At the beginning of each new millennium, human beings ask questions regarding their destiny. Unfortunately, we can't go hack in a time machine and know what happened in 1001. We can, however, refer to books and immerse ourselves in history. Let's forget for a moment our world today and put ourselves in the shoes of the people in the last millennium; let's become part of the civilization of the Middle Ages.
The people lived in constant fear of misery and hunger. They had trouble harvesting food from the ground; their tools were primitive and the bad weather and droughts added to their misfortune. The workers were crushed by warriors. Fortunately, theirs was not an existence of complete misery thanks to the solidarity and brotherhood of each small community.
Everyone belonged to a group, a family, a village. If there was a famine, the lords would open their wheat lofts and help feed the poor. Consequently, the people of the village stuck together for they learned to take care of one another. Lonesomeness was very rare. Lonesomeness was actually suspicious.
The people in these communities were afraid of invaders. During this time, the Vikings and Saracens were taking over the Carolingian Europe. The mistrust toward a stranger was great. Thanks to the mobility that France created, people were able to travel a lot in the Middle Ages. Christians were well-treated, but Jews, Muslims and heathens had to be converted or killed. Intolerance ruled.
The down-side of the mobility was that many epidemics from the West came with the travelers. People lived in fear of epidemics. In the year 1000, the disease most feared was the "glowing pain, the fire from Saint Antoine." This disease attacked one part of the body at a time. Most people, once they contracted the disease, died within 24 hours. We now know the disease as a deficiency disease, For centuries, Europe battled with this plague and many communities were destroyed.
During the Middle Ages, death, as well as physical pain, was of little importance. The medieval society amused itself with brutality. Farmers preferred to see knights fighting in crusades or killing one another in tournaments rather than see them plunder their harvest and ransom villages.
No one doubted the existence of a life beyond the earthly one. Death was believed to be a temporary stage between life and demise. People were convinced they were not going to disappear completely. Though many felt helpless in their worldly existence, they did not lose confidence in God.
People considered a disturbance in nature to he a sign from God announcing tribulations that preceded the end of times. The people feared judgement. The church leaders scared the believers with threats of punishment and fear of hell.
The church marked the destiny of women. The ambition of the church during the Middle Ages was to impose the idea of superiority of the monogamous marriage and its indissolubility. The church sought to eliminate repudiations, divorces and polygamy. The Council of Paris prohibited every man from marrying a second woman, which was an amelioration of life for women.
The result, however, was the opposite. An anti-feminist movement started to propagate through the clerics. In reference to Eve, the woman was held responsible for the Fall. She became the instigator of evil. Roger de Caen in Carmen du mundi content flu wrote: "The woman is the worst danger in this world, the task of each Christian is to shun her, her beautiful body is only filled with rot." Saint Thomas considered the woman a "deficiency in nature" and granted the man a greater intelligence.
We can assume, without doubt, that in this context, women's voices were suppressed before they could even express themselves. The woman was excluded from any official practice of worship. Young girls were under guardianship, with only the possibilities of marrying very young or joining a cloister.
Education was kept for church people who had the power of knowledge and justice. Few noble women were educated. However, those single women in convents did have the opportunity to study. The poor women known as "servers" were forced to work two jobs and do the most difficult tasks.
Now, let's return to the present. What a different world! Science and technology have revolutionized our world. Progress has been made though other serious problems are still present.
The feeling of misery is still with us. Homeless people in big cities are excluded from growth; they have been so beaten down they expect nothing from life anymore.
Individualism has taken over solidarity. Families shattered by our way of life are left to isolation. Poverty equals solidarity; wealth equals isolation.
The anxiety of welfare lingers in France. The anguish of not knowing what tomorrow will bring causes fear. We live with the fear of AIDS, nuclear plant explosions, atomic bombs and everyday violence. We tremble when we think of the trials our children must face.
But what about religious feelings in this century? Because so many technological and scientific advancements have been made, many have turned away from religion. Also, many have replaced God with psychoanalysis.
The role of women has also changed. Fortunately, that change, for the most part, has been positive. We can thank God for that. Jesus Christ was the great craftsman for the liberation of women. During His time on this earth He showed women respect and valued them. Today's woman has full autonomy.
The man today, like the man of yesteryear, desires peace. Every time there are conflicts, he wants to negotiate peace with alliances and create treaties. But the only true peace can come from God, the great craftsman of peace and love. The people of the Middle Ages lived for the glorious day when the Almighty Lord would heal their wounds. You and I are waiting for the beautiful day when the Lord will come and take us to our eternal home.
My desire is that the next millennium will be the final one and we will soon be together with the Lord. This is the deepest objective of all believers of all times. May the peace of God be established now and forever! Lord Jesus, come!