Catholic Books > History Books > Epic Timeline > Epic Timeline Further Reading > Session 01: Intro and Mustard Seed >
Europe and the Faith
In this book, which is pivotal to his historical insights, the great Catholic historian Hilaire Belloc answers the question: "What made Europe?" He was well aware of the theory that Europe grew out of the ruins of the Roman Empire, was rejuvenated by barbarian blood, and came into its own with the Protestant Reformation. It was to expose this fantasy and present the true story that he wrote Europe and the Faith. Here he boldly states that the Catholic Church saved what could be saved of the Ancient Roman Civilization, converted it, perfected it, transformed it and carried it on, far beyond the extent to which it would normally have survived on its own, and in the process created from it the base of what Europe was to become and what it is today. Contending-and offering proof-that the Roman Empire never "fell," as popular history would have it, he maintains it was too vast and too strong for any outside adversary to overrun or destroy. Rather, it absorbed all comers, who actually approached the Empire for the benefits of civilization. Out of the Roman Empire, Belloc maintains, developed Feudal Europe-not from an influx of supposedly "superior" barbarians. Thus, Europe was formed by and out of the aging classical Empire which had been Christianized by the Catholic Church.
He discusses in the process the history of Britain, showing how it too was basically a Roman colony and that it was never conquered or overrun by the Germans, who only settled on its eastern shores. Plus, he shows that the fabled "Dark Ages" of the 7th, 8th and 9th centuries were actually times of intense military action for Western Europe, which was warding off the Mohammedans from the South, the Scandinavian pirates from the North, and the barbarian Germans, Slavs and Mongols from the East. He shows that the Middle Ages were the flowering of Christian Europe, and discusses the disaster of the Protestant Reformation, which divided off mostly those parts of Europe which were not of the Ancient Roman Empire, adding that Protestantism would likely have lasted only a hundred years, had it not been for the "accidental" defection of Britain from the Catholic Faith.
Finally, and most importantly, Belloc discusses the results of the Reformation and the shattering of Christendom, stating boldly that Europe (and, by corollary, the civilization throughout the world which has been produced by Europe) cannot and will not continue to survive unless it returns to the Catholic Faith. For the Faith is what produced it -- what made it to be what it is -- and only the Faith can continue to sustain it. We are at a "crisis of civilization," he says, and "In such a crux there remains the historical truth: that this our Euopean structure, built upon the noble foudations of classical antiquity, was formed through, exists by, is consonsant to, and will stand only in the mold of, the Catholic Church. Europe will return to the Faith, or she will perish. The Faith is Europe. And Europe is the Faith."
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