All of us have a history. It’s how we got to where we are today. We don’t often reflect that we are also part of history. Our family has a history (sometimes we joke about inlaws and outlaws), our town or city has a history, so does our country and the whole world. In this article, however, I want to talk about Church History. Yes, I have a vested interest in this particular area of history because Pauline Books & Media just released my book, The Church Rocks! A History of the Catholic Church for Kids and Their Parents and Teachers. So this could be seen as shameless self-promotion on my part, but I do have a finer motive.
When we think about Church History we first remember what the Church is. Of course, she (we
Our Founder goes on to explain how "the Church continues the work of redemption becoming herself, in Jesus Christ, the way, truth and life of human beings. She became way through the exercise of the heroic virtues of her Saints, and through gospel morality; truth by defending, propagating and inculcating the Catholic faith; life by apportioning the treasures of grace merited by Jesus Christ through the Redemption." So the Church continuing this work of redemption and our efforts to meet God’s expectations throughout the centuries "gives us what we call Church History in its true sense, which is the continuation, down through the ages, of the life of Jesus Christ."
We study Church History for the same reasons that many of us go on a genealogical search: we want to know what made us who we are today. And, just as these journeys back into our family histories never produce a complete or comprehensive picture of where we came from, so it is in studying the story of the Church through the ages. However, we can find enough to say: these are the people I came from; their lives of faith are reflected in my own life.
The novelist Jodi Picoult says in The Storyteller, "History isn’t about dates and places and wars. It’s about the people who fill the spaces between them." This is the most important and impressive way to study Church History, through the stories of the people who lived out the life of the Church from Pentecost until today – until you and I stepped on to the stage of Church History. This is how The Church Rocks! presents the history of the Church, through some of the people who lived in each century. Who were these people? Saints or sinners? What did they contribute? Did they build up or tear down? I recommend that everyone take a little trip down our shared memory lane by reading some of this history. We will meet some fascinating people of past centuries and through them we will see how the world was evangelized, how errors were addressed, and how dogma was developed. This reading will give us insights into the history we are helping to write today. Take some time and attention to the magnificent history and you will find yourself a more engaged and involved Catholic today.
Sister Mary Lea Hill, a member of the Daughters of St. Paul since 1964, has enjoyed communicating the faith through a variety of apostolic assignments. Her skills as a story teller were honed as director of audiovisual productions when Pauline Books & Media first produced animated features in the early 80s. An editor and author for many years, Sister Mary Lea has written several books, including Prayer and You, Blessed are the Stressed, Saints Alive: The Gospel Witnessed, Saints Alive: The Faith Proclaimed, and the best-selling Basic Catechism (co-authored with Sister Susan Helen Wallace).