This Week in History

Pope Pius X Dies of War Anguish:

August 20, 1914

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.

“The Holy Father has died of a broken heart.”

The remains of Pope Pius X on his deathbed

So said an Italian prelate about the death of Pope Pius X on August 20, 1914. Elected pope following the death of Leo XIII in 1903, Pius X had worked tirelessly to “restore all things in Christ.” He wanted to see the Church purified of anything that hindered her in her task of carrying the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the troubled men of the 20th century. He died watching Christendom cast off this Gospel and embrace the ancient curse of war with its bitterness and hate.

Known for his warm charity toward all, Pius X was sorrowed to behold the nations of Europe entering a war that he knew would be long, bitter, and bloody. He told his nuncios at the various European capitals to do all they could to dissuade the powers from going to war. When Emperor Franz Josef’s ambassador in Rome asked him to bless the Austro-Hungarian armies, the pope replied sternly, “I bless peace, not war.” Continue reading

This Week in History

Prince Fritz and His Father Reconciled: August 15, 1731

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.
 

King Friedrich Wilhelm I

When the Crown Prince Friedrich began his education at age 7, he was set to learn only those subjects his father thought a good Prussian king needed to know. There was to be no Latin,  because it was the language of the classical civilization of Rome, which Friedrich Wilhelm despised. There was to be history, but only of events that happened after the 16th century and had something to do with the Hohenzollern family. Young “Fritz” was to learn religion and practical subjects, such as mathematics (as an aid to the art of warfare); he had to speak German fluently, and even French, though he was to have nothing to do with French culture. The boy’s day was to be filled with activity, and he was not to be left alone from the time he rose at 6:00 in the morning to when he retired to bed at 10:30 at night.

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This Week in History

King Louis XVI Deposed:

August 10, 1792

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.

Lafayette in 1791

By the beginning of 1792, it was clear to everyone that France was quite unprepared for war. But nearly every political faction in France wanted to go to war—even against countries with highly trained armies.

The Feuillants and their leader, Lafayette, thought a war would unite the French people like nothing else could. And Lafayette, that dashing hero of the American Revolution, hoped that war would bring him personal glory.

The Girondins hoped for war as an opportunity to spread the revolution to all the oppressed peoples of Europe.

The king and queen wanted war because they were certain the allied forces of the European monarchs could easily defeat the French armies. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette looked forward to the day when the allies would march into Paris, suppress the Assembly, and restore the absolute monarchy. If the monarchs failed, Louis, who outwardly supported the war against the monarchs, thought he would receive the credit for the victory. His people would call him the defender of France, he thought. Continue reading

This Week in History

Pope Benedict Issues a Peace Plan: August 1, 1917

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 Benedict XV

Though not one of the warring powers, Pope Benedict XV had received a copy of the peace note Kaiser Wilhelm had sent to the Allies in December 1916. Despite its haughty tone, and the fact that the Allied governments had rejected it, the kaiser’s peace note encouraged the pope. He began to promote his own plan for an end to the war.

Since Germany had been the first to seek peace, Benedict told his nuncio to Bavaria, Archbishop Eugenio Pacelli, to feel out the German government’s desire for peace. In June 1917, Pacelli met with German Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg.

In discussing Germany’s war aims, Bethmann-Hollweg said he could agree to four points for peace:

1. that all nations limit their armaments;

2. that international courts be established to judge grievances between the warring sides;

3. that Belgium be restored to independence; and that

4. Germany and France come to a peaceful settlement over Alsace-Lorraine. Continue reading

This Week in History

The King of France Becomes Catholic: July 25, 1593

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.

File:Jeanne-albret-navarre.jpg

Jeanne d’Albret, Huguenot queen of Navarrre

By 1589, France had undergone over 40 years of religious struggle and war. Though its people were mostly Catholic, France also had a large population of Protestants who were followers of John Calvin. Many Frenchmen had gone to Calvin in Geneva, in the French-speaking region of Switzerland. From Geneva, the French Calvinists had returned to France to spread their “reformed” religion.

The kings of France had made it difficult, however, for Protestantism to spread in the kingdom. Though King Francis I (Emperor Charles V’s old enemy) supported the Lutheran princes in Germany, he was vigorous in trying to stamp out Calvinism in France. Francis’s son, King Henry II, had carried on his father’s work. Throughout France the king was aided by magistrates who tried those teaching heretical doctrines and sentenced those convicted of heresy to be burned at the stake.

Yet, despite the efforts against them, the French Protestants increased in number and in power. Beginning in 1547, they began organizing churches in the major French cities, including Paris. It was in Paris in 1559 that Protestant French ministers formed a national church based on the teachings of John Calvin. These French Calvinists, called Huguenots, attracted members of the nobility—including Jeanne d’Albret, the queen of Navarre, and her husband, Antoine de Bourbon. The Huguenots thus had the backing of men of wealth and power. Continue reading