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Posted August 1, 2013

Book: Yours is the Church: How Catholicism Shapes Our World
Author: Mike Aquilina
Servant Books. Cincinnati, OH. 2013. Pp. 134

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Great works of art. Beautiful music. World peace. Human dignity . . . .

Yours Is The Church celebrates the key role the Catholic Church has played in culture, history, and society, detailing the many ways the Church has transformed our world. While not skirting the issues and failures that have plagued the Church, Mike Aquilina inspires everyday Catholics to recognize the Church's proactive role in courageously preserving spiritual freedom and nourishing culture from its inception through the present day.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Christians have often been tempted toward that kind of severity, and sometimes that has erupted in terrible destruction. The first was in the time of Leo the Isaurian. Leo III became Roman emperor (we'd say "Byzantine emperor" today) in 717, at a time when the Eastern Roman Empire was in real danger of falling apart. Islamic conquerors had overrun more than half the empire, and the rest was hanging by a thread. Now the caliph was besieging Constantinople itself, the capital and the greatest city in Christendom.

With quick action, acute political skill, and great personal courage, Leo managed to get the empire back on its feet so well that it held on for another seven centuries. And if that had been the end of his accomplishments, we might remember him as at least the greatest emperor since Justinian. But Leo, who was decisive in everything had strong opinions about religion. Perhaps because he came from the far east of the empire, where he was surrounded by Islamic and Jewish thought, he had come to the conclusion that the almost universal Christian practice of venerating icons --- pictures of saints and of Christ --- was a form of idolatry. And it was his duty, as the head of the Christian Empire, to stamp it out. The patriarch of Constantinople resigned in protest, but Leo just found another patriarch who was more pliable.

A few of the images were squirreled away in inaccessible monasteries or hidden in secret caves, but far more were burned or smashed to splinters. Some of the faithful were willing to endure torture or death rather than give up their precious icons. For his part, Leo was perfectly willing to torture and kill. The destruction and persecution reminded the people who lived through it of the martyrs in the great pagan persecutions.

Except in the small part of Italy that was directly under Byzantine control, this outbreak of fanaticism never really reached Western Europe --- and that Byzantine part of Italy rebelled. Most of the West seems to have felt that the emperor of the East had simply flipped his lid. But it took another Easterner, John of Damascus, to articulate the truly Catholic argument for the use of images in the Church. In the end, the Second Council of Nicea accepted his position that European art could be representational, not just strictly geometric or decorative.

To make our confession short: We keep unchanged all the traditions of the Church handed down to us, whether in writing or by word of mouth. One of these is the making of pictorial representations, which fits with the history of the preaching of the Gospel. The tradition is useful in many ways, but especially in this: that by it the incarnation of the Word of God is shown as real, and not merely fantasy.

Yours is the Church that made Western art possible. And European artists repaid their debt by dedicating their lives to the service of your Church.

Table of Contents:

1. Yours is the church that saved civilization

2. Yours is the church that nurtured modern science

3. Yours is the church of charity

4. Yours is the church that made music great

5. Your is the church that inspired the great works of art

6. Your is the church that inspired great literature

7. Your is the church that made women people

8. Yours is the church that made children people

9. Your is the church of human dignity

10. Yours I the church of world peace

11. Yours is the church of the future