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The Catholic Reformation

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

By The Catholic Reformation I mean the spontaneous resurgence of Catholic thought and spirituality that spanned the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries. During these three hundred years, the Catholic Church lost whole nations by their separation from the papacy. But she also experienced an unprecedented renewal in every aspect of divine faith, of moral fervor and personal sanctity, of religious education and missionary zeal, and of organized Christian charity in the practice of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

Men like Sts. Thomas More and Francis de Sales; women like Sts. Teresa of Avila and Margaret Mary were an integral part of the Church’s realization that where sin abounded, there grace was even more abundant. The paganizing Renaissance that closed the fifteenth century was characterized by a prodigious intellectual activity accompanied by widespread moral decay.

Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit there arose such leaders in Catholic thought and piety as Christianity had not known since apostolic times, and certainly not since saints like Francis of Assisi and Catherine of Siena had reformed the secularized immorality in the Church of their day.

There was such a litany of authors from which to choose that some norm had to be followed. Among others, I chose by preference those writers who had been founders of religious institutes, like St. Ignatius, or who used the art of print to reach the masses, like St. Francis de Sales, or left a treasury of spiritual wisdom in writing, like St. Teresa of Avila.

The three centuries of the Catholic Reformation were prolific in published works on every aspect of human life and worship. The bibliography of these books would amount to several thousand titles. Only about a dozen authors are here included, not because a hundred more could not be added; but because I wanted to leave room in the reading plan for the final period of the modern age.

Copyright © 1998 Inter Mirifica

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