Great Moments in Catholic History
Fr. Jacques Monet, S.J. 

0 The Creative Hand of God

When in the 1920's one of North America' s big business leaders, I think it was Henry Ford, said that "history is bunk," he illustrated rather sharply the ignorance of those bankers, brokers, and buyers who were then leading the industrial nations straight into the crash. Needless to say, my thoughts are not those of Henry Ford. I believe that history is critically important, and particularly for an understanding of our faith, which in the words of the Anselmian - Augustinian tradition, is a faith that seeks intelligence.

For our Jewish ancestors, God was the god who acts the god of events who thus creates history. The proof not only of His existence but of His fidelity, greatness and love was not in nature, nor in the physical universe and the fertility of the earth, but rather in the "marvels" He accomplished in the history of His people. The Jews know God by contemplating His ways with them. And their Book unfolds their creed by telling a story, or, if you will, by narrating and interpreting historical events.

So for us Christians. Our religion has handed down to us doctrines which are at the same time historical events or historical interpretations. True, the birth, death, and even the resurrection of that human being Jesus Christ transcend time. But they are also historical events. And the fact of them as well as our understanding of that fact has been transmitted historically. Throughout the events, affairs, experiences, and adventures of our human story, across centuries of time and tradition, in the continuity of the ages and the record of generations, dimly at times but often quite clearly we recognize the action of the Christian God, the God of history.

In history, successive happenings follow one on another as wave follows wave. The waves unite and commingle human moments; our circumstances, occasions, tempers, dispositions; our moral, civil and social habits; the works of the talented and the helplessness of the weak; the advantage or energy, the despondency of the sick, and the wealth of nations, the failing strength of the aged and the high ideals of youth. The waves wash together thousands millions of experiences honor and service, color, glory and gold, strength and scorn; tears; blood and sweat. They mix power and might, disaster and destiny; insecurity, plenty, poverty, and wealth; tradition, principle, mood and mind set; the prayers of the saints, too numerous to count or classify. Throughout, many and much are overwhelmed by the waves. But a few People and events come into view on top of their crests. When this happens, there is a great moment.

The nineteen ''great moments'' that follow are from the history of the Catholic Church in Western Europe. I have chosen them not entirely at random, but almost. For I could easily have chosen others. But I had to make a selection and these nineteen I like, I can justify, and I think are helpful to know about.

Also, they illustrate aspects of Catholic practice, tradition, and culture that have had direct impact on our Canadian society. They have affected our faith, and therefore us, whether we know of them or not.

For that is history's mystery: even when unremembered, unknown, or unrecognized, the great moments affect us, somewhat like the limb of the amputee continues to be felt long after it has been removed. When they are remembered and understood, however, they become the "marvels" of God. They transform the quality of each our personal response, and of each our personal insight. In fact they extend to us directly and personally the gentle touch of the creative hand of God.

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