25 January 2014

Our debt to Christianity.

Only in the last hundred years have scholars come to realize the true and immense impact of the monastic orders, particularly the Benedictines, upon the development of European civilization. It has been noted by more than one writer that one can scarcely find a single endeavor in the advancement of civilization during Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages in which the monks did not play a central role. It is well-known, of course, that they preserved the literary inheritance of the ancient world (much more completely, in fact, than was previously realized), yet they did much more. According to one
Tintern Abbey
scholar, they gave “the whole of Europe … a network of model factories, centers for breeding livestock, centers of scholarship, spiritual fervor, the art of living … readiness for social action – in a word … advanced civilization that emerged from the chaotic waves of surrounding barbarity. Without any doubt, Saint Benedict was the Father of Europe. The Benedictines, his children, were the Fathers of European civilization.”(Reginald Gregoire, Leo Moulin, and Raymond Oursel, The Monastic Realm, Rizzoli, New York, 1985, p. 277.)

We could fill volumes enumerating the achievements of the Benedictines. . . .

By the end of the tenth century we find that monasteries all over Europe were in possession of enormous libraries stacked with the works of the classical authors, and that knowledge of Greek and even Hebrew was widespread. This is important, because it illustrates the continuity between this period and the world of Late Antiquity, and calls into serious question the entire concept of the Dark Age. It shows too that Christian Europe did not need to depend upon other societies and cultures (such as the Islamic) to reacquaint it with letters. . . .

* * * *

The evidence then, taken together, would seem to show that Christianity had an enormous transformative and revitalizing power. As explain in my new book, The Impact of Islam, the opposite is true of that religious tradition.[1]

However, in true post-modern fashion, some stunted and benighted souls can only get "patriarchy" and "control of our bodies" out of this.

Epic fail that, but it proceeds apace even as we speak. Tip of the spear thinking in our unmajestic time.

[1] "How Christianity Civilized Barbarian Europe in Just One Hundred Years." By Emmet Scott, New English Review, 1/14. See also Paul Austin Murphy on the thinness of Islamic "science" and "philosophy." Some "debt" we owe Muslims.

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