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BRIEF HISTORY
OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH




 

THE YEAR 600 A.D. - THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN THE WEST

St. Gregory of Tours gives us a depressing picture of the brutality and immorality in the political life of his day. 

Clotaire, who ruled all Gaul, restored peace. He made Bishop Arnulf of Metz regent of his young son, Dagobert. Dagobert, the last strong Merovingian king, sent Catholic missionaries into the Basque country and into Flanders. While Pepin, mayor of the palace, supported the missionary efforts of St. Willibrord to Frisia. 

Italy was in confusion; the ten Lombard kings, mostly Arian heretics, ruled Italy. But their Catholic wives exerted considerable influence for good. 

Theodolinda, wife of Agilulf, was Catholic. She built numerous churches, founded monasteries and converted her heretic-husband to the Catholic Faith.

In Spain, the Catholic Council of Toledo, held fourteen times, decided on political and religious questions. It checked high-handed or disorderly monarchs and nobles and molded the national life. The Council, however, was headed by saints, like Sts. Leader, Isidore, Ildephonsus, Fructuosus. The monastery of Agli at Toledo became a training school of saints and scholars. But there was a brewing storm -- the restlessness of the rich and the nobility because of their refusal to live by the teachings of the Church. 

Note that when the cooperation between emperor and pope or bishops is in order, with each one keeping to their role, great benefits accrue to the nation. Problems begin when one or the other oversteps his field of competency. 

King Ethelbert of England, a fervent convert, helped in the rapid spread of Christianity and, with the help of Ireland, trained strong religious leaders. Evangelization was hampered when a quarrel arose between the Celtic bishops and the bishops from Rome on which monastic rule to adopt in England -- St. Benedict's or the stricter Irish-Columban rules. 

St. Wilfrid, a noble ordained archbishop, was the dominant figure in England. He was deposed by Ecgfrid. Wilfrid appealed to the Pope and the Pope declared the independence of the Church from the crown and the right to appeal to the Holy See. For the next four centuries, no English king ventured to depose a bishop. 

During this time, Ireland was the brightest area in Christendom. Monasteries and schools multiplied. Irish missionaries went to foreign lands. European students studied in Ireland. Though slightly different, the Irish eventually accepted the Roman way of doing things. 

 

 

 

 

(updated 07-29-02)

 

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                                                                                        - Teresa of Avila

 


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