Catholic Church History

The Conversion of the Vikings

God writes straight. My crooked lines, tortured between grace and the depraved human heart.... No matter how crooked I set it down, God writes it straight.  ∼ Brother Antoninus, O.P. (ca. 1949) As Charlemagne lay dying in 814, a new threat was growing in the north. Norse tribes, attracted both by the weakness and the riches of [...]

Was Robert Bellarmine Ahead of His Time?

In Empire of Souls, Stefania Tutino offers a fresh perspective on the central role Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) played in the development of post-Reformation Catholicism, and its relationship to the early modern state. Tutino complements her study with a newly published collection of writings, never before translated into English, that she believes best represents Bellarmine’s political [...]

St. John Chrysostom: The Golden Voice of Love

The days around September 14 are filled with celestial graces for those who can perceive and receive them. It was on September 14 that one of the most celebrated martyrs of the African church offered up his life for Christ, for his gospel, and for his church. On that day St. Cyprian of Carthage died [...]

The Real Heroes of the 1863 Draft Riots

The staircase in my rectory is lined with pictures of the twelve pastors who preceded me in my parish, which is called Hell’s Kitchen.  I hope that thirteen is a benign number. While the neighborhood now is experiencing the most promising real estate development in the history of the nation, it did not get its nickname for [...]

St. Toribio de Mogrovejo: Apostle of Peru

During the sixteenth century, in the Spanish colonies of the Americas, many conquistadors and colonists, giving vent to their avarice, debauchery, and cruelty, abused the native peoples, treating them little better than dumb animals. The encomienda system had been established by the Spanish conquerors in which the owner was responsible for the education and safety [...]

St. Bernard of Clairvaux: Medieval Psychologist

Modern popular culture prizes the role of the therapist, whose services, we are assured, can aid a troubled marriage, heal an addicted psyche or get an unruly (almost always male) child to behave better. The saint whose feast-day falls on August 20 was the greatest Christian psychologist of the Middle Ages. In St Bernard of [...]

Corpus Christi: Punctuation and Continuity

Too often academics are impressed with novelty as it appears in history, preferring to emphasize what they see as discontinuities and divergences, rather than attempting to study development rightly understood. This is for two reasons. The first is that the long shadow of a whiggish progressivism is still upon them. Lurking in the back of [...]

John Gerard, S.J.: The Adventures of an Elizabethan Priest

In London, at a public place called Guildhall, Catholic prisoners were being examined. The chief interrogator, proceeding methodically, asked one of the prisoners if he recognized that Elizabeth was the Queen of England, even though she had been excommunicated by the pope. The prisoner, carefully weighing his words, admitted that Elizabeth was the Queen, and, [...]

Rose Hawthorne Lathrop’s Ministry of Mercy

When asked by a puzzled journalist how she ended up running a home for impoverished cancer victims in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Rose Hawthorne Lathrop simply noted that she had taken St. Vincent de Paul’s motto as her own: “I am for God and the poor.” The writer was curious because he knew that Rose [...]

A Saint for the Hoosiers: Mother Guérin

The sisters and their helpers had toiled all year to create a bountiful harvest. Less than two years into their effort to establish a foothold in the Indiana wilderness, they stowed their precious grains and other foodstuffs in their new barn, which was also a product of their labor. It was October 2, 1842, the [...]

Ludwig von Pastor & the History of the Popes

Joseph de Maistre once wrote that “The scepter of science belongs to Europe only because she is Christian. She has reached this high degree of civilization and knowledge because ... the universities were at first schools of theology, and because all the sciences, grafted upon this divine subject, have shown forth the divine sap by [...]

A British Royal Comes to America to Tell the Catholic Story

Next week Washington DC will be treated to the arrival of a pro-life Catholic who is also a member of the British royal family. How is that possible? Nicholas Windsor gave up his place in line to the British throne when he converted to the Catholic Church in 2001. He became “the first male blood [...]

Reconstructing the Christian Past

Renowned historian, James Hitchcock, has long been recognized for his books and essays on U.S. politics, Roman Catholic intellectual life, and the controversial reforms of the Church’s sacred liturgy. A man of deep faith, he belongs to the great tradition of other Catholic historians such as Lord Acton and Hilaire Belloc; but unlike these predecessors, [...]

Crash Course on the Crusades

The Crusades are one of the most misunderstood events in Western and Church history.  The very word “crusades” conjures negative images in our modern world of bloodthirsty and greedy European nobles embarked on a conquest of peaceful Muslims.  The Crusades are considered by many to be one of the “sins” the Christian Faith has committed [...]

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