Saturday, August 1, 2020

The year was 1897 and Pope Leo XIII published his encyclical "Militantis Ecclesiae." The reading is from Philip Yancey, "The Question That Never Goes Away."

It is the 1st of August 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at, I'm Dan van Voorhis.

The year was 1897.

It was the age of the World's Fairs and Exhibitions. In 1897 alone, there were at least seven international expositions across the globe, from Kiev to Tennessee, Brisbane to Stockholm, and London to Guatemala.

Perhaps the strangest took place in Brussels. King Leopold was especially keen on what was called the "Palace of the Colonies," even though the Belgians had only one colony at the time: the Free State of the Congo. Quick note: if a country feels the need to put the words "free" or "democratic" in the name of their country, it's usually neither of those things.

The Palace of the Colonies was a large exhibition hall with artifacts, commodities, animals, and even people from the Congo. A tram was built to take people to the palace that included huts and over 200 Congolese carrying on with their typical tasks. While Leopold thought that this human zoo would help to humanize the Congolese, it did the opposite. Furthermore, seven Congolese died in the palace.

The palace was converted into a museum the next year to serve as both a site for exhibitions and scientific experiments. Also, the Expo followed the popular trend of showing off premature babies in incubators. The incubators and children were ostensibly there to promote a possible life-saving invention for babies born underweight. However, across the world, these incubator exhibits drew people to see small babies as a type of sideshow.

The Exhibition was more than a weird human zoo, however. Marconi was there to exhibit his wireless telegraph. There was an unthinkably long film that clocked in at twenty minutes. You could take a balloon ride, as well as watching both car and bicycle racing.

In 1897 Dos Equis beer was brewed for the first time in Mexico. A master brewer from Germany designed the beer to celebrate the coming 20th century. It was called "Siglo XX," the 2 X’s being the Roman numeral for 20. The "Siglo" was dropped, and today the Double X brand is the favorite of the most interesting man in the world.

1897 also saw Bill McKinley elected president. The man on the 500-dollar bill was the first president to use the telephone for campaigning, the first president to ride in a car, also, unfortunately, the first to ride in an ambulance after he was shot.

A general spirit of emancipation had struck much of the Western world at the end of the 19th century. Generally, liberal policies raised the question of not only what the state could provide, but also what the role of the church should be in doing so. It was in the midst of a culture war that on this, the 1st of August, in 1897, Pope Leo XIII published his encyclical "Militantis Ecclesiae." 

We've discussed many papal Bulls on this show. You might remember that they are called bulls after the "bulla" or seal affixed to the announcement. As technology began to change, encyclicals took their place as a letter sent from the Pope to all Bishops. Eventually, it was decided that these encyclicals could also be aimed at any person of goodwill in the church. They do not have the force of infallibility but have often shaped the agenda of the Catholic church.

Militantis Ecclesiae is Latin for "The Church Militant," and the encyclical was an attempt to rouse the church in a time of cultural crisis. It did so by first recognizing Peter Canisius, the 16th century German Jesuit. The encyclical read, "There exist, in effect, certain analogies between our age and the period in which Canisius lived: a period when the spirit of revolution and looseness of doctrine resulted in a great loss of faith and decline in morals."

The encyclical condemned the Lutheran heresy, which was more a way of talking about Protestants in general rather than any particular Lutheran teaching. The document also called for openness with the scientific community. Pope Leo emphatically declared that modern knowledge can and should serve the faith. He warned the Catholic faithful against letting modern scientific arguments against the faith go unchallenged. And Pope Leo did all of this while praising Peter Canisius, the 16th century Catholic Jesuit. The encyclical was named "Militantis Ecclesiae" as a throwback to the 1540 Papal bull with a similar name. It was the bull that established the Jesuits in the first place. This encyclical from Pope Leo was sent out on this, the 1st of August, in 1897.

The reading for today comes from author Philip Yancey from his "The Question That Never Goes Away," a brief word about Jesus and suffering.

"On a small scale, person-to-person, Jesus encountered the kinds of suffering common to all of us. And how did he respond? Avoiding philosophical theories and theological lessons, he reached out with healing and compassion. He forgave sin, healed the afflicted, cast out evil, and even overcame death."

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the1st of August 2020 brought to you by 1517 at The show is produced by The Most Interesting Man in Wisconsin, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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