The Barque of Peter Sails Through History


There is not, and there never was on this earth, a work of human policy so well deserving of examination as the Roman Catholic Church. The history of that Church joins together the two great ages of human civilisation. No other institution is left standing which carries the mind back to the times when the smoke of sacrifice rose from the Pantheon, and when camelopards and tigers bounded in the Flavian amphitheatre.

The proudest royal houses are but of yesterday when compared with the line of the Supreme Pontiffs. That line we trace back in an unbroken series, from the Pope who crowned Napoleon in the nineteenth century to the Pope who crowned Pepin in the eighth; and far beyond the time of Pepin the august dynasty extends, till it is lost in the twilight of fable. The republic of Venice came next in antiquity. But the republic of Venice was modern when compared with the Papacy; and the republic of Venice is gone, and the Papacy remains. The Papacy remains, not in decay, not a mere antique, but full of life and youthful vigour.

The Catholic Church is still sending forth to the farthest ends of the world missionaries as zealous as those who landed in Kent with Augustin, and still confronting hostile kings with the same spirit with which she confronted Attila. The number of her children is greater than in any former age. Her acquisitions in the New World have more than compensated for what she has lost in the Old. Her spiritual ascendency extends over the vast countries which lie between the plains of the Missouri and Cape Horn, countries which a century hence, may not improbably contain a population as large as that which now inhabits Europe.

The members of her communion are certainly not fewer than a hundred and fifty millions; and it will be difficult to show that all other Christian sects united amount to a hundred and twenty millions. Nor do we see any sign which indicates that the term of her long dominion is approaching. She saw the commencement of all the governments and of all the ecclesiastical establishments that now exist in the world; and we feel no assurance that she is not destined to see the end of them all.

She was great and respected before the Saxon had set foot on Britain, before the Frank had passed the Rhine, when Grecian eloquence still flourished at Antioch, when idols were still worshipped in the temple of Mecca. And she may still exist in undiminished vigour when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul’s.


Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay, in his review of Von Ranke’s The Ecclesiastical and political History of the Popes of Rome, during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. (1840)



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  1. . Pope Francis prefers air conditioned planes to that yuuuge double ender row boat even though a rented sailboat could take him to all the Americas and save fossil fuel except for docking and departure and dead air on a windless day….but who’s counting fuel tonnage.
    ( PS…murderer confesses in two nun murders in Mississippi. Sounds like he didn’t want witnesses in a petty burglary case.)

  2. And Pope Francis will one day discover much to his dismay that he is a mere blip in history – or perhaps more like the bite of some microscopic insect like a flea or a tick.

  3. Regardless of what PF is now or will be remembered as in the future, we are stuck with him. Something far more important is guiding this old barque…and it’s not Francis.

    Pray. Pray. Pray.

  4. Maybe it’s a lack of humility. Maybe it’s hubris (overweening pride) without arête (heroic excellence). I think it’s a common theme among the corrupt, failed elites that have seized control over just about everything.
    Philip, I believe that “something” is The Holy Spirit and Christ who will be with His bride to the end of tome. .
    “Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us.”

  5. Some commenters on Fr Z’s blog pointed out another interesting astronomical occurrence next year… a total solar eclipse visible only in the continental US will occur on Aug. 21, 2017, exactly 54 days before the centennial of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima.

  6. Elaine.

    Illumination of Conscience at time of solar eclipse. (?)

    Speculation of course, however what a great grace, just before the end of the year of Mercy.

    Only God truly knows.

  7. Forgot to mention that the significance of the 54 day interval is that it matches the duration of a 54 day rosary novena (6 novenas of 9 rosaries each, 3 prayed in petition and 3 in thanksgiving).

  8. We are currently in one now, 54 day Novena, for the leadership of our nation. Started in on the Assumption and ends on Friday October 7th…Our Lady of Victory. Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. Today is day 12.

  9. Thanks for the uplift Donald. We needed that. Christ is in the boat with us and would wonder why we are so disturbed by the stormy seas at the present time.

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