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The Gift of the Church: Forward


What wonders the Church has to show us, to give us, to nourish our hearts and minds and souls, so we can be fully human again — or for the first time ever!

toppinggiftofchurchNever until these days have I thought that the psalms of suffering, and in particular those that cry out against the false tongue of the enemy, should be prayed in the person of the Church herself, our Mother.  Why have I been so slow?  Perhaps because I myself, in my youth, had joined now and again the voices raised up against her, or because I had taken for granted the right to carp and complain, to accept in part the old and stale accusation that the Church is old and stale, and to call that shrug of indifference by the grave name of "thought." 

It has been a long time since, and though the habit is gone, the failure remains — the failure to grieve with a Church so unjustly and foolishly maligned.  For we would not remain silent if a mere friend upon earth should be slandered, though he were but a man as we are, and not she who rocked the cradle of our civilization, who gave us so much of what we take to be our own without her gift, and who has been given to us for our instruction, healing, and consolation upon earth, and our guide to the house of God.

Ryan Topping has not remained silent.  People who were born in the oasis may take the springs and the date trees for granted.  People who have wandered in the desert do not, and Topping is one of those.  He has come to the oasis, and sees so much more of what the lifelong dwellers do not notice.  In The Gift of the Church, the first of two volumes, he tells us not what his impressions are, but what is there, has been there, and, in forms that will depend upon the Providence of God, will always be there.  It is, however, not merely a defense of the Church against the old slanders.  It cannot be, and here I note the peculiar evil of the malicious tongue.

If a man swings his fist against me, I can parry the blow with my fist.  I can answer in self-defense.  No such measures are available to the victim of slander.  If he stands in the square and protests his innocence, he does himself more harm than good, because he puts the slander in the ears of everyone, and while they will not remember his arguments in defense, they will remember that he had to defend himself.  But if he says and does nothing, the slander puts down roots and spreads.

Topping understands this, and that is what makes this book so valuable.  It is not thunder against thunder. He throws all the windows open...

Thus every effective defense of the Church must be made not by the attorney but by the champion.  It is not merely that your Mother has been the object of obloquy.  She has been, even in human terms, the most powerful and multifarious source of good things in the history of man.  Where she flourishes, man flourishes — arts, letters, sciences put to human purposes, institutions for the common good and for the alleviation of suffering, culture and society properly speaking, and where she is bound and gagged, beaten and spat upon and led among the jeering crowds, man grows sickly and sullen.  He loses heart, and tries to satisfy himself with comforts fit for an intelligent beast.  They disappoint him, as they must.

Topping understands this, and that is what makes this book so valuable.  It is not thunder against thunder.  He throws all the windows open, so that modern man in his stale little cell can breathe the fresh air of the truth again.  What wonders the Church has to show us, to give us, to nourish our hearts and minds and souls, so we can be fully human again — or for the first time ever!  If we need a healthy space cleared for the exercise of political virtue, not to have our deeds dictated by an imam or a servant of the emperor, well, the Church has been there before us, and gives us that space.  If we wish to study the natural world and give glory to its Creator, the Church has been there, and encourages us in our enterprise.  She is the Mother of sciences, the Mother of arts, the Mother of our freedom here on earth, and our builder-up for the glorious liberty of the children of God.  She makes more than great men and women.  She makes saints.

Read, then, and receive her gifts with a grateful heart.

Anthony Esolen



esolenAnthony Esolen. "Forward." The Gift of the Church: How the Catholic Church Transformed the History and Soul of the West. (Charlotte, NC: Tan Books, 2018).

Reprinted with permission of Tan Books

The Author

esolen54smesolen7Anthony Esolen is a professor and writer in residence at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts, in Warner, New Hampshire. He is the author of many books including: Life Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child, The Beauty of the Word: A Running Commentary on the Roman Missal, Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching, Reflections on the Christian LifeIronies of Faith: Laughter at the Heart of Christian Literature, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization, and is the translator of several epic poems of the West, including Lucretius' On the Nature of Things: de Rerum Natura, Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata, and the three volumes of Dante's Divine Comedy: Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise. He is a graduate of Princeton and the University of North Carolina. Anthony Esolen is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.

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