Most likely you have either read one of John Michael Talbot’s books or listened to one of his many albums. Since the 70s he has been providing listeners with stirring renditions of time honored hymns as well as songs of his own creation. Now you can learn about what shaped this talented performer into who He is and what he believes. The Ancient Path: Old Lessons from the Church Fathers for a New Life Today written with Mike Aquilina tells John Michael’s faith journey and how the Early Church Fathers influenced him. It’s more than just one man’s journey however. This book is a fantastic primer on the early church.
John Michael uses the backdrop of his own faith journey, from Methodist to Catholic, to reveal something we all need to understand. The Early Church Fathers are the foundation of our church today. He uses his own study of the writings of the Church Father’s to reveal these truths to the reader. “This book is my retrieval of the companionship of these great men, who have exercised a true fatherhood – a spiritual fatherhood – in my life. I have learned to walk the ancient path because I followed after them, like a little son, watching what they did and trying to learn from them and imitate them.”
There is plenty to learn in the book’s thirteen chapters. One of the truths John Michael focuses on is the Eucharist. The Early Church Father’s fully understood the truth of what Jesus instituted at the last supper and they conveyed that truth in their writings. The Didache played an important role in the teaching of the faith then as it does now. John Michael points this out and discusses this text at length. “The Didache, it seemed to me, had the ring of authenticity, issuing a call to radical discipleship. It applied the principles of the Sermon on the Mount in nitty-gritty ways to daily life. My heart leapt as I read how the early Christians actually lived their faith. What I was looking for in the works of various reformers and and movements I was finding here, in the most ancient text.”
From here John Michael talks of how he embarked upon a new vision of monastic life in modern times. He writes on how the Church Fathers influenced life at his community The Little Portion Hermitage. In our times living a simple life is something most people could imagine. In Chapter 10 Stewardship of the Earth we learn a little of that thought process. This chapter alone is a great source of meditation with the five points John Michael outlines. “I have no desire to alter the direction of future theology. I do wish, however, to meditate, at least for a moment, on the necessary foundations for my own efforts at living simply and living in tune with nature; I pray, of course, that readers will also find these meditations helpful.” These points are:
1 – The world is good.
2 – There is a God-given order to creation.
3 – Human beings are the stewards (not the monarchs) of creation.
4 – Sin creates environmental havoc.
5 – Christ came to heal creation.
No matter how haggered, hurried and worried our lives may be there are those before us that have faced similar challenges. We need to take the time to listen to their voices which are still present with us today. The Church Fathers have left volumes upon volumes of writings we can utilize to learn and build our faith. John Michael Talbot’s own faith journey proves this. He has used his own conversion story to show us the value of the Church Fathers and we would do well to follow his example. The Ancient Path is one that is tried and true and one on which traveling upon is a wise choice.