Monday, May 2, 2016

Defender of the Faith: Saint Athanasius


Saint Athanasius by F. A. Forbes

This book is recommended as Easter reading for Level 3 Year 1 students by Mater Amabilis. Because St. Athanasius is the patron saint of our homeschool, Kansas Dad's confirmation saint, and a patron of our whole family, I had read the book before but did so again before First Son would read it to refresh my memory.

St. Athanasius's life is nearly unbelievable as he stood firm against the persecution and misleading statements of the Arians, a divisive force in the early Christian world who maintained falsely that Jesus was not God, but a creature, one created by God. He suffered five exiles in the desert, hiding in the midst of monks and hermits. He wrote extensively, sending letters and treatises throughout the young Christian world.

The Arian controversy threatened to tear the early Christian church apart, but in the end, the Church survived, in no small part thanks to the courage and faithfulness of St. Athanasius.

Forbes's biography of St. Athanasius is meant to be an inspiring story rather than an objective biography we might expect today (not that they're ever really objective). Even so, it's an excellent book on the Arian controversy for the Level 3 student. First Son also appreciates "graduating" to saint books beyond the Vision series.

People of any era require reminders that how we explain and defend our faith is essential, that governments and peers can lead us astray if we do not ground ourselves in the most essential tenets of the faith. Yet St. Athanasius never held a grudge, which is also important to remember. Those who accepted the Nicene Creed were welcomed back without impunity and with open arms.

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