One of the books Dom brought back from last week’s Catholic Media Conference in Denver was The Church Under Attack: Five Hundred Years That Split the Church and Scattered the Flock by Diane Moczar.
Honestly, the title didn’t grab me, not at all, but I added it to my pile because it did look like it might be worth peeking into. Today I grabbed it as my just in case book as we headed to the farmer’s market. When we stopped for coffee I took a peek. The introduction laid out an interesting plan. This book is going to tell the story of the West from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries from a Catholic perspective. While it seems that there was a steady upward progression from the Greeks and Romans through the Middle Ages, beginning with the Reformation we see a series of spiritual, intellectual and cultural crises. But the introduction would have lost me had it not been so short,
It was the beginning of the first chapter that made me realize this book was going to be anything but a dry history. Historian Diane Moczar has wit and panache. The book grabbed me by the lapels and sat me down and demanded that I sit down, shut up, and read already.
The trouble with the sixteenth century is that the people living in it did far too much. Harried teachers faced with squeezing their doings into a tidy lecture would love to give them some advice: Stop doing things! Leave something for the next century!
But no, the sixteenth-century populace wouldn’t listen. Look to the west from Europe. There they go, beetling around Africa in their newfangled sips, getting seasick on the Atlantic routes to America, and staring openmouthed at the Pacific. Look east. There they are, warring with the Turks and winning battles too important for us to ignore. In India and the Americas they are planting colonies and creating empires, while fighting wars in Europe. And in northern Germany, a neurotic monk with a hammer in his hand and a couple of nails between his teeth is getting ready to tack a piece of paper to the door of a church. We won’t be able to ignore him either. To make it worse, there were others who spent their part of the century scribbling plays with names such as Macbeth and Othello or novels such as Don Quixote. And the century was so chock-full of spectacular saints, heroes, and villains that, like its wars of religion, they spill over into the next century.
I am very much hoping it continues to have such a lively voice and a charming personality. Right now I feel like I’m in the front row of a dynamic history class with one of the best lecturers around. Will she be able to sustain the mood and keep my interest?
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