From Captive Flames: On Selected Saints and Christian Heroes (Ignatius Press, 2001; orig. 1940), by Monsignor Ronald Knox:
But the Albigenses, who resembled them outwardly, because they too made a parade of great simplicity and innocence, were the revival or the continuation of a very old and very dangerous heresy; that Manichean heresy which attracted, for a time, the restless genius of St. Augustine. In order to account for the existence of evil in the world, the Manichean maintains a total divorce between matter and spirit, believing that matter is of its nature evil, and owes is existence not the to Providence of God but to the interference of a malign spirit. Accordingly, he rejects the doctrine of the Incarnation, which degrades, to his mind, the spiritual nature of the Godhead. The more fully initiated of the sect, who called themselves the Perfect, repudiated altogether the use of marriage, and abstained, in their diet, from all animal life and whatever owed its origin to animal life. They were the declared enemies of Christendom and, patronized as they were by the Count of Toulouse, threatened to supersede it altogether in the southern districts of France.
We remember St. Dominic and his order, in the first instance, for the intellectual protest which they opposed to that sinister outbreak of Oriental philosophy in the heart of Western Christendom. Heresies, after all, have their place in the elucidation of religious truth. The fine flower of Christian scholarship is fertilized, you may say, by the decaying corpse of false doctrine. Or perhaps you may say with greater accuracy that Christian theology has at all times been a reaction to the assaults of heresy, just as a living organism will develop a protective shell there, where a hostile stimulus from without has made itself felt. When the germs of the Manichean heresy sought to find a lodgement in the healthy body of Christendom, the reaction of that healthy body was the great Dominican tradition of learning. It developed, we may well believe, beyond the saint's own hopes. Almost at the moment of his death another saint was being born to carry on his work: St. Thomas, destined like Eliseus to have a double portion of his Master's spirit. Who shall say what we owe to that providential impetus which the Manichean peril gave to Christian thought? Just as a healthy body may gain immunity from a disease by being inoculated with a mild form of it, so Christian thought was immunized against the false doctrines which threatened to destroy it, three centuries later, by its inoculation with the dying germs of Orientalism which it had encountered, and triumphed over, at Toulouse.
That intellectual protest we associate especially with the Dominican Order, because it is more individually, more characteristically theirs. The sons of St. Francis only entered the vineyard of scholarship as late-comers, by a happy deflection from their original design. But meanwhile, let us not forget that the coming of the Friars was a moral protest too; and in that moral protest the sons of St. Dominic from the first took, and were meant to take, their full part; Cherubim and Seraphim must hymn together the dazzling holiness of God. Those were times, it is sad to say it, in which the Church seemed to have lost the salt wherewith Christ had commissioned it to season the world. The great St. Bernard was dead; and the monastic orders, even at their best, were too remote from the world to affect powerfully the standard of Christian living. There were crying abuses; and, whereas the Albigenses, a purely destructive movement, deserve little of our sympathy, the poor Waldenses could at least claim that they had reason for the disaffection which made them antagonists of the Church. An intellectual heresy can be met by the weapons of the intellect; a moral protest, such as that of the Waldenses, can only be met by a rival moral protest within the Church itself. Just as the tide of the Reformation was stemmed, not merely by polemical writing and preaching, but by the great spiritual renewal which was accomplished throughout Europe by the saints of the sixteenth century, so three hundred years earlier it was not only the learning of the Friars, but their poverty, their chastity, the simplicity of their lives and manners, that saved Europe for the Faith.
Captive Flames: On Selected Saints and Christian Heroes
The well-known Catholic convert and apologist Ronald Knox was highly esteemed for both his gift for writing and preaching. This volume combines both skills as it is a collection of his homilies on his favorite saints, men and women of history who were "inflamed with the love of Christ."
In his always descriptive, profound and witty style, Knox shows how these heroes of history struggled with many of the same spiritual battles that modern believers encounter daily, and overcame them with faith, courage, character and virtue. These are the shining witnesses of the truth and charity we all seek to grasp and emulate.
In his vivid style, Ronald Knox tells the stories of a variety of these Christian stalwarts including St. Cecilia, St. George, St. Dominic, St. Albert the Great, St. Thomas More, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Philip Neri, St. Anselm, St. Joan of Arc, and many more.