The Pilgrim Way of Life Beginning in March 2007, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has often greeted pilgrims at his weekly general audience in the Vatican with a discussion of one of the Church Fathers.1 With few breaks for special occasions, the Holy Father has presented a series of general audience talks on individual Church Fathers. His attention to them highlights their continuing significance to our faith. They have influenced almost all aspects of our faith, including doctrine, liturgy, practice, ecclesiology, sacramentology, Christology and Marian devotion. As friends of the Magnificat, we feel their influence every time we reach for our Magnificat. The very structure of the Mass, the liturgical seasons and prayer in the morning and evening follow the patterns they developed; and the Magnificat’s Meditations frequently use the Church Fathers as a rich mine of our spiritual legacy. By reinforcing the continuity with our spiritual heritage the Magnificat follows the advice of St. Vincent of Lerins (d. 450, Feast Day 24 May) that the children of the Church cultivate the ‘rosebuds’ of prayer and spirituality bequeathed to us by the Fathers of the Church.2
Because it would be impossible to present everything that is important about the Church Fathers3in a single paper, here we will focus on an especially congenial theme for the Church Fathers and friends of the Magnificat: how to lead a prayerful life. To help them explain this to their contemporaries, and to leave behind a ‘rosebud’ for us, these great theologian-saints developed an understanding of our life as a pilgrimage. But first, we should briefly consider who is a Church Father.