Some nice stuff on Patristics from the Way of the Fathers:
The Fathers of the Church are a select group of early Christian teachers, usually numbered around a hundred. The Church has long revered them and given them a privileged place of doctrinal authority. The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists the Fathers among its â€œprincipal sources,â€ immediately after the Bible and just before the liturgy (n. 11).
The age of the Fathers, sometimes called the Patristic Era, stretched from the middle of the first century until the middle of the eighth, at the death of St. John of Damascus. Some of the earliest Fathers lived during the lifetime of the Apostles, and the teaching of these men â€” called the Apostolic Fathers â€” has always received special veneration. The Apostolic Fathers are sometimes called the â€œfirst echoâ€ of the Apostles.
But, even beyond the first echo, the Church considers the Patristic Era in general to be a time of extraordinary grace for the expression and development of Christian dogma.
The Catechism (n. 688) presents the Fathers as â€œalways timely witnessesâ€ to the Sacred Tradition that comes from Jesus Himself â€” the Gospel entrusted to the Church and handed on even before the gospels were written (see 2 Thess 2:14, 1 Tim 6:20 and 2 Tim 1:13). It is important for us to get this teaching right. The Fathers are witnesses to the Tradition, which predates them. They themselves are not the Tradition.
The Fathers provide us a crucial link. They bear witness to the authenticity of our liturgy, our priesthood, our canon of sacred Scriptures. They show us our Churchâ€™s unbroken continuity with the Church of the Apostles. We share the same Tradition, though weâ€™ve grown and developed in our understanding and expression of that Tradition.
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