The Roots Of Heritage
by Mary Essberger


This dedicated and careful work of scholarship by Mary Essberger is a re-assessment of a book by the Jesuit Robert Parsons, entitled The Three Conversions of England from Payganism to Christian Religion AD1630. Her studies reinforce with 20th century knowledge the earliest records of those who brought the Christian Faith to these Islands within a decade of the crucifixion. They unveil fascinating details of some of the New Testament characters already known to us, as well as many others martyred for their Faith – setting us an example in this age of ease and comfort that we might do well to ponder.

One might ask: What has the past to do with the present?’ In our minds we say to ourselves, somewhat unconvincingly perhaps, that the past is interesting only to historians, politicians and economists.

How many of us take the time to reflect that not only last week’s or last year’s news but also what happened 2000 years ago, has actually produced and shaped what we know about ourselves, our families, our nation and our country?

From time to time philosophers remind us that a nation that does not know its history has no future.

There is another aspect of this matter that is in no sense academic. St Thomas Aquinas wrote cogently in support of a just war where a nation’s freedom is threatened. We can agree or disagree with him on this, but what is undeniable is that those men and women who sacrificed their lives to bear testimony to the truth of their Faith are those to whom we owe an incalculable debt. Such are often call saints or martyrs, but without their witness we would not today be part of a nation which at least in principle professes the Christian Faith.

To all such we are accountable, and responsible for knowing and honouring the record of their lives and work. We have inherited a wonderful and beautiful Earth that we seem hell-bent on destroying – and we alone today who hold this Christian Faith as our most cherished basis for living, are those to whom this torch of Light is given for the rescue of our fellow-men and all nations throughout the world.

Mary Essberger’s scholarly study of those Christians who came to these Islands in the earliest centuries, and her patient checking of the sources in early Christian documents, is a bridge between ourselves who seem to be groping in the dark and those who had seen Jesus, the Light of the world, in the flesh. Their lives were transformed, and they travelled across the world fired with a new dynamic they called Love – a love that their Master told them would change the world.

John, the beloved apostle, has recorded for all time Jesus’s definition of this kind of love – ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’.