Last Saturday, my husband and I attended a class on Dawson and Church History at the Spiritual Life Center here in Wichita. The presenter, Jackie Arnold, had written her master's thesis on this organizing principle of Catholic Church history. She had her reading suggestions for Church history, but I introduced her and the class to John Vidmar's one-volume book The Catholic Church Through the Ages: A History, soon to be published in a second edition by Paulist Press:
The Catholic Church through the Ages, now in its second edition, is a one-volume survey of the history of the Catholic Church from its beginning until (and including) the pontificate of Pope Francis. The book explains the Church's progress by using Christopher Dawson's division of the Church's history into six distinct "ages," or 350-400 year periods of time, each cycle beginning with great enthusiasm and advancement and ending in decline and loss. Writing with the experience of thirty years of teaching, the author has fashioned an ideal text that combines substance with readability.
Undergraduates, graduates, and interested lay people have given the author an idea of what topics should be emphasized. As a result, he has emphasized such areas monasticism, the Crusades, medieval theology, the Inquisition, Reformation, French Revolution, the nineteenth century, and the Church in the United States. And he has added material on the Oxford Movement, John Henry Newman s contributions to the Oxford Movement and to the Catholic intellectual tradition, and the Catholic literary revival that took place in several countries in the early twentieth century, as well as on the last three popes.
As a supplement to each chapter, the author has included an updated the recommended readings and bibliography, as well as the audio-visual materials.
The Six Ages of the Church are:
The Apostolic Age (1-ca. 300)
The Patristic Age (ca. 300-650)
The Carolingian Age (650-1000)
The High Middle Ages (1000-1500)
The Age of Baroque (1550-1789)
The Modern Age (1789-Present)
We discussed in class whether or not we are about to enter into a seventh age of the Church with a new cycle of revival to address our late 20th century/early 21st century crisis.
The same speaker will make another presentation on Saturday, October 11 from 9 am. to 12 noon:
Catholic Authors of the 20th Century
If you love books and Catholicism, this course is for you!
This class is geared toward literature-loving persons who appreciate a good novel while also seeking out Catholic themes. During this morning course, Ms. Arnold will introduce a number of “great” (by her own estimation) 20th century authors: J.R.R. Tolkien, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Sigrid Undsett, Flannery O’Conner, Walker Percy, and Michael O’Brien. A brief biography of each author will be given along with a look at the ideas and synopses of their major works.
The focus of the class will be to show the moral, liturgical, spiritual, and doctrinal themes that each author focuses on, as well as trying to weave them into a larger picture of addressing the issues surrounding the 20th century from a specifically Catholic viewpoint. Time permitting we will have some “book discussion” groups, perhaps after reading a short story.