The Great Unraveling

The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

Roger Cohen wrote an Op-ed piece in the New York Times that describes quite well what the world is going through right now.  Wars, rumors of war, the rumbles of far away conflicts that we could hear in our own backyards if only we were listening.  But most of us really aren’t listening are we?  Too many of us can’t seem to lift our eyes from our iPhones or Androids or Samsung Galaxies long enough to notice the ripples in the air.  But things are changing; the world is changing and we want desperately to sleep and not to be bothered by such things.

But of course, since he is writing in the New York Times, Mr. Cohen does not go into the root cause of the decay that we are living through.  Why does the sand shift under our feet so? Why does the earth itself quake under our feet?  One could make an argument, a well founded argument, about the tides of history and history’s Lord and how these things happen.  But doesn’t the answer really lie in a deeper and darker place in our heart?  We have completely rejected the law of God, the law that God gave us in his wisdom and his charity to teach us how to be his sons.  Our ancestors rejected the Church because they could no longer bear anyone having authority over them, they wanted to follow their own designs.  The generations following them rejected Jesus Christ: declaring Him to be a good guy, a wise philosopher, or a clever teacher of morals who employed witty sayings to bring in the people.  But to those generations, or at least to a large part of those generations in their inmost heart, He was not divine.  No He could never be divine.  Such things just didn’t happen, God was too distant for that and besides, these things just didn’t happen.  In the twentieth century what was once the Catholic world rejected God entirely; flocking to the atheistic ideologies of communism, capitalism, and fascism that all promised to make this world a wonderful and prosperous place because, after all there is nothing beyond this, right?  And in the twenty-first century we reject even the natural law: men marry men and women marry women because it makes everybody feel good and nobody is offended, nobody in this world at least.  We see men in black masks sawing off the heads of young men in orange jumpsuits and call them barbarians, safely ensconced behind the walls of a civilizations where mothers murder their own children in their own wombs while the fathers act as accessories to the crime because of their own indifference and a desire to remain adolescents for the whole scope of their lives.  Tell me who are the real barbarians?  Yes the world is failing and we all need to repent.  While this may not be the end of the world and the Son of Man may not be coming on the clouds anytime soon (though who can say?) we are definitely at the end of something.  We need to repent and we need to be converted and we need to pray.

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.  And join the Rosary Confraternity!

The strange fate of Ukraine

The Feast of Saint Augustine

Today’s Gospel (Mt. 24: 42-51) in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite comes at the time of year when we in the northern hemisphere are drunk and sleepy with summer.  The air has been warm and the trees have been green for a long time now; the fields are ripe for the harvest and the fruit is being plucked from the tree.  The days are growing shorter but no one really notices yet because the gloom of winter is long forgotten.  And the Liturgical calendar is roughly at the midpoint of the long march of the second section of Ordinary Time between the glory of Pentecost and the end of the year and the Advent renewal, so the Church gives us this warning:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Stay awake!  For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.  Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into.  So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect the Son of Man will come.

Who then is the faithful and prudent servant, whom the master has put in charge of his household to distribute to them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so.  Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property.  But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eat and drink with drunkards, the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the hypocrites where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

The Son of Man comes to us in many ways.  He will come in glory at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, He will come for each of us individually when our time on this earth runs out, and as the Lord of history He comes to judge cities, nations, and civilizations.  Sometimes these decay at a slow rate and just peter out but more often the Lord comes as a thief in the night when people are sleepy and/or drunk on their own prosperity.

Witness the strange fate of Ukraine.  A year ago the citizens of Donetsk, Luhansk, Mariupol, and the surrounding towns and villages would all probably go out drinking together on a Saturday night and not think a thing of it.  Today they are slaughtering each other.  These once prosperous European cities are now under siege, being shelled, and being emptied out.  They have become the pawn of world powers seeking to expand their influence in the brutal game of international politics.

As our Lord told Peter, James, and John before He entered Garden of Olives at Gethsemane: Vigilate, et orate!  Keep watch and pray, and above all stay awake because the world can change in a minute!  None of us know the hour or the day for us or for the world we live in.

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.  And join the Rosary Confraternity!

Thanks be to God for… Russia: a historical meditation

The Feast of Saint Peter Chrysologus

Russia has been in the news a lot lately, more so than in any time in the last two decades, and it caused me to think about the checkered history of that vast land.  It occurred to me at some point that Catholic Europe as we knew it in the second millennium, the great saints of western Europe Thomas Aquinas, Dominic, and Francis of Assisi and the nations and cultures of France, Germany, Italy, England, and Spain likely never would have come into being without Russia.

To understand this it is necessary to compare the situation of Europe in the first millennium after Christ versus what it experienced in the second.  At the time of the Incarnation and the beginning of the age of the Catholic Church the Roman Empire had just completed conquering the entire Mediterranean basin, a feat which has never been equaled before or since, and stretched from the British Isles to the Syrian desert.  However the lands in the north beyond the Rhine and the Danube were largely an undiscovered country.  In the third century of the Incarnation however the empire encountered the Goths, the first of the barbarian tribes that either were migrating or being pushed across the vast steppes north of the Black and Caspian Seas from Asia into Europe.  This was the beginning of eight centuries of continuous migration and invasion that would sap the strength of the Roman Empire and eventually destroy it.

Into this came the Catholic Church with its message of salvation attempting to build a new civilization on the ruins of the classical world.  In those first centuries after the fall of Rome she was continually harried on all sides however.  The Huns, the Slavs, the Avars, the Lombards all came in on the heels of the Goths and Vandals along the highways of the steppes north of the Black Sea and continued to hammer Catholic civilization.  There was very little political stability in these centuries with the borders of the post Roman barbarian kingdoms shifting constantly like amoebas and the entirety of Christian civilization was consistently under threat from the marauding tribes of Asia in the east and the newly expanding empire of Islam to the south that had shattered the old Mediterranean unity and the Vikings coming in from the north.

Around the year 1000 things began to change.  The strength of Islam waned due to internal conflict, the Vikings slowly were converted from paganism into full membership in the Catholic Church and new state was being formed north of the Black Sea that would forever close the door on the highway from Asia into Europe.  When Prince Vladimir accepted baptism and brought the new state of Kievan Rus with him that road was shut off.  New and organized and united political entities were formed that stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea and put up a permanent roadblock to any migration from Asia into Europe.  The only power to breach this roadblock was the Mongols in the 13th century but they did not destroy Russia, they only occupied it and eventually withered away.

Once this new space opened up a new situation came into being in Europe.  There was internecine and fratricidal warfare to be sure but there was no longer the constant threat of massive, culture destroying invasion from the east.  The Church recovered her footing and launched the Crusades to save Constantinople from the Turkish threat and to recapture the Holy Land for a time.  The nation of France came into being and rule from Paris became a fact of life for ever greater parts of what had been Roman Gaul.  The kingdoms of Castille and Aragon accelerated the work of the reconquista and began to drive Islam out of western Europe and form the modern nation of Spain.  There was a flowering of scholastic theology in Italy and a greater devotion to the religious life, and the first beginnings of the Rennaissance.  The High Middle Ages were in full swing and the foundations of the modern world, with all of its glories and defects, were being laid.  All thanks to the formation of a unified political entity that stretched from the Baltic to the Black Seas and cut off the highway of invasion from Asia.  Thanks be to God for Russia.

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the Muslim peoples.  And join the Rosary Confraternity!

Shock and Awe 11 years on: a meditation

A personal moment here: I have been musing on Iraq a lot lately and, forgive me, I am a Catholic and Catholics who choose to study and learn the Faith and its history have an annoying habit of developing very long memories.  Looking at this video of the ferocious start to the United States’ military campaign in Iraq almost a dozen years ago now along with all of the hoohah that went along with it and pondering the state of Iraq and the entire Middle East today I cannot help but recall Polybius’ rendering of Scipio Aemilianus’ words in what should have been his moment of supreme triumph as he watched Rome’s great enemy Carthage being destroyed on his own order:

 

Scipio, when he looked upon the city as it was utterly perishing and in the last throes of its complete destruction, is said to have shed tears and wept openly for his enemies. 2 After being wrapped in thought for long, and realizing that all cities, nations, and authorities must, like men, meet their doom; that this happened to Ilium, once a prosperous city, to the empires of Assyria, Media, and Persia, the greatest of their time, and to Macedonia itself, the brilliance of which was so recent, either deliberately or the verses escaping him, he said:

A day will come when sacred Troy shall perish,

And Priam and his people shall be slain.1

3 And when Polybius speaking with freedom to him, for he was his teacher, asked him what he meant by the words, they say that without any attempt at concealment he named his own country, for which he feared when he reflected on the fate of all things human. Polybius actually heard him and recalls it in his history.

All nations and all peoples come to ruin, most by their own hand in some form or another.  Only the Catholic Church will still remain at the end.  Aemilianus’ thoughts about Rome’s future proved accurate enough in time, and I do not think that the authors of the attack on Baghdad will have to wait nearly so many centuries to have the same fate visited on our cities as this:

ἔσσεται ἧμαρ ὅτ’ ἄν ποτ’ ὀλώλῃ Ἴλιος ἱρὴ
καὶ Πρίαμος καὶ λαὸς ἐῠμμελίω Πριάμοιο

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Antioch, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient status as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.

The Vexilla Regis in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The great ancient Latin hymn Vexilla Regis that exults in the Cross as the banner of Christ the King sung in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre by the Magnificat Custody Choir at the close of the prayer service conducted by the Holy Father Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew:

 

 

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.

The World is Changing Part 2

Sorry for the long absence.  Imagine sitting in your house in a quiet town on a nice warm day in late spring and watching this:

 

 

From the village of Volnovakha, 12 miles south of Donetsk in the east of Ukraine.  Six months ago a scene like that would have seemed absurd to those sitting there watching it in the east of Ukraine and even six weeks ago it would have seemed highly unlikely.  The world can change and it can happen fast; history is replete with examples of human beings going to bed in one world so to speak and waking up in another that operates by far different rules.  Do not be attached to this world and all of its charms.  Do not love this world.  And never fall into the trap of worshiping this world.  The world that we live in, our so called advanced Western societies, our presently ludicrous way of life; it could all be gone tomorrow and very likely will be gone some day in the not too distant future.  Viglate et orate!  Pray and keep watch!

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome and for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.

The World Is Changing

The world is changing.  Russia’s annexation of Crimea is the first time since 1945 that the armies of a major world power have crossed an international border and seized territory with the intent of keeping that territory for itself.  A revolution in world affairs has just occurred; the passing shadow of this world that we have known for the entire life span of most of the people reading these words has ended.  Many are still putting their heads in the sand about this fact but doubtless it will not be too many more days, weeks, or months (I very much doubt that it will be years) before that is no longer an option.  The Western world’s morality sunk into the toilet two generations ago and is now flushing itself into the sewer, so it would be ridiculous to think that they could keep up their geopolitical domination of the planet in their present moral state.  The world is changing so we must pray.  Pray the Rosary every day.

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome and for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.