Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Learning From History

What can be learned from history? This was the theme of an article in the  recent Kyeongyang Magazine, written by a bishop with  a doctorate in  Church history. He recounts how he got interested in history while in the seminary, writing his thesis on the Protestant Reformation. He wanted to know  the reason for the reformation. This perked his interest in learning more about Catholicism and Protestantism.

Church history reveals a number of sad events, such as the Crusades, the Inquisition, and Galileo. The bishop  wanted to find out the reasons the Church took a path that was different from the will of God. He wanted to find answers to his many questions.

The questions were not easily answered. However, doing his studies in Rome, he began gradually to see things differently.  When you see the big historical picture, a larger understanding comes.

During his studies, he heard that a person without faith could not be open enough to study Church history. Church history is not just one part of world history or a study only of what humanity has done, but it allows a  place for  God's providence. History is a conversation with the past. From our present vantage point, we look into the past. However, doing so there are many things that have to be noted. We cannot  take our moral yardstick of today and condemn the past. One has to return to the cultural conditions of the past to correctly understand those times. Reflecting on the past from this vantage point and acknowledging our mistakes candidly will give us a  new horizon and hope for the future.

Pope John Paul II, the bishop reminds us, apologized in the name of the Church for the violence, persecution and mistakes of the past 2000 years at the beginning of the 3rd millennium. The Church has learned a great deal from history. In response many nations followed suit; especially of interest is the response of the Japanese Catholic Church in the  book What We Have Learned From History. The Japanese Church apologized to their Asian brothers and sisters for the crimes of Japan, but only a few in Japan are familiar with this  effort, which the bishop laments.

The article mentions that the aid to Japan from Korea after the recent earthquake was a sign of Korea's forgiveness for the crimes she suffered for many years at the hands of the Japanese.  

The bishop also mentions our own Catholic history and the incident of the only priest in Korea back in 1801. When three young men tried to save the Chinese priest by having one of them impersonate him, refusing to reveal his whereabouts, and moving him to different locations, they were killed. Learning about the killing the priest gave himself up to the authorities to stop the killing. 

These and many other historical incidents teach us a great deal and make  history  a valuable  textbook for learning what may lie ahead for us.            

No comments:

Post a Comment