uring the collapse of Classical civilization, “amid the ashes of the Roman Empire, Benedict, seeking first of all the kingdom of God, sowed, even without realizing it, the seed of a new civilization…” Pope Benedict XVI seems to recognize a similar need in our time, emphasized by his taking the name of the patron of Europe – St. Benedict – the founder of numerous monasteries which for centuries preserved the light of classical wisdom during the Dark Ages of the successive waves of barbarian invasions of Europe. It is our hope, at the Universities of Western Civilization, to imitate the inhabitants of those thousands (estimated by Ven. Cardinal Newman to be 40,000) Benedictine monasteries – who not only preserved that light, but also spread it as far and wide as their times allowed, ushering in, eventually, the Carolingian Renaissance – the premature birth of Western civilization, which struggled to survive and eventually succeeded in the Middle Ages.
The Carolingian Renaissance was relatively short-lived, being a vision of Charlemagne and Alcuin that was in advance of the culture of the time, still largely barbarian. But it was a precursor of the successful integration of Christianity and what was good and true in the ancient Classical civilizations of Greece and Rome, three centuries later that gave birth to Christendom in the early Middle Ages, following the Dark Ages dominated by the barbarian invasions of Europe.
Charlemagne and Alcuin
Western Civilization, also known as the civilization of the West, is a phrase commonly used following the political and theological division of Christendom in the Reformation period and the subsequent collapse of Christendom as a political unity which had lasted in some form until the end of WW I. Western civilization is thus rooted in the seed planted by Saint Benedict and his monks which began the successful integration of Christianity and Classical civilization, which first flowered at the Carolingian Renaissance. Hence the image of the two preeminent figures or leaders of the Carolingian Renaissance on the Universities of Western Civilization banner.
Just as restoring a damaged or partially dead bush or tree requires a pruning, sometimes cutting back to the roots - to rebuild our civilization, to restore its vitality, requires a return in some measure to its roots. The result with a pruned or cut-back bush or tree is a sort of rebirth, a renaissance. So with our civilization a return to its roots has the same results, as it did in the Renaissance period following the late Middle ages. Such a return to our roots is needed again and is a goal of the Universities of Western Civilization.