Tag Archives: charity

The medieval charitable revolution: Healing as “the Jesus thing to do”


Works of Mercy

Works of Mercy (Photo credit: jimforest)

More from the “hospitals chapter” of my Getting Medieval with C S Lewis:

During this time, a new theology of sickness sprang up: “like monks, martyrs, saints, and finally apostles, the sick could function as mediators between God and His people. Their intercessional prayers on behalf of patrons and caregivers were believed to be valuable.”[1] This was an important development, and in the 12th century, in a more urban and more economically stable and flourishing Europe, it would contribute to a massive uptick in the foundation of hospitals by wealthy lay donors.

And that was a good thing – the “charitable revolution” of the 12th century – because by the 11th, monasteries were nearing the end of their hospitalling. The culprit? Economic change: Continue reading

The Hospitals Issue of Christian History is almost here! A taste . . .


The Hotel-Dieu, a Paris hospital founded by the church in the Middle Ages

Well, I’ve been a ghost on my own blog, but it’s been for a good cause: Christian History Issue #101, on Healthcare and Hospitals in the Mission of the Church, is headed to the printer this Friday, Sept. 30. (To see it when it goes online in the coming weeks, watch this space.)

A small taste of the issue, my editor’s note:

Christian History’s founder, the late Dr. Kenneth Curtis, thought and wrote a lot about what our faith has to say to those who suffer illness and those who care for them. As the magazine returned to the red barn in Pennsyl­vania in 2010, Ken made several lists of topics he hoped the revived Christian History could address in future ­issues. At the very top was this one: the church’s role in the history of healthcare. I resonated with this topic from the start, but I did wonder, What kind of story is there to tell here? As it turns out, quite a powerful one.

As I began studying the topic I discovered two unexpected things: first, the church was much more influential in the history of healthcare than I had expected; and second, the modern hospital can be traced directly back to ancient and medieval Christian institutions. Continue reading

Happy Feast Day of the (real) St. Nick!


fake-st.-nick-arrested

st nick

Saint Nicholas (Greek: Άγιος Νικόλαος, Aghios [“holy”] Nicolaos [“victory of the people”]) (270–6 December 346) is the canonical and most popular name for Nikolaos of Myra, a saint and Greek[3] Bishop of Myra (Demre, in Lycia, part of modern-day Turkey). Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker (Greek: Νικόλαος ο Θαυματουργός, Nikolaos o Thaumaturgos). He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for Santa Claus, whose modern name comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas. In Britain he is known as ‘Father Christmas’. His reputation evolved among the faithful, as is common for early Christian saints.[4] In 1087, his relics were furtively translated to Bari, in southeastern Italy; for this reason, he is also known as Nikolaos of Bari.His feastday is December 6.

The most famous story about Nicholas is this one (pictured above):

A poor man had three daughters but could not afford a proper dowry for them. This meant that they would remain unmarried and probably, in absence of any other possible employment would have to become prostitutes. Continue reading

I’m dreaming of a Victorian Christmas


OK, it’s December 4 and I can’t resist the urge any more. Time for a Christmas post!

I’m Dreaming of a Victorian Christmas
An ageless story reminds us of the values the Victorians can still teach us.
Chris Armstrong

A particular Christmas, or to be more exact, two Christmases, entered the modern imagination in 1868 through a much-beloved storybook, coloring our vision of Christmas ever since.

The first of these Christmases takes place under the shadow of war—the Civil War. A few days before the holiday, the four young daughters of an absent army chaplain mope together in the home that now seems so empty. They ruefully consider their holiday prospects: their “straightened circumstances” have reduced the customary Christmas bounty to a mere dollar apiece, doled out by their mother. Continue reading

Salvation Army: The church behind the kettles


It’s that time again: the bells are ringing and the red kettles swinging in front of grocery stores and other public places all over America. And in this holiday season, when even the staunchest of of Scrooges can’t help but think of what part they should play in “goodwill to all men,” a historical Wesleyan church has its hour of highest profile. That’s right. The Salvation Army is a church, and an “evangelical” one to boot. In 2004, this church got an extra dose of publicity when McDonalds heiress Joan Kroc sent 1.5 billion dollars their way. And we did an e-newsletter for Christian History about this much-misunderstood group:

The Blood-and-Fire Mission of the Salvation Army
Where did this tuba-playing, kettle-wielding social force come from, and what’s it all about?
Chris Armstrong

Joan Kroc’s 1.5 billion dollar bequest recently put the Salvation Army on the front pages of many newspapers (and raised important questions about the potential effects of wealth on Christian organizations). But we didn’t need the reminder—we’ve known all about the Army for a long time.

Or have we?

We tend to associate them with Christmas kettles, brass bands, and the upright, do-gooder stance gently mocked in the Loesser musical (and Marlon Brando movie) Guys and Dolls. Continue reading