Pardon the Provocation, but ‘Merry Christmas!’

Dear Friends and Benefactors,

A Christmas letter is conventionally an opportunity to express gratitude for the past, good cheer for the present, and hope for the future. This is a good convention, for these are three very Christian things. In the present circumstances of our Republic, the world, and the Church, the necessity is to supernaturalize these sentiments, especially the last two; for, in all candor, it is impossible to be cheery about the present or hopeful for the future without a hefty dose of grace. Humanly speaking, things are going very badly. And everyone knows it.

The homosexual agenda is winning one victory after another against marriage and the family. Legal broadsides against Catholic institutions are becoming more common and aggressive in the US and Canada, while Europe is becoming even further secularized. The “Arab Spring,” that promised a better life for many in North Africa and the Middle East, has delivered much by way of hardship for the baptized. We witness a Muslim resurgence, with militant Islamists replacing the old despots. Ask the Christians in Egypt, who suffer terribly. And Syria may soon go down the same path. His Beatitude,  Beshara Rai, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, has said that “Arab Winter” would more accurately describe the situation. Back on the home front, Pat Buchanan’s new book, Suicide of a Superpower asks the ominous question, “Will America survive to 2025?” Other voices of woe are multiplied across the political spectrum, even as our nation becomes increasingly polarized and angry.

Acknowledging our own powerlessness in the face of such tremendous evils, we must humbly rely on God, and all the means of obtaining His grace. This does not mean “do nothing.” What, then, are we to do? The duties of our state in life — those respectively of the cleric, religious, husband, father, wife, mother, student, etc. — while living a sacramental life enlivened by prayer and the practice of the virtues. A tall order! In truth, it demands that we at times do violence to ourselves to root out vices and implant virtues in their place: “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away” (Mt. 11:12).

Father Feeney noted the violence we meet on the liturgical calendar during Christmastide in that host of martyr-saints forming a brave honor guard around the Prince of Peace. The Holy Innocents (Dec. 28) shed their blood in His place because of Herod’s ambitious fear for his illegitimate crown. Saint Stephen (Dec. 26) was stoned by unbelieving Jews because of his bold testimony for Our Lord. The beloved Saint John (Dec. 27) was boiled in oil and, though he ended his apostolate in peace as an old man, he gets red vestments at Mass for his sufferings. Saint Thomas a Becket (Dec. 29) was murdered at the altar for defending the Church’s liberty against evil politics.

There is nothing new under the sun.

Supernaturally, we know that much good can come out of violence suffered for the sake of the Kingdom. As proof, we have the martyrs just mentioned. For a greater proof, we need look no further than the nearest Crucifix. In our own sufferings, born aright, we have the privilege of filling up what is wanting in that Cross of Christ, like Saint Paul, and like the martyrs.

Our present economic suffering could prove very valuable for America. In the nineteenth century, both Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos and Orestes Brownson speculated that America will not become Catholic as long as Americans are so prosperous. These two very different apostolic men, united in their desire for a Catholic America, agreed that our creature comforts are an obstacle to the nation’s conversion. Hilaire Belloc, writing in England, forecast that the Church would see a bright new day when persecution is once more a reality.

I believe these three great men are fundamentally saying the same thing.

We must look at it all in the light of divine and Catholic Faith. Since the merciful Nativity of Our Lord, the world has witnessed two constants: 1) the ebb and flow of man’s political constructions and 2) the growth and spread of God’s Church, like the mustard seed to which her Founder compared it.

When the Empire of the West fell in 476, the corpse of the great Imperium was ravaged by the barbarous invaders who, assisted by the sloth and moral turpitude of the Romans themselves, dealt the death blow to the glory of Rome. But the seed of the Gospel had been planted by the Apostles and was coming to slow fruition. The Fathers of the Church had given the world a body of Christian literature. The monasteries were preserving all this, along with the works of classical antiquity. More importantly, the monks were preserving and spreading the Faith, while keeping close contact with the font of all grace, the Holy Trinity, through the Church’s sacred liturgy. The barbarians themselves were converted and became apostles to the nations. Rome was resurrected as Catholic Europe. History even witnessed the return of the Empire, this time, the “Holy” as well as the “Roman” Empire.

Will the same happen here?

I cannot say; the answer is hidden in the secret counsels of the Most High. Nor can I answer the question Pat Buchanan puts to us on the cover of his book. What I can say is this: Fall or no fall of the present American Imperium, the only thing that will save our crumbling social order is the same Catholic Church that is necessary for the salvation of each one of us. We Catholics — priests, religious, laity — must wake up and see that the souls around us are perishing unless we pour on them the waters of grace and feed them the Bread of Life.

Thus the crucial importance of our Crusade. It is an apostolate for Catholic doctrine, for Catholic tradition, and for a Catholic America. Whatever the immediate future holds, our commitment to this noble cause must ever increase.

Gary Potter penned an article for our web site called “The Advent of a New Dark Age?” In it, he comments on the rise of “barbarism.” His points, which I would like to share with you, dovetail with my own considerations in this letter, and affirm our duty to build, preserve, and spread what we have here at Saint Benedict Center:

“[T]he guess in this corner is that what we’re seeing in America and England (and in Europe) could be the rise of the barbarians at merely its beginning. The police may be able to limit their depredations for the time being, but because the barbarians are not at the gates but already within the city, sterner measures imposed by a stronger force, like the military, could one day soon be needed. Of course there will be a corresponding further loss of individual liberty (further than has already been the case), and since everybody is held to be equal in a democracy, we’ll all feel that.

“When we do — when the constraints of civilization must be replaced by the rule of force, and not simply in the U.S. but also England and Europe — it will be a new Dark Age for the West with remaining ordinary decent folk huddled together around the homes of the rulers and the rich behind high walls and barricades.

“Let us pray that this time around, as before (and if the worst really comes to pass), there will be some monks here and there keeping alive the memory of past civilization and whose communities can serve once again as centers for its renewed spread.”

If these prospects seem dark, we can console ourselves with the truth that the Light of the World will soon come to us again at Christmas. In the living mysteries of the Mass, the liturgical year, and the sacramental rites, we Catholics have our real past, present, and future. The communion verse for the vigil of Christmas tells us that: “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed: and all flesh shall see the salvation of our God.” This reality is past (Christ’s birth in time), present (at Christmas, and at every Mass), and future (heavenly beatitude). What more do we need to enkindle in us gratitude, good cheer, and hope?

May the Infant King, with His Mother and Saint Joseph, bless you and your families this Christmastide!

God bless, and Mary keep you.