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Sarah Torbeck reviews Mike Aquilina's new book about an often overlooked period of Church history.

When you tell people that you’re reading a book about Church history, you are often greeted with looks of surprise, or even pity. But those reactions would be inaccurate when reading or discussing Africa and the Early Church: The Almost-Forgotten Roots of Catholic Christianity by Mike Aquilina. Almost from the moment I began reading the various accounts of the African Church Fathers, I was captivated by the lives of each historical character: their personal histories, the ecclesiastical struggles—not to mention the positively fascinating anecdotes that brought the full personality of each character into living color.  




Who knew that Latin was first used around 200 AD in Northern Africa, or that St. Nicholas had a temper? St. Augustine was revered for his intellect and wisdom, but did you know that he was (and remains) widely recognized as the unofficial theologian of the Catholic Church? We have all read about Arianism and Donatism, but now we are granted insights into the power-struggles and egos that provided the foundations for those heresies. Truly fascinating!

Aquilina also touches on the Church in Ethiopia, and describes the rich legends surrounding the Queen of Sheba and the Ark of the Covenant, but he is very careful to identify them as just that: legends that add context to the cultural understanding in Ethiopia. 

Mike Aquilina’s writing style indicates a full command of the topic, yet he remains unpretentious and fluid in his delivery. Africa and the Early Church would make an excellent ancillary to homeschooled teens who are reading or learning about Church history. Having said that, I would also recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about the Church in her infancy as seen through the eyes of her early saints … and sinners.  

Ask for Africa and the Early Church at your local Catholic bookseller, or order online from Amazon.com or the publisher, Emmaus Road Publishing.



Copyright 2023 Sarah Torbeck
Images: Vassil ; eldonisto Eugenio Hansen, OFS, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons; Canva