DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT CATHOLIC HISTORY:
From the Catacombs to the Reformation
by Diane Moczar
(Our Sunday Visitor, 2006, 176pp. Out of print but available on Internet. ISBN: 978-1-59276-202-6)
The title of this book indicates clearly who will benefit from reading it - those who don't know much about Catholic history.
One can easily gain the impression that the Church was to blame for most of the bad things that occurred in history, for example, the so-called Dark Ages, despite the fact that it was the Hun people from the north of China pushing the Germanic or Gothic barbarians from the north and east into the Roman empire that accelerated its decline, destroying buildings, art, water systems and books (the foundations of civilisation) while the Church in its monasteries preserved and copied books so that when the time was right the learning therein could once again be mastered and passed on to future generations.
At the end of the Dark Ages, in the eighth century, it was Christian leaders such as Pelayo in Spain and Charles Martel (the Hammer) of the Franks who resisted and, in the case of the latter, turned back the Moorish (Islamic) invasion of Europe. If this had not been achieved the civilisation of Europe would have been very different and the growth in human rights and well-being that are the legacy of Christendom to the world might never have occurred.
The early Middle Ages, the eleventh century, saw an enormous renewal in civilisation: the revolution in agriculture, the growth of towns, the decline in feudalism and its iniquities.
At the same time, the saintly Pope Leo IX introduced reforms mid-century which Pope Gregory VII later reinforced, as the Church went through a period of rejuvenation.
The century was also replete with wonderful saints who ensured the flowering of these reforms and who should be of great comfort to us today at the beginning of the third millennium when the Church is facing its own serious problems such as the sex abuse scandals.
Then into the bustle of the high Middle Ages, the 12th century, came developments in literature, art, education, history, philosophy, theology and architecture as well as large-scale building projects including castles and cathedrals.
The 13th century was the high summer of Christendom being full of saints like flowers in bloom: St Francis, St Dominic, St Margaret of Hungary, St Elizabeth of Hungary, St Ferdinand of Castile, St Louis of France, St Thomas Aquinas, St Bonaventure, while the reign of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) was one of great achievement.
Dr Moczar concludes with advice on how to find out more about the events of the thousand years of history covered in this volume and how to evaluate sources that may recommend themselves. Her approach is an excellent way to introduce anyone to the study of Church history, particularly young Catholics.
Dr Moczar is a prolific writer and all of her books are worth investigating.>/i>