Study Aids

Program Details and Recommended Study Resources: fact sheets, books, and videos.

Saints and Heroes

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Truths of Faith Holy Scriptures Saints & Heroes Catholic Culture Worship & Tradition

Saints and Heroes—Overview

The Saints and Heroes program covers Church History from the Apostolic Age to the 18th century with an emphasis on the missionary activity and cultural contributions of Christian heroes. The program assumes some prior knowledge of European history, and is one of the more challenging Catholic Knowledge divisions.

The Saints and Heroes program is organized chronologically, but some units have themes that span multiple time periods. "Moslems and Crusades", and "World Mission" units, for example, focus on conflicts and activity in regions outside of Western Europe that occurred over many centuries. And the cultural aspects of the Church's contributions to Western Civilization are so numerous they have been assigned to their own, Catholic Culture division.

Fr. Laux's Church History can be used as a primary reference for the Saints and Heroes program but most comprehensive Church histories cover similar material. However, many of the advanced questions draw on details found in saint biographies and periodic histories rather than survey texts. The intent of the program is to open up new vistas for understanding the role of the Church in Western history, rather than to focus only on a narrow outline so certain events and characters are presented in more detail than is typically found in textbooks.

The information pages for the Saints and Heroes program are particularly important, since they provided a summary of facts and explanations gleaned from a variety of sources.


Subdivisions and Study Aids

There are about 700 study questions associated with the Saints and Heroes program subdivided into nine units of about 80 questions. Links to study aids, homework assignments, and reading recommendations are provided for each subtopic.

Unit Topics Covered
1: Apostolic Age Apostles, Biblical Saints, Apostolic Fathers, Missionary Journeys (to 100 AD), etc.
2: Persecution and Triumph Persecution, Virgins, Martyrs, Early Heresies, Apologists, Christian Emperors (100-350), etc.
3: Late Roman Period Church Fathers, Heresies, Fall of the West, Eastern Church, Goths, Franks (350-600), etc.
4: Early Middle Ages Charlemagne, Franks, HRE, Normans, Saxons, Slavs, Magyars (600-1000), etc.
5: High Middle Ages Papacy and Empire, Investiture, Mendicants, Albigensians, Holy Women (1000-1350), etc.
6: Moslems and Crusaders Islam conquests, Schism, Crusades, Reconquista, Military Orders, Ottoman Turks, etc.
7: Renaissance and Revolt Avignon, Schism, Renaissance, Inquisition, Luther, Calvin, Henry VII (1350-1550), etc.
8: Catholic Reformation Catholic Reformers, Jesuits, Council of Trent, Carmelites, British Martyrs (1500-1650), etc.
9: World Missions Spanish Missions in Latin America, Jesuits in Chin, French Missions in Canada, etc.

Recommended Reading

No single textbook can cover the role of the Catholic Church in history in its true perspective. The history of the Church involves thousands of saints, and hundreds of kingdoms and principalities. It encompasses empire and anarchy, fidelity and treachery, scholarship and superstition, heroes and villains, and an eternal war between sacred truths and every form of heresy and perversion imaginable. The best textbook can only superficially treat the main events of Catholic history.

Nevertheless, our selection of reading recommendations includes several popular comprehensive Histories as well as saint biographies and episodic histories. The Questions/Answer material is derived mostly from textbook reading assignments but also from study sheets which include short biographies of well-known saints and other important historical characters. Because the unit's emphasizes on the lives of Christian heroes, a good saint dictionary is helpful.

The books recommended below are good history references, but there are many other histories are available and using more than one source is always helpful. Instead of just restricting oneself to the basics, reading book or watching videos that cover a specific topic in depth is always helpful. Recommendations for specific periods, however, are found on subtopic Study Aids pages.

Church History by Fr. Laux
This church history is written for a college prep high school audience and assumes a basic knowledge of European history. Starting at the dawn of the Roman Empire and proceeding in to the 20th century, Fr. Laux presents the story of the Church is a masterful and readable manner appealing to older students as well as adults.


Witness to the Faith by Seton
This introductory church history is written at an eighth grade level so it is accessible and covers most of the main topics of Christian history. The complete book covers the founding of the Church through the developments of the late twentieth century.


Bearing False Witness by Stark
In this persuasive book, Rodney Stark argues that some of our most firmly held ideas about history, especially those that paint the Catholic Church in a poor light, are in fact, fiction. Where do these wrongheaded ideas come from? And if our beliefs are wrong, what is the truth? In each chapter, Stark takes on a well-established anti-Catholic myth, gives a fascinating history it came to be conventional wisdom, and presents a startling picture of the real truth.


Lives of the Saints by Butler
Alban Butler was an 18th century English priest whose complete work included the histories of thousands of Catholic saints, written over a thirty-year period. This compilation features the stories of over 300 well-known saints, organized according to their feast days during the liturgical year.


Public Domain E-Books

Much of the material for the 'Saints and Heroes' program can be found the study sheets and in public domain history sources. The following digital resources include Church history texts and compendiums. Click on the book covers below to download an EPUB to a tablet or laptop, or Click on the book title to read online.

  • History of the Catholic Church by Fr. J. MacCaffrey
    This concise history of the Church follows the important developments from the foundation and growth of the Church during the Roman Empire, to its condition in nineteenth century Europe. All important heresies, movements, orders, and political developments are briefly given. Some background in the history of Western Civilization is an important prerequisite because of the cursory approach with which most topics are covered.
  • Compendium of Church History by Sisters of Notre Dame
    This book presents all of the major points of Church history covered in the five volume 'Leading Events of Church History' series in outline form. It provides an excellent review and summary of all major saints, popes, heresies, events, and councils.
  • Catechism of Church History by Fr. J. Oechtering
    This short summary of Church History is presented in Question and Answer, "Catechism" format. It covers most of the important characters and events from the Apostolic age to the end of the nineteenth century. Fathers and Doctors of the Church, Popes and Ecumenical Councils are also listed with a brief summary of what they are best known for.


Youtube Channels and Videos

The following Youtube and video selections were selected because they are relatively short, engaging, pertain to topics covered in the Saints and Heroes program. There are hundreds of interesting historical videos that relate to Catholic history, but some are biased in ways that are not helpful for Catholic students. Many of the best videos available ocus only on a single topic, rather than trying to cover an entire era.

Real Crusades History

The best overall Youtobe channel to cover the 'Moslems and Crusaders' unit is Real Crusades history at https://www.youtube.com/user/RealCrusadeHistory. The channel includes dozens of videos, including many short 5 minute informational vidoes on specific topics, such as

The videos listed above, and dozens more on the website cover the period most people associate with the crusades: that is, the series of religious wars between 1095 and 1295 that aimed at recovering the Holy lands from Islamic rule. But the 'Real Crusades History' youtube channel takes a much broader view of the crusades that corresponds perfectly with the 'Moslems and Crusaders' unit. That, is, it looks broadly at the series of wars encompasing over seven hundred years, that involved Islam invasions of Christian territories, and Christian reconquest. For example, these videos cover Islam related conflicts outside of the Middle East.

These are only a few of the dozens of short videos on Islam related topics. All are wonderfully narrated and illustrated with maps, portraits of heroes, and spectacular battle illustrations. They are entertaining as well as informative, and can be enjoyed by the whole family. Overoll one of the absolute best history sites on the internet.

Pre Reformation — A Bit of History

A good source of Historical Videos for the Renaissance and Revolt period is the A Bit of History youtube page. Most videos are between 8 and 15 minutes long, and cover topics related to the Reformation, or pre-Reformation period. The three most relevant to this unit are listed below but others are worthwhile: