HISTORY IS A LONG, LONG TIME
So, we will NOT attempt to cover
events, dates, and personalities from
the nearly 2000-year history of the
Roman Catholic Church.
HOW TO THINK ABOUT CHURCH HISTORY
Instead, we will focus on a Catholic
way of thinking about history, and
especially about Church history.
We will introduce the Principles of
8 PRINCIPLES OF CHURCH HISTORY
• 1. Real History, Real People.
• 2. Our history. Our family ancestry.
• 3. Ancient and Abiding Traditions.
• 4. God’s Providential History.
• 5. Ongoing Church History.
• 6. A Sign of Contradiction.
• 7. The Church and civilization.
• 8. History as Revelation
1. REAL HISTORY; REAL PEOPLE
• Church History is not mythology.
• Church history is embedded within and interacts
with secular history.
• It is the history of human beings and God.
• History itself is fundamentally transformed by the
incarnation -- the central historical fact for all
humanity. Chesteron: The Everlasting Man.
• Upon this historical fact turns the salvation of the
world: That God sent his only son to be born of a
woman, to die for our sins, to rise again, and
through baptism to afford us the grace of a share in
his resurrection at the end of history.
ANCIENT NON-CHRISTIAN HISTORICAL EVIDENCE
• 94 A.D. Josephus (Jewish historian) writes in his Antiquities:
• Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, [if it be
lawful to call him a man]; for he was a doer of wonderful
works, a teacher [of such men as receive the truth with
pleasure]. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and
many of the Gentiles. [He was the Christ]. And when Pilate, at
the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had
condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first
did not forsake him; [for he appeared to them alive again the
third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten
thousand other wonderful things concerning him.] And the
tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this
• (Book XVIII, ch. 3 – bracketed passages are of disputed
• 116 A.D. Tacitus (Roman Historian) writes Annals
• Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt
and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for
their abominations, called Christians by the populace.
Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the
extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of
one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most
mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again
broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but
even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from
every part of the world find their centre and become popular.
Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty;
then, upon their information, an immense multitude was
convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of
hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to
their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn
by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were
doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly
illumination, when daylight had expired.”
2. OUR HISTORY. OUR FAMILY ANCESTRY.
• As Catholic Christians, we inherit the traditions
and become descendants of the saints of
• United in the Communion of Saints. We will one
day have all the mysteries revealed, and all the
• We will marvel at the beauty of God’s plan of
salvation, and perhaps be delighted at
discovering our own part in it.
3. ANCIENT AND ABIDING TRADITIONS
We share the same essential beliefs
and the same worship as the earliest
In Church history, we see especially
the working out of the marks of the
church toward perfection: One, Holy,
DIDACHE (TEACHING OF THE 12 APOSTLES)
LATE 1ST CENTURY
At the Eucharist, offer the eucharistic prayer in this way. Begin
with the chalice: "We give thanks to thee, our Father, for the holy
Vine of thy servant David, which thou hast made known to us
through thy servant Jesus. "Glory be to thee, world without end ."
Then over the broken bread: "We give thanks to thee, our Father,
for the life and knowledge thou hast made known to us through
thy servant Jesus.”
"Glory be to thee, world without end ."
"As this broken bread, once dispersed over the hills, was brought
together and became one loaf, so may thy Church be brought
together from the ends of the earth into thy kingdom."
"Thine is the glory and the power, through Jesus Christ, for ever
No one is to eat or drink of your Eucharist but those who have
been baptized in the Name of the Lord
4. GOD’S PROVIDENTIAL HISTORY.
God raises up those men and women
who will be His instruments at the
God transforms moments of suffering
and calamity and scandal into Goods,
according to His will and purpose and
We have no sense of how long History
will be. We may still be in the infancy
of the church.
5. ONGOING CHURCH HISTORY.
WE are called to sanctify the
world in our own time and
within our own sphere of
We are called by our baptism
to build up the church.
The Church remains the sign
and instrument of the
6. SIGN OF CONTRADICTION
The Church has ALWAYS been hated,
challenged, persecuted, and opposed.
But, it remains divine, and the gates of
Hell will not prevail against it.
History is evidence of the faithfulness
of God, and the trustworthiness of the
promises of Jesus.
7. THE HISTORY OF OF CIVILIZATION.
The best of human
achievements in music, art,
literature, science, education,
architecture, have been
accomplished in communion
with the church, under the
patronage of the church, for
the greater glory of God.
This is your patrimony!
8. HISTORY AS REVELATION
Much of what we consider the high
moments in Church history are related
to the human discovery of the divine.
We know more, and more is revealed
to us (through scholarship,
contemplation, experience, tradition)
about the nature of God and our
relationship to Him.
These truths are called the “Deposit of
Faith,” and they are transmitted to us
through the TRADITION of the Church.