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Connecting with History

Connecting With History is a history-based unit study for Roman Catholic families and schools published by www.rchistory.com This site is designed to answer common questions about the Connecting with History program. If you have questions you'd like to see answered here, please let me know!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

A Catholic, Integrated View of History

When I was growing up in the Lutheran Church and public schools the
history "education" I received consisted of Sunday School lessons
about the Bible and "real" history taught in school. The only
school lessons I recall were American history. I cannot remember
ever having world history until I went to college. As for any
church history, none was formally taught, but my dad, who's
something of a history buff (mainly American and Norwegian history), talked
about church history at home, which of course began in 1517 with
Martin Luther. Anything between the Bible times and the Reformation
(and then a quick leap to America) was a hazy area called the Dark
or Middle Ages in young mind. And even that wasn't cohesive because I failed to
connect the fact that the Bible actually happened in a time in world
history. Somehow "Bible times" were disconnected from the real
world. Yes, I knew Jesus and the apostles were real people (we
didn't talk about Mary, except at Christmas) but all of this was
fragmented in my brain and I gave history no thought whatsoever
unless I had to take a test on it in school.

My personal revelation began with an introduction to classical
history in my freshman year of college, and later with my husband, a
cradle Catholic and history-lover, who knew about all kinds of
things I'd never heard of. It wasn't just his knowledge of
historical facts (he has a wonderful memory, which so far our sons
in particular, seem to have inherited) but his insights into the
causes and effects, the relationships and meanings in history blew
me away. In fact, it was such a shock to my world view that at
first we fought and argued about these things. I was a cradle-
protestant, and his ideas about history made me crazy!!

It wasn't until I became Catholic myself that I had a religious and worldview conversion. I can't pinpoint when or how it happened, but my world was suddenly turned 180 degrees and I found such peace and joy and excitement that I was
like a small child discovering the world for the very first time.
I'd hear Bible readings in mass that I would swear I'd never heard
before - even though the Lutheran church I grew up in was liturgical
and had most of the same Sunday readings as the Catholics. But now
the words made sense for the first time! And through home educating
my children I could suddenly see how everything was history: the
Bible, the Church, politics, geography, literature, music, art,
math, science...........


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2 Comments:

Blogger Sonya said...

This leads me to my point:

History is taught in compartments most of the time, even in good
schools, Catholic schools, colleges.... You've got classes on Bible
History, Ancient History, Medieval History, Renaissance History,
Church History, Geo-political History, American History, Art
History, History of the Saints, History of Science, Greek History,
Roman History, the list goes on and on...

Connecting with History means de-compartmentalizing all of these
areas and putting them back together; integrating them so that
everything connects and makes sense. None of it happened in a
vacuum. The church didn't exist in its own little universe separate
from governments and politics. Artists and scientists don't live in
their own realm apart from popes and saints. St. Paul visited the
same Greece that Aristotle lived in; Moses' Egypt is the same Egypt
as King Tut's. Actually, the most integrated books on history tend
to be the ones on Church history because you can't talk about the
Church apart from secular events - it's all interconnected. But
Catholics have the opportunity to see that more clearly than most
people, even when they don't realize it.

Hilaire Belloc, in his book, Europe and the Faith, says it best,

"...the Catholic "conscience of history – I say "conscience" – that
is, an intimate knowledge through identity: the intuition of a thing
which is one with the knower – I do not say "The Catholic Aspect of
History." This talk of "aspects" is modern and therefore part of a
decline: it is false.....I will rather do homage to truth and say
that there is no such thing as a Catholic "aspect" of European
history. There is a Protestant aspect, a Jewish aspect, a
Mohammedan aspect, a Japanese aspect, and so forth. For all of
these look on Europe from without. The Catholic sees Europe from
within."
"The Catholic brings to history (when I say "history" in these pages
I mean the history of Christendom) self-knowledge.....Others, not
Catholic, look upon the story of Europe externally as strangers.
They have to deal with something which presents itself to them
partially and disconnectedly, by its phenomena alone: he sees it all
from its center in its essence, and together."
"For the Catholic the whole perspective falls into its proper
order. The picture is normal. Nothing is distorted to him. The
procession of our great story is easy, natural, and full. It is
also final."

That disconnectedness Belloc mentions is what I experienced
firsthand in my early life. The experience of becoming Catholic
and "the whole perspective [falling] into its proper order" was life-
changing for me. It's that conversion to the Catholic religion,
culture, and historical understanding which led directly to the
birth of Connecting with History. It is my own effort to share the
joy of discovering the richness and depth of true history. It is
why when we study history we need to study saints and scientists,
popes and poets, martyrs and musicians, the people and the events of
history through time as they happened, when they happened, where
they happened and even why they happened. That's when history
ceases to be just another subject to cover or just a list of dates
to memorize and becomes the story of life – our story, our history,
our heritage!
How do you put these ideas into practice??

12:42 PM  
Blogger Sonya said...

If you've read my post on integrating history (if not, do read it
and then come back to this one) now you're perhaps needing some
practical examples of how this is accomplished in the CWH program.

Chronology:
First of all, history is presented chronologically rather than
thematically. For example, rather than study the Egyptians, then
the Greeks, then the Romans, you study a particular period of time.
Within that time period you will come across people/events from
various cultures because they overlap. Cleopatra reigned in Egypt
when Octavius ruled Rome and meanwhile back in Greece and
Israel.... They lived at the same time, they interacted, they
affected one another. Studying these events chronologically helps
you see and understand the causes and effects. It helps answer not
only the "what" of history, but the "why and how."

Themes:
Although CWH is chronological, we do include themes for each period
of history. The themes are mainly spiritual ones, which connect the
various levels of history.

Levels of history:
History occurs on several levels. What we generally think of as
history is the geo-political level: the people, places and events
that make up history. But history also occurs on a spiritual level;
Divine Providence (aka God) is active in history, God doesn't just
sit back and watch the unfolding, He involves himself in world
events. The battle rages on the spiritual level between the demons
and the angels for control or the destiny of the world and of
individuals. The spiritual battlefield is in the souls of people,
you and I, your spouse, your children, your neighbors, world leaders
and ordinary people. CWH includes both levels of history, secular
and religious/spiritual. It does this mainly in reference to the
big events, but also attempts to connect the student to those events
and themes on a personal level.

Personal applications:
History isn't just other people, other times, other places. All of
us are living right now, right here in a specific time in history.
What we think and do in our lifetimes affects the lives of countless
others, in ways we may never even suspect. Some people are called
to do great things that will go down in the history books of the
future, but all of us are called to live greatly in our own sphere
of influence; our families, our neighborhoods, our parishes, our
workplace, our schools, etc. History becomes personal when it
teaches us lessons from others' lives and enables us to apply them
to our own. Through the themes, essays and discussion questions CWH
attempts to help students reflect on their own choices in life and
their God-given purpose, their unique vocation in life.

This is another element which makes CWH a distinctively Catholic
program. It's not just a matter of adding in saints and popes to a
secular or protestant program, it's about developing a Catholic
worldview and self-view.

12:42 PM  

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