Compendium of Church History - Notre Dame


"As Jesus Christ, the God Incarnate, is the center of all history, so the divine institution of the primacy of the Holy See and the independence of the Catholic Church is the center of the Christian era. It is impossible to understand and appreciate the course of human events in its proper meaning and character without giving full consideration and weight to these two central facts of history."


Spread of the Gospel

The political condition of the world under the Roman Empire had prepared the way for the speedy propagation of the Kingdom of Christ. The military roads of Rome led from the Forum to Spain and Gaul; to the Rhine and the Danube; to Thebais in Egypt and the frontiers of Arabia.

The universal use of the two languages of the civilized world, Latin and Greek, afforded a means for the propagation, explanation, and defence of Christ's teaching; but the direct causes of the spread of Christianity were:

  • The force of truth embodied in the religion of Christ.
  • The miracles wrought by the Apostles and their successors.
  • The virtuous lives of the Christians.
  • The Apostolic zeal of the neophytes. The constancy of the martyrs.
  • The power of Christianity to satisfy every religious craving of the soul.

"When the Apostles went forth to teach all nations the doctrine of the Crucified, nearly all earthly power was possessed by the City of Rome. . . . How slow and uncertain might have been the spread of the Christian religion if its Apostles had been obliged at every step to deal with new governments, new prejudices, new languages! Hence the Christian Fathers saw in the unity of the Empire something providential and divine. . . . When St. Paul tells us (Romans 10, 18) 'Verily their sound hath gone forth into all the earth and their words unto the ends of the whole world,' he expresses a fact which the Christian society has looked upon as a historical marvel."