January 20th is a day of doom for most Americans. Regardless of political or cultural allegiance, fear—perhaps even spite and the spirit calling for vengeance—seems to be the driving force of the day. Masks of joy may be worn by some, but any soul with a conscience knows that we cannot ultimately inoculate against the truth. January 20th will come and go and leave a hollow feeling that raises more anxious questions than hopeful solutions. What’s new?
I was born as the Vietnam War moved to its fever pitch with Con Thien, followed by Khe Sahn, the Tet Offensive, and finally the iconic Walter Cronkite’s declaration that America’s struggle against evil in South-East Asia was moving fatally towards stalemate. Meanwhile, the sexual revolution, primed by the post-World War II martini “culture,” grooved into an opiated madness from which it has never awoken. The financial sector has always been forecast to collapse, even as Americans have worked harder so that could improve upon the past. Too often the result has been not the collapse of the economy, but a materially richer world in which everyone continues to work but starts each morning somehow more anxious over their burgeoning riches and their dwindling ability to sustain leisure. More fear. Are we surprised, then, at the renewed love affair with Marx?
My youth is marked by memories of turmoil: The Fall of Saigon, student unrest, liturgical upheaval and confusion, Presidential scandal followed by Presidential assassination attempts, punctuated by Presidential mediocrity, and concluding with more Presidential scandal. The media and “science” drove my generation to absolute hysteria over the coming nuclear holocaust, and, if that were somehow averted, the coming Ice Age (yes, that’s right: those who were bombarded with school “educational films” in the 1970s will recall that Man was disrupting the climate and ushering in a new Ice Age—to deny this was to deny “science”). And at every stage of my education, in every year, every educational expert quailed over the irrelevancy and imminent collapse of traditional education.
Part of my soul is in sorrow over what seems to be a new nadir in what my own memory recalls as a chronicle of global decline. That part of my soul, I believe, gazes upon America in 2021 and, with good reason (perhaps only with reason), concludes that human affairs have never been more foul, communities never closer to open internecine conflict, and individual hearts never more wounded.
And yet . . . in the quiet center of my soul there is another region: one which echoes with ancient songs, words that call for fidelity, hope, and courage.
Times are often dark, but for the Catholic—even or especially when surrounded by gloom—there is a simple, irresistible cause for joy. I wrote about this recently in the current issue of the St. Austin Review and invite you to consider the matter from a different vantage point. If you would like to join me in hopefulness, read on.
In Christo Rege,