The Time Has Come for A New Counter-Reformation

by Duncan G. Stroik | We need an architecture today that can do the same in response to the second reformation. It must symbolize the antiquity, universality, and beauty of the Church, as Vignola’s Gesu and Palladio’s Redentore did in the sixteenth century. This will mean an employment of art and architecture that is evangelistic and catechetical. (image from Pixabay: Dresden Elbe Historic Center Along the Saxony River)

We need a new Counter-Reformation in sacred art and architecture. What was the Reformation’s effect? First, it preached iconoclasm, the rejection of the human figure in religious art. Second, it reoriented worship, so that people gathered round the pulpit rather than the altar and the baptismal font became more important than the tabernacle. At the same time, it lessened the distinction between the clergy and the laity, creating more equality and decreasing hierarchy.

Third, the Reformation taught a functionalist view of worship, rejecting anything “unnecessary.” The altar should not have anything on it, for example, and churches should be designed according to seating capacity, with sight lines like a theater. Fourth, it elevated the quotidian over the sacred. Churches are thought of more as meeting houses than sacred places. They’re designed to be intimate rather than awesome.

These churches did not, to put it another way, express the Terribilità, the awesomeness of God. What have we been living through for the past sixty years? A second reformation, only this one came from within. All four of those points characterize mainstream Catholic church building since 1960.

And what do we need in response? A second counter-reformation. One that learns from the first Counter-Reformation of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries how to make a creative and serious response to the iconoclasm, functionalism, egalitarianism, and “quotidianism” of our time.

The New Counter-Reformation
And not just in our church-building and our ideas of church architecture. In the Counter-Reformation bishops were commanded to return to their dioceses and to take care of their flock, to become the chief teachers of the diocese. Priests were to celebrate mass daily, laity go to mass and receive Communion more often, and better preaching and more confession were promoted. Eucharistic adoration was emphasized through the joining of the tabernacle to the altar, as well as the forty-hours devotion. There was a new emphasis on catechesis and education, including the invention of the seminary for the training of priests.

These developments pushed the Church to renew her commitment to making her churches and her liturgies as beautiful as the Faith itself. She employed art, architecture, music, and liturgy to draw all to the church and then to uplift their minds to those things that are eternal. Elizabeth Lev brilliantly tells the story of Counter-Reformation Art in her new book, How Catholic Art Saved the Faith: The Triumph of Beauty and Truth in Counter-Reformation Art.

We need an architecture today that can do the same in response to the second reformation. It must symbolize the antiquity, universality, and beauty of the Church, as Vignola’s Gesu and Palladio’s Redentore did in the sixteenth century. This will mean an employment of art and architecture that is evangelistic and catechetical. Buildings that are icons on the outside, large and beautiful, with warm yet awe-inspiring interiors that are foci of the community. Churches must express for modern people the Terribilità.

We need a recovery of ancient principles and a restoration of what is timeless and classic. The basilica form and the baldacchino, for example, as well as altar rails, side altars and shrines, solemn confessionals, a place set aside for baptism, and saints buried beneath the altar or relics visible for veneration.

The sanctuary should be set apart, raised up to be the most beautiful part of the church. It should be the focus and the identity, liturgically and devotionally.

We need to revive the iconographic program, the creation of a narrative within the whole building. We can’t settle for the “America formula” of a crucifix above the altar, Mary on the left, and Saint Joseph on the right. Churches need to be like a good book that can be re-read, like a good symphony listened to over and over, with new things always seen or discovered.

That means the commissioning of custom art should be a priority: durable and high-quality materials shaped by highly skilled craftsman and top-quality artists and architects who can employ inventiveness in developing the tradition. No copies or regurgitation. No off the shelf statues. New paintings, sculptures, mosaics, and murals push the artists to develop new and authentic ways of expressing the timeless truths.

Not Antiquarian
This does not mean antiquarianism, employing a particular style, or trying to go back to a golden age, whether the 1950s or a Romantic notion of the Middle Ages, as wonderful as those times were. It means creating churches that are traditional yet contemporary, universal yet local, Roman yet catholic – both/and, not either/or. Churches that combine unity with diversity and learn from the local character, express modern saints, and inventively develop the tradition. Like the great artists and architects of the Counter-Reformation, we must defend the faith of the Catholic Church through beauty.

Duncan G. Stroik

Duncan G. Stroik is a professor of architecture at the University of Notre Dame where he helped implement a new curriculum in classical architecture in 1990. He played a central role in the revival of interest in sacred architecture that led to the formation of the Society for Catholic Liturgy and the journal Sacred Architecture, of which he is editor. He is the author, most recently, of The Church Building as a Sacred Place: Beauty, Transcendence, and the Eternal (2012).



How Martin Luther Gained the Faith for Supernatural Miracles

by Eddie Hyatt | Do you feel a need for faith, courage and boldness? There is a gift of faith that God can manifest in your heart that will result in miracles or enable you to face a trying situation with unshakable faith.

Martin Luther saw miraculous answers to prayer and experienced courage in the most excruciating situations that can only be explained as a manifestation of the gift of faith, as mentioned in I Corinthians 12:9. This gift of faith is not the faith for salvation, nor the faith by which we live out our daily lives. It is, rather, a supernatural manifestation of God’s own faith in our heart for a particular situation.

Faith for Healing

An example of such faith in the life of Luther occurred when he received word that his friend and colleague, Frederick Myconius, lay dying in the last stages of tuberculosis. When Luther read this report, a supernatural and bold faith rose up in his heart. He then penned a letter to Myconius in which he said, “I command you in the Name of God to live because I still have need of you in the work of reforming the Church. The Lord will never let me hear that you are dead but will permit you to survive me. For this I am praying, this is my will, and may my will be done because I seek only to glorify the Name of God.”

Myconius said that when he read the letter it seemed as though he heard Christ say, “Lazarus, come forth!” Luther’s words were fulfilled. Myconius was healed and outlived Luther by two months.

On another occasion, Luther’s close friend and colleague, Philip Melanchthon, became extremely ill and was at death’s door. Luther is said to have fervently prayed, using all the relevant promises he could repeat from Scripture. As he prayed, a supernatural faith rose up in his heart. He then turned, and taking Melanchthon by the hand, said, “Be of good courage, Philip, you shall not die.”

Melanchthon immediately revived and soon regained his health. He later said, “I should have been a dead man had I not been recalled from death itself by the coming of Luther.”

Faith to Face a Thousand Goliaths

When Luther stood before the tribunal at his trial for heresy in the city of Worms, it was a setting that would strike fear into any heart. There sat the emperor in all his royal dress and entourage and around the room were bishops, cardinals, personal delegates of the pope, dukes, princes and counts, all in their splendid garb and titles. The historian, Philip Schaff, called it “a fair representation of the highest powers in Church and State—a numerous array of dignitaries of every rank.”

They were there to demand that this insignificant monk, Martin Luther, from the insignificant town of Wittenberg stop preaching and writing those “heretical” doctrines about faith and the priesthood of all believers.

In contrast to the tribunal he faced, Luther was dressed in his simple monk’s cowl. It was David versus Goliath multiplied a hundred times over.

A table had been placed in the room with Luther’s books on it. He was first asked if these were his books. He looked them over and replied in the affirmative. He was then ordered to recant.

Luther seemed overwhelmed by the imposing authorities assembled before him, and in a voice that could barely be heard, he asked for more time to consider their demand. The emperor gave him one day.

Backing in his lodging place, Luther poured out his heart to God. As he prayed, there came a bold, unshakable faith into his heart. Later in life, he wrote about that moment, saying, “I was fearless. I was afraid of nothing. God can make one so desperately bold.”

Luther returned the next day and was again ordered to recant. He clearly and unequivocally stated that he was willing to recant, but only if he could be shown by Scripture and reasonable arguments that he was wrong.

The medieval church was not in the habit of discussing its demands with accused heretics, and they angrily demanded that Luther recant then and there. Knowing his life was on the line, Luther did not flinch, but quietly and confidently stated:

I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus, I cannot and will not recant anything, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound. Here I stand! I can do no other! God help me! Amen!

This was a significant turning point in church and world history. From that moment, there was no stopping the Reformation. Luther’s boldness unleashed a groundswell of support that spread across Europe and eventually around the world.

He was so bold, in fact, that some of his friends thought he was too bold. Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, in giving a report of Luther’s performance, said, “How excellently did Father Martin speak before the Emperor and Estates. He was bold enough, if not too much so.”

This Gift of Faith Is for You

Do you feel a need for faith, courage and boldness? There is a gift of faith that God can manifest in your heart that will result in miracles or enable you to face a trying situation with unshakable faith. Look to Him now and yield to His Holy Spirit. Faith from heaven will flow!

From Dr. Eddie Hyatt’s latest book, The Charismatic Luther, with the subtitle Healings, Miracles & Spiritual Gifts in the Life of the Great Reformer, now available from Amazon in Kindle, and soon to be available in paperback. Check out his website at www.eddiehyatt.com



Enemies of Christianity at the Time of the Reformation

by Benjamin D. Wiker | Catholics and Protestants have been the object of persecution by radical secularist political regimes for the last hundred years, beginning with the rise of the atheistic communism with the Russian Revolution of 1917 (Prints, Huguenots Fleeing by Jan Luykens).

Nearly everyone knows the basics of the Reformation, the first being that 500 years ago, it began with Martin Luther nailing his Ninety-Five Theses to the Wittenberg castle door on October 31, 1517—except that scholars now think that what probably happened was that Luther mailed them, not nailed them, to his archbishop, Albrecht of Brandenburg. A much less dramatic beginning, perhaps.

But this is a rather trivial historical point. There are much larger and more important things that regularly get overlooked in basic histories of the Reformation, things all Christians need to know.

The first is that, after 500 years, the Reformation is coming to an end. Christians both Protestant and Catholic are finding out, more and more, that what they have in common is more important than what divides them. The impetus for focusing on what is common arises largely from a rather unpleasant set of sources: the persecution of all Christians by radical secularism and by radical Islam.

Catholics and Protestants have been the object of persecution by radical secularist political regimes for the last hundred years, beginning with the rise of the atheistic communism with the Russian Revolution of 1917. More Christians were martyred in the twentieth century, than all other centuries combined. The turn into the twenty-first century has brought a new wave a persecution, with 100,000 Christians martyred every year, largely at the hands of radical Islam, and an ever more aggressive secular attack on Christian morality and faith. The good that God is bringing out of this evil is that Christians are uniting against these common enemies, and thereby bringing, slowly but surely, the Reformation to an end.

But something else you may not realize about the Reformation is that radical atheistic secularism and radical Islam were there 500 years ago at the time of Martin Luther, and were aiming back then at the extermination of Christianity.

We think that radical atheism is our problem, something that Christians didn’t have to contend with way back then in the “age of faith.” Not true, as it turns out. Modern atheism arose in the 1300s and 1400s with the Renaissance rediscovery of ancient Greek and Roman pagan atheists such as Epicurus, Lucretius, and Lucian. Reading these pagans produced what may rightly be called neo-pagans, the first modern atheists, a large number of whom were Italian, such as Marsilius of Padua (1275–1342), Poggio Bracciolini (1380–1459), Lorenzo Valla (1407–1457), Pietro Pomponazzi (1462–1525), Pietro Aretino (1492–1556), Cesare Cremonini (1550–1631), Lucilio Vanini (1585–1619), and of course, Italy’s most famous atheist, Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527), who believed that all religions were bunk, but should be used by clever unbelieving rulers to better control the credulous masses. The next generations of atheists counseled a ‘divide and conquer’ strategy against Christianity, taking advantage of the Protestant-Catholic divisions to weaken the cultural hold of faith.

You can see the problem this spate of Italian atheists would cause from the vantage point of the German Augustinian monk Martin Luther: Italy looked like a seedbed of atheism, and the luxurious and very worldly papacy was in Rome. Had the seat of St. Peter been taken over by a secret atheist? Many Reformers had their suspicions.

And what of radical Islam? Islam had been conquering Christians since the latter 600s. At the time of the Reformation, it looked as if triumphant Islamic armies were going to overrun Europe. The Holy Roman Emperor, Catholic Charles V, was unable to deal with Luther in Germany because he was largely absorbed in fighting back the Muslim advance. On his part, Luther proclaimed that the looming victory of Islam over Christendom was a divine punishment for the sins of the papacy, and that this impending grand battle was a sign that the prophecies of the book of Revelation were coming true (with the pope, of course, playing the part of the Anti-Christ).

Speaking of Islam, while you probably know that Luther published his own German translation of the New Testament, you aren’t aware that he ensured that a translation of the Koran was done (1543), and he provided the preface for it. The reason? He believed knowledge of Islam would undermine the papacy, showing how similar a religious aberration it was to Roman Catholicism. More accurately, he considered Islam to be superior, even though it was erroneous.

Ironically, Luther’s (muted) trumpeting of the virtues of Islam and his translation of the Koran contributed to the cause of radical secularism. While atheists in the century following Luther believed that all religions were bunk, they also asserted that Islam was superior—to all Christianity, not just Catholicism. This was the historical origin of the secular Left’s notion, today, that Christianity is an evil to be removed, and Islam a beneficent religion to be welcomed.

These are just a few of the things you need to know about the Reformation 500 years later.

Benjamin D. Wiker

Benjamin Wiker is Professor of Political Science and Senior Fellow of the Veritas Center at Franciscan University. His newest book is The Reformation 500 Years Later: 12 Things You Need To Know. His website is www.benjaminwiker.com, and you can follow him on Facebook.