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How many times this month have you heard, said, or thought: “It’s hopeless. Nothing will change—unless it’s for the worse. We’re doomed.” There are many variations of this thought, but I think all recognize it.
As I write this from America, we’re a few days away from one of the most uncivil elections in living memory. Explosives were sent to the news media and politicians. A Republican campaign office was shot at. We’re still in shock from a massacre at a synagogue. And it seems that daily there’s another diocesan disaster to read about.
Some readers may be thinking, “Didn’t Father write about despair six months ago? Does he think we are due for another dose?” (“Is now a good time to give up on God?”) I’m writing this not as an occasional cathartic exercise in gloom; rather, I want to offer as clear a view of our state as possible, in the hopes that it will move all (starting with myself!) to pray and work as we ought—which is to say, as if everything depended upon our praying and working as we ought.
Before his death in 1970, historian Christopher Dawson was sounding the alarm on behalf of civilization: “Christianity is the soul of Western civilization, and when the soul is gone the body putrefies. What is at stake is not the external profession of Christianity, but the inner bond which holds society together, which links man to man and the order of state to the order of nature.”
Who now can look at civilization and conclude, “Our spiritual health is fine—just look at how we live!”?
If Dawson made an early diagnosis, scholar John Senior confirmed it in 1983: “We are in the age of darkness … The modern world and the Church deserve the punishment that God is raining down on us.”
Could it be said that we are like a patient being told that our cancer is terminal, that there is nothing left for us but prayer and the mercy of God?
In recent correspondence a friend wrote: “It is over. Now the reign of Lucifer will endure until the Lord, in His mercy, shorten it for us. There is nothing more important from this point than to consecrate our lives to prayer. We are seeing what ‘our hands’ can make, with the best of intentions: Hell on earth. Shouldn’t we finally and humbly offer ourselves and the world back to the Father, really accepting redemption effected by His Son? Prayer is active engagement and participation in this battle which (although we know it has already been won by Christ) will exact numerous casualties …”
Why Are 2 Different Popes Telling Us to Read “Lord of the World”?
What if we were convinced that our ills—moral, social, civil, spiritual, ecclesial—were beyond human remedy? What if we were convinced that even just one more try at trying to fix it all ourselves could only make everything much, much worse? If we were so convinced, what then? How would we pray? And how would we act?
I think that if we were truly convinced of our desperate state, we would run first to Our Lady, and ask her to place us with her Divine Son. We would don our scapulars and grab our rosaries, study the messages of Fatima carefully, and then stand with Our Lady at the feet of Christ crucified.
If we were truly convinced of our own desperate state, we would assist at Mass as often as possible, come to Eucharistic adoration whenever we could, pray the Stations of the Cross, knowing full well that we have no hope apart from Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary. We would go to confession, do penance, offer reparation for our sins and the sins of the world, and then go to confession again.
If we were truly convinced of our desperate state, we would immerse ourselves in Scripture, noting how repentant sinners cried out to our Heavenly Father. Then we would do the same.
If we were truly convinced of our desperate state, we would treat others as we wished to be treated, forgive as we wish to be forgiven, and give as a gift all we have received as a gift (which is to say, everything).
Throughout 2018 I’ve been asked, “Father, do you think we are in the last days? The end times?” I don’t know. But I do know that this world cannot last forever, and I do believe that living and dying unrepentant can’t end well for anyone.
Thursday starts November—the Month of the Dead—a good time to consider “the Four Last Things.” Let’s learn to pray and act as people born to die and created for eternity.
When I write next, I will begin a series of reflections on November as the Month of the Dead. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.
If you need hope, foster your “Christian memory,” says Francis