Why the Seventh Age?

In 1960, English Catholic historian Christopher Dawson published a collection of essays entitled, The Historic Reality of Christian Culture. The central theme of the collection was Dawson’s belief that spiritual and moral forces shaped a culture as much as political and economic ones. This idea has never been lost on the Catholic Church, which has known that if it was to build a new universal civilization of love and peace under the kingship of Christ, it must shape the cultures of the peoples it sought to evangelize.

Dawson described the Church as passing through six ages, defined by the crises that beset its mission to the nations, as well as the spiritual energy that it possessed in fulfilling this mission. Often, the Church’s problems and successes over the course of its history are due to its attentiveness, or lack thereof, in providing the moral and spiritual resources necessary to foster healthy cultures. When Dawson wrote the essay, he believed the Church was in the waning years of its sixth age.

It is our contention that the Church is now just beginning its “seventh age.” Just as every age begins with some crisis, the seventh age of the Church began with the spiritual upheavel in Western civilization caused by the two world wars and the threat of nuclear annihilation, as well as the advent of post-modernism. Within the Church itself, the aftermath and doubt caused by the reforms of the Second Vatican Council emptied churches and religious orders as “the smoke of Satan” entered the Church when it sought to freshen its message through the aggiornamento promised by the Council. However, we firmly believe the council was a work of the Holy Spirit, and that in times of crisis, God raises up saints to fill the void.

This historical moment is no exception. Undoubtedly we are witnessing the final years of what is the greatest and most significant pontificate in 500 years. Pope John Paul II has led the way in implementing the true work and vision of the Second Vatican Council, and his leadership is producing a powerful renewal within the Body of Christ. Notably, the new ecclesial movements as well as the World Youth Days have laid the foundations for a Church that is revitalized and eager to spread the gospel under the pope’s mantle of a “new evangelization.” It truly is a “springtime in the Church” and it seems a new generation is rising to meet the civilization-defining challenges of our time from bioethics to religious persecution.

Just as other “ages” have been marked by major evangelistic achievements, we believe the seventh age will be no different, and that it has only begun. We hope to contribute in some way to this work of the saints and the Holy Spirit.

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