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Posts Tagged ‘Western Civilization’

Church History Books Recommendations

In 14 Book Corner on 2014/06/06 at 12:00 AM

Excellent detailed and interesting history of the Church

 

Fr. Connor/Defenders of the Faith in Word and Deed/The lives of men who faithfully lived the Faith

 

These books are available through Ignatius Press:http://www.ignatius.com

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Rest in Pieces By J. Reagan

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2012/11/30 at 9:11 AM

George Santayana, the Spanish philosopher, said that those who do not learn from the lessons of history will be condemned to repeat it. This means that, if we fail to determine why people and events went wrong, they will go wrong again under similar circumstances. It appears that people do not seem to learn the lessons of history because they repeat the same mistakes over and over.

Historians tell us that world has seen about twenty-one civilizations, Greece, Rome, Egypt, Byzantium, Persia, Babylon  etc. The contemporary civilization is called “Western Civilization”. (It used to be called “Christian Civilization” and before the Enlightenment the term Europe was not used.  It was Christendom.)  All these civilizations are gone (except our own).

Sometimes the names remain, such as Greece or Rome; the former now a minor player in the world; the latter reduced to a city.  For others, the site remains, but the name passes into disuse such as the empires that preceded Iraq. All of these past civilizations had one thing in common; they all committed suicide and all in much the same way.  Not one of them, once decline had begun, ever reversed it and saved it self.

Let’s look at one of these fallen empires and see what the lessons of history tell us.  Rome was once the dominant empire and controlled the territory around the Mediterranean Sea and elsewhere.  The British historian, Arnold Toynbee, cites five reasons for the fall of Rome that can be applied to other fallen societies as well.

1. The loss of religion and morality whose influence diminished more and more as the decline advanced.

2. Severe damage to the family structure through divorce, infanticide and approved homosexuality.

3. Inordinate demands for more and more sports and entertainment.

4. Excessive taxation to pay for increasing military needs and to pay for public entertainments.

5. The constant influx of the neighboring peoples, often called the “Barbarian Invasions”. (“Barbarian” here does not refer to table manners, but simply to “foreigners”.)

By 476 A.D. the Western Roman Empire had officially collapsed.   How does it happen that a whole society can seem to blindly march to its own demise?

The following are some suggested reasons:

1. People traveling a downward path become inured to what is really happening.  Decline does not happen overnight; it is gradual.  Each downward step is seen in isolation rather than a part of an ongoing pattern of loss.

2. Those who are “enjoying” the causes of decline resist unsettling thoughts. They don’t want to stop the party and hear about possible dangers. Before the Flood, people laughed and sneered at Noah for his “folly”.  There are always voices of warning, but they are ignored as out of touch, irrelevant, fanatics  etc.

3. People become complacent in the presence of contradictions;  moral opposites are considered quite acceptable.  Ex. the release of Barabbas and the condemnation of the innocent Christ.  The idea that tax money solves all problems even when money has nothing to do with the cause of the problem. Refusing to profile those who might be terrorists because they might get upset.

4.  Eventually, the society loses its ability to think and react rationally, and, therefore, cannot seem to solve it problems because it has substituted emotion, impulse, demagoguery, name-calling, labeling  etc. in the place of reasoned discussion. This is not a pretty picture, but it is reality. It is history. Western Civilization is on the slippery slope to oblivion.

Can we apply Toynbee to the U.S.A.? Without doubt. The whole world is now in what is probably the biggest mess since the beginning of written history. For the second time, Western Civilization is faced with an onslaught by Islam.

I personally think there is no way to save ourselves except by falling on our societal knees in repentance and asking forgiveness of the much-offended God.  God has been banished from the seats of power and culture in this country. (There is not a single word about God or religion in the Constitution of the European Union.) I have heard no leader anywhere mention the importance of religion…except, of course, the Muslim leaders.

Will history repeat itself once again? It doesn’t matter. As Christians, we are very temporary residents of this planet. It is not a lasting or final home. We can certainly pray for a good outcome to the present cultural conflict. If we are true Christians, even now, we can psychologically rest in peace regardless of what events bring for good or bad.

The rest of society, having ignored is Creator-God will eventually rest in pieces.

Christopher Dawson, Master Historian

In 14 Book Corner on 2011/10/20 at 11:11 PM

Christopher Dawson was a unique historian, a meticulous scholar who possessed the imagination to present history in a rich and lively manner.  The author of an unbelievable number of books, he is perhaps the last in the line of the great “true” historiographers.

In the late 1950’s, I had the tremendous privilege of taking a graduate course entitled “THE SIX AGES OF CHRISTENDOM” presented by Christopher Dawson’s associate and editor, John J. Mulloy.  Christopher Dawson (1889-1970) was Harvard’s first Stillman Professor of Roman Catholic Studies. This course had a significant impact on my 36-year professional career of teaching college and high school history courses and echoed into my retirement career where I am still  teaching history from a Christian perspective.

Dawson’s  goal was to make us see that religion and religious belief are the cradle of all civilizations. His ideas are being recognized today as sound and essential to our understanding of our current realities.

Dawson traced the influence of religion on culture and civilization. His great concern was for the impact of Christianity in the development of Christendom (only recently replaced by the term Europe), and he was extremely aware of the advancing philosophy of secularization.

Dawson’s works echo his central belief that the Incarnation is the most important event in human history. The Christian needs to see history in terms of the Divine Will in order to interpret past events correctly. Dawson sought to have us see all events in their entire setting and in their proper relationship to each other.

Dawson wrote in his essay “The Christian View of History” that “for the Christian the doctrine of the Incarnation is not simply a theophany — a revelation of God to Man; it is a new creation — the introduction of a new spiritual principle which gradually leavens and transforms human nature into something new. The history of the human race hinges on this unique divine event which gives meaning to the whole historical process.”

Particularly in the class “Fathers, Doctors, Popes and Founders of Religious Orders”, I sought to highlight the same figures Dawson chose to demonstrate the power of the Christian faith to transform: St Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas.  To that list, I added now Blessed John Henry Newman.  These men are models whom we need today in order to pass on the cultural heritage of Catholic Christendom to future generations.

Dawson presented Europe as a Christian creation. He wrote: “The essential thing is not to cram students with a complete knowledge of the history of Christian culture, but to introduce them to the subject, so that they will at least realize the existence of the whole, before they are irretrievably committed to a specialized study of the parts or of a particle of the part.”

Santayana wrote: “Those who do not know history are condemned to relive it.”  Dawson was clearly concerned about the Europeans’ loss of memory as well as the distortions of Christianity into totalitarian systems.

The fragmentation of Europe and the loss of the power of historical memory was already beginning it’s own steady tempo like that of Ravel’s “Bolero.” He was concerned that more and more Christians would discard their religious past and accept falsehoods, oversimplifications and distortions.

Dawson wrote: “I believe that the study of Christian culture is the missing link which it is essential to supply if the tradition of Western education and Western culture is to survive, for it is only through this study that we can understand how Western culture came to exist and what are the essential values for which it stands.”

In studying Dawson’s works, I recognized that the average Christian lacked knowledge of the Roman persecutions, the Muslim tsunami, the real richness of the Middle Ages, the politically profitable division of Christendom called the Reformation.  In addition, they lacked an understanding of the domino effect of discarding  first authority, then faith, and, finally, reason and with it the natural moral code implanted by the Creator in the soul of  every man.  So, with Dawson as my “mentor”, I also wanted Christians to know their past.  This was/is the task of my life as a professional historian.

In his essay “The Christian View of History ” Dawson states: “The Christian view covers the whole life of humanity on this planet and it ends only with the end of this world and of man’s temporal existence. It is essentially a theory of the interpretation of time and eternity: so that the essential meaning of history is to be found in the growth of the seed of eternity in the womb of time. For man is not merely a creature of the economic process– a producer and a consumer. He is an animal that is conscious of his mortality and consequently aware of eternity.”

The religious, moral, temporal and political histories revealed in Western Culture are a heritage of Western culture for every person.  No one can ignore traditions, yet understand the problems of today.

This brilliant convert to Catholicism wrote shortly before his death:  “We are living in a world that is far less stable than that of the early Roman Empire. There is no doubt that the world is on the move again as never before and that the pace is faster and more furious than anything that man has known before. But, there is nothing in this situation which should cause Christians to despair. On the contrary, it is the kind of situation for which their faith has always prepared them and which provides the opportunity for the fulfillment of their mission.”

Just as Christianity is essential to Europe, so the Catholic Church is essential to Christianity.  As the Roman Empire disintegrated, it was the Catholic Church that preserved the culture, and as we see the current disintegration of our world, it is no less crucial.  Today, there is a full-fledged rebellion against the moral principles of Western culture with the elevation of the individual’s conscience as opposed to the needs of society.  We must preserve Christian values, the dignity of the human person and the freedom of the individual from the “I am god” mentality, which rejects objective moral values as a guide.

Dawson, like Pope Benedict today, stressed the need for the Church to use the technological changes in the world for evangelization.  Dawson wrote in “The Movement of World Revolution” that all Christians need to advance the Church’s “universal mission to bring the Gospel of Christ to all nations.” The Catholic Church is the only body today in the world that defends human rights and the dignity of the human person, both essential factors in the preservation of our God-given Christian heritage.

On May 30, 2011 Pope Benedict addressed those members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization who will be holding a Synod in 2012.  He told them: “The crisis we are living through carries with it signs of the exclusion of God from peoples’ lives, a general indifference to the Christian faith, and even the intention to marginalize it from public life.”

This is a message that we as Christians must carry with knowledge, understanding and conviction and express it with courageous action in the evangelization of an apathetic modern society.

Recommended books by Christopher Dawson:

Christianity and European Culture

Christianity and the New Age

Dividing of Christendom

Dynamics of World History, edited by John J. Mulloy

Medieval Essays

Formation of Europe

Making of Europe: An Introduction to the History of European Unity

Modern Dilemna: The Problem of European Unity

Progress and Religion

Religion and Culture, the Gifford Lectures

Religion and the Rise of Western Culture

Understanding Europe   

See also: Dawson/Recommended Reading List in this same category (Book Corner) 

The Muslim Reality and the Western Crisis

In 14 Book Corner on 2011/06/18 at 1:00 AM

In 1998 Cardinal Ratzinger was interviewed by Peter Seewald and made the following statement which alerted most Christians to the current religious peril.

“The great moral crisis of the Western World broke out in the 60’s &70’s. . . . In the face of the deep moral contradictions of the West and of its internal helplessness, combined with the sudden opposition by the new economic power of the Arab countries, the Islamic soul reawakened.  Islam believes that they are now somebody too; they know who they are; that their religion is holding its ground; we  no longer have one.

This is actually the feeling today of the Muslim world, what they believe: ‘The Western countries are no longer capable of preaching message of morality but have only knowhow to offer the world. That Christian religion has abdicated; that it really no longer exists as a religion; that the Christians no longer have a morality or a faith; all that’s left are a few remains of some modern ideas of enlightenment, while they have the religion that – stands the test.’

So the Muslims now have the consciousness that in reality Islam has remained in the end as the more vigorous religion and that they have something to say to the world, indeed, are the essential religious force of the future. Now there is a new pride. Thus a new zest, a new intensity about wanting to live Islam has awakened. This is its great power: They say: ‘We have a moral message that has existed without interruption since the prophets, and we will tell the World how to live it, whereas the Christians certainly can’t.”

The future pope concluded: “We must naturally come to terms with this inner power of Islam, which fascinates even academic circles.”

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in SALT OF THE EARTH: The Church at the end of the millennium (interview by Peter Seewald). pp. 243/244.

http://www.ignatius.com/Products/SOE-P/salt-of-the-earth.aspxT

Rest in Pieces

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2011/04/12 at 8:39 PM

George Santayana, the Spanish philosopher, said that those who do not learn from the lessons of history will be condemned to repeat it. This means that, if we fail to determine why people and events went wrong, they will go wrong again under similar circumstances. It appears that people do not seem to learn the lessons of history because they repeat the same mistakes over and over.

Historians tell us that world has seen about twenty-one civilizations, Greece, Rome, Egypt, Byzantium, Persia, Babylon  etc. The contemporary civilization is called “Western Civilization”. (It used to be called “Christian Civilization” and before the Enlightenment the term Europe was not used.  It was Christendom.)  All these civilizations are gone (except our own).

Sometimes the names remain, such as Greece or Rome; the former now a minor player in the world; the latter reduced to a city.  For others, the site remains, but the name passes into disuse such as the empires that preceded Iraq. All of these past civilizations had one thing in common; they all committed suicide and all in much the same way.  Not one of them, once decline had begun, ever reversed it and saved it self.

Let’s look at one of these fallen empires and see what the lessons of history tell us.  Rome was once the dominant empire and controlled the territory around the Mediterranean Sea and elsewhere.  The British historian, Arnold Toynbee, cites five reasons for the fall of Rome that can be applied to other fallen societies as well.

1. The loss of religion and morality whose influence diminished more and more as the decline advanced.

2. Severe damage to the family structure through divorce, infanticide and approved homosexuality.

3. Inordinate demands for more and more sports and entertainment.

4. Excessive taxation to pay for increasing military needs and to pay for public entertainments.

5. The constant influx of the neighboring peoples, often called the “Barbarian Invasions”. (“Barbarian” here does not refer to table manners, but simply to “foreigners”.)

By 476 A.D. the Western Roman Empire had officially collapsed.   How does it happen that a whole society can seem to blindly march to its own demise?

The following are some suggested reasons:

1. People traveling a downward path become inured to what is really happening.  Decline does not happen overnight; it is gradual.  Each downward step is seen in isolation rather than a part of an ongoing pattern of loss.

2. Those who are “enjoying” the causes of decline resist unsettling thoughts. They don’t want to stop the party and hear about possible dangers. Before the Flood, people laughed and sneered at Noah for his “folly”.  There are always voices of warning, but they are ignored as out of touch, irrelevant, fanatics  etc.

3. People become complacent in the presence of contradictions;  moral opposites are considered quite acceptable.  Ex. the release of Barabbas and the condemnation of the innocent Christ.  The idea that tax money solves all problems even when money has nothing to do with the cause of the problem. Refusing to profile those who might be terrorists because they might get upset.

4.  Eventually, the society loses its ability to think and react rationally, and, therefore, cannot seem to solve it problems because it has substituted emotion, impulse, demagoguery, name-calling, labeling  etc. in the place of reasoned discussion. This is not a pretty picture, but it is reality. It is history. Western Civilization is on the slippery slope to oblivion.

Can we apply Toynbee to the U.S.A.? Without doubt. The whole world is now in what is probably the biggest mess since the beginning of written history. For the second time, Western Civilization is faced with an onslaught by Islam.

I personally think there is no way to save ourselves except by falling on our societal knees in repentance and asking forgiveness of the much-offended God.  God has been banished from the seats of power and culture in this country. (There is not a single word about God or religion in the Constitution of the European Union.) I have heard no leader anywhere mention the importance of religion…except, of course, the Muslim leaders.

Will history repeat itself once again? It doesn’t matter. As Christians, we are very temporary residents of this planet. It is not a lasting or final home. We can certainly pray for a good outcome to the present cultural conflict. If we are true Christians, even now, we can psychologically rest in peace regardless of what events bring for good or bad.

The rest of society, having ignored is Creator-God will eventually rest in pieces.