Church History
Church History seeks to follow the journey of the Church – the body of believers – through time. Naturally influenced and shaped by the particular cultures in which it exists, the Church is itself often a major influence in shaping a culture.
As in any historical study, the Church historian gathers and analyses evidence, so as to understand why people acted as they did, and how these actions have shaped our present. History is thus our collective memory. It enables us to be confident of and to articulate our identity and the evolving story of faith throughout the centuries. At the opening of the Second Vatican Council in 1962, Pope John XXIII stated that "history is the teacher of life."
However, as the body of people who believe in Christ, the Church cannot be analysed as just another subject of historical enquiry. Because the Church seeks to understand Christ’s message more profoundly and articulate it more clearly, Church History has a specifically theological aspect.
Christians believe they are called and enlivened by the Spirit of Christ. Church History studies how people have sought to put their Christian beliefs into practice, and is therefore concerned with spirituality as much as theology. The study of Church History has greatly shaped the expression of Catholic teaching, the sacramental life of faith, diverse liturgical traditions and impacted ecclesiastical architecture and the built landscape of countries and cultures.
Thus Church History is an interesting and captivating field of study. We meet towering figures such as Augustine, Catherine of Siena, and a host of others. As well, we are introduced to great movements that have reinvigorated the Church, such as the Cistercians and the Tridentine reformers. Drawing on the experience of the past, we gain profound insight into the present and venerate the memory of saintly leaders, founders of religious orders and exemplary lay people who often witnessed to the faith in times of persecution.