LOGAN — For the first time in two years, after a break caused by the pandemic, the St. Jerome Newman Center at Utah State University recently hosted a Newman Lecture. The speaker was Dr. Lyra Pitstick, who holds a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.
Pitstick is the author of Light in Darkness: Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Catholic Doctrine of Christ’s Descent into Hell, and she touched briefly on this topic during her lecture, which was titled “Faith of Our Fathers: The Church Fathers and Us.”
The topic was appropriate because it was study of the Church Fathers that led John Henry Newman to convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism, said Richard Sherlock, a professor of philosophy at the university who invited Pitstick to give the lecture.
Newman Centers, which house Catholic campus ministry at colleges and universities, are named in honor of John Henry Newman, who after his conversion became a Catholic priest and cardinal. He was canonized in 2019.
The Church Fathers, “these ancestors of ours in the faith,” remain relevant because “through God’s provident love, they make it possible for us today to hear the word of God in sacred scripture and today to be able to understand him...,” Pitstick said.
“We see that God has revealed himself to us in his words and deeds in history,” she added. “His past revelations are important to us now, because it is the same God who acted historically with whom we are called into present relationship. It would be silly if we were to say to our beloved, ‘I’m only interested in the events of your life after I came on the scene.’ Rather, to know someone well, is to know also their past well.”
The Church Fathers “are significant in the context of Scripture because they bear reliable witness to the early establishment of the Church’s canon [the books of the Bible approved by the Catholic Church],” she said, noting that the Fathers testified to which books were accepted as Scripture.
In a handout, Pitstick noted that the Church Fathers “show and tell us” how to read and interpret Scripture and how to reason in matters of faith about God’s revelation in Scripture and Tradition.
In addition, the Fathers model how to do theology with humility and prayer, using faith and reason, in service of helping ourselves and others know and love Christ, and also model Christian life in the world and in the Church, Pitstick said.
The Church Fathers also “provide rich advice for practical and spiritual growth,” and “link us to Christ and the preaching of the Apostles,” according to her handout, as well as serving as “companions along our way, helping us fulfill our vocation by their intercession and their example (including their willingness to die for the truth.”