One bishop explained Christendom during the times of Constantine as “The Church in the Empire, not the Empire in the Church.” After the death of Constantine the persecution began again under Emperor Julian the Apostate. St. Athanasius
But even while Constantine was supporting the Catholic Church, the Arian heresy began. These were heretical ‘Catholics’, (who claimed Jesus was not co-equal to the Father), fighting true Catholics. Great atrocities happened during this period. So many ‘Catholics’, including bishops, emperors and laity had become Arians that the saying went like this; ‘They have the Churches, but we have the true Faith.’
At the beginning of the 5th Century, the barbarian Germanic tribes began to decimate the western Roman Empire. On Dec. 31, 406, the Rhine River froze over and they crossed into southern Europe. These groups included the Huns, the Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Vandals, Burgundians, Lombards and Franks.
The first time Rome was sacked was by the Visigoth Alaric in 410. Attila was convinced by Pope St. Leo I, (died 461), and a miracle of the Holy Eucharist, to not sack it in 452. But shortly after this, the Visigoth Geiseric pillaged it in 455.
During these tumultuous times, some of the greatest saints, (called the Church’s Fathers), suffered and fought against all the heresies and invasions that kept happening.
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We all know about St. Athanasius, (296-373), who as the saying goes; ‘The world against St. Athanasius and St. Athanasius against the world.’ He was the main fighter against the beginning of the Arian heresy. But St. Nicholas, (died 352), was a warrior against it too. St. Nicholas
In the Eastern Church we also have St. Basil, (329-379), St. Gregory Nazianzen, (325-389), St. Cyril of Jerusalem, (347-444), and St. John Chrysostom, (347-407).
Then come the great western Saints; St. Ambrose of Milan, (374-397), St. Jerome, (340-420), St. Augustine, (386-430). St. Augustine had to fight against the Manichaeans,(God created good and evil), the Pelagians, (do not need God’s grace to do good and not sin), and Donalist, (sacraments depend on the moral worthiness of the bishop or priest).
These great fathers, with their preaching and pen, did so much for the beginning of Christendom, but have continued to influence the Church to this very day by their writings.
It was the Church’s bishops, monks and priests who held civilization together when all the civil authorities were being run over and killed continuously by the barbarians. Then came the western monastic movement started by St. Benedict, (480-543). His motto was; “Ora et Labora”, which means ‘pray and work’. These monks would sacrifice riches, sex, marriage for Jesus Christ their King. While outside the monasteries chaos reigned, inside, Christendom ruled. The abbot would obey God, and the monks would make vow to obey the abbot. At times there were thousands of monks, (including young boys), from rich and poor families, praying, living and working in one monastery.
With all this male energy being dedicated to prayer and work, they accomplished incredible feats. They would take swamps and turn them into paradises.
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They would show the marauding barbarians how to cultivate fields and so to be stable.
There were also, at this time, some women nuns living the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, (like St. Scholastica, St. Benedict’s twin sister). But they were a very small amount compared with the monks.
We are so blessed to be traditional Catholics and to be able to help civilization when it needs God, wisdom, morals, love and stability.
The original author of this blog passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.