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Charles V


By Mr. Gary Potter

Far more than a biographical talk, this two-hour presentation paints the truest picture of early sixteenth-century Europe ever presented in capsule form from a podium. Focusing on the complex character of the greatest Catholic ruler of the time, "the Father of Europe," Emperor Charles V, our dynamic speaker accomplished a task that many students of Catholic history deemed impossible: he made sense of the conflicting dynamics of early sixteenth-century Christendom. Mr. Potter did not set out just to tell a story; his purpose was to have his listeners live the life of that most critical half-century by experiencing the causes, painful and exhilarating, that brought on the tragic and glorious events which bracketed that epoch as a watershed, eclipsing the luminous age of Faith and nobility and introducing the dark age of religious individualism and pragmaticism. Not that the horizontal humanistic forces gained the advantage all at once (that would have to wait for 1789 and after), nor that the vertical age of Faith that Christendom once embodied would (or could) ever be wiped out in the souls of men, but what happened in Charles' time was that a spirit of compromise set in, Catholic militancy waned, and whole nations retreated from the challenge of Faith, even unto apostasy. The emperor, Mr. Potter explained, saw this coming. He thought he could avert it, win Europe back to Christ as Christendom's leader, even reform the Church by calling for a ecclesial house-cleaning, but, as he grew too battle weary to fight anymore, he resigned his throne, and retired to a monastery, a broken man. This presentation challenges us both with ideals that could make a Catholic prince holy and magnanimous, as outlined in the Institutio Principis Christiani (Education of a Christian Prince), which Emperor Maximilian had Erasmus write for his grandson, the principal character in this study, and with the amoral machinations of sinister political intrigue as exemplified in the antithesis of the Institutio, Machiavelli's The Prince. We cannot live in the future, Mr. Potter warns, but we can bring the past to life, not to live in it vicariously or to wallow in one's own previous accomplishments, but to employ its lessons in our daily lives. This is the purpose of a true liberal education in history. Every parent should educate his or her children as if they were Catholic princes and princesses, to be in the world but not of the world. Emperor Charles, no saint by any means, is a major historical figure whose accomplishments and failures Catholics should be well familiar with. Were it not for him, and other Hapsburgs of his stamp, Christendom might have been for us something far more distant in the past than it is. Gary Potter inspires his listeners to keep up the fight for a social order that would be built upon the Kingship of Christ. Despite all the betrayals he experienced from fellow Catholic rulers, even kings, this great emperor, orphaned in childhood, kept the Mohammedans at bay and the Protestant rebellion stunted. He was truly, as one of his biographers titled him, "the Father of Europe."


From 2007 SBC Conference

Also Available as MP3

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