Past historical figures are not here to tell us why their questions mattered when they lived, much less to respond to new questions from our own time. Exploiting their absence, irresponsible scholarship can easily dismiss the past as inane in its time and useless in our own.
In his most recent book entitled The Education of a Historian: A Strange and Wonderful Story, American Jesuit historian John W. O’Malley makes it clear that such a conclusion should not be drawn from history. In his view, the good historian helps us understand why and how the past makes sense on its own terms.
Coming from O’Malley, that lesson is given to us by one of the most outstanding historians of our time. For many the mention of John O’Malley will bring to mind his most popular 1993 title, The First Jesuits, which has been translated into 12 languages, or his 2008 book, What Happened at Vatican II. Published just in time for the 50th anniversary of the announcement of the Council by Pope Saint John XXIII, the latter book captured global attention.