The Catholic Letter

Catholics and History

The Non-Repetition in Catholic History

“Many are called, but few are chosen.”

There are probably a hundred different ways to interpret this difficult reading. And maybe one or some of them are accurate. The most prominent Catholic interpretation right now is that Christ calls all of us to a life of holiness, but that he chooses only a few of us for a special purpose. Every so often, God has a difficult task, and chooses his instrument from the large crowd of followers…predestining them for greatness.

Whether it’s the right interpretation or not doesn’t change the truth of the explanation. God does choose a unique instrument from the masses. Usually one that most would have thought unlikely, but one that history always remembers as the most obvious.

Take, for example, Saint Bernadette, whom everyone accepted as a dunce. She was the one God chose to reaffirm the Church’s teaching on the Immaculate Conception. No one saw it coming at the time, but looking back, nothing else would have worked. There was no other way to do it so…completely.

And throughout Catholic History, we see the same trends. God used a merchant’s young son (one whose ambition was to fight in the crusades) to bring the spirit of poverty back to a church driven by greed. God used a heavy set man (who went by the nickname ‘The Dumb Ox’) to revolutionize the theological world and bring it to a ‘common sense philosophy’. And God used a young girl to lead men into battle, taking countless cities and restoring them to French rule.

These are the wild escapades that checker Catholic history…making it seem more like a child’s adventure tale than a recount of past events. And the number one theme is ‘irony’. It turns the strict rule that history repeats itself upside down.

Of course there is repetition. Christ always takes care of the Church. That’s the repetition. We slide away, Christ brings us back. We slide away, Christ Brings us back. But historians have the eerie knack of knowing the way a country will fall, and sometimes even know the timing. But when theologians and historians try to predict the fate of the Church, they never come close to accuracy. And later they’re left in the awkward position of slapping themselves in the face and saying, “Of course…why didn’t we think of that?