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Top Ten Books I Read in 2011, #9

Number 9 is… Europe and the Faith by Hillaire Belloc

I had written a post a few months back about the book. Belloc writes with the zeal of a revert and the intelligence of an Oxford scholar. He hits the nail on the head about the movement and flow of European history. His oft quoted line, “Europe is the faith, and the faith is Europe,” is the premise of the book.

The reason it makes the list over other books is its revolutionary quality to me. European history had always been communicated to me within the intellectual context of the secular Enlightenment. To see the history of Europe through the eyes of the Church (not in a biased way but through historical evidence) was, well, eye opening.

His conclusion was so profound and has played out since his death. If we betray the church we betray Europe because historically Europe exists due to the Church. We have watched as Europe has forsaken the faith and in turn begun to destroy itself. It began with Luther and has slowly gone downhill since then.

Top Ten Books Read in 2011, #10

I’m going to do a countdown of the top ten books I’ve read this year. Coming in at Number 10 is

Parish Priest: Father Michael McGivney and American Catholicism by Douglas Brinkley and Julie Fenster

I became a Knight of Columbus about six or seven years ago. I was also curious about the founder of the group. Who was this elusive Fr. Michael MicGivney, who’s picture was in every KofC hall.

This book was one of many books I found in a library book sale. 50 cents for a book is nearly always worth it. This surely was a find for me.

I was inspired by the hard simple work of this parish priest. He had a vision and desire to unite men under the same purpose of charity and community in order to keep them from drunkenness and the allure of the secret societies prevalent at the time.

The Knights of Columbus became an effort to take an already present desire in men’s hearts, the joining of social clubs, and baptize it in the richness of our Catholic faith.

It wasn’t just his work in founding the Knights that struck. In fact, the stories of his regular ministry as a priest are most profound, more due to their simplicity than anything else. He served the Lord without flash, without much advertisement, and gave his life in service of the Catholics in Connecticut. I hope to be as a good a priest as he was.

Europe and the Faith

I heard about Hillaire Belloc about 5 years ago from a classmate.  I had yet to delve into any of his works, until this past month.  Europe and the Faith was a great work introduction to his work.  His life work was to reconnect Britain with the Church.  He recognized modern man and his slow and sometimes violent turning away from Church established by Christ and maintained by his spirit.  
One of the modus operandi of Belloc’s vision of history is that history is not merely material.  The effects of history are not merely human.  The thrusts and forces that move history toward or away from God and His Church are “not of this world.”  There are things in history, like the Reformation, especially in England, that cannot merely be explained by human forces.  Cultural things collided.  Greed was rampant.  All would have fell had it been in on the shoulders of German princes and few radical minds.  It, however, gained force and permanency through the ascendancy to its minor positions by a single monarch, Henry VIII.  The schism exists because of one misguided man who made a decision many monarchs had previous, but at the most inopportune of times.  

Belloc makes the statement at the beginning and end of the book, “Europe is the faith, and the faith is Europe.”  Europe, as he knew it, in the early 20th Century was shaped by the faith of Jesus Christ handed down from the Apostles in the Roman Catholic Church.  The Church pushed forward the positive organization of the dying Roman empire and subsumed indeed in an almost perfect way, inculturated it.  

It is at the turn of the Reformation that Europe began to self destruct.  Fiefdom by fiefdom, kingdom by kingdom, nation by nation, Europe has slowly degraded the farther it has moved away from its foundation, that is, the Church.  

If Belloc was alive today, he could see almost the logical conclusion of his arguments.  France is in utter ruin being repopulated by Arabs, a peaceful version of what the Iberian peninsula experienced 1200 years ago.  Germany is still trying to recover from Fascist and Communist oppressions.  England welcomes riots and a general apathy even disgust, i.e. Dawkins, et al, of religion, Catholic or otherwise.  Italy even has its problems.  Finally, the last bastion of the Roman Catholic nation, Ireland is in total shambles, due in part to the clergy abuse scandal, but also to a lack of anything to root for.  No longer do they have to fight for their faith which had been so dear to them for the past four centuries.  To them it doesn’t seem worth fighting for pedophiles and liars.  

There is hope.  Hope only in one thing, that is the Church.  She, as the bride of Christ, can reform and transform the European culture.  In its current state, the New Evangelization is ripe for the picking.

The book takes a rather sweeping look at history.  He goes through each period selecting certain things to help make his point.  He desires for brevity as opposed to unnecessary depth.  As for a history book, it would work well in a Western Civ course, especially for those in a home school situation.  If I were a parent, I would give this to my child as supplementary reading because it corrects so much erroneous thoughts and assumptions regarding European history.

Highly Recommend.