Mike Aquilina is a leading historian of the Catholic Church.
Most of his research addresses early Christianity and the Fathers of the Church.
He is currently the executive vice-president of The St. Paul Center for Biblical
Theology, founded by Dr. Scott Hahn. In June of 2010, Mr. Aquilina gave
this exclusive Q&A to Catholic Books and Gifts.
CB&G: What influenced you to pursue a career writing
books on Catholic themes?
MA: I've worked in publishing since 1983. Around
1986 I started writing occasional pieces for the Catholic press. Over time that
part of my life grew larger. In 1993 I took a job editing Pittsburgh's diocesan
paper. Later I edited New Covenant magazine. The books, at first, grew naturally
out of my interests and the work I was doing day to day.
CB&G: What drew you particularly to Early Church History
We want to know more
about our earliest ancestors
in the faith. From the Fathers
we find out who we are.
MA: I find the subject fascinating, and I think it's an
interest I share with many people. Look at the sales of books like The Da Vinci
Code and the Gospel of Judas. Look at the sustained interest in the Dead
Sea Scrolls and other archeological discoveries. We want to know more about our
earliest ancestors in the faith. Our interest in Christian origins is similar to
the typical American interest in genealogy. From the Fathers we find out who we
CB&G: What is the greatest lesson that we 21st Century
Catholics can learn from the early Church and her Fathers?
MA: God so loved the world that he sent his only Son into
the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
The ordinary way of salvation, established by Jesus, is through the Sacraments,
especially the Eucharist, which was the center of life for the early Church (see
Acts 2:42). That reality comes through vividly in all the writings of the Fathers
and in all that we've learned from Christian archeology.
CB&G: Were there any subjects within your research
you found difficult to comprehend, synthesize, and/or present to your readers/listeners?
MA: It's hard to make the imaginative leap. It's difficult
for us to imagine a world where there are no electronic media, no printing press,
no telephones--where life expectancy is about thirty-three years old--and where
our most basic beliefs, about rights and human dignity for example, just don't apply
in the wider culture. That's the world where the Fathers lived, and it's a world
we can't quite comprehend, precisely because the Christian revolution was so far-reaching
and so successful. Pre-Christian paganism was a dreadful thing. I fear that post-Christian
paganism will be just as bad.
Pre-Christian paganism was a dreadful
thing. I fear that post-Christian paganism will be just as bad.
CB&G: Whose work from the Early Church do you most
MA: That's a tough question to answer! Today it's Augustine;
yesterday it was Justin Martyr; tomorrow it may be John Chrysostom. We're talking
about seven hundred years of literature, so there's enough to accommodate the great
variety of my moods, inclinations, joys, and trials.
CB&G: What about from contemporary times?
MA: I'm fond of Robert Louis Wilken and Scott Hahn.
CB&G: It is a sad fact that most Catholics have a poor
understanding of Sacred Scripture. Working with Dr. Scott Hahn at the St. Paul Center
for Biblical Theology, describe some of the programs you are involved with that
are attempting to remedy this.
MA: We promote biblical literacy for Catholic lay people
and biblical fluency for Catholic clergy. I'm most excited by our bible study programs.
We have six series available free online, and some are available in both English
and Spanish. We also have a traveling seminar that trains people in the art of leading
a bible study. For clergy and scholars we sponsor a variety of academic and professional
programs--conferences, seminars, and such--that give them an experience that's both
contemplative and professionally enriching. We also host pilgrimages to the lands
of ancient Christianity. On those, most especially, I get to indulge my love for
ancient Christianity in the company of others who share that passion.
CB&G: What do you enjoy outside of your writing and
MA: My wife and children. Reading poetry.
CB&G: Who is your Confirmation Patron Saint?
Why did you choose him?
MA: Joseph. I took the name because it was my middle name
when I was baptized, and it was the name of my brother, who was my sponsor. My mother
has a deep devotion to St. Joseph and the Holy Family, and I suppose that's the
cause of my decision.
CB&G: What are you working on now? What are your
plans for the future?
MA: I'm working on many books. I'll have several
titles out in the Fall of 2010. I love what I'm doing. I have no particular
plans other than to keep doing it.