When thinking about how we got here, it helps to have perspective.
The Secret Catholic Insider Guide to Christmas reviews history. A hundred years ago, Christmas was submerged in the trenches of the ‘War to End All Wars.’ Here in Germany, the troop trains departed with light-hearted graffiti scrawled on their sides: “On our way to a holiday in Paris.” In England, the Catholic apologist Hilaire Belloc was busy exhorting the crowds; the war would be won in weeks, he assured them.
They were all wrong. Instead, in the ferocious fighting in the trenches of France, the blood of a generation was spent. Just this month, England paid tribute to her World War I dead – 888,000 people – with a cascade of blood-red poppies lapping up around the moat of the Tower.
Triggered by the domino effect of a network of commitments made by Europe’s inter-related aristocracy, World War I had massive effects. It set off a backlash of class war in the British Isles, as two generations of women lost sweethearts and sons. On the Continent, a fatherless generation of Germans became the perfect raw material for Hitler’s minions.
But the end of that War laid down the conditions for more horror in 1939. This time, Hitler’s European conflict sucked the rest of the world into its maelstrom as horrific battles erupted on land and sea, on faraway continents and foreign seas. In the Far East, Japan’s merciless march would only be stopped by an equally-merciless atomic bomb strike on its two cities with substantial Catholic populations – Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Millions died or were maimed. Civilizations foundered. By the end, as the capitals of old Christendom lay in flames, an Iron Curtain of totalitarianism descended on most of Asia and large parts of Europe and Latin America. The globe became a chessboard of terror, with every local conflict a proxy war for the superpowers.
This is the world that created the present generations. One hundred years later, the cultural aftermath of all this chaos is with us still in ISIS and all it stands for, facing a wavering West with an uncertain grasp of what it actually is.
Because through the long lens of history, we are old Christendom, like it or not.
And the bloody awful truth is that these 20th century wars –hot and cold – called everything that our great-grandparents believed into question. Beauty, tradition, authority, family, religion, duty – all these were virtues for the generations that preceded us.
In the years after World War II, the ‘counter-culture’ has attacked all of this, starting with the avant-garde and spreading like Ebola through the popular culture at the speed of the new jet planes and television programs that girdled the world. Today, it’s all bandwidth and delivery systems in a globalized economy which supports super-wealthy Western elites and their media proponents who advance a consumerist agenda.
So, how do you ‘facilitate’ more consumers with more money to spend on the stuff you’re peddling? Make them think they want whatever you’re peddling more than they need faith and family. Everything else flows from there.
It’s an agenda fueled by both ignorance of and loathing for all everything our great-grandparents treasured. And in a deep irony that Chesterton’s famous demon Slashreap would surely appreciate, this holiday season they will unfailingly package these almost-lost, longed-for virtues – knowing their timeless appeal – and sell them to us as sentimental Christmas schlock.
So, what weapon do we have against all of this? There is only our Faith. Just like our great-grandparents had — as you will see in ‘The Secret Catholic Insider Guide to Christmas.’
“Was ever another command so obeyed? For century after century, spreading slowly to every continent and country and among every race on earth, this action has been done, in every conceivable human circumstance, for every conceivable human need from infancy and before it to extreme old age and after it, from the pinnacle of earthly greatness to the refuge of fugitives in the caves and dens of the earth. Men have found no better thing than this to do for kings at their crowning and for criminals going to the scaffold; for armies in triumph or for a bride and bridegroom in a little country church; for the proclamation of a dogma or for a good crop of wheat; for the wisdom of the Parliament of a mighty nation or for a sick old woman afraid to die; for a schoolboy sitting an examination or for Columbus setting out to discover America; for the famine of whole provinces or for the soul of a dead lover; in thankfulness because my father did not die of pneumonia; for a village headman much tempted to return to fetich because the yams had failed; because the Turk was at the gates of Vienna; for the repentance of Margaret; for the settlement of a strike; for a son for a barren woman; for Captain so-and-so wounded and prisoner of war; while the lions roared in the nearby amphitheatre; on the beach at Dunkirk; while the hiss of scythes in the thick June grass came faintly through the windows of the church; tremulously, by an old monk on the fiftieth anniversary of his vows; furtively, by an exiled bishop who had hewn timber all day in a prison camp near Murmansk; gorgeously, for the canonisation of S. Joan of Arc—one could fill many pages with the reasons why men have done this, and not tell a hundredth part of them. And best of all, week by week and month by month, on a hundred thousand successive Sundays, faithfully, unfailingly, across all the parishes of Christendom, the pastors have done this just to make the plebs sancta Dei—the holy common people of God.”*
Pass it on.
A holy Advent and a merry Christmas,
Beverly De Soto Stevens
Editor, Regina Magazine
*From The Shape of the Liturgy, Dom Gregory Dix, O.S.B.