Building Catholic Civilization: No Hopeless Mission!

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“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17)

To Be Catholic is to Combat for the Ideal of Christian Civilization

The dauntless and tireless priest — who for years slept five hours per day — better known as Pope St. Pius X clearly stated the militant Catholic’s mission:

“ ‘To restore all things in Christ’ includes not only what properly pertains to the divine mission of the Church, namely, leading souls to God, but also what We have already explained as flowing from that divine mission, namely, Christian civilization in each and every one of the elements composing it.

“Since We particularly dwell on this last part of the desired restoration, you clearly see, Venerable Brethren, the services rendered to the Church by those chosen bands of Catholics who aim to unite all their forces in combating anti-Christian civilization by every just and lawful means.

“They use every means in repairing the serious disorders caused by it. They seek to restore Jesus Christ to the family, the school and society by re-establishing the principle that human authority represents the authority of God.

“They take to heart the interests of the people, especially those of the working and agricultural classes, not only by inculcating in the hearts of everybody a true religious spirit (the only true fount of consolation among the troubles of this life) but also by endeavoring to dry their tears, to alleviate their sufferings, and to improve their economic condition by wise measures.

“They strive, in a word, to make public laws conformable to justice and amend or suppress those which are not so.

“Finally, they defend and support in a true Catholic spirit the rights of God in all things and the no less sacred rights of the Church. (Pope St. Pius X, Il Fermo Proposito, June 11, 1905)

The Spirit Of Catholic Civilization Builders

We Catholics do not isolate the truth of the lordship of Christ within our private thoughts; divorce between our religious convictions and our social and political life is not an option; schizophrenia is not something we foster.

We bring the light of Christ onto all dimensions of our Catholic existence – personal, family, educational, economic, and political – in order to build as an integral part of every Catholic’s mission a society with a Catholic soul.

We are under no illusions: the obstacles and the hostility to this ideal are massive and there is no nation in existence where this is likely to occur any time soon.

“In these grim times it may seem unreal to speak of the prospects of a new Christian order. But if Christianity is not suited to hard times, Christians have no right to speak at all. To build a Christian order we do not need vasat economic resources or exceptionally prosperous times. Such work is better done in the spirit of Nehemias and his companions who rebuilt the ruined walls of Jerusalem without resources and in constant danger, working with one hand and holding the sword in the other.” (Christopher Dawson, The Judgement of the Nations, London, 1943, p. 127)

Tough Times Require Tough Catholics: Holding to and Combating for the Catholic Ideal in the Face of Opposition

Nevertheless, though the ideal and its proponents are hopelessly outnumbered, the ideal stands and we as Catholics will stand with it.

Therefore we are resolved as Ignatians to begin the long march through the institutions of culture in order to bring to birth a Catholic culture and a Catholic civilization.

The following excerpt from “Hoping for a Hopeless Christendom” written by a young intellectual, Carl Wolk, a recent convert to Catholicism, insightfully describes the Catholic attitude to our combat for the ideal Catholic society.

“I have attempted to demonstrate that the Catholic is called, at least in some sense, to utopianism. He is called to hope in the hopeless….he is waging a quixotic, idealistic war.

“We need an image of the perfection we will never reach on earth if we are to strive towards it.  We need an image of the paragon of our own perfection in the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It is not enough for us to imitate Christ; we are so weak that we need to imitate imitations of Christ. And if we need saints in the spiritual life, we need tall towers and moats in the temporal life. If we need the Immaculate Heart for our soul, we need Christendom for our bodies. We need not only the image of the Heavenly Jerusalem before our eyes but also the earthly Rome. […]

“We don’t sin and change our aims.  Likewise, we don’t wreck Christian civilization and change our ideal.  Moreover, you cannot have Christ’s divinity without also having His humanity, and therefore, you cannot desire Christ without desiring also Christendom.

“They say it is impractical, and I say, ‘Good.  So is the cross’.  They say it is nearly impossible, and I say, ‘Indeed. And so is your greatest desire’. They say it is irrelevant, and Chesterton says, ‘It is not earth that judges fairyland, but fairyland that judges earth’. […]

“Likewise, the fact that Christendom lies in the tomb means only that, for now, the polity exists in heaven, and not on earth. The mystery of incarnation, however, makes its return always possible, for Christendom existed on earth by participation in the divine polity. If we believe in the Incarnation, then we believe that we may participate in it, not only in our souls, but in our families, culture, and civilization. […]

“Perhaps we will see something like Christendom resurrect before the end of days, but if we do not, we will surely see it on the end of days.  For when the veil is lifted and the Groom is revealed, the impractical, impossible, and irrelevant will be shining before our faces.  Those who hoped in reasonable causes will be disappointed, but those who hoped in the hopeless will rejoice with a happiness like unto which the God who knows and loves Himself is happy.

“If we do not pine for golden ages, how will we recognize the Golden Age when it comes? ‘If I have spoken to you earthly things, and you believe not; how will you believe, if I speak to you heavenly things?’ (John 3:12).” (Carl Wolk, “Hoping for a Hopeless Christendom”

Civilization-Building starts with the Civilization Builder: “A Catholic has only to be in order to change the world”

“A Christian has only to be in order to change the world in which he lives, but in that act of being there is contained all the mystery of the supernatural life.

“It is a function of the Church to sow the divine seed – to produce not merely good men but spiritual men – that is to say super-men’.

“The true Catholic must ignore or bypass the ‘unspiritual Catholic’ who must be recognized as ‘the most abject of all failures’.

“For he is neither good ‘for the Church nor for the world – in the words of the Gospel neither for the land nor for the dunghill. He is fit only to be trodden on’.” (Christopher Dawson, “The Idea of a Catholic Order” quoted in Bradley J. Birzer, Sanctifying the World, 2007, p. 58).

Building through the Power of the Supernatural Received Through the Sacraments

Only the supernatural power of sanctifying grace with its powers of faith, hope, and love can triumph over the “Axis of Evil”. This was how Catholics once triumphed over pagan Rome, barbarian northern Europe. As Dawson stated:

“The new paganism that we have to face today is more terrible than either of these in its cold inhumanity and its scientific exploitation of evil.

“But if we have faith in the power of the [Holy] Spirit we must believe that even these evils can be conquered. For the powers of the world, formidable as they appear, are blind powers which are working in the dark, and which derive their strength from negative and destructive forces.

“They are powerless against that Spirit who is the Lord and Giver of Life. And in the same way all their new and elaborate devices for the enslavement of the human mind are powerless against those higher powers of spiritual understanding and love which are the essential gifts of the Holy Spirit” (Christopher Dawson, The Judgement of the Nations, p. 154)

As Dawson remarked elsewhere, only the Christian’s lack of faith can defeat the divine purpose.

Building Civilization with Love – but Love is not identical to Niceness

Love for a Catholic and love for secularized modern man are not the same reality.

The love cherished by a Catholic is the power of the supernatural love he has been endowed with through the participation in the divine life that he received at baptism by which he is capable, in his own limited way as a creature, to love divinely. This means that he can love with God’s love.

Now God’s love, being perfect, is always necessarily directed to what is perfect, God Himself. Hence, the Catholic, loving with this supernatural power of divine love, necessarily must direct his love to loving God in all that he does.

His love of his fellow men and women is therefore love for them because of his love for God. This does not imply a defect of love but rather the fullness of love because love for God being perfect love requires loving divinely, as God loves, i.e. totally, sublimely, ardently, desiring what God desires for the reality that is loved, i.e. its fulfillment, perfection, only the very best.

However, such divine love often must be tough love — utterly irreconcilable with mere “niceness” and political correctness. As the gutsy Pope St. Pius X stated in Notre Charge Apostolique:

“We wish to draw your attention, Venerable Brethren, to this distortion of the Gospel and to the sacred character of Our Lord Jesus Christ, God and man, prevailing within the Sillon and elsewhere.

“As soon as the social question is being approached, it is the fashion in some quarters to first put aside the divinity of Jesus Christ, and then to mention only His unlimited clemency, His compassion for all human miseries, and His pressing exhortations to the love of our neighbor and to the brotherhood of men.

“True, Jesus has loved us with an immense, infinite love, and He came on earth to suffer and die so that, gathered around Him in justice and love, motivated by the same sentiments of mutual charity, all men might live in peace and happiness.

“But for the realization of this temporal and eternal happiness, He has laid down with supreme authority the condition that we must belong to His Flock, that we must accept His doctrine, that we must practice virtue, and that we must accept the teaching and guidance of Peter and his successors.

“Further, whilst Jesus was kind to sinners and to those who went astray, He did not respect their false ideas, however sincere they might have appeared. He loved them all, but He instructed them in order to convert them and save them.

“Whilst He called to Himself in order to comfort them, those who toiled and suffered, it was not to preach to them the jealousy of a chimerical equality.

“Whilst He lifted up the lowly, it was not to instill in them the sentiment of a dignity independent from, and rebellious against, the duty of obedience.

“Whilst His heart overflowed with gentleness for the souls of good-will, He could also arm Himself with holy indignation against the profaners of the House of God, against the wretched men who scandalized the little ones, against the authorities who crush the people with the weight of heavy burdens without putting out a hand to lift them.

“He was as strong as he was gentle.

“He reproved, threatened, chastised, knowing, and teaching us that fear is the beginning of wisdom, and that it is sometimes proper for a man to cut off an offending limb to save his body.

“Finally, He did not announce for future society the reign of an ideal happiness from which suffering would be banished; but, by His lessons and by His example, He traced the path of the happiness which is possible on earth and of the perfect happiness in heaven: the royal way of the Cross.

“These are teachings that it would be wrong to apply only to one’s personal life in order to win eternal salvation; these are eminently social teachings, and they show in Our Lord Jesus Christ something quite different from an inconsistent and impotent humanitarianism.” (Pope St. Pius X, Notre Charge Apostolique)