Friday, January 19, 2007

Augustine's little balls

Get your mind out of the gutter! :-)

Ian's into playing with cards right now. He has several packs--some regular playing cards (boo, hiss), an Old Maid deck, a couple of matching games, a Thomas game, and some Bible cards that my aunt got him as stocking stuffers. Yesterday, I gave him a pack that I've had around for a while but wasn't doing anything with. Sometime shortly after I told one of my Evangelical friends about my interest in Orthodoxy, he gave me a card game he'd downloaded and printed. (Sorry--I don't remember what the site was.) It's a patristics game that I think someone developed as a study aid for a college class. Each card has a picture of a figure from Church history--typically an icon, or a more Westernized picture; in a few cases (Montanus comes to mind), there was apparently no picture readily available, so a cartoon figure was inserted. At the top, it gives the figure's name, and at the bottom, it identifies various attributes--whether they were orthodox, heterodox, or ambiguous; ecclesiastical rank; date of death; whether they were martyred; and whether, in the estimation of whomever developed the game, the story about them was mostly fabricated. If I recall correctly, the game can be played in various ways, but basically you work on trying to acquire a set of cards that share a particular characteristic.

Anyway, I've never actually played the game, but I couldn't bring myself just to get rid of the cards. I figured Ian would get a kick out of them, and if he keeps at it long enough, he might learn something along the way. Of course, his initial assessment was that they were from church. That didn't seem to be too big a problem. He soon decided that it was some sort of matching game and spread out the cards face down. As he would turn a card over, he would show it to me and ask who it was. (Fortunately, this was more of a reading exercise than a test of my patristic knowledge--I wouldn't have been able to identify very many of them by sight.) Sometimes he would try to repeat the name back to me; other times he'd just say "right" and move on to the next card. He also practiced counting the cards he'd turned over.

Most of the names he had no particular reaction to, but when we came to "Augustine of Hippo" (that's what it said on the card, and I just read it as it was), he immediately started to process what the "hippo" part meant. His mind quickly turned to his Hungry, Hungry Hippos game, which he got for Christmas. After that, about all he could associate with Bl. Augustine were the "little balls" you try to collect in the game.

The other interesting note on this game is that I happened to notice it designates Constantine as heterodox. I guess I hadn't thought of it before, but it's an interesting point to ponder. Constantine is designated as a saint in the Eastern Church at least, and he convened the first Ecumenical Council and enforced its judgment against Arius. On the other hand, he later changed his position, pardoned Arius, and exiled St. Athanasius. Is it, then, that we have in Constantine a heretic saint? Seems like an odd idea, but probably not so far-fetched either.

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