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siasm produced by the martyrdom was the wretched mechanical thing produced by "engineering "to-day, and as though nothing besides such interference would have roused the populace.
As to the miracles which undoubtedly took place, the nonCatholic historian had and has three ways of dealing with them: First, to say nothing about them (which is the easiest way of teling a lie); secondly, to say that they were the result of a vast conspiracy in which the maim, the halt, and the blind, etc., were connected; and, thirdly, to give them modern journalistic names, which he hopes will get rid of the miraculous character, notably to talk of "auto-suggestion.'
Now the Catholic approaching this wonderful story, when he has read all the original documents, understands it easily enough from within.
He sees that the stand made by St. Thomas was not very important in itself, and was probably (taken as an isolated action) unreasonable. But he soon gets to see, as he reads and as he notes the rapid and profound transformation of all civilization which was taking place in that generation, that St. Thomas was standing out for what had been the concrete symbols of the Church's liberty against a movement that might' have done what was done in parts of Europe four hundred years later, to wit,/destroyed the unity and the discipline of Christendom. He had to fight on ground chosen by the enemy, he fought and he resisted in the spirit dictated by the Church. He fought for no dogmatic point, he fought for no point to which the Church five hundred years before or five hundred years after would have attached the slightest importance, he x. fought for things which were purely temporal arrangements, which had until quite recently been the guarantee of the Church's liberty, and which were in his time upon the turnsoon to be negligible; but the spirit in which he fought was the determination that the Church should never be controlled by the civil power, and the spirit against which he fought was the spirit which either openly or secretly believes the Church to be a merely human institution to be subjected, as an inferior to a superior, to the processes of civil law.
A Catholic sees, as he reads the story, that St. Thomas obviously and necessarily lost, when he died, every point on which he had stood out, and yet saved the thing for which he was standing out. A Catholic perceives clearly why the
enthusiasm of the populace rose; the guarantee of the plain man's healthy and moral existence against the wealthier classes, and the all power of the State-the self-government of the general Church had been defended up to the point of death.
Further the Catholic reader is not content, as is the nonCatholic, with a priori and dogmatic assertion with regard to the miracles. He reads the evidence, he cannot believe that. there was a conspiracy of falsehood (in the lack of all proof of such conspiracy), he is moved to a conviction that the events, so minutely recorded and so amply testified, took place.
The miracles for a Catholic reader are but the extreme points fitting in with the whole scheme; he knows what European civilization was before, he knows what it was to become, he knows why and how the Church would stand out against a certain spirit of change, he appreciates why and how a character like that of St. Thomas would resist; he is in no way perplexed to find that the resistance failed on its technical side, and succeeded so thoroughly in its spirit as to prevent, in a moment when its occurrence would have been far more dangerous than the sixteenth century, the overturning of the connection between Church and State. The enthusiasm of the populace he particularly comprehends, and he sees, without very much difficulty, the connection between that enthusiasm and the miracles that attended St. Thomas' intercession; not because those miracles depended upon the fantasy of those who enjoyed them, but because a popular recognition of deserved sanctity is the later accompaniment and the recipient of miraculous power.
It is the details of history which require the closest analysis. I have, therefore, chosen a significant detail with which to exemplify my case.
Just as a man who thoroughly understands the character of the English squires and of their position in the English country-sides would have to explain at some length and with difficulty to a foreigner how and why the hardships and the injustices involved in the English system of land ownership were yet not anti-national but national, and just as a particular case of peculiar complexity or violence might afford him a special test, so the martyrdom of St. Thomas makes for the Catholic who is viewing Europe a very good example whereby he can show how well he understands what is to other men
not understandable, and how simple is to him, and how human, a process which to men not Catholic can only be explained by the most grotesque assumptions, such as: that universal contemporary testimony must be ignored; that men are ready to die for things in which they do not believe; that the philosophy of society does not permeate that society; or that popular enthusiasm, widespread, ubiquitous, and unchallenged, is mechanically produced by order from some centre of govern
All these absurdities are connoted in the non-Catholic view of the great quarrel, nor is there any but the Catholic conscience of Europe that plainly explains it.
The Catholic sees that the whole of the à Becket business was like the struggle of a man who is fighting for his liberty and is compelled to maintain it (such being the battleground chosen by his opponents) upon a privilege inherited from the past. The non-Catbolic simply cannot understand it and does not pretend to understand it.
Now if we turn from this one small point, highly definite and limited, to the general aspect of history, we can make a list of the great lines on which the Catholic can appreciate what other men only judge, and can determine and know those things upon which other men have no more than a puzzled guess. The Catholic Faith spreads over the Roman world, not because the Jews were widely dispersed, but because the intellect of antiquity, and especially the Roman intellect, accepted it in its maturity.
The material decline of the Empire is not co-relative with nor parallel to the growth of the Catholic Church, it is the counterpart of that growth, and, as one of the greatest of modern scholars has well said, "the Faith is that which Rome accepted in her maturity; nor is the Faith the heir of her decline, but rather the conservator of all that could be conserved."
There was not so much an awakening of civilization by the advent of barbaric blood, as the imperiling of civilization in its old age by some infiltration of barbaric blood; that civilization so attacked did not permanently fail we owe to the Catholic Faith.
In the next age the Catholic proceeds to see Europe saved against a universal attack of the Mohammedan, the Hun, the Scandinavian: he notes that the fierceness of the attack was
such that anything save something divinely instituted would have broken down. The Mohammedan came within three days of Tours, the Hun to within a week of the Rhine, the Scandinavian into the mouths of all the rivers of Gaul, and almost overwhelmingly over the island of Britain. There was nothing left of Europe but a nucleus or an island. Nevertheless it survived. In the refloresence which followed that dark time, the Catholic notes not hypotheses but documents and facts; he sees the representative system and the parliaments springing up from the great monastic orders, in Spain, in Britain, in Gaul-never outside the old limits of Christendom. He sees the Gothic architecture arising spontaneous and autochthonic, he sees the Universities inheriting much but copying nothing-and, in a word, he sees the marvelous new civilization of the Middle Ages rising as a transformation of the old Roman society, a transformation wholly from within, and motived by the Church.
The trouble, the religious terror, the wild, mystic madnesses of the fifteenth century, are to him the diseases of one body in need of medicine. The medicine being too long delayed, there comes the disruption of the European body. It ought to be death; but since the Church is not subject to mortal law it is not death. Of those populations which break away from religion and from civilization none (he perceives) were of the ancient Roman stock save Britain. The Catholic, reading his history, watches that struggle, not for its effect on the fringes of Europe; he is anxious to see whether Britain will fail. He notes the keenness of the fight in England and its long endurance; how all the forces of wealth are enlisted upon the one side, how in spite of this a tenacious tradition prevents any sudden transformation of the British polity or its sharp severance from the continuity of Europe. He sees the whole of North England rising, cities standing siege, and ultimately the court, the great nobles, and the merchants victorious, and the people cut off, apparently forever, from the life upon which they fed. Side by side with all this he notes that, next to Britain, one land only that was never Roman land, by an accident quite miraculous, preserves the Faith, and, as Britain is lost, he sees side by side with that loss the preservation of Ireland.
To the Catholic reader of history (though he has no Cath
olic history to read) there is no danger of the foolish bias against civilization which has haunted so many contemporary writers, and which has led them to frame fantastic origins for institutions, the growth of which are as plain as an historical phenomenon can be. He does not see in the Pirate raids which desolated the eastern and southeastern coasts of England in the sixth century the origin of the English people. He perceives that the success of these small polities dated from their acceptance of Roman Christianity, and that the ultimate hegemony of Winchester and London over Britain depended upon this early picking up of communications with the Continent. He knows that Christian Parliaments are not dimly and possibly barbaric, but certainly and plainly monastic in their origin; he is not surprised to learn that they arose first in the Pyrenean valleys during the struggle against the Mohammedans; he sees how reasonable such an origin was in one of the chief centres of European effort.
In general the history of Europe and of England develops naturally before the Catholic reader; he is not tempted to that succession of theories self-contradicting and apparently put forward for the sake of novelty which has confused and warped most modern reconstructions of the past. He does not, above all, commit the prime historical error of "reading history backwards," which is the main error of our time. He feels in his own nature the nature of its progress.
But with all this the Catholic has no Catholic history to read if he is English-speaking; and this it seems to me it should be our next business to supply him with at a moment when in nearly all other branches of learning, the reaction towards the Faith is making itself so plainly felt, even in the English-speaking world.