1By Michael Van Hecke, M.Ed.

Parents want to choose Catholic education for the religious and moral tethering it can provide their children in a world that often seems bereft of meaning…

A few years ago, I met Samuel Casey Carter at an event promoting a charter school network. At the time, Carter had just been hired by Archbishop Charles Chaput to join him in an effort to renew the Catholic high schools in Philadelphia, where scores of schools were closing for lack of students and money.

Carter was called in to help renew and rebuild the nation’s oldest Catholic school system that was in deep crisis, and to (more…)

This Week in History

The Pope Crowns His Enemy:

December 2, 1804

This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations II: The Making of the Modern World. See sample chapters, here. For ordering information on Light to the Nations II and our other texts, please click here.

Pope Pius VII

Despite all the negotiations, despite the hopes and fears, despite the long journey from Rome to Paris, only a few days before it was to take place, it looked as if the coronation would not occur. As part of the ceremony the pope was to crown Josephine empress; but, Pius VII learned, Napoleon and Josephine had had only a civil marriage. They had not been married in the Church. The pope told the couple that if they did not have their marriage blessed, he would perform no coronation. Unwilling to have a public fight with the pope, Napoleon reluctantly agreed to Pius’s demand. On December 1, he and Josephine were married in a private ceremony at the palace of the Tuileries.

The next day, December 2, 1804, thousands gathered in the cathedral of Notre Dame for the great event that would make Napoleon Bonaparte the anointed of God. As the pope’s throne before the high altar was being prepared, the ancient walls (hung with rich tapestries) and vault of Notre Dame echoed to the chanting of 400 priests. Adding to the splendor were the senators, counselors of state, and tribunes of France wearing hats topped with great plumes. Bishops and priests, adorned in rich, beautiful vestments, stood in the sanctuary while a host of lovely women, dressed in exquisite gowns and adorned with jewels, lined the aisles or sat in the wings. Napoleon had seen to it that his crowning would have all the glory of the ancient regime. (more…)

This Week in History

Final Surrender: November 25, 1491

This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations I: The History of Christian Civilization. To peruse sample chapters of our books, go hereFor ordering information on Light to the Nations I and our other texts, please click here.

The “Catholic Monarchs,” Fernando and Isabel

One of the greatest, most revolutionary changes not only for Europe but for all the world occurred in the late 15th century in that western outpost of Europe, the Iberian Peninsula. The little Christian kingdoms of that land – Castile, León, Aragon, and Navarre – had not been at the center of learning and culture, like France. They had not given birth to the Renaissance or been the seat of the Church, like Italy. None of these Iberian states had served as the great political arm of the Church, like Germany. For over 700 years, the Iberian Peninsula had been divided between Christian and Muslim realms, which had been locked in the struggle called the Reconquest. That struggle, in the late 15th century, was about to end and a new task to open for the Christian powers of Iberia.

The Iberian Peninsula at the time of Fernando and Isabel

When Enrique IV, king of Castile and León, died in 1474, the crown went to his sister, Isabel. Enrique IV had been a weak king, and during his reign the Castilian nobles had ignored his authority. Castile was torn by many factions, and when Isabel became queen, she faced a war with Portugal. That country’s king, Alfonso V, was betrothed to Enrique IV’s daughter Juana and claimed the Castilian throne for her. The war ended in 1479, and in 1480 Juana entered a monastery. From thenceforth, Isabel I was the unquestioned queen of Castile and León. (more…)

This Week in History

Roosevelt Wields the Big Stick over Panama: November 18, 1903

The following text comes from our high school book, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. To see sample chapters of this book, go here. For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here. 

Theodore Roosevelt

In his inaugural address, Roosevelt developed his ideas about the place of the United States in the world. “Much has been given us,” he said, “and much will rightfully be expected from us . . . We have become a great nation, forced by the fact of its greatness into relations with the other nations of the earth, and we must behave as beseems a people with such responsibilities. Towards all other nations, large and small, our atti­tude must be one of cordial and sincere friendship. We must show not only in our words, but in our deeds, that we are earnestly desirous of securing their good will by acting toward them in a spirit of just and gen­erous recognition of all their rights.”

However, the president continued, justice and gen­erosity required strength. “While ever careful to refrain from wrongdoing others,” he said, “we must be no less insistent that we are not wronged ourselves. We wish peace, but we wish the peace of justice, the peace of righteousness. We wish it because we think it is right and not because we are afraid. No weak nation that acts manfully and justly should ever have cause to fear us, and no strong power should ever be able to single us out as a subject for insolent aggression.”


Roosevelt wields the big stick over the Caribbean, 1904

Roosevelt had said about the same thing many times before but in fewer words: “There is a homely adage which runs: ‘Speak softly, and carry a big stick; you will go far.’” Roosevelt almost always spoke softly when dealing with the leaders of other nations. The fear expressed when he took over from McKinley, that he would draw the nation into war, proved unfounded. Once he became president, Roosevelt did all he could to avoid war. He had granted Cuba her independence, as McKinley had promised, and had only intervened once to restore order on the island, as the Platt Amendment allowed the United States president to do. Roosevelt also allowed the Philippines to establish a degree of self-rule, though a United States governor still presided over the island nation.

Yet, Teddy was not averse to using the “big stick” whenever he thought he needed to. He proved this in the case of Colombia. (more…)