Recently two momentous events in Western and Church History passed with hardly a mention. Actually, these events may be better known in the Muslim world than the Christian world; the Islamic army’s desecration of St. Peter’s in Rome, along with St John Lateran and other churches in 846, and the stunning defeat of the Islamic military onslaught by Charles the Hammer Martel at Tours, France in 732. Though these two events occurred over 100 years apart, they do point out that until the Ottoman-Turkish Islamic defeat in 1683 at the gates of Vienna; Europe was facing a never ending threat from radical Islam. Yet how is it that according to the mainstream media it was the fault of Christians, and specifically Catholics? In my last article, I wrote of the naval Battle of Lepanto in 1571 and the land at the Gates of Vienna in 1683. Some wondered why I didn’t right about Charles the Hammer Martel and some of the earlier Islamic incursions into Europe. Now is a good time to delve into that subject. (For more on Charles the Hammer Martel and the Battle of Tours please read this excellent article by my colleague Donald McClarey.)
Ask most practicing Catholics, Evangelicals and mainline Protestants who Charles the Hammer Martel was and you would probably get blank stares. Perhaps a few young people might be under the false impression that he is some sort of up and coming professional wrestler. However, you would probably stand a better chance of having someone in the Islamic world tell you about Charles the Hammer Martel. The same might be true for the sack of Rome in 846 by Muslim forces who disembarked at Ostia (the Tiber port) and marched right into Rome desecrating holy sites like St Peter’s and St John Lateran and leaving the Eternal City with their plunder. Many in the western world might be surprised why they have never heard this and why those who reside in the Islamic world are better informed of these events than in the Western World. Let us peer back into time to see what we can learn about the past and what it might mean for the future.
It is said that God can make the best out of the worst. As Charles Martel grew older and realized that his mother was simply a consort of his regal father, Charles must have realized that he could have been abandoned to poverty, or worse yet aborted (if that had happened Christianity might have been confined to Ireland!) Charles must have developed a thick skin and a courageous spirit that enabled him not to run at the first sign of trouble. Europe was in a state of near panic by 730 as the well seasoned professional Islamic Army had laid waste to much of the Middle East and North Africa leaving the homes of those past saints like Augustine in ruins. Europe was in the Dark Ages, armies were merely feudal in their makeup, a far cry from the type of regimented units needed to stop the largest invading armies Europe had seen since the days when Rome ruled the world.
Martel wasn’t above putting the fear of God into nobleman and clergy alike to make them realize what life would be like under Islamic rule. Finally, the Church and Manor agreed to give him the men he needed. Martel’s battle plan was as crafty as it was strategic. The Hammer knew that he must attack the invaders head on, along with planting the seed that the booty they had acquired in their previous conquests, and left back at their base camp, was not safe. Both plans worked and Western Europe was saved in the latest of rounds. However, this didn’t mean that the banner of Islam would not be waved again over Europe.
A mere one hundred years later, Islamic forces disembarked from their 73 ships at Ostia at the mouth of the Tiber. From there they marched to Rome, desecrating (old) St Peter’s, destroying the altar, and vandalizing various pontifical tombs, including that of the first pontiff, St Peter. It didn’t end there. St John Lateran, the pope’s official church was also targeted and the tombs of many other saints around Rome, including that of St Paul saw the wrath of this invading army.
While most of Europe would be spared from Islamic rule, Sicily and Spain were the exception. Islamic rule in the agriculturally rich island of Sicily would last for some time. Western words like assassin were really Arabic words that became part of the Sicilian nomenclature. Another Sicilian tradition that would arise from the long stay of the Arab Conquest would become known as the Mafia. Strong men would emerge who would do whatever was necessary to keep political control over a region, sometimes that meant making alliances with other important families, and sometimes that meant killing them.
Spain saw the longest Islamic reign in European History. Islam’s long hold over Iberian Peninsula wouldn’t end until 1492, the same year as an Italian sailing under the Spanish flag would discover not a short cut to India, but the New World. The Reconquestia of Spain took many centuries and the lessons learned here could have wide ranging implications in our modern world.
There is a belief that once a land is conquered for centuries there is no way to get it back to its cultural roots. Yet, in our own 21st century we are seeing before our very eyes in Kosovo that the Christian presence via the Catholic Church is still strong, some have speculated that centuries after the Islamic conquest of much of Albania, there are many crypto Catholics in the land that gave us Mother Teresa.
Why is it that many Muslims both in the western world and in the Middle East and North Africa know far more about their history and that of the Christian West than many Christians? I saw this first hand in the little rust belt Catholic school in which I attended and taught. I also observed this in college. Now I can understand this in college but I am from a small rust belt town, a town which is not unlike many small towns, where doctors who are Muslim send their children to Catholic schools. I believe the answers lies in the strong beliefs of many Muslim families. They simply believe their faith over what they are told by the education and media gatekeepers. Sadly, many Christian families including Catholic families bought into the historical lies that were told by mainstream media and the Higher Education Establishment. I am thinking specifically now of the lies told about Muslim Conquest of Europe and the meek answer of the Christian West, known as the Crusades.
I am not going to delve into the Crusades because I discussed that in this article. In addition, my colleague Joe Hargrave also delved into the subject with great care and circumspect. However, in a quick summary the Crusades were a small defensive action fought by a group of poorly skilled western soldiers who had more in common with those noble but outmatched members of the Charge of the Light Brigade than any modern western trained fighting force. The original Islamic invading armies were as skilled as they were ruthless.
I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t mention the various Marian apparitions that many feel demonstrates the Blessed Mother’s continuing outreach to the Muslim world. Fatima in Portugal is the only town in Portugal with an Islamic name, and yet this is where the Blessed Mother appeared in 1917. Zeitoun in Egypt not only saw many Christians healed of various ailments, but it also saw many Muslims cured as well. Even famed leaders like Gamal Adbul Nasser came to see and believe in the 1968 apparition. One must remember that Christ never called Mary, “mother, “because she is the world’s mother. Perhaps through these apparitions she is reminding the Muslim world that before the Middle East and North Africa was Muslim, it was Christian. (For more on this please read, Trials and Tribulations Follow Marian Apparitions.)
The Western World and particularly Western Europe has bought into the popular lies of reproduction or lack thereof. The truth of the matter is while Muslim family size in Europe resembles the Catholic family of old, much of the lapsed Anglican, Luther and Catholic families of Western Europe are aborting and contraception themselves right off the planet. For our friends who are Protestant and thinking, “what a minute this Catholic belief in non contraceptives has nothing to do with us?” Actually, the truth of the matter is until 1930 not one Christian church allowed contraceptives. The Anglican Church was the first.
It would stand to reason that when you allow the Dictatorship of Relativism, as our brave but often ridiculed Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI has defined it, you are going to be deceived every time. The deception didn’t end with abortion and contraception, it continues on with a false notion that our Christian and specifically Catholic forbearers were blood thirsty aggressors trying to rid the helpless Muslim world of their belief. While much of the western world salutes Saladin, the famous Islamic general during the Crusades, all too often academia denounces both the Catholic Church and the Knights Templar for their roles in the Crusades.
Even iconic explorers like Christopher Columbus have been demonized by academia. Columbus was either a blood thirsty conqueror taking advantage of the sinless Native Americans, or some sort of Bible thumping explorer bent on converting heathens to Catholicism. Both counts are hideously in error. The New World was plagued with the same sort of blood thirsty marauding tribes as was Dark Ages Europe.
For his part Christopher Columbus was far from sinless, but because he was very devout in his Catholic beliefs, the treatment of Native Americans was far better than most explorers. Columbus named most of the islands he discovered for the various saintly titles ascribed to the Blessed Virgin Mary. A recent Discovery Channel show about Columbus conceded that he was more religious and pious than other explorer. However, one of the “Columbus experts” featured in the show described Columbus in terms that one would think of as a religious nut. The expert said he certainly was “a holy roller.”
Why do Christians take this sort of abuse from academia when the Muslim world would object in the most strenuous terms to their famous ancestors being treated in this way? Perhaps the answer lies in faith, or lack thereof for the modern world. Too many in the western world’s main ambition is to be liked and admired by the secular powers that be. Jesus foretold that this would happen and reminded us we can’t serve two masters. Unfortunately it would appear that for many in the western world, they have already decided which master they will serve.
Where did this all start? Shortly after the Protestant Reformation Martin Luther was abruptly shown the door at the Marburg Colloquy (1529,) when he became upset that some of his fellow reformers didn’t believe in the Eucharist and (and some would later deny most of the miracles of Jesus.) Luther’s ego thought all those who disagreed with some of the abuses of the clergy within the Catholic Church would naturally listen to his ideas. They didn’t and so the division that Jesus warned us about had begun (John 10:16.) It would escalate in the ideas of the French Revolution, where thousands of the faithful from simple peasants to Catholic clergy would meet their earthly end with the guillotine. From there it morphed off into the radicals ideas of Karl Marx, Fredrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Sigmund Freud, Saul Alinsky and on it went. The poor would be used as a foil by those saw in them a way to grab power. The elites could now mold and shape the world in their warped image of rebellion and anger. They were not happy warriors but warriors of death and mayhem.
Where will it end? It will not end until those merchants of death and mayhem have seized control. A hint may lie in their treatment of Pope Benedict XVI. While then Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, he was hailed for his action in putting an end to the Abuse Scandal. However, now that he is pontiff, the New York Times and CNN use the lies of an ambulance chasing attorney and his sidekick, a disgraced former archbishop who was blackmailed by his secret homosexual partner. Instead of apologizing for his actions, this former archbishop has made no bones about his hatred of Pope Benedict XVI and the traditional sexual teachings of the Catholic Church. Many in the mainstream media realize that many of the abusers were of their camp, those who wanted to change the Church to suit the whims of the world. Who might be next? Perhaps those who faithfully live by the teachings of the Catholic Church like Eve Tushnet who admits that she is same sex attracted, but faithfully lives under the teachings of the Church. (For more on this read this positive article some time ago from the New York Times on Eve Tushnet.)
Thankfully, there are some in the west who haven’t been swayed by those who truly hate God, His goodness and His love. This remnant band of goodness is still faithful to what they were taught. This can easily be seen in the fruits of their labors. In my book, The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism, I noted the dioceses where orthodoxy is flourishing and where vocations to the priesthood and women’s religious life are increasing. A new crop of orthodox minded bishops are paving the way for young priests and nuns (who joyfully wear the veil or habit.) They happily embrace the teachings of the Catholic Church and don’t apologize for it. Sadly outside of Catholicism and Evangelicalism, much of Western Christendom is in a statistical freefall. While the mainstream media embraces those churches and leaders who have changed their doctrine to suit the Dictatorship if Relativism, the faithful have voted with their feet and left for more orthodox minded churches. (If this last paragraph intrigues you, please read If You Want The Political Left To Run Governments, Look At What The Religious Left Had Done To Religion (Left It In Tatters.) along with The Coming Open Rebellion Against God and finally The Jesus the Professional Left Chose To Ignore.
The speed of the liberal churches demise is happening at an alarming rate. Fifty years ago the Anglican Church of CS Lewis was the epitome of respect; rates of attendance at Anglican churches in Britain were some of the highest seen in the western world. Today the Archbishop of Canterbury has welcomed the establishment of some form of futuristic Sharia Law for Britain, all the while there are more Britons attending Friday prayers in their respective mosques than Anglicans attending church services on Sunday morning.
These sad events didn’t happen out of thin air, they occurred because too many Christians put their faith in trust in the latest whims of the modern world. They sold their birthrate for a mess of relativistic pottage that said the demented rants of men like Voltaire, Marx, Engels, Lenin, Freud and Alinsky were on par and often superior than that of Jesus, St, Peter, St Paul, St Augustine, St Thomas Aquinas, St Theresa Avila, St Joan of Arc and Pope Benedict XVI. In addition, many Christians forget not only the teachings and lives of these important men and women, but they also forget the dates and events that made up not only their lives, but the heritage and lives of all those today who call themselves Christians. We know this doesn’t have to be, so and in places where the Faith hasn’t been watered down, the faith is alive. We just have to decide which master we will serve.