the 12th and 13th centuries. This was a time when there was relative peace in Western Europe, a time of flourishing economic development and the consolidation of political structures, a time of great scholarship within the monasteries and schools. This was also a time when Western Europe was predominantly Christians of the Roman Catholic Church.

During the 12th and 13th centuries, such famous men as St. Albert the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Anthony of Padua were preaching and teaching, honing the theology of the Church. Pope Benedict covers these men in this 150-page volume, linking their sermons and writings to our lives today. But he goes further than these three scholars, describing theologians like

  • Hugh (nicknamed “the second St. Augustine” for his understanding of the link between faith and reason) and Richard of Saint-Victor (his disciple and author of a six-volume treatise on the Trinity)
  • William of Saint-Thierry (one of his first works, titled The Nature and Dignity of Love, explains that human nature, in its deepest essence, is LOVE; “man becomes, through grace, what God is by nature”)
  • Rupert of Deutz (who asserted the continuitiy between the Body of the Incarnate Word and that present in the Eucharist, the idea of “transubstantiation”)
  • John of Salisbury (who wrote that by deepening our understanding of our Faith, we open ourselves to a practical knowledge that guides our daily lives)
  • Peter Lombard (whose four-volume Sentences organized the theological thought up to that time and was THE text for theologians for centuries)
  • St. Francis of Assisi (founder of the Franciscans who, in his various teachings, consistently reminds us that the wisdom and benevolence of the Creator is expressed through Creation)
  • St. Dominic (founder of the Dominicans who combated the heresy of Albigensianism through his preaching, austerity, and public discourses; as Benedict writes, “this great saint reminds us that in the heart of the Church a missionary fire must always burn.”)
  • St. Bonaventure (who wrote the definitive biography of St. Francis’ life, a book still read/study to day)
  • John Duns Scotus (the first Western theologian to defend the Blessed Mary’s preservation from original sin from the instant of her conception)

All of these men — teachers, preachers, theologians — had something to say back in the Middle Ages, truths that are still appropriate for study today.

I highly recommend this book for all Catholics who want a starting place for determining which theologians to read/study. This is not an exhaustive biographical study of any one of these amazing men, but rather a jumping off place for further study. This would make a great high school text for introducing the theologians, both monastic and scholastic, who are still quoted and studied today.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Great Teachers – Pope Benedict XVI. They are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible.

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