The Christian Sense of History
By Dom Prosper Gueranger
Imprimimatur Potest: Solesmis, die 18 julii 1945. † fr. Germanus Cozien Abbas S. Petri Solesmis.
IMPRIMATUR: Cenomani, die 18 julii 1945. † Georgius, Archiepiscop.
The name and the work of Dom Guéranger are so well known that it would not be necessary to introduce at length to the readers the one who, in the Nineteenth Century, restored the Benedictine life in France.
Prosper Louis Pascal Guéranger was born on the 4th of April 1805 at Sablé, a small town situated around one mile from the Solesme Priory in the Maine region.
The revolution had emptied the monastery. From very young age, the monastery became the destination of his walks, not tiring to admire the statues that adorn the transept of the church. Still young, he showed a passion for the study. His early readings, works by Jansenist and Gallican, only made upon him an impression of short time because he had a tender piety for the incarnate Word and the Most Holy Virgin, and also from the fact that he recited the Roman breviary added to this was the authority of Lamennais, who was once a defender of the Papacy, all worked to exert an influence which will forward itself imperceptibly towards the work of his whole life.
He has ordained priest on the 4th October 1827. He followed the retired bishop of Mans to Paris, working as his secretary. He did not lack recreation and was well looked after.
Two years later Father Guéranger published his first studies “Considerations about Liturgy”, “Prayers for the King” and “About the appointment of Bishops”. The call for monastic life became more specific. The Solesme priory was for sale, he decided to buy it in order to restore Benedictine life which, in the past had produced so many fruits in the field of science and holiness. Providence gave him many generous benefactors and on the 11th of July 1833 the new clerics moved definitely into the old house of the Marusites, where the Divine office and practice of the Practice of the Rule would know no more interruptions other than those imposed by violent evictions.
After 4 years of hard work, sufferings and training, on the 14th of July 1837 the Pope ratified the Constitutions, elevated the Priory to the status of Abbey, leader of the Benedictine Congregations in France and raised Dom Guéranger to the abbatial dignity. Twelve days later on the feast of St. Anne, the Benedictines took their first professions, in Church of St. Paul outside the walls, after which they would return to Solemn. He was able to celebrate first pontifical Mass on the feast of all saints. He prepared his religious for their profession on the feast of the presentation.
We do not have scrutinise the stages of Dom Guérangers' life until his death which will come on the 30th of January 1875. The interest of his life is less as regards the events mark his life, than the doctrine that he has sown.
He had to govern his abbey from day to day with little resources he had. He had the continuous threats of the politicians, the legislators, and the clerics who stood against his newly established monastery. Yet, as if this was not enough, he had to found new monasteries, while answering numerous persons soliciting his help and the founding of new Monasteries.
God had given Dom Guéranger a threefold mission; the great monk will not be disheartened by the most vicious threats coming from politicians, legists and even clerics against his work; he will face them with zeal and great courage that never failed in face of terrible storms. It was not for the love fighting that this monk of Solemns will accept the years of unending polemics. He would have much preferred the prayer and silence of the Monastery and sweetness that such contemplation affords. He would have preferred to have seen others stand up for the cause of orthodoxy which would have dispensed him from intervening. Often he would wait, then he would calmly, with pen in hand, take up his pen and write in defence of the faith.
He would say on the night of his death; "the good God placed such a large burden on my shoulders, though I never asked Him anything"." God asked of my to bring liturgical unity into the different dioceses in France." This was ignored. Every diocese had it's own modern liturgy, but he wanted everyone to embrace the Roman liturgy, which had moved him when he open for the first time the Roman Breviary and Missal, so many years ago. This became his aim; to re-implement the Roman Liturgy. This would allow the faithful to regulate their life together with their knowledge of the contemplation of the Christian mysteries and Christian virtue combined with the daily duty to the liturgy of the Church.
In less than 20 years, then entire Church in France was restored to the Roman unity, and God knows, how many souls were touched by his sweet and tranquil teaching from the year 1841 through his liturgical year. Once tasted, they could not tear themselves away from the recognition of the savour of the baptism.
God charged Dom Guéranger to constantly to defend the Roman doctrine and the prerogatives and rights of the apostolic see. His duty was show clearly origin of the Roman Church, from whence it came about the authority of the first Pontiff and his succession was set forth, giving to each reality, a clear historical authenticity.
He set out to remind a revolutionary time, that an authority exists still, now and forever sacred. Society needed to be reminded that it had to go beyond what is of this world and produce saints, who are going to be like beacons who enlighten the people, setting forth discipline which binds them and actions which sanctify them.
The secular world was enraged by these ideas, not to mention that it set the Galicans and Janenists in a rage, yet Dom Gueranger's liturgical reforms prevailed.
His love for the Church and the Blessed Virgin lead him to produce his famous work "memories of the blessed Virgin Mary." This text had a decisive action upon the definition of dogma of the immaculate conception proclaimed by Pope Pius IX.
Pope requested of Him along with all the other Abbots to come to the First Vatican Council, he was unable to attend. Yet, despite this he wrote his book known as 'The Pontifical Monarchy'. The Pope thanked him at once for having rendered to the Church a very great service and for acknowledging the rights and history of the Church. He reminded even the Pope to acknowledge the right and sovereignty of the Papacy.
On the 19th of July bells of the Monastery rang far and wide, to acknowledge far and wide, the dogma of Papal infallibility. God charged him to fight against the heresy of his time; namely to fight against naturalism, and to defend the supernatural order.
Around the middle of the Nineteenth Century Dom Guéranger could see with great concern a return of impiety becoming manifest in France. Pernicious errors had slyly crept into books written by talented philosophers and historians who had no other goal but to destroy Catholicism. What was very serious was the fact that an important group of Catholic politicians and writers would more or less make a pact with evil. The Catholic liberal party, which was at its beginning, would think judicious then to give free round to mistake and rather than resolutely fighting it would prefer to live peacefully with it hoping that the enemy would also show mutual tolerance towards them. But this was impossible. Error had its particular way in all branches of human knowledge: theology, philosophy, history, literature. All together they would form His creation, to free man from His law. Dom Guéranger was very skilled at unmasking evil. He approached it on all its grounds, particularly on the Historic ground. A book named “The Church and the Roman Empire in the Fourth Century” written by Prince A de Broglie, leader of the liberal party gave him the opportunity to interfere. In a series of articles later published in a book, Dom Guéranger unveiled the true aspect of Naturalism,
“The History of the Church is so impregnated with Christian dogmatism that if we do not take it into account, it is impossible to not only speak about it, but also understand it. Material facts may be real but the History of the Church told by an historian devoid of faith does not stick to the truth. The life of the Church is a divine fact fulfilled on earth with the participation of man and the Catholic man is the only one who holds the Key of that mystery. Wanting to adapt the History of the Church to human needs is a waste of time and trying to imagine systems to explain it is rash and useless” Dom Guéranger knew that people are more interested in History than in philosophy. This is why, feeling a greater danger on that side, he would treat it with his habitual fervour saying that he was like a school teacher loving to explain the nature of the doctrine. It is possible to limit his concern to a strictly temporal point of view, but people with Faith have a higher interpretation, they consider things and time “sub specie aetennigagis”. Where does man come from? Where is he going? Why does he need to live in a society? Why does he need to accept the authority which will maintain his freedom whenever it is threatened? How can he make the difference between authority and tyranny, order and pressure, freedom and anarchy? The philosopher and the sociologist may answer those questions but the historian does it in a more expressive manner; he knows how to highlight the obvious as well as the prominent part played by moral and religion. Because the Christian historian can see further, he can firmly conclude that the moral brought about by the Decalogue and Christ religion are the great exploration of History. The people who violate natural law will head for their own ruin and only the Catholic Church is the infallible guardian of that law. The Catholic Church explains it, develops it and preaches it. It solves the enigma of evil; it shows to man what perfection would be and adds to the thread of History three essential chapters that the Church is the only one to acknowledge: the origin of creation and the original fall – Calvary and Redemption – the end with the Last Judgement.
If the beginning and the end escape the problem: of science and erudition, the Key of History is found in chapter two: Calvary and the Redemption; that is where the ultimate explanation is found, the essential fact which gives meaning to all the rest.
The conversion of Constantine and the victory of Milvius bridge; the liberation of Orleans with Joan of Arc and the stake emerge with their huge significance only to the people who do contemplate them from the top of Calvary and those people know the truth about the History of universal humanity. This writing of History produced a number of works of art such as “the Apocalypse” by Saint John who examines the situation with symbols or “Discourse on Universal History” by Bossuet who weaves his study with rough facts. If this way of narrating is, nowadays, sometimes forgotten, it’s a real catastrophe because we need to recognise ourselves in the chaos in which we may perish and we need to evaluate our time.
It looks like the Nineteenth Century itself, in relation to Dom Guéranger had wished to prove him right against all doctors of Naturalism who, for long years, had covered his voice with their clamours. The Nineteenth Century was more than any other, the century that gave evidence to the supernatural the Saint Cure of Ars (Jean Marie Vianney) whose life reminds that of the thanmatungist Priests in the desert; the Saint Massabielle’s shepherdess ( Bernadette Soubirous) who, at the invitation of Our Lady, made a sprint spurt out and that spring, still flowing continues to cure miraculously; Saint Therese of Lisieux who, as soon as she dies, forces the universe to proclaim its survival and with her kindness keeps pouting over it a shower of roses; the Church itself when the world would deny its divine origin, firmly claimed its infallible nature. It would take too long to demonstrate the magnificent contribution of modern France to the Catholic Church, in the fields of thinking works, apostolic zeal and saintliness. Pius X had this memorable words: “If the supernatural lives everywhere on earth it is especially present in France”. Dom Guéranger was one of the most vigorous instruments God used to defend and protect the supernatural in our country and in the world. Dom Guéranger demonstrated the truth of the principles that he kept reminding with great courage to his people about modern idolatry, the giving up of the Church practices the apostasy of nations which are true historic prophecies. Nowadays, we only have to look around us: the history of our time becomes clearer if we consider it in the light of Christian doctrine. We can acknowledge the fight of mysterious hidden forces which are clashing with each other, the forces of evil against the forces of good. Our history looks very much like that one described by the author of the “Apocalypse” two thousand years ago and it is not very difficult to recognize the threats of the Beast, its lies, its blasphemies, its implacable tyranny, its colossal power of destruction. We know where the source of all expectations and salvation is to be found. “God, Bossuet said, build a piece of work in the middle of us, away from all other causes whose control belongs to Him only, fills all times and all places and with the impact of His hand brings on the whole world the character of His authority and this work is Jesus Christ and His Church” (funeral oration for the Palatine Princess) “Christ is at home in History” affirms also Dom Guéranger. “History develops itself under His Reign, it aims to an end which will comfort us all”
The Supernatural in History
For every Christian, history is not only human, man is called by God to a supernatural state which means the end of his nature as man. God could leave man in his natural state but His kindness calls man to a superior degree by giving Himself to him and calling him to possess His divine essence. Physiology and psychology in their natural state are them powerless to explain main in his destiny. Man thinking only cannot understand the phenomenon of grace which changes the mind, the soul and the body to unite them to God in an ineffable manner there cannot be true knowledge of man outside the revealed point of view. If man in his wholeness cannot be known without the revealed grave, can we imagine that human society, in its different stages called History, will be able to be explained it he does not call to his assistance that same grace which projects its light on out nature and our individual destinies. By calling man to join divine union, the Creator invites mankind. We shall witness this on the last day when missions of individuals in full glory will be seen to the right of the Sovereign Judge and as St John said “It’s counting will be impossible” (Apoc, VII, 9). If its narration has to stick to the truth, History must be Christian. All historic systems which take no account of natural order in the statement of facts, is a false system that explains nothing leaves the annals of mankind in chaos and in permanent contradiction with all ideas that reasoning forms on the destinies of our race on earth. In the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries, the non-Christian narrators have borrowed from the Christian method they style of generalisation but they have directed it against the orthodox system. They have sensed that grasping History and giving it the print of their own ideas, they would give a strong blow to the supernatural principle. Three school have exploited the field of History.
1. The Fatalist or atheist school
2. The Humanitarian school
3. The Naturalist school
The Fatalist school shows mankind battling with the invincible sequences of brutal causes and their unavoidable outcomes.
The Humanitarian school bows down before mankind idol and its progressive development through revolutions, philosophies, religions. According to them, in the end God lets mankind free to follow its own path.
The Naturalist school is the most dangerous of the three because it puts on a show of Christianity claiming the action of divine Providence but, in the end, according to them, the infinite resources God holds to govern the world will probably bring a better form of Government and mankind will direct itself towards new destinies and History will be seen in a more vivid light.
The Christian school knows that the Son of God made man is the King of the world, “all power has been given to Him on earth and in Heavens” (Math. XXVII, 18).
It splits the lasting of History in two great sections: Before Jesus Christ and after Jesus Christ. The Church walks in front of the Christian historian like a luminous column and enlightens divinely all his appreciations. The Christian historian knows what links tightly unite the Church to God made man, in what way the promise made by God is securing His Church against all teaching errors, in the general behaviour of Christian society and in what way the Holy Spirit animates and leads the Church.
Therefore it is to the Church that the Christian historian refers for his judgments. He knows he is in the truth since he is with the Church and the Church is with Christ. He holds his views firmly because he knows he cannot make any mistake. If today appearances seem to be against his judgement, he knows that tomorrow the facts will prove him right. Philosophers and tyrants have worked at demolishing the Church for the last nineteen centuries but its walls are so solidly built that until now they have not been able to pull out one stone.
We have to consider the conversion of the gentiles first inside and outside the Roman Empire; whose results proceed directly from God’s hand. The steady behaviour of the martyrs, for from eradicating the new society, makes it stronger and propagates it. In the middle of all those wonders, the Christian historian is at ease and nothing surprises him; he knows and claims that everything on earth is for the elected and the elected are for Christ. Christ is at home in History. It is therefore very simple that History cannot be explained without Him and that with Him, history emerges in all its light and greatness. Since the publication of the Gospel the fates of the world have taken a new expansion after having waited for the coming of its King, the world now possess Him. Rome becomes the new Jerusalem. Titus is the executioner of the Heavenly Father who takes revenge on the blood shed by His Son. The nations will have in front of their eyes, until the last day, the sight of the Jewish people damned by God. The preservation of the Church through the centuries is a supernatural fact. It has survived without any blend of his doctrine, without any deterioration of its hierarchy, without any suspension in its duration, without any weakness in its progressive march.
God supports directly the Church and every man of good faith able to apply the laws of analogy can read in the facts which directly concern the Church, the immortal promise of everlasting written by God from its beginning- Heresies, scandals, defections, conquests and revolutions, nothing can destroy it; pushed out of a country, the Church foes forward in another one always visible, always Catholic, always conquering and always severely tested. The nations on earth do not only belong to God who has created the first human family but are also, as said the prophet, the particular domain of God made man. History has been treated by two Christian genius and their reputation has not failed: Saint Augustine and Bossuet, therefore it would be a serious inconsistency and a high responsibility that the principle of supernatural be left on the side. Don’t we ever isolate Jesus Christ from History of humanity; in our judgements and narrations let’s see History of humanity in relation to Jesus Christ. Let’s remember that when we look at a map of the world, we are looking at the empire of God made man and His Church.
The Sainthood in History
The Christian historian will record all events would they be of lesser importance, the divine kindness and power has scattered along the centuries in order to revive the faith along the generations. He will demonstrate that the Redeemer of the world has not made to the believers the empty promise of His interference using visible signs until the end. Then the apparitions of the Cross to Constantine has the right to go down in the history of the Fourth Century as well as the wonders which took place in Jerusalem when Julian the Apostate wanted to rebuild the Jerusalem Temple. Saint Martin’s miracles had a major influence in Gaulle in the extinction of idolatry; the miracles of Saint Philip Neri in Rome and of Saint Francis Xavier in India in the Sixteenth Century testified brilliantly that the Church was the only rightful Heir of the promise and the refuge of the faith, the true faith, in spite of the blasphemies brought around by the Reformation and the decline of moral standards. The chain of those marvels has been permanent from the origin of Christianity until our time and will go on. They are the evidence of the supernatural presence of God in the movement of humanity. Prodigious facts took place with the introduction of the Gospel in the diverse countries where it was preached: the miracles of the monk Saint Augustine in the evangelism of England and those which drew attention to the famous promoters of religious life in the East as well as in the West since Saint Anthony in the desert of Egypt until Saint Francis and Saint Dominic, the clerics of the Thirteenth Century. The historian must expect to meet early and often the supernatural factor, may he then never betray his duty. If one intends to write French History, he will have to be in the presence of Joan of Arc, whether he like it or not. Who is Joan of Arc? The Faith shows us the divine predilection for France, God’s intention to take away the very Christian Kingdom from the heresy – protestant England would have not missed to impose a century later. The saints have filled a great part in the History of the world. It is not permitted to forget that after the persecution of Diocletian Christian saved the society against pagan and barbarian invaders whose heresies in the Fourth and Fifth Centuries nearly caused the collapse of the Church: the saint bishops, doctors of the law, monks saved the Church: Athanasius, Basil, Ambrose, Saint Augustine, Saint Hilaire, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, Saint Martin, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Jerome, Saint Cyril of Alexandria, Saint Leo: we, Christians must be very grateful to those friends of God. Great genius and great men are God’s gift to humanity. Bossuet and Fenelon in the XVII Century are God’s gift. But when sainthood is linked to genius it is something else. In the saints we feel God himself and that is why we cannot resist them. The invasion of the barbarians and the tragedies they brought with them will give the historian the opportunity to point out a new part played by sainthood in the middle of those amazing calamities; barbarians who threw themselves at the empire met everywhere saint individuals who, like a barrier, made a protection against the flood. Saint bishops who stopped a cruel leader, saint pastors who saved their flock by giving themselves to the sword, saint monks who by their imposing simplicity, disarm the fierce conqueror who, at first, wanted to immolate them; saint virgins who, like Genevieve, put their town at ease and by means of their prayers diverted the plague sent by God. The only obstacle the barbarians met and showed respect for was sainthood. The Christian historian cannot forget the works nor the rule of the great Patriarch of the west, monks who worked at the salvation of the European Christianity neither can he forget the work of the holy bishops who excelled in the Sixth and Seventh Century through councils and religious foundations which made a great job in our regions: “they built the Kingdom of France like the bees build their hives” (Dixit Gibbon). The Christian historian will not fail to enlighten the work of the saint popes of the apostolic seat: Saint Gregory the Great whose virtues ruled and sanctified the East and the West; Saint Gregory II, Italy’s saviour; Saint Zachary, the oracle of the Frankish nation, Saint Nicholas I who did not spare his efforts to prevent the destruction of the Eastern world. Keeping the unity with the true faith. Could the Christian historian not mention saint Kings and emperors who, through more than three centuries, have given with their faith, the supernatural start to the politics of their time: Saint Henry, Saint Etienne of Hungary, Saint Edward the Confessor, Saint Ferdinand and in France Saint Louis; we cannot either forget those empresses, queens and duchesses visible angels who, in the middle of their people, have developed the Christian life, giving themselves as examples. The beneficial effect brought along by saint kings and queens is one of the main evidence of God in the supernatural leadership of the society,
The Christian reaction pulled our Barbary from Europe thanks to the strength of their soul and to the victory of the mind over the brutal force. This triumph happened because God gave saints to His Church. Cluny was the strong point of lever of which the Papacy took control in this century; but don’t we forget that it was erected by four saints whose long life spreads over a century and a half. In the Twelfth Century who could explain the work of Saint Bernard without taking into account the radiant Sainthood which shone in him. In the Thirteenth Century Saint Francis and the apostolic son of Guzman, by their works and virtues beyond human endurance, woke up in a powerful manner the supernatural sense which was going weak. In the Fourteenth Century Christianity seemed to sink because of internal strife brought by the great schism and the invasion of the society by naturalism and sensualism which had been neutralized by the rising of sainthood but not eliminated it. Apart from Catherine of Sienna, we cannot see any saint whose action would have been felt beyond borders; the whole supernatural vitality of that time is summed up by the sublime figure of Catherine of Sienna. The Fifteenth Century is even more miserable than the previous one: for the first time the anarchical doctrines come up and soon the heresy spread with Wiclef and Jean Huss who will raise the standard against Christianity. The Fifteenth Century was poor in examples of Sainthood. The extraordinary effect produced by Saint Vincent Ferrer over several Kingdoms shows, however, that the sense of sainthood was still alive among people but this Angel of God ended his career in 1419. Then comes the Sixteenth Century which in its first half was a terrible time of hardship and time of triumph in the second half. Saint Gaetan is almost alone in the first half but as soon as 1550 starts, we can see a wonderful blooming on the branches of the secular tree of Christianity while Protestantism is at last stopped in its conquests. Saint Gaetan prepared the updating of Christian moral standards Saint Ignatius of Loyola and the Saints of his time carried on with the work in the most vigorous manner. The wise edicts promulgated by the Council of Trent reinforced the reform of discipline with the participation of saint popes like Saint Pius V and saint bishops like Saint Charles Borromeo. The evangelism of the Gentiles comes back to life with Saint Francis Xavier and of the Christian cities with Saint Philip Neri. Therese purified the convent, John of the Cross and Peter Alcantara purified the monastery. The Seventeenth Century while counting less examples of Sainthood than the previous one, will however show beautiful revelations of the supernatural principle in the men of God. The sainthood of Saint Francis de Sales rekindled piety in all Catholic nations especially in France. To say so he personified the Catholic Church with his inviolable faith, his sense of infinite charity and his constant struggle. Jacques the first used to say to his Anglican Bishops about “The Devout Life”: “you should write books like that one”. This heretic prince had then the sense of sainthood. The pages written by the saints have a particular savour which cannot be reached without being a saint. The reading of Saint Therese touches far more than the spiritual letters most praised in the Seventeenth century. France owes a great deal to Saint Francis de Sales and it is only justice to look at him as one of the principal lever of the upward movement of the Christian sense which was beneficial to France. Owing to him, France can again be counted among the nations where sainthood blooms again. During this period we must consider Peter Fourier, John Francis Regis, Jane Frances de Chantal and Vincent de Paul who died in 1660 and closes the list of French Saints in the Seventeenth century. Since then, France, glorious on several sides, remained sterile in the number of saints. However the Christian historian will have to explain why in time of the Regency which started in 1715 France was exploited with success by the spirit of incredulity which could not have been stopped. Obviously, the supernatural sense had been weakened and naturalism had secretly won. Two servants of God extended their career well further in the Eighteenth Century” Jean Baptiste de la Salle and Louis de Montfort; but we must acknowledge that they were unrecognised, persecuted, censured and if God had not watched over them their name and their works would have faded away and be forgotten. In the second half of the Seventeenth Century, marvels of sainthood blew up outside France: Saint Madeleine of Pazzi, Saint Rose of Lima have filled the air with the fragrance of their virtues. Can we imagine that the name itself of Saint Joseph of Cupertino and the miracles linked to his personality, known in the whole Catholic universe, took such a long time to go over the Alps. The Duke of Brunswick witness of the divine marvels apparent in the Servant of God had abjured Lutheranism, thus giving up the rights of his sovereignty. We must however, mention that at the end of the Seventeenth Century Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque was at the origin of the devotion to the Sacred Heart.
The Eighteenth Century will be stamped by a general symptom of weakness in the Christian society. However marvels blew up at the heart of the Church, where life can never fade away. Veronique Giuliani wearing the stigmata of Christ’s Passion, Leonard de Port Maurice, Paul of the Cross, Alphonsus Ligouri, in the name of their heroic virtues deserved the honour to be, one day, promoted on the altars. In France, at the court the most corrupted in its history, descendants of Saint Louis came forward to deserve the Crown of Sainthood: Louise de France, virgin and followed of Saint Therese, Clotilde de Sardaigne, spouse and Queen. Those two princesses and Benoit- Joseph Labre, a beggar are the only revelations of sainthood that France seems to have produced in the whole of the Eighteenth Century and when they emerged the country was on the brink of being handed over to the enemies of supernatural order who would have reduced France to ashes, would the merciful hand of God not have smashed the oppressors of people.
This narration shows that faith and moral code are supported by the influence of Sainthood. The Christian historian, giving the saints a large space in History, points out that History is as God sees it and judges it.
The Duties of the Historian and Christian
There is a great difference between a Christian historian and a philosopher. The philosopher takes no account of the supernatural order and nothing is more dangerous than giving preferential treatment to the rationalist inclination.
Faith is a virtue, it is not the result of a scientific labour, and faith is often threatened by the enemy of man who can see in it the means God uses to throw light on man’s intelligence. May the Christian believer never forget that his narrative must be Christian, it is not permitted to the Christian historian to be impartial when it comes to faith and the application of faith. Concerning historic judgements, when it comes to the facts, there is only the truth, he must not flatter anyone neither disguise the faults of whoever; in the same time he must bring to light the lies which made of history a conspiracy against truth. The Christian historian judges facts, men and institutions as they are seen by the Church, he is not free to judge otherwise and this makes him strong. If he cannot resign himself to offend, he must refrain from writing History. Numerous betrayals have generated prejudices and irresponsible ads which were invincible obstacles to the development of a vigorous and solid catholicity. It is through history that we can see where the supernatural is produced and the Christian historian must have the courage of showing it to his readers. Saint Augustine and Bossuet relate everything and judge all in relation to Jesus Christ and His Church. They show the supernatural principle governing and explaining everything by and large as well as in the smallest details; along the narrative we feel them Christian and we become more Christian ourselves when we read the beautiful passages from their books. Saint Augustine shows that it’s by the permanent gift of miracles that the Christian identity of the society proves to itself to have been established by the irresistible strength of God’s arm. Saint Augustine tells the miracles brought about by the relics of Saint Etienne in Africa, under his own eyes and seen by the people. Christian historian, do not make any concession to the philosophers, thinking that those favours would be a means to attract the philosophers to the faith; there are two disadvantages: the first and not the least, those articles and narratives read by weak Catholics will cool down their faith and will maintain them in a haziness from which they should be taken out. They read your passages with confidence because they know you are Catholic and this reading leaves them in a state worse than before.
The second is that far from bringing back the philosophers to the faith, you increase their pride and their triumph is to see Catholics lagging behind their system, proud of what they consider a breakthrough, they feel free to impose their ideas and their language. You will be reduced to lead two systems at the same time: your strong faith and the demands of what you call the mentality of modern society; despite your intellectual efforts they cannot be compatible and if many of your kind are outraged, the others will not be taken back to the faith.
Nowadays, society more than ever, needs doctrines strong and consistent with themselves. In the middle of general debauchery of ideas, only strong assertions will be accepted. Like in the first days of Christianity, it is necessary that Christians call on people’s attention by the unity of their principles and of their judgements. The present society lives on the remnants of the ancient Christian civilisation that revolutions have not destroyed, preserved from sinking by God’s mercy. Show yourself as you are: convinced Catholic; the society will at first be scared but, be sure it will come back to you. If speaking its language, you flatter the society, they will be amused for a while, then you will be forgotten because they will not have been impressed by your lack of seriousness; more or less they will have recognised themselves in you but having little confidence in themselves, you will have missed to inspire more confidence in yourself. There is a state of grace tied up to the full and absolute confession of faith; and this confession says the Apostle is the salvation of those who make it and of those who listen to it. Let’s be Catholics and nothing else, no philosophers, no dreamers of utopian ideals; let’s be the yeast which rises the dough. The last hope of the society is to be found more and more in the resolute attitude of the Christians. Mr de Montalembent did not hesitate to express Catholicism with great vitality in his introduction to “the story of Saint Elizabeth”. Since then, too often we saw Catholic historians wanting to stitch together strife of worldly wisdom to the substance of the Christian faith. Would their Christian dignity be more enlightened they would have been less ready to heap praises upon modern prejudices. To imagine spreading faith with naturalism is as foolish as to pretend, in politics making order with disorder. The Christian historian must admit that the ideas of today are hostile to the supernatural principles that is why he cannot transpose the ideas of today to his judgements on the past. He must realise that modern paganism has wreaked havoc on society. “A hostile feeling against the faith, an over-excitement of the pagan mind have blown the storm of 1789” said Mr de Champagny. Fortunate is the historian who in the middle of contradictory principles, free from all research of popularity and upstanding disciple of the Church, will have been able to go across this terrible crisis without having sacrificed the least piece of truth; disciple of the Catholic Church to which belongs the future of times and of Eternity.
Christ, Hero of History
It is very important to warn Catholics against naturalism in the appreciation of historic facts. It has to be known that naturalism is not just a theory but it is insinuated and even applied in most of the writing which have been published for a long time. This double language is dangerous for the readers especially for the youngsters. Generally speaking naturalism can be recognised in a book when his author puts a slow of hiding the act of God; when he becomes fond of the philosophic ideas of Providence instead of claiming the supernatural order; when he speaks about the Church as being a human institution; when he delivers a verdict on ideas and on men differently from the Church; one likes to go ahead and be seen as belonging to his time, in a word he likes to reap the kind of success given to anyone being able to deserve the title of man of progress. We also recognise the presence of naturalism in a book when his author instead of showing the imperfection of the pagan virtues he fills them with the admiration they do not deserve. I call pagan virtues those actions brilliant from outside whose principle was not to implement divine law but pride, severity of heart, stoical contempt of life, the barbarian cult of a material of a material nationality. At the end of the Eighteenth Century we know the disastrous excitements that highlighted pagan virtues has produced. There is another danger to be avoided by the Christian historian; Apostle of the revelation, he must not imagine that the gentiles had no means to reach the knowledge of the true God, that knowledge which enables man to the fulfilment of virtues which honour him and are his salvation. The means supernatural Providence uses to operate this great purpose are the aims of Christian history. The Catholic theology unveils the reality that grace is never denied to men, even to the most neglected among us. God lets his wrath against Ninive be swayed with Jonah’s simple words; Corneille the centurion who had become elected for baptism before having known the mission of the Saviour. The part played by the Jewish people, their synagogues scattered beyond the limits of the time, thriving in the heart of Rome and in Greece for centuries when God made man came along. Through those facts we can easily follow, still today, the traces of supernatural in the annals of the ancient world. End of Seventeenth Century and the first half of Eighteenth Century in France, Fontenelle was one of the forerunners of naturalism and did not fear when faith was still prevailing, to deny the monuments of primitive Christianity, saying that the oracles being a hoax of paganism did not stop with the coming of Christ. It was then easy for Christian Science to retaliate and restore the good sense of people libelled by a man affected by supernatural antipathy. The Christian historian who depicts the ancient world will often meet the diabolical world whose empire had not felt the victorious strength of the Cross. The awful disorders of the ancient world were the result of the power held by the father of lies which was more profound than it has been since the triumph of the Son of God. Ignoring that fact would be for a Christian historian a lack of faith that nothing may justify. Jesus Christ has not omitted to call Satan by his name: the “Prince of the World,” and certain Christian writers would not take into account passages of the Gospel where this perverted mind is condemned as being the source of all evil? It is obvious that the historian who does not speak about the purpose of all those tribulations, who does not hint to the reign of Christ getting closer is a blind man who maintains other blindness in the dark. He is joining the pagan mind who did not know anything about God’s plans to lead the world. The historian can see that everything leads to the Roman Empire; this colossal empire used as a stepping stone by Jesus Christ, must collapse without returning and the historian will not mention the empire of Christ? He says that the coming of Christ is the greatest even of all times but he does not say that the world, for thousands of years, was in the waiting of its King and He has been reigning over it for the last twenty centuries. When our fathers stood up against Voltaire’s school who dared pretend that humanity had regressed because Jesus Christ religion was conducting civilisation to barbary; it had become necessary to support against the philosophers this new thesis and easy to demonstrate that in all its useful sides for man and society, modern civilisation is the daughter of Christianity. When polytheism and philosophy conducted people to a mindless state and to their destruction. They were aware of the fact that the mission of Christ had other interests far more precious for man and society than those linked to economy. The fruits of Christianity put the Christian nations above the others and are only consequences of the benefits provided by Jesus Christ and His superior order. They also knew the Gospel by heart and accepted all of it. If Jesus Christ said “the prince of this world will be driven away from his empire” they knew that the Redeemer’s blood will be shed for the redemption of our sins and that humanity will only be one one under the leadership of the Good Shepherd who gives His life for His sheep. In the Gospel there is a word of Christ pointing at those benefits: “Look for God’s Kingdom and His justice, the rest will be given to you in addition”. In the eighteenth century the defenders of Christianity knew all that understood all of it and looked forward to noticing all the benefits brought by Christianity. In the fourth Century, Julian the Apostate himself had started to understand those benefits due to Christianity. Since then, Christianity is ignored in modern society; the legislation does not admit it as a social link but if a certain protection is provided it’s only because Christianity is supposed to represent the religions interest of the nation. In such a situation, faith is still alive in a great number of people, so in a way, fruits of Christianity continue to be produced. What will be the link of the Christians among them, in what way will they unite to form an indomitable strength to overcome paganism? Without any doubt through energy and unity of the Christian idea. Did the Christian writers of the first three centuries speak about political utopias, human progress? The conquest took place through the faith in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ which brought to the world mysteries to believe in and supernatural virtues to be put into practice. In the eyes of the first Christians the era of Christ was the salvation given to man on the condition to sacrifice the goods of present life to obtain those of the times to com, the access of which is given by the Redeemer. There was no more, no less to regenerate the world; nowadays, no more no less will be needed to save it.
A Christian writer must not speak about the coming of Christ as a social event, he must put into his mind that he is writing for Christians. Men must and need to know that Christ came to redeem them, and the purpose of His mission is not to civilize them. Then, should he not insist on the consequences of the Gospel? Well, all truth is useful and every piece of truth must be seen according to its importance; who would dare express a doubt on the results produced by Christianity for the improvement of human condition? You must use Saint Augustine and Bossuet language, your writings have to give support to the Christians and you will only do it claiming loudly that under the reign of Caesar Augustus, the only Son of God, born from a Virgin, offered Himself to redeem the sins of the world and to crush the yoke which was holding man in slavery. Now, if you have something else to add on the applications of the Gospel concerning the benefit for man and society, do not remain quiet, we shall listen to you. “The rest will be added unto you…” promised by Jesus Christ Himself must not be the only benefit to be pointed out in the coming of Christ on earth. Our faith is weak, our education is often not very Christian, the society around us does not reflect our beliefs, we live in the middle of a social revolution bursting with pride.
Today, the first necessity is to strengthen the faith of the Christians and to protect them; the second necessity is aiming to increase their number. If you acquire the first one, you will not have lost your time; as for the second necessity, it is obvious that you will not go far if you convince people who have no faith that those who believe think and speak like themselves. You will not educate your children in the faith if you use naturalist theories and they will not grow up like Christians. Tell the facts of history as a convinced Christian and claim that progress is in Jesus Christ and will take place with Him. It is impossible not to be struck by the dedication and the quiet heroism of the Sisters of Charity. How it comes then that kind of devotion does not exist in the religions of the ancient world and among Christian people we only meet it in the church of Roman tradition. Basically, it is very simple, you must say to the people interested to know: “It does exist sacerdotal orders founded by Jesus Christ and their members have the power to purify souls and put them in contact with God Himself in a mystery called communion of which they are the dispensers. Would those sacerdotal vocations be pushed out of our societies, brothers of the poor and the sick would be extinguished.” That is why the question of revealed dogma is naturally brought along to solve the particular problem concerning the presence of supernatural in history; it is the same for all other questions which could be raised about the different forms of progress of which Christianity gave a taste to Christian nations. Our fathers, of Christian tradition were well aware of it when they kept arguing about the economic matter of Christianity with the philosophers of their time. As for us, we no longer know that and that is why it has become necessary to be told about it. What would historical facts be worth when consequences are put forward without pointing out the causes?
The destiny of man is supernatural, so history which does not go in to the supernatural causes would not be genuine history in spite of the Christian convictions of the writer.