It’s a beautiful autumn day in New England, a clear, bright, warm (but not too warm) day such as this region has produced every October since before the first humans wandered across the Bering Land Bridge and meandered south. It was snowing when I started this blog nine months (and 111 posts) ago. I had mostly let my old Blogger blogs lapse because of changes in my life that made the pursuit of bloggery difficult, but in January I felt driven to pick up the, um, not pen . . . hmm, what does one pick up when starting a blog? Anyway, I felt driven to resume the practice of bloggery. Nine months, of course, is the length of time (more or less) that most of us spend in the womb, so this seems like a good enough time to look back and evaluate how things have developed.
Back in January there was much lamentation in the land to the effect that 2020 was The Worst Year Ever. I wasn’t quite sure it was the “worst year ever”, or even one of the worst, at least if we considered actual events: nothing came even close to the horrors or the war years 1914-1918 and 1939-1945; the coronavirus “pandemic” couldn’t hold a candle to the death and suffering caused by the Spanish Flu in 1918-1921, and all that was just considering the preceding century: every preceding century can boast years far worse than 2020.
No, the events of 2020 were not evil on an epochal scale . . . in and of themselves. At the same time, history had seemed to take an unsettling and ominous turn in the previous twelve months: the year was dreadful not so much for what actually happened as for revealing the rot that had been steadily growing beneath the surface, and for raising the specter of much worse to come. The rush to surrender freedoms both political and (even worse) religious at the onset of the nasty-but-not-chart-topping COVID 19 virus; the mayhem in our cities throughout the summer with the tacit, and sometimes not so tacit, indulgence of government officials and influential social entities; the sheer juvenile hysteria of much of the political class, and the shambles of a national election that at least appeared to be fraught with all manner of fraud and dishonesty: all these served to undermine whatever faith we might have had in the institutions that protect our lives, property, and freedoms.
Most frightening of all, perhaps, was the unmasking of the immense power wielded by large electronic communications behemoths, no longer restrained by any appearance of restraint or sense of fairness. How could we hope to reason freely with one another, as Americans have been wont to do, when giants like as Amazon, Twitter, and Google could shut out a major news organization such as the New York Post, shut down a rival social network as they did to Parler, and shut up even Donald J. Trump when he was still President of the United States? The dystopian nightmares in Brave New World and 1984 suddenly look less distant.
I determined that I needed to do something, however small, to counter the societal shamble toward Dystopia. In part, I would stop Feeding The Beast: I immediately dropped Twitter and Facebook, and committed myself to using Google as little as possible. I decided that, rather than reviving one of my old Google-owned Blogger blogs, I would use a different free platform that was not affiliated with any of the largest social media monsters (I eventually settled on WordPress.com). I had always seen my blogs as a way of preserving and sharing the treasures created by Christian culture over the millennia, so I would include, if possible, a sacred music post every Monday. I would not post any music from Google-owned YouTube, however. I have managed to find most of the musical clips I wanted on Vimeo, and in the case of those selections that weren’t already there, I’ve made my own videos and posted them to a free Vimeo account. I have also made a point of including as much sacred art as possible, always including the name of the work and the artist.
So far I’ve managed to keep it going, although in the last month or so my schedule has prevented me from maintaining my original goal of at least three posts a week (one music, one re-run from my old blogs, one all-new piece). Over that time, things out in The World have continued to become ever more interesting. The new U.S. administration has shown a taste for totalitarianism not seen at least since the Woodrow Wilson administration (if even then). Just one example: we now have dozens of ordinary citizens imprisoned indefinitely for the crime of trespassing on federal property in support of the wrong candidate. It is also now clear that leftist totalitarians here and around the world have been exploiting COVID as a handy excuse to seize and exercise ever greater power. The large media entities have enthusiastically joined in that effort, vigorously shutting down anyone who disagrees with the “official” narrative or who offers factual information about proven safe and effective COVID treatments other than the experimental gene therapy that the Powers That Be have decided to impose on everyone, including upon those who have already acquired natural immunity. The resulting Medico-Fascist regime differs little, at least in effect, from Mussolini’s ideal of “Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state”, except for the lack of a Duce at its head (the sad, confused old man in the White House hardly fits the bill).
The fashion for reactionary progressive totalitarianism has affected the Church as well, as we saw in last summer’s crackdown on the Traditional Latin Mass. In some places (particularly Latin America) some bishops have gone even further than the dictates of Traditionis Custodes to attack religious orders which use more traditional liturgy and any practices among the faithful (such as kneeling for Holy Communion) that so much as suggest that the Church existed before 1970.
Good Old Days or Bad Old Days? The Traditional Latin Mass
“The Mass of St. John Matha”
by Juan Carreño de Miranda, 1666
That all sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? Ah, but there’s good news, and the good news for Catholic Christians is, well, the Good News (εὐαγγέλιον in Greek, god spell in Old English, from which we get our word Gospel). Scripture advises us:
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no help.
When his breath departs he returns to his earth; on that very day his plans perish.
Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God
(psalm 146: 3-5)
No human being, and no human institution, will last: all will return to earth. “The Lord,” on the other hand, “will reign forever” (psalm 146: 10). We’re kidding ourselves, of course, if we think that means comfort and safety here and now. “My kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus says to Pontius Pilate (John 18:36). Our journey to that kingdom lies along a via dolorosa in this one: we can depend upon the powers of this world to save us no more than Jesus could rely on Pilate to save him from Calvary.
Now, while our Kingdom is in the next world, that doesn’t mean we can just let the powers of this world roll over us: we need to fight to preserve the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. At the same time, we should bear in mind that victory on the eternal plane often looks like defeat here and now: how do you think things looked to The World on that first Good Friday? Who really won?
So let’s keep fighting the Good Fight: that has been a theme of this blog since its inception. Our Hope, however, should be in the One who rose on Easter Sunday: Spes in Domino est.
Featured image top of page: “The Judgment of King Solomon” by Nicholas Poussin, 1649