The Times Are Never So Bad . . . Print
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 29 September 2008 08:24
At this moment, Fr. Mike is the stable one and I'm "the other foot who must obliquely run" as John Donne put it (See the imagery of Validictions Forbidding Mourning). He's spending a cozy week in CS while I'm off to Athens, Ohio tomorrow to spend a week in guided historical research under the hawk like eye of Dave Curp, historian.

Dave, Mark Shea, and I all got to know each other at Blessed Sacrament in Seattle where we were first exposed to the Church's teaching on the mission and theology of the laity at the hands of our then pastor, Michael Sweeney, OP.

Dave is brilliant, a historian's historian and while also a very serious Catholic (yet another convert) is meticulous about not confusing apologetics with history. His area is WWII and post-WWII eastern Europe (Poland) and he has a strong interest in the history of lay Catholicism in mid 20th century Poland.

Here's a illuminating article out on Christianity and slavery (originally written for the old Crisis magazine) that is very much worth reading. As Dave writes:

"Far from being an innocent bystander, or merely silently complicit, the papacy fully participated in the expansion of the European slave trade. This was not a product of greed, but of a thoroughly rational and tangible fear of the consequences of not using every available means to defend a rapidly contracting 16th-century Christendom.

Divorced from the context of a Europe under a tightening Ottoman siege, papal engagement with the slave trade would appear to confirm the worst prejudices of secular critics. Placed within its historical environment, however, what we confront is the lay faithful and their shepherds accepting a real evil — slavery — to avoid their own subjugation to militant Islam."

As I embark on study of the 17th century revival in France, I can't help but rejoice that the Church has been freed from the burden of the Papal states and leadership of Christendom as a political entity. She is - amazingly - more influential today and her teaching and practice much less driven by the exigencies of political alliances and conflict than in the past.

The course of the revival in France was energized, funded, hindered, and sometimes seriously distorted by the enormous role that royal and noble patronage played and the endless conflicts between the Papacy and different Catholic powers and the new Protestant powers. That was the world the great saints and apostles of the 17th century lived and wrestled with.

St. Thomas More noted" The times are never so bad but that a good man can make shift to live in them." Our challenges, the powers of our day, are just as real though very different. I'm looking forward to contemplating what we can learn from another, remarkably creative, post-conciliar generation.

I will be blogging from Athens so you'll be hearing more on that topic.