This has already been a “big day” for me. I’m just back from Mass, which I attended in person for the first time in a year. I wasn’t absent from the pews out of fear, or laziness, but because my parish was enforcing a mask rule and was not distributing the Eucharist. But the mask rule is history, and Eucharist distribution is back, and so am I.
I could have attended months before this. I’ve occasionally patronized a commercial enterprise that required masking…and of course, you can’t get the Holy Eucharist at Walgreen’s or Uncle Giuseppe’s. In all candor, I was repelled by the lack of courage exhibited by my pastor and my fellow parishioners. I’ve occasionally wondered whether that repulsion was itself a sin. We’re supposed to be charitable to the deprived, you know…and a deficit of courage is a more important deprivation than any material shortcoming.
Once again, have a little C. S. Lewis:
This, indeed, is probably one of the Enemy’s motives for creating a dangerous world—a world in which moral issues really come to the point. He sees as well as you do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky. [The Screwtape Letters]
At any rate, things are returning to normal at St. Louis de Montfort. There are still a few pews blocked off in the name of “social distancing,” and we’re discouraged from shaking hands after the Lord’s Prayer. But to be back among fellow believers was a true blessing, a sense of homecoming that eclipses the more conventional meaning of the word. There’s both strength to be had from it and comfort to be taken in it.
And the efforts of politicians and their hangers-on to keep us apart should give us quite a lot to think about.
In times of trial, one’s faith is supposed to be a source of strength and comfort. It’s always been so in the past – but this time around, the Kung Flu Panic was used as an excuse to deprive us of that resource. Why? With a slew of businesses being deemed “essential,” and therefore not to be closed under the draconian “lockdowns” that were imposed upon us, why were religious gatherings, which have sustained and succored believers through other epidemics of far greater danger, deemed “non-essential?”
I have my theories. I’m sure you can guess them without my needing to bludgeon you with them. But they’re less important than the spinelessness most American Christians have exhibited in the face of those ukases from the Omnipotent State. What about the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religious observance? Given the reinforcement provided to it by the Fourteenth Amendment, isn’t it absolute?
Apparently, the First Amendment took a backseat to the panic porn poured out so copiously by the media and their pet “medical authorities.” All those “authorities” have been proved wrong about virtually everything. Only now are we beginning to learn the extent of their arrogance, their duplicity, and their power-seeking. Yet no matter how gruesome the revelations grow, there’s little chance that they’ll ever be called to account for it. They helped the Omnipotent State to plumb just how far it could go in seizing the rights of Americans, and the Omnipotent State protects its own.
Still…why did millions of Christians, who are supposed to stand firm for their faith and their Church against any and all assaults from temporal sources, give in so meekly? Why did we not demand that our pastors stand firm? What has become of us?
I need to know, but I’m afraid to find out.
This morning’s Gospel reading from Mark was the Parable of the Mustard Seed: how the smallest of all seeds produces the largest of all plants. It was Jesus’s way of emphasizing the power of faith, firmly held and courageously championed. His Apostles took it to heart. What started with eleven men and a widow, all of them terrified and hiding in an “upstairs room,” is now the largest of all human associations: over two billion Christians worldwide.
Remember that for Christianity’s first three centuries, it was mortally risky to be a Christian. Yet many, hundreds at least, willingly surrendered their lives to the temporal authorities of the time rather than renounce their faith. Equal risk has pertained to Christians of other times and places, including today.
But today, American Christians will bend their knees and their necks to politicians’ arbitrary usurpations of power, even when that power is directed against the central practices of their faith. Out of fear of a flu-like virus with a 99.7% survival rate? Pull the other one; it’s got bells on.
I’m unhappy with what I’ve seen and heard. The world needs the Church. That’s right: the whole world, not just its professed allegiants. The proof lies in this: only in those places where faith in the church of Jesus Christ is still strong, and His people have the courage to practice their faith without fear, is there anything resembling human freedom. Only His simple, irrefutable rules for life make it worth living. The Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen could tell you. Indeed, he did, more than once.
Pray, Gentle Readers of whatever denomination. Find the courage your faith is supposed to give you. Live your faith openly and proudly. There’s never been a greater or more urgent need.