In the story In the Arms of Immortals, we witness the Black Death ravage a small town in Sicily. There is one 'banker' who acts as lord of the town, living in a castle away from the village. One church building with one priest. As a member of this town, you either belonged to the church by attending mass and confession or you did not. If not, you were decidedly marginalized, if not outright considered lost...damned.
When the plague hit, several things happened. First, the idea that the priest and church knew all and was authority over all was questioned. Scientists today can only speculate on what exactly the plague was. The idea that sin brought sick didn't fly any more. Children were stricken. No one was safe. While the priest implored on the sick to confess, people died. While the people implored on the priest to heal, people died.
I suppose this was the time that science and the church were considered to be enemies. This idea is so topsy turvy and offensive to me, because I believe that science is inseparable from God. I see science as the act of exploring and discovering Who God is by seeing what he has made. To know his creation, we understand the Maker a little more.
So I am in the boat with those Christian who believe that removing science from the authority of the 14th century church was not a rebellion against God. Ginger Garret writes that scientist studying to find the cure for our current killer diseases that they are searching for God and working within His will to end suffering, find the lost and make whole those who are broken (page 290). She says that are 'radical optimists about eh human condition.' (also page 290)
Further down this page I love. She points out that the plague may have caused a diminished authority of the church, but it did nothing to bruise Faith. In fact, the plague moved the church to be the living Body of Christ that He'd intended. No more did one need to enter a building to receive His mercies. No more was there a need for ritual or propriety or human authority. People were suffering and in need, so PEOPLE ministered in the name of Jesus. No need for ceremony, seminary or atmosphere.
The pope at this time authorized women to offer last rights (speaking the words that at the time were allowed only by priests) to those in need--to this dying world.
The last topic Ginger Garrett covers in the Epilogue is the idea of God's speaking during this time of need. In Biblical times we read about how God brought plagues as punishment for disobedience and hard hearts. It is all explained. God spoke and prophets spoke. She wonders in her pages why God is silent.
She shares that in writing this story she realized God has never been silent. She says on page 291 that
'in the time of the Black Death, the Church doors were thrown wide open, and the faithful were pushed out into the world. Women, who had no voice in the Church, were now encouraged to speak for God, and their message was one of deliverance, hope, and redemption. The Church was willing to die to itself, to suffer the pain of change and reconsiderations, that the suffering would not die alone. The Church fought darkness, and women took the front lines.'
Praise Him!! Amen!