‘The Victors’ Don’t Write History — God Does

Ten Dates Every Catholic Should Know

by Diane Moczar

Sophia Institute, 2005

177 pages, $13.95

To order: (800) 888-9344


Rodin’s sculpture of the Gates of Hell dramatizes why the Church needs Our Lord’s promise that, rattle though they may, those infernal gates and their sulfurous stench will never prevail.

What Diane Moczar has done in Ten Dates Every Catholic Should Know is to neatly telescope that 2,000-year onslaught into a tidy little recap that is at once fascinating and reassuring. Fascinating because it connects and clarifies complex segments of European social and political history. Reassuring because it reveals the golden thread of God’s hand entwining throughout two bloody millennia of human events and intervening at precise moments when the gates seemed to be getting the upper hand.

Not your ordinary history book. Moczar, a professor of history at Northern Virginia Community College, is a disciple of Abbé Georges de Nantes.

“It is largely from his writings that I absorbed the principles of ‘orthodromic’ history,” she writes, “the tracing of God’s action in world events and the vision of human history as the unfolding of his plan for us.” While her mentor may be controversial — a theologian, he is an outspoken critic of the Second Vatican Council — his influence has prompted Moczar to write sober a book that makes much sense. To her credit, when differing scholarly opinions exist, Moczar gives both, pointing out reasons for the one she deems correct.

Subtitled The Divine Surprises and Chastisements That Shaped the Church and Changed the World, the book begins with the early Christian era and ends with Fatima in 1917. The “chastisements,” events studied in world history classes, evidence God’s justice. The “Divine Surprises” complete the Catholic view, showing how, time after time, in varied and amazing ways, God has come to the aid of his faithful.

Ten Dates is exciting history told in a highly readable way. One particular delight is the way Moczar incorporates the occasional gossipy tidbit: how the good guys used flaming slabs of bacon as fuel during the siege of Belgrade, how the Huns warmed half-raw meat under their saddles as they rode into battle and so on.

Another is her humor. Of the Arian “Catholicism” in Germany she writes: “It was short on theology, but its rituals appealed to the barbarian taste for midnight rites in the woods with lots of singing.”

An index would have been a helpful addition to the book, and there are a couple of places, such as the introduction to the 20th century, where a few more lines of explanation would have been welcome. It is also puzzling that 1054, the year of the Great Schism, is given short shrift.

But, as Mozcar writes in the introduction, “No list … could claim to be exhaustive. The dates I have chosen … represent extremely handy ‘pegs’ on which to hang the major developments of Catholic history.” She has expressed the hope that her readers will “both learn from this book and acquire a taste for knowing more about our Faith and our past.”

At the very least, her book should pique Catholics’ curiosity about what God might have in mind for his people during this chaotic 21st century, when the gates of hell seem an ever-present danger.

                                            Ann Applegarth writes from

Roswell, New Mexico.