Monday, November 27, 2017

Heroism and Genius (Ignatius Press)

When you look back through the history of the Catholic Church, there have been some amazing men and women who helped shape not only the Church, but society as well. The stories of their lives could fill an endless amount of volumes, and each would be a remarkable read, no doubt. Fr. William J. Slattery recently penned a book titled Heroism and Genius. In this book, he narrowed the focus to priests. The book's introduction begins with a lengthy quote from Aragorn to Boromir in The Lord of the Rings. He then summarizes the three main parts of the book. Part One explains what modern historians have concluded with the Church's role in the shaping of Western Civilization, why the book asserts that priests were the constructors of this civilization, and the milestones from from 200 A.D. to 1300 A.D. Part Two "describes the gradual shaping from A.D. 300 to A.D. 1000 of the embryo of medieval Christendom." Part Three shows the "decisive role of priests" in the building of different social, artistic, and economic institutions.

Chapter Two looks at the Fall of the Roman Empire and the Conversion of Europe. It also looks intently at something we take for granted and that is the birth of the parish and the impact it had in shaping and preserving Western Christendom. Chapter Three, a favorite of mine does some heavy lifting in that it discusses the powerhouses that are Ambrose, Augustine, Leo the Great, and Gregory the Great. Augustine gets the lion's share of Chapter Three (as is to be expected), but it was nice to see Ambrose get his dues. He famously stated, "The Emperor is in the Church, not above it," and showed us that you cannot back down from God's truths, even to someone as powerful as the emperor. Chapter Four focuses on St. Benedict and St. Columba and the amazing impact that monasteries had on Western Europe. Chapter Five focuses heavily on Charlemagne, his model of Europe, and the man who mentored him, Alcuin. That was truly a fascinating chapter and shined the light on a man many in history overlook, because he is so overshadowed by Charlemagne.

I just walked you briefly through Part Two of this book. I won't do the same for Part Three. Instead, I will close with my thoughts on why you should buy this book. The Catholic priest right now is the one of the most under-appreciated people in the Western world. Whereas, he used to be held in extremely high regard, he is now seen as just a common man, and talked about behind his back as such too. One could also even argue that the priest is an endangered species. Just for a small sample size, my archdiocese produces one priest a year (on average) with a recent high of four one year. This book explains the vital role that priests have played in Western Christendom and culture since Christ founded the Church, and it does so with history to prove it. Without priests, I shudder to think where our society would be today, or if it even would be. It is for that reason that I encourage you, no implore you, to buy this book and read it. We must appreciate our priests again, help our priests to be the best that they can be, and foster vocations for new priests.

This book was provided to me for free by Carmel Communications in exchange for an honest review.