The Mendicant Orders to The Renaissance

Jesus Christ Savior | The Renaissance, which means rebirth, was the period of phenomenal growth in Western culture in art, architecture, literature, and sculpture. Christian humanism, a rejoicing in man’s achievements and capabilities reflecting the greater glory of God, had its beginning with the Divine Comedy, published in 1320 by Dante Alighieri in Italy.

The twelfth and thirteenth centuries were the peak of the Medieval Age. It was the flowering of Christendom, a time of extraordinary intellectual activity, with the rise of the University and the introduction of Arabian, Hebrew, and Greek works into Christian schools. A new form of order arose whose aim was to pursue the monastic ideals of poverty, renunciation, and self-sacrifice, but also to maintain a presence and convert the world by example and preaching. They were known as friars and called the Mendicant Orders (Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, Augustinians, and the Servites), because of begging alms to support themselves.

St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) was born to wealth. He loved adventure, but experienced conversion after joining the military. He returned home, and heard a voice saying to him, “Francis, go and rebuild my house; it is falling down.” He adopted a life of poverty, and began to preach the Kingdom of Heaven. Francis loved creation and considered it good, for Christ himself took on flesh in the Incarnation. He loved all living creatures. St. Francis originated the Christmas manger scene. He founded the Franciscan order, and received approval from Rome in 1209. The Poor Clare Nuns began when St. Clare joined the Franciscans in 1212 in Assisi. In 1219 St. Francis risked his life in the Fifth Crusade by calling directly upon the Sultan of Egypt in an effort to convert him and bring peace. He received the stigmata of Christ in 1224, 2 years before his death in 1226.

St. Dominic de Guzman (1170-1221) was born in Calaruega, Spain. On a journey through France he was confronted by the Albigensian heresy (like Manichaeism and the Cathari). As he came with a Bishop in richly dressed clothes on horses, he realized the people would not be impressed with his message. This led him to a life of poverty. He spent several years preaching in France in an attempt to convert the Albigensians. In 1208 in Prouille, France, he received a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary and began to spread devotion to the Rosary. Dominic was a man of peace and converted many through prayer, preaching, and his example of poverty. He founded the Order of Preachers in 1216 known as the Dominican Friars.

The universities in Europe began as guilds of scholars, which first attracted members of the clergy and were supported financially by the Church. The first universities in Europe were founded in Bologna and Paris; Oxford and Cambridge soon followed. Theology, law, and medicine were fields of advanced study. The University of Paris was especially noted for studies in Theology. The age was the time of Scholasticism – of the schools, a method of learning that placed emphasis on reasoning. Important writers at the time were Bonaventure, Duns Scotus, Albertus Magnus, and his student Thomas Aquinas, who became the greatest theologian and philosopher of the age.

St. Thomas Aquinas was a Dominican priest who lived from 1225 to 1274. Born in Roccasecca, Italy to the Aquino family, he joined the Dominicans at the age of 18. He received his doctorate in theology and taught at the University of Paris during the height of Christendom.

One of the greatest contributions by Thomas was his incorporation of the philosophy of Aristotle into the theology of the Catholic Church. Thomas saw reason and faith as one and mutually supportive, and combined the Bible and Church Fathers and the reasoning of Aristotle into one unified system of understanding Christian revelation through faith enlightened by reason.

His most noted work was the Summa Theologica, a five-volume masterpiece. St. Thomas Aquinas presented the classical approach to Biblical Exegesis. Recalling the words of Gregory that Scripture transcends every science, ” for in one and the same sentence, while it describes a fact, it reveals a mystery.” In addition to the literal sense, Thomas described the three spiritual senses of Scripture, the allegorical, the truth revealed, the moral, the life commended, and the anagogical, the final goal to be achieved. His exposition on the Seven Sacraments remains a standard to our present day.

The Renaissance, which means rebirth, was the period of phenomenal growth in Western culture in art, architecture, literature, and sculpture. Christian humanism, a rejoicing in man’s achievements and capabilities reflecting the greater glory of God, had its beginning with the Divine Comedy, published in 1320 by Dante Alighieri in Italy. The Renaissance continued through the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries until William Shakespeare. Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, and Botticelli led the way in art. Brunelleschi revived the ancient Roman style of architecture and introduced linear perspective. The great sculptors were Donatello and Michelangelo. St. Thomas More and Erasmus were leading Christian humanists in literature.

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.



The Schism of 1054

Jesus Christ Savior | This difference in perception of Church authority produced the conflict over the addition of the word filioque – and the Son – to the Nicene Creed by the Roman Catholic Church. Theological thought on the Trinity had progressed with time, particularly with St. Augustine, who saw the Holy Spirit as an expression of love between the Father and the Son (image, Wikimedia Commons).

One of the most tragic events in Church history has been the Schism of 1054 between what is now the Catholic Church in Rome and the Byzantine or Eastern Orthodox Church in Constantinople.

The actual event occurred on July 16, 1054. What began as a diplomatic effort between Pope Leo IX of Rome and the Byzantine Patriarch Michael Cerularius of Constantinople ended in disaster. The abrasive Cardinal Humbert laid a papal bull of excommunication (after Pope Leo had died) on the altar right during the Liturgy at the Church of Hagia Sophia, which led the Eastern Church to excommunicate the envoy. While the event did not end the relationship between the Eastern and Western Churches, it became symbolic for the distrust and strain between the East and the West that developed through the centuries. The break was sealed in 1204 with the sacking of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade.

Rome and Constantinople had been able to agree through three more Councils. The fifth ecumenical council at Constantinople II in 553 was called by the Emperor Justinian and reaffirmed that there is only one person or hypostasis in our Lord Jesus Christ. In response to the Monothelites, that Christ had only one will, the sixth ecumenical council affirmed the efforts of St. Maximus the Confessor at Constantinople III in 681 and confessed that Christ had two wills and two natural operations (John 6:38), divine and human in harmony. The seventh ecumenical council at Nicaea II in 787 resolved the iconoclast controversy thanks to the writings of St. John of Damascus: since Jesus had a true humanity and his body was finite, it was only proper to venerate holy images of the human face of Jesus, as well as Mary and the saints.

However, the language of Rome was Latin, and that of Constantinople Greek.

There was a difference in perception of Church authority between the East and West. Latin Rome believed the Pontiff, as the representative of Peter, was Pastor and Shepherd to the whole Church, whereas the Greek East saw the Pope, the Bishop of Rome and representative of Peter, as presiding with love in the sense of collegiality, as a first among equals.

This difference in perception of Church authority produced the conflict over the addition of the word filioque – and the Son – to the Nicene Creed by the Roman Catholic Church. Theological thought on the Trinity had progressed with time, particularly with St. Augustine, who saw the Holy Spirit as an expression of love between the Father and the Son. King Recared and his Visigothic bishops converted from Arianism to Catholicism at the Third Council of Toledo, Spain in 587 and were required to add the word filioque to the Creed. Charlemagne in 794 insisted on its addition, so that the phrase read “the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son”. Pope Leo III at the time refused to allow the change and supported the original Creed; however the Papacy finally accepted the addition of filioque at the coronation of King Henry II of the Holy Roman Empire in 1014. The Eastern Orthodox Churches claim that the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed is the common possession of the whole church and that any change must be made by an ecumenical Council.

Many of the Christian Churches of Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean, except the Maronites and the Italo-Albanians, joined the Byzantine or Greek Orthodox Church of Constantinople.

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.