Early Church Biographies

In This Sign Your Shall Conquer

Copyright: 
1998
Publisher: 
Regina Martyrum
Subject(s): 
Setting: 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

The story of Constantine, the first Christian emperor and his mother, Saint Helen, who found the true cross, is presented in an audio drama in the fashion of old-time radio dramas. It includes a full cast and narrator, appropriate music and sound effects. Our family really enjoyed this story, even down to my 3 and 1/2 year old son, who now asks for Constantine by name. The story contains a nice balance of historical information, action and spiritual lessons.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Additional notes: 

85 minutes

Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

Saint Athanasius

Book cover: 'Saint Athanasius'
Author(s): 
F.A. Forbes
Copyright: 
1919
Publisher: 
TAN Books and Publishers Inc.
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
98 pages
Subject(s): 
Setting: 
Review: 

This short, and fairly easy to read biography chronicles the life of Saint Athanasius (early 300s) - Patriarch/bishop of Alexandria and Doctor of the Church (and model of perserverance). Athanasius was a defender of the faith in a very critical time in the early Church's history. Even before the Edict of Milan which allowed Christians to practice their faith freely (at least for a time), the heresy of Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ, was beginning its attack on the Church. Although the heresy was firmly rejected at the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.), the heretics were very powerful and continued to attack the Church - even winning the Emperor Constantine to their side. While the heresy was never embraced by the Pope, the heretics used the Emperor to banish orthodox bishops from their diocese, replacing them with those sympathetic to their rebellious ideas. All through this difficult time, Athanasius led his people (sometimes while in hiding with the desert monks for years at a time) by his writings.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
3-13-2000
Reviewed by: 

St Monica: Model of Christian Mothers

Author(s): 
F.A. Forbes
Copyright: 
1915
Publisher: 
TAN Books
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
106 pages
Subject(s): 
Setting: 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

This book tells of the life of St. Monica (332-387 A.D.), mother of St Augustine of Hippo. As a young girl in a Christian family, she heard the stories of the early martyrs and asked God to let her suffer for Him. Her prayer was granted in an unexpected way as she became the wife of a pagan and the mother of a son who, though brilliant and talented, soon fell into sinful ways and in time adopted the heretical beliefs of the Manichees. For many years, Monica prayed and wept for her son -- "It is not possible that the son of such tears should perish" a bishop told her - and she had the joy of seeing her husband, her haughty mother-in-law and finally her son baptized and fervent Christians before she died.

The author, F.A. Forbes, was a nun who converted to Catholicism at the age of 31 and joined a contemplative order. She wrote several other saints' books. This is a short book, and told simply enough so that an 11-year-old could read it, though I would think a slightly older child would get more out of the book. Patricius' infidelity and Augustine's sins of the flesh are referred to only in the most general terms. Included are several prayers to St. Monica, including a litany and a novena.

It could be read as part of a historical study of the early Church or as a devotional reading. It would also be a good book for mothers to turn to when they are weary of the inevitable frustrations of being a wife and mother - and daughter in law! St Monica's perseverance and continual turning to God for strength make her, indeed, the model of Christian mothers.

Suitable for ages 11 and up.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Review Date: 
1999
Reviewed by: 

The First Christians, The Acts of the Apostles

Book cover: 'The First Christians, The Acts of the Apostles'
Author(s): 
Marigold Hunt
Illustrator(s): 
Ted Schluenderfritz
ISBN: 
2 147 483 647
Copyright: 
1953
Publisher: 
Sophia Institute Press
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
165 pages
Subject(s): 
Setting: 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

The sequel to A Life of Our Lord for Children, this title by Marigold Hunt tells the story of the infant Church. After a few introductory remarks, the story begins with the Pentecost (Acts 1) and ends with Paul's visit to the Jews of Rome (Acts 28). The beauty of this book is the wonderful storytelling style of Hunt. It is a great book to read aloud because then it really sounds as if she is speaking to us. One day I was reading out loud to my nine year-old and all the other children had gathered around. My eleven year-old said, "That's a cool author." I know he meant, "I love to hear the way that author tells a story."

At the beginning of each chapter Hunt lists the corresponding chapters from Acts of the Apostles. At various points in the text she recommends the reader go and read from the Bible. For example, when she describes the Pentecost, she suggests that the reader reads Peter's speech which is recorded in Acts 2. She calls it the "very first sermon of the very first pope." I have to admit that when I read her suggestions, I wanted to hop up and read the Bible version! Hunt selects particular tales from Acts, saying that she couldn't tell all that happened. However, she selects those that would be of most interest to young readers. For example, she chooses to include the story of Philip running next to the chariot of the Treasurer to tell him about the Faith, which is kind of a funny image. Hunt also does a good job explaining the problem that Christians Jews had with gentiles becoming Christian without keeping the "law of Moses," and how it was resolved. She makes it clear that Peter makes the final decision, and that when he does, everyone accepts it, clearly establishing him historically as the leader of the Church. With every story she explains things in ways a child would understand by comparing them to things in our own time.

As with A Life of Our Lord for Children, this edition, reissued in 2004, is illustrated by Ted Schluenderfritz (a homeschooling dad!). His drawings add greatly to the text. This is a book that will appeal to all children and is a joy to read aloud. It could be read independently by a 4th grader.

Perspective: 
Catholic
Additional notes: 

Imprimatur

Review Date: 
5-3-05
Reviewed by: 

Peter: Keeper of the Keys

Cover: 'Peter: Keeper of the Keys'
Author(s): 
Steve Ray
Copyright: 
2003
Publisher: 
Ignatius Press
Series: 
The Footprints of God
Setting: 
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 
Review: 

This is a fascinating travel/apologetics documentary focusing on the story of Saint Peter as related in the New Testament. Apologist Steve Ray travels to Rome and many sites in the Holy Land to tell Peter's story. He provides fascinating details of the connections between particular places and important events in Peter's life.

This would make a great supplement to a Bible study, an apologetics lesson on the Papacy, a geography unit on the Middle East or simply an important part of Church history. Our teen discussion group watched this together just after reading the chapter in Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth on Peter's Confession and the story of the Transfiguration. The DVD tied into these themes very nicely.

We very much enjoyed the professional quality of this video that is packed with theological and geographical insights, connections with Old Testament History and a nice visual perspective to well-known Bible stories. The format is engaging and the visuals help make the particulars of the story quite memorable.

I would suggest that this is best for high school and adult viewers, but some younger viewers might enjoy it after a parental preview.

Review Date: 
4-17-2008
Reviewed by: