Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | October 16, 2008

Recommended: Turning to the Fathers Podcast

While the financial crisis has had me pulling out my few remaining hairs and searching for a hard hat, I’ve been reading, writing a bit (roughed only), and mostly trying to soothe the nerves. As part of this, I’ve been listening to “Turning to the Fathers” podcasts with Fr. John McGuckin. Fr. John has that wonderful English cadence and enunciation that makes the language a pleasure to the ears. His introduction by Fr. Chris as a priest, scholar and poet rings with authenticity. His reflections on the sayings of the Fathers are as enjoyable and insightful as the sayings themselves. Plus you get something to think about…. besides the market.

I wrote him to ask whether the texts were collected somewhere – given that his rendition is more in contemporary English rather than the often baroque flourished language of prayer used in the ancient world that can be more difficult for our Hemingway-ish predelictions to penetrate. And Fr. John was kind enough to report back that the texts come from his book, The Book of Mystical Chapters. So of course I added a copy to my pile of books I’m working on… actually, the postman still has it… but it should make its way in time for tomorrow’s air jaunt.

More than that, Fr. John is part of a project to present the Orthodox faith to a wider world through a documentary film focused on how monks and ascetics manage to live their faith in the midst of the most hostile, often explicitly anti-christian environments. From what I can gather, there is an emphasis more on The Way than on the person of Christ.. as one should lead to another. The plan is for this to be out in a year or so. Fr. John reports they now have over 60 hours of film, but hope to add more in traveling through Russia if additional funding can be arranged (Donations are welcome). This clearly ambitious project combines screenings with interactive discussions for “yeuts” (apologies to “My Cousin Vinnie”). And while my read of the brochure at first gives one that ecumenical queasy feeling, further reflection allows that perhaps here is a clever way to present Orthodox faith… to get a hearing from those who might be surprised to never have considered Christianity as something more than an object Bill Maher’s adolescent scorn… but as something far more fascinating and of far greater depth than the “cool” exotica of Tibetan prayer the typical Hollywood glitteratti seem to prefer… for no particular reason. And having listened to these podcasts, I’d tend to trust Fr. John to manage a presentation of the sages and devout of our Church in a way that surpasses “Mountain of Silence” and keeps Christ in the center in one way or another. Anyway, I’m looking forward to the film when it comes out.


  1. “Turning to the Fathers” is indeed a delightful podcast. I too love Fr. McGuckin’s accent, and he has a real gift for taking the wisdom of the Desert Fathers and applying it to us in our neurotic 21st century context.

    By the way, there is a new Orthodox podcast that you might enjoy. It is called “Thy Word,” and it features verse-by-verse Bible study (a la Chrysostom, although the teacher is certainly no Chrysostom) from an Orthodox perspective. Here’s the link you can follow to get it: Enjoy!

  2. Fr. James – Thanks for stopping by. I’ll have to try that, too, thanks!

    Another one that’s really good for long drives is Dr. Jeannie Constantinou’s “Search the Scriptures” on Ancient Faith. She takes a long, long time to work her way up from discussing the writing of scripture and the nature of the texts (she notes at one point even her husband made that comment), but I really enjoy her thorough knowledge and discussion. She has one heckuva a background, too. She’s not afraid to tackle the contemporary viewpoints either… and show the wisdom of the Church in answer. About an hour each, and it takes real commitment to get caught up… but she provides an excellent full background on the canon that helps answer those inevitable visitor questions.

  3. Yes, “Search the Scriptures” is my very favorite podcast. I have been a regular listener since it started, and I have listened to every episode.

  4. The “Orthodox Church” needs to engage the entire culture not just dissatisfied and disgruntled Christians from other Churches. Where is the “Orthodox CS Lewis” or GK Chesterton who can engage the unbeliever and irreligeous and “spiritual” person with engaging apologetics for the veracity and attraction of the Faith? May Fr. John’s work be blessed.

  5. Steve –
    Thanks for visiting and your comment. For some unknown reason I have yet to understand… WordPress traps your comments when I have moderation set to “off”. Beats me. I’ve tried to fix this… but “dunno”. My apologies.

    As to the CS Lewis bit, I was told Peter Kreeft is the RC’s answer. He’s good, but I’m not sure he’s that broad (works of fiction?). But to be fair, I’d imagine CS Lewis would be substantially different today… sooooo…. maybe it’s too early for the Orthodox version, or maybe…” you be the man” ? Have to check out some of Fr. John’s other writings, too. Maybe he be the man?

  6. I don’t know that I’m that broad either, though in my egomanaical moments I’ve considered at least writing something setting the bar low enough for someone to be PO’d enough at my feeble attempt to write a better book than mine. LOL! I guess someone has to take the first hit. We have plenty of “ex-other christian evangelists” and generalist Orthodox teachers to go around. Time to plough a new field for someone.

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