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Books explore lives of early church fathers -- and mothers


These are the covers of "When the Church Was Young: Voices of the Early Fathers" by Marcellino D'Ambrosio and "Accidental Theologians: Four Women Who Shaped Christianity" by Elizabeth A. Dreyer. The books are reviewed by Rachelle Linner. (CNS)

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"When the Church Was Young: Voices of the Early Fathers" by Marcellino D'Ambrosio. Servant Books (Cincinnati, 2014). 320 pp., $19.99.

"Accidental Theologians: Four Women Who Shaped Christianity" by Elizabeth A. Dreyer. Franciscan Media (Cincinnati, 2014). 160 pp., $15.99.

These two books, about very different historical figures in church history, share certain characteristics.

The authors have impressive academic and professional accomplishments but write in a manner that is accessible to the general reader. Both books provide excellent introductions to the writings and the theological and historical context of significant Christian thinkers.

They suggest ways for how we can appropriate the insights (D'Ambrosio) and methods (Dreyer) of doing theology. And both books model respect and gratitude for tradition.

Dreyer studies four women doctors of the church -- Sts. Hildegard of Bingen, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux. "Without formal theological education, these four women relied more heavily on the promptings of the Holy Spirit, their innate intelligence, and their individual and communal experience," she writes.

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