Calm Before the Storm

On Monday, August 21 several million Americans will witness a total eclipse of the sun. From ancient times solar eclipses, like comets, have been considered portents of singular events, either great or chilling, something like a celestial early warning system. I am not normally prone to make wild predictions based upon astronomical signs, but this year already seems to be filled with foreboding on many fronts, as though something great and terrible looms on the horizon. Being the 100th year of the Fatima apparitions in Portugal, many others have also expressed a sense of imminence, as though a significant spiritual storm is brewing the likes of which our generation has never seen. Like any premonition there is no real way to accurately predict what form that storm might take. But, as always, the best clues about the future often come from the past.

In my February 3 blog “Beware of ’17” I noted that this year marks the onset of that fateful revolution by Luther against the Church in 1517 followed 200 years later by the establishment of the Free-Masonry (1717). Finally, in 1917, the world witnessed not only the miracle at Fatima but a terrible revolution in Russia whose ill effects linger even today for the billions who continue to struggle under its baneful effects. Communism has now marked a full century of brutal, totalitarian oppression of the human spirit in places as diverse as China, North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela. It seems that the celebration of Communism’s supposed demise 25 years ago was somewhat pre-mature.

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But it is not only despotic regimes in Asia, Africa, and Latin America that perpetuate the bitter fruit of that 1917 socialist revolution. Western culture has also been ravaged by its twin, that brand of militant secularism, popularized in the West as the “sexual revolution.”  Fifty years ago, in 1967, this alternate revolution was busy expressing itself openly in places like Haight-Ashbury and Woodstock as a rejection of “middle class morality.” One of the more devastating offshoots of the new subjective morality manifested itself right here in Colorado which became the first state, in 1967, to legalize abortion. This rueful legislation quickly opened the floodgates to virtual abortion on demand in the entire country.

Of course the progressive “brain trust” behind the sexual revolution was fully aware that easy abortion would become an essential ingredient in expanding and sustaining their secular agenda. Contraception, the primary catalyst of that sexual revolution, depended upon abortion as a needful backstop. But despite the early promises of sexual liberation, free license does not lead people to real freedom but only to increasing dependency ─ on whomever is granting the license (usually government).

By the time that Pope Paul VI issued the Church’s counter-position the following year (Humanae Vitae, 1968), his voice was drowned out by an ocean of protest, mostly coming from clergy and laymen within the ranks of the Church itself. In fact, the battle was lost before the Church had even become fully engaged. From that time until now the spiritual authority of the Church in the West has been largely rejected in the very civil societies that had once looked to her for guidance.

In consequence, a militant secularism has seized the initiative in other areas of society as well, gaining so much power and influence that, today, even tenured professors at elite liberal institutions of higher education are increasingly afraid to express any view that runs counter to current standards of “political correctness.” How can any true freedom survive in such a chilling intellectual climate? It is as though the demise of traditional morality had created a vacuum which has been filled by the most oppressive form coercion ~ the enslavement of the mind, not merely the body. That is the common ground between Progressive Liberalism and Communism. It is not enough to control the physical man. Both seek to control not only his social and economic life but his deepest thoughts and beliefs as well. In an earlier time that sort of absolutism was called “Puritanism.” Today it is defended as the only solution to “racism,” “sexism,” or “fill-in-the-blank ism.” Apparently our American progressives learned little from the dismal failure of Prohibition, except perhaps how to package the product more palatably.

While it may be difficult to digest and synthesize the mountains of data pouring out through media and the internet, one trend is increasingly clear. We are witnessing a new resurgence of despotism not only among nations but also in institutions at every level of society. It seems as though the volatility endemic to the Middle East is now infecting every nook and cranny of the globe. And yet on the ground the normal pace of life seems to progress with numbing regularity. People go to work, walk the dog, drop the kids off at school. We like to feel “safe” in our little neighborhoods and private corners of the world, much as Neville Chamberlain sincerely believed back in 1938 that one simply needs to appease the dragon by feeding it now and then. After signing away half of Czechoslovakia to Hitler, Chamberlain proudly announced that, “we have bought peace in our time.” It was a short-lived lull before the storm. A year later Hitler’s forces savagely attacked Poland, shattering any hope of peace.

I cannot help but sense that we are today in a very similar predicament except that it is not just one mad-man but a hundred who are waiting to pounce. It is not rogue states like Iran or North Korea, nor even terrorist cells in Syria that exclusively threaten the “peace in our time.” Domestic radicalism has turned this once Christian nation into a veritable bastion of militant secularism which threatens true religious liberty and freedom of expression or conscience for any person who dares to cross the political correctness juggernaut. The progressive thought police increasingly dominate the courtroom, the classroom, and even the workplace.

More disturbingly, this secular “groupthink” mentality seems to have penetrated the higher echelons of the Church itself, to wit: A recent article in the prestigious journal Civilta Cattolica, apparently cleared by Vatican gatekeepers, in which editor-in-chief  Fr. Antonio Spadaro, SJ and Fr. Marcelo Figueroa accuse conservative Catholics and Evangelical Protestants in the United States of conspiring in an “ecumenism of hate.” (See George Weigel’s column, “Questions of Competence”) Our ostensible sin is a belief in objective moral norms which play out as irredeemably hateful attempts to impose Christian values on “oppressed minorities” through political action. (What a quaint notion that any democracy should be representative of majority values!)  Participation in this political process does not render one democratic but rather “hateful” in Fr. Spadaro’s lexicon who attempts to show that such Christians are working in league to create a “theocratic state.” Of course, the accusation is lobbed from the safety of his own Vatican sanctioned bully pulpit, ironically a part of the world’s most visible “theocratic state.”

This one small example is only meant to illustrate how firmly secularism has become entrenched, even within the battlements of the Church itself. Militant secularism now expects to receive homage even from high ranking clergymen it would seem. Its infiltration into Church offices has been working so well that even faithful Christians dare not oppose its insidious power. Apparently Jesus now expects us all to think just like the world or else be labeled as “haters” according to this new school of thought. The gathering storm clouds have gotten very dark indeed.

When the inevitable storm breaks we have no way to know what form it might take. But that it will break, and very soon, should be a foregone conclusion by now. One thing is certain. We are facing a spiritual struggle of epic dimensions, regardless of its material manifestations. The only way to prepare is not by hoarding food or guns but to be spiritually prepared. That means to deepen one’s relationship with God through vigilant prayer and sacrifice. None of us are strong enough to stand up alone against the infernal powers of Satan. For as St. Peter warns us, “Be sober and vigilant. Your enemy the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1Pet. 5:8)

Our first line of defense against whatever attack is coming must be the sacraments and the rosary. Our Lady’s words at Fatima 100 years ago are even more relevant and pressing than they were in 1917. “Do penance and pray the rosary for the conversion of sinners.” (Perhaps we could also pray for the conversion of certain Jesuits.) This lull before the storm is not an invitation to indulge in anxiety but to prayer and a supreme confidence in the power of God to overcome every evil. To paraphrase that great woman of faith Corrie ten Boom, the lone family member to survive a German concentration camp: We cannot know for sure what the future may bring. We can know for sure that God will be there when it arrives.

No matter what may come our way, God has sent his angels into the world to guide and protect us from the malice of the Evil One. That is why it is appropriate to conclude every rosary (and even after Mass) with the powerful prayer given to the Church by Pope Leo XIII.

St. Michael the archangel, defend us in battle,
Be our protector against the wiles and snares of the devil.
Do thou rebuke him we humbly pray,
And by the divine power of God cast into hell Satan
And all the evil spirits who prowl about the world
Seeking the ruin of souls.   Amen.

 

Francis J. Pierson  +a.m.d.g.

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