Skip to main content
Catholic History Trek

Catholic History Trek

By Scott Schulze & Kevin Schmiesing
A podcast exploring the history of the Catholic Church, especially the historical background of contemporary Catholic practices and issues. Hosted by Kevin Schmiesing and Scott Schulze.
Where to listen
Google Podcasts Logo

Google Podcasts

Pocket Casts Logo

Pocket Casts

RadioPublic Logo


Spotify Logo


Currently playing episode

74. Was Pope John Paul II “Great?”

Catholic History Trek

76. Mission San Diego
Kevin recounts the founding of Mission San Diego — the first of the California missions — by St. Junipero Serra. (Cradles of Catholicism series, no. 7, California)
September 26, 2022
75. The Pope's Hat
Scott tracks the history of the pope's unique head topper, the Papal Tiara.
September 16, 2022
74. Was Pope John Paul II “Great?”
After the death of Pope John Paul II, many were calling for him to be known as "John Paul the Great". But was he?  Kevin and Scott (the Devil's Advocate) take an objective look at both the acclaims and criticisms of John Paul II’s papacy.
September 08, 2022
73. The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary
Historically the Angelus is prayed 3 times a day - 6am, noon, 6pm. But why? Scott explores the history of this prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary, including both the words that are prayed and the times that it is prayed. (“Catholic Prayers” series, no. 7, Angelus)
September 01, 2022
72. The Church on the French Prairie
Continuing his “Cradles of Catholicism” series, Kevin takes a look at Archbishop Francois Blanchet, St. Paul’s Church, and the early years of the Catholic faith in Oregon. ("Cradles of Catholicism” series, no. 6, Oregon)
August 25, 2022
71: A Catholic Media Giant
Its presence in the Catholic world may be enormous today, but like many other great enterprises, it started small. Scott and Kevin recount the story of EWTN and its feisty founder, Mother Angelica.
August 18, 2022
51: Killed at the Communion Rail: Fr. Leo Heinrichs
Scott covers the history of Fr Leo Heinrichs OFM, a 20th century martyr in America who was killed while celebrating the mass.
August 11, 2022
70: Two Popes and the Crossbow
Scott attempts to answer why Popes Urban II & Innocent II would have banned the crossbow in Medieval Europe.
August 09, 2022
69: America’s First Parish
Continuing his series on the beginnings of Catholicism in the states, Kevin traces the history of St. Augustine, Florida, and its historic  cathedral. (“Cradles of Catholicism” series, no. 5, Florida)
July 31, 2022
68: Hail Holy Queen
Who composed the Hail Holy Queen (Salve Regina)? Great question! There are 4 candidates who have been proposed throughout history. Scott explores all 4 of them, and the history of this well-known Marian prayer. (“Catholic Prayers” series, no. 6, Hail Holy Queen)
July 24, 2022
67: Cistercians
Do you prefer your observance strict or common? No matter, Kevin and Scott cover both as they travel back to the eleventh century to recount  the history of the monks and nuns of the Order of Cistercians.
July 17, 2022
66: Gunpowder and the Bulletproof Vest
In this "explosive" episode, Scott covers the Franciscan Friars who developed gunpowder and invented the firearm. And the Priest who invented the bulletproof vest.
July 11, 2022
65: Old St. Joseph’s Church, Philadelphia
Celebrate Independence Day with Catholic History Trek, as Kevin travels to a church right down the street from Independence Hall - Old St. Joseph’s  Church in Philadelphia - to recount the beginnings of Catholicism in the state of Pennsylvania. ("Cradles of Catholicism” series, no. 4, Pennsylvania)
July 03, 2022
64: Venerable Fulton Sheen
A towering intellect, an enthralling preacher, a media celebrity — and a mediocre bishop whose remains provoked an unseemly battle after his  death. Scott and Kevin explore the remarkable story of the man who’s been called “the most popular and socially influential American Catholic  of the 20th century.”
June 17, 2022
63: The Other Assassination Attempt on Pope John Paul II
On the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima in 1981 a Turkish gunman attempted to kill Pope John Paul II. One year later, a former priest also attempted to kill the pope. Scott covers this lesser known second assassination attempt.
June 06, 2022
62: Ohio’s First Parish: St. Joseph, Somerset
Kevin does some Ohio Church history, finding that the state’s oldest Catholic community isn’t as “off the beaten path” as it first seems. (“Cradles of Catholicism” series, no. 3, Ohio)
May 28, 2022
61: A Pilgrimage through Kevin’s Book
We’ve been mentioning it off and on since the beginning of our podcast, and now it’s finally here: A Catholic Pilgrimage through American History.  Scott’s probing questions lead Kevin to reflect on all the most important aspects of his new book, including the role of firearms in protecting Catholic churches.
May 17, 2022
60: The Sign of the Cross
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Seems easy enough. But is it? Left to Right, or Right to Left? Fingers opened or closed? Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost? Scott explores the history of the usage, hand movements, and words associated with the Sign of the Cross. (“Catholic Prayers” series, no. 5, Sign of the Cross)
May 07, 2022
59: Pope Gregory IX, the Castigater of Cats?
In this episode Scott treks thru the papacy of Gregory IX, who battled both heresy and an obstinate emperor. And investigates whether the pontiff condemned Europe’s cat population to death.
April 25, 2022
58: The Nine-Hour Episode
Well, the podcast only takes twenty-eight minutes, but Scott and Kevin outline the history of the nine "canonical hours” in the Divine Office — or Liturgy of the Hours — the ancient set of prayers that has been  recited daily by priests and religious during almost the entire history of the Church.
April 16, 2022
57: Catholic Australia: St Mary MacKillop & Radio Replies
Catholic History Trek finally treks to Australia, as Scott covers the country's first canonized saint, Mary of the Cross, and the history of the Catholic apologetics book, Radio Replies.
April 06, 2022
56: The Lord's Prayer
Scott covers the history of the Lord's Prayer, also known as the "Our Father", including St. Jerome's translation challenges and the extra line some Christians add to the end of the prayer. (“Catholic Prayers” series, no. 4, Lord’s Prayer)
March 30, 2022
55: The Puzzle of the Pope’s Stone
In this preview of his forthcoming book, Kevin tells the story of an anti-Catholic incident that temporarily brought to a halt the construction of one of America’s most recognizable landmarks.
March 23, 2022
54: Stephen Langton
Scott and Kevin describe the life and times of this consequential thirteenth-century cardinal and archbishop, who had a major impact on two of western civilization’s great documents: the Bible and the Magna Carta.
March 16, 2022
53: Hail Mary
Scott explores the history of this most popular of Marian prayers, the Hail Mary. (“Catholic Prayers” series, no. 3, Hail Mary)
March 05, 2022
52: Catholicism on the Bourbon Trail
Kevin continues his series of sneak peeks at chapters of his book by delving into the history of St. Thomas Church near Bardstown, the “cradle of Kentucky Catholicism." (“Cradles of Catholicism” series, no. 2, Kentucky)
February 25, 2022
50: More Marian Titles
In honor of an important anniversary, Scott and Kevin revisit an early podcast topic: Titles for Mary.  Listen in as they chat about Our Lady of Covadonga, Stella Maris, the Black Madonna — and the historical reliability of Indiana Jones.
February 11, 2022
49: The Catholic School
Marking Catholic Schools Week, Scott and Kevin tour the history of this venerable institution, working their way from the catechetical school of the early Church to the parochial school of the American church.
January 28, 2022
48: The Catholic Plymouth Rock
Kevin provides an update on the status of his book and offers a preview of one of the book’s chapters: St. Mary’s City, Maryland, the cradle of Catholicism in the Thirteen Colonies. (“Cradles of Catholicism” series, no. 1, Maryland)
January 15, 2022
47: Better than Hollywood: Mother Dolores Hart
Kevin tells the story of Dolores Hart, who traded the glitz and glamor of the Hollywood film industry for the quiet obscurity of a rural New England monastery.
January 01, 2022
46: The Norbertines
Scott explores the life of St Norbert, from self-absorbed cleric to holy penitent and bishop. Also covered are the religious order he founded, the Canons Regular of Premontre, commonly known as the Norbertines, who are celebrating their 900th anniversary in 2021.
December 29, 2021
45: The Beacons Are Lit! Parishes in the Past and Present
Scott and Kevin use the current reorganization of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati as a springboard to discuss the nature and history of the basic elements of the Church’s structure: parishes and dioceses.
December 16, 2021
44: Saint Gabriel Possenti and the Passionists
Saintly Sharpshooter? Potential patron saint of handguns? Scott explores the history of St Gabriel Possenti and the religious order, the Passionists, of whom he belonged.
December 06, 2021
43: Squanto and the First Thanksgiving
Although the Pilgrims were definitely not Catholic, there was at least one Catholic at the First Thanksgiving: the native guide and interpreter Squanto. Scott and Kevin examine the historical background of Thanksgiving, especially the Catholic side of the story.
November 23, 2021
42: The Swiss Guard
Scott and Kevin converse about “the pope’s army,” the 500-year old military unit that guards the gates of the Vatican. Looking for a deep  dive into Swiss Guard weaponry? Scott has it covered.
November 11, 2021
41: Dracula
Dracula: Blood sucking vampire? Impaler? Battler of Ottoman Turks? Catholic? Scott sorts out fact from fiction and uncovers the troubled history of Vlad of Wallachia, and how he became Dracula of popular culture.
October 31, 2021
40: The Papal States
The phrase “Italy invaded Rome” may sound nonsensical, but it happened in the 1870 — and the millennium-long existence of the papal states came to an end. Kevin and Scott survey the history of the pope’s territories over the course of twenty centuries, ending up at the world’s smallest nation, Vatican City.
October 22, 2021
39: Our Lady of Ransom
Aaaarrr, thar be pirates! For centuries, Muslim pirates enslaved millions of European Christians along the Mediterranean Sea. A 13th century apparition of the Blessed Virgin to a Dominican, a king, and nobleman prompted the establishment of a religious community to ransom these enslaved Christians.
October 10, 2021
38: The Franciscans
Scott and Kevin tell the story of St. Francis of Assisi and the founding and growth of one of the Church’s most prolific religious orders. They meet a lot of other saints along the way, as they travel through the centuries and across the world, from medieval China, to colonial Spanish America, to twentieth-century Poland.  Bonus material includes our hosts’ personal Franciscan connections and, after a long and painful absence from Catholic History Trek, a railroad reference.
October 02, 2021
37: The 355-Day Year
Almost 500 years ago, the month of October was shortened by ten days — by order of the pope. He was Gregory XIII, and we’ve been using the  “Gregorian" calendar ever since.
September 25, 2021
36: Food and Drink
Cappuccino and croissants, champagne and king cake, pierogis and Dom Perignon. Scott and Kevin take a toothsome trek through the entwined histories of Catholicism and some popular foods and beverages.
September 10, 2021
35: The Theatines
Kevin and Scott dive back into the sixteenth century to explore the creation and development of an obscure but influential religious order: the Clerics Regular, or Theatines. Scott reveals that brown isn’t the only option when it comes to scapulars.
August 26, 2021
34: Anima Christi
Soul of Christ, sanctify me. In this episode Scott explores the history of the Anima Christi prayer, often wrongly attributed to St Ignatius of Loyola. Along the way he discusses a 14-year-old bishop, anti-popes, and provides a surprise ending. (“Catholic Prayers” series, no. 2, Anima Christi)
August 14, 2021
33: The Mass
Recounting the history of the Catholic Eucharistic liturgy is a massive task, but Scott and Kevin dust off their missals and do their best to get it rite, trekking from Justin Martyr to Pius V to Paul VI and beyond.
August 07, 2021
32: Santo Anello: Mary's Wedding Ring
Is the Santo Anello, housed in Perugia, Italy the wedding ring given by St Joseph to the Blessed Virgin Mary? In this episode Scott treks thru thefts, unpopular paintings, and mystical visions to uncover this history of the Santo Anello, or "Holy Ring".
July 24, 2021
31: Candles
From the Easter Vigil to excommunication, you can find candles burning brightly throughout the history and liturgies of the Catholic Church. In this episode — composed of at least 51 percent beeswax — Scott and Kevin shed some light on the Church’s candle-using traditions.
July 15, 2021
30: Memento Mori: Blessed Giovanni Giovenale Ancina
“What you are, I once was. What I am, you will be.” Scott investigates Blessed Giovanni Giovenale Ancina and his connection to the peculiar tradition of saints who kept human skulls in the Catholic spiritual practice of Memento Mori. Along the way, St Philip Neri makes an appearance, as does a fresco that was lost for centuries.
July 12, 2021
29: The Deepest Bias? Anti-Catholicism in American History
From the Revolution to the Know Nothings, from Bible riots to Amy Coney Barrett, Scott and Kevin trace anti-Catholicism through its long and disreputable career as a major player in the history of the United  States.
July 03, 2021
28: Litanies
Kevin describes the historical background of these responsory prayers, “multifaceted gems” of Catholic spirituality.
June 25, 2021
27: The Pope's Armies
We know the pope as the Successor of Peter, the Supreme Pontiff, and the Holy Father. But as a Leader of Armies? In this episode Scott presents a history of various military units which have served under the papacy.
June 22, 2021
26: The Sacred Heart Devotion
The Sacred Heart of Jesus is everywhere in today’s Catholic world, but it wasn’t always so. Scott and Kevin explore the background and development of this popular devotion, including the pivotal role of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. And Scott outdoes himself with not one, but two, train references.
June 09, 2021
25: The Original Flagpole Sitters: Anchorites & Stylites
Scott seeks out the history of the elusive anchorites and stylites, the Christian ascetics who went to great extremes to achieve solitude and seek a closer union with God.
June 04, 2021
24: A Catholic Guy Gets a Holiday
The plot thickens as Scott and Kevin tread carefully through the explosive history of the conspiracy to assassinate King James I and its long lasting aftermath. The failed scheme of Guy Fawkes and his accomplices provoked anti-Catholic measures, implicated priests, and created a new English holiday.
May 26, 2021
23: Pontifical Universities
Kevin and Scott explicate the connection between the papacy and higher education, focusing on the development of a unique institution: the pontifical university.
May 13, 2021
22: When in Doubt, Call It a Church
Shrine, basilica, cathedral - what's the difference? Kevin goes deep into the terminological weeds to sort thru the various titles for places of worship. Put on your cappa magna and join the expedition into the history and customs of Catholic nomenclature.
May 07, 2021
21: Church Pews
Scott provides a "front row seat" to the history of seating in churches, and highlights a time when pews were rented.
May 04, 2021
20: 28th International Eucharistic Congress
Scott covers Eucharistic devotion in France which grew into the International Eucharistic Congresses. The 28th such congress, which drew nearly one million Eucharistic pilgrims to Chicago, Illinois, is highlighted.
April 24, 2021
19: The Jesuits
Kevin and Scott hit a few highlights in the history of one of the Church’s most illustrious religious orders, the Society of Jesus. In perhaps the oddest reference ever made on Catholic History Trek, Scott invokes the pop singer Toni Basil to introduce the Martyrs of Nagasaki.
April 14, 2021
18: American Civil War Chaplain: Fr William Corby
Kevin and Scott unveil the priest memorialized in Notre Dame's "Fair Catch Corby" statue.
March 30, 2021
17: The miraculous image of Colombia: Our Lady of Las Lajas
In a Colombian 2-for-1, Scott unveils a pair of miraculous Colombian images of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The reason-defying "Our Lady of Las Lajas" and the "Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquira" painting.
March 24, 2021
16: The Prodigious Pasteur
Scott and Kevin recall the life and work of Louis Pasteur, and find that Catholicism and science walk hand-in-hand through history.
March 18, 2021
15: From Cyprian to Coronavirus: Catholic Health Care
Did you know that Christianity gave the world its first hospitals? Kevin takes a quick tour of the history of Catholic care for the sick, spotting a lot of saints along the way.
March 14, 2021
14: Are the Minor Orders "Out of Order"?
Scott visits the historic minor orders of the Catholic Church, including recent changes by Pope Francis.
March 11, 2021
13: Church Music through the Ages
Starting with the Psalms and ending with the Polka Mass and covering a  lot of stuff in between, Kevin and Scott try to hit the most important notes in this survey of the history of liturgical music in the Catholic  Church. A bonus: Kevin sings bass with the Schmiesing Family Singers.
March 04, 2021
12: Chapel Cars
Choo-Choo! Here comes the church. Scott shares the history of Catholic chapel rail cars.
February 26, 2021
11: Popes against Kings
Scott and Kevin “go to Canossa” (among other places) to describe a few of the most prominent examples of popes and bishops taking on kings, queens, and emperors in defense of Catholic doctrine and Church  authority. We also learn that the 1569 Rising of the North was not led by girls.
February 20, 2021
10: The Catholic Novelist in the Protestant South: Flannery O’Connor
Kevin takes a tour through some Catholic literary history by summarizing the life and work of this important twentieth-century author. Along the way, he talks about wingless chickens.
February 13, 2021
9: Think Fast
Scott and Kevin offer much food for thought in this meaty episode on the  history of fasting and abstinence in the Church.  Among the delights in  this smorgasbord of Catholic custom: a detailed explanation of the lost  season of Septuagesima.
February 06, 2021
8: Saint Michael Prayer 2.0
In this episode, Scott explores a mystic vision and changes to the mass, and shows how they are related to a popular Catholic prayer devoted to Saint Michael the Archangel. (“Catholic Prayers” series, no. 1, St Michael)
January 28, 2021
7: Land of the Cross-Tipped Churches 2.0
This episode keeps Kevin and Scott close to home as they describe and  provide the historical backstory for the “Land of the Cross-Tipped  Churches,” a German Catholic enclave in rural western Ohio. (Version 2.0 updated 15 March 2021 with improved audio quality)
January 23, 2021
6: Saint Benedict Medal 2.0
Scott treks thru the history of St Benedict and the medal that bears his name. (This episode is titled 2.0 because the audio was updated in July 2022 to improve some quality issues which existed on our earliest episodes)
January 14, 2021
5: Battle of Vienna
Scott and Kevin recount the monumental 1683 battle between Christian and Muslim forces, including its background and  consequences. There are a couple of relevant musical clips along the  way, for which credit goes to the Swedish metal band Sabaton (“Winged Hussars”) and to Polish Eagle (“Bogurodzica”).
January 11, 2021
4: Marian Apparitions: Our Lady of Good Help 2.0
Scott presents the first and only Marian apparition site in the United States which has been approved by the Catholic Church. (This episode is titled 2.0 because the audio was updated in July 2022  to improve some quality issues which existed on our earliest episodes)
January 04, 2021
3: Camino and Canterbury 2.0
Scott and Kevin verbally trek to Spain and England to explore two of Christendom's most popular pilgrimage destinations. (This episode is titled 2.0 because the audio was updated in July 2022  to improve some quality issues which existed on our earliest episodes)
December 30, 2020
2: Ember Days 2.0
We summarize the development of the Church’s liturgical calendar and describe one traditional element in particular: Ember Days. (This episode is titled 2.0 because the audio was updated in July 2022  to improve some quality issues which existed on our earliest episodes)
December 19, 2020
1: Marian Titles 2.0
We highlight and explain the historical origins of a few of the many titles used by the Church and the Christian faithful for Mary, the mother of Jesus. (This episode is titled 2.0 because the audio was updated in June 2022 to improve some quality issues which existed on our earliest episodes)
December 19, 2020