Throughout the history of the Catholic Church there have been various periods of renewal. In these times the Church has tried to return to her original mission given by the Lord in Matthew 28, “Therefore, go forth and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have ever commanded you.” The Church’s mission is to bring the Gospel to all peoples and to bring all people to Christ, and she does this by trying to live and teach what Christ taught, by seeking true holiness of life, and by administering the sacraments.
When the Church needs renewal, we must return to the original teachings of Christ to see how we have failed to live them out and how we can turn back to the Lord. Those teachings are found in the Sacred Scriptures and in the Sacred Tradition. One of the best ways of understanding both the Bible and the Tradition of the Church is by looking back to the teachings of the Fathers of the Church.
The Fathers lived between the time of the Apostles and the 8th century in both the Eastern, Greek-speaking Church and the Western, Latin-speaking Church. Many, but not all, of them are canonized saints. They aren’t infallible, but together they preserved, interpreted, and explained the teachings of Christ, especially by commenting on the Bible. In the late Middle Ages the Church had a renewed interest in the writings of the Fathers, and many of them which had been lost in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire were brought back from Greek and Arabic lands and translated into Latin. Pope Urban IV commissioned St. Thomas Aquinas to collect the writings of the Church Fathers to make them readily available. In the Catena Aurea St. Thomas collects specifically their writings on the Gospels. He goes through each Gospel verse by verse and passage by passage collecting the best thoughts of the Church Fathers for each chapter and verse of each Gospel and connecting them in one continuous “chain,” which is what catena means.
The Catena Aurea or “golden chain” was finally translated into English by St. John Henry Newman in 1841 to further spread the teachings of the Church Fathers and help people have a deeper understanding of the Gospel of Christ and mysteries of God. So, the Catena Aurea is the thoughts of the Church Fathers (many of whom are saints) on the Gospels, by a saint, St. Thomas Aquinas, and translated by another saint, St. John Henry Newman. If you want to check it out, you can find it for free at the link above.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.