To What Shall We Compare the Present Age? by Robert Royal

North Carolina Bishop Restricts Celebration of Latin Mass Every Sunday to One Diocesan Parish, by Brian Mershon
May 15, 2023
Thirsting for Souls, by Jerome German 
May 15, 2023

*Image: The Triumph of Christ Over Paganism by Gustave Doré, late 19th century [British Museum, London]

By Robert Royal, The Catholic Thing, May 15, 2023

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent books are Columbus and the Crisis of the West and A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century.

Please take note: There are multiple battles to be fought these days in the Church and the nation. And those of us called or situated to fight them must do so. But it’s even more important to know why – and what’s more deeply at stake. Today’s column, like many we publish on this site, tries to lay out some of that deeper perspective, which can only begin to take root when Catholics themselves come to a better knowledge of their tradition. Our fundraising in these weeks is premised on the importance of that knowledge. We’re moving along, but have to do a great deal more before we can bring this campaign to a successful finish. Please, if you appreciate the urgency of these battles and want to do something about them, click the button. Do your part. Make your contribution to The Catholic Thing.

One of the most remarkable features of the Gospels is how Jesus effortlessly tosses off unforgettable sayings, the kinds of phrases only the greatest thinkers and poets produce – and only rarely. As the American writer Randall Jarrell once put it, “ A good poet is someone who manages, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, to be struck by lightning five or six times; a dozen or two dozen times and he is great.” Jesus was – clearly – much more than a poet. But it’s still striking that he could say more memorable things in a few minutes on ordinary days than any figure in history. Pity the myopic Biblical scholars – or the many people now influenced by them – who believe that a gaggle of fishermen, tax collectors, and itinerant preachers just made a lot of it up.

Christ’s often-simple sayings bulk so large that it’s taken millennia of theologians, philosophers, saints, mystics, martyrs, priests, bishops, and popes even to begin to grasp what He said. And yet, at the same time, His words have spoken to the hearts of average people, not only in his day, but over ages, in “diverse” cultures, despite what seemed impossible obstacles. Aquinas thought one of the greatest Christian miracles was how a few humble men from a cultural backwater were able to convert the greatest empire (Rome) then in existence. A matter of sheer historical fact – and he lived before the Faith spread to the Americas, Africa, Asia, and the whole world. …