“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb 11:13).
THE PILGRIM always seeks some place of joy, consolation, splendour, yet before he reaches his destination there’s an unsettledness, an uncomfortability. He’s a stranger. Though he may find places of rest along the road, he’s dependent on his host and so, like Christ, he has “nowhere to lay his head.” As he crosses foreign lands, he’s bound to feel out of place; in hostile territory he is rejected.
And so it is with the Christian. Just as our fathers in faith from the Old Testament, we are pilgrims on the earth in search of our heavenly home. So long as we eschew the values of the world, we are going to feel uncomfortable, out of place, even rejected. But, as Christ tells us, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me first” (John 15:18).
The feeling might not have been quite as pronounced in the West in years past, but, as our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has warned and as we’ve all encountered, those areas once known as Christendom are now facing an “eclipse of God,” a rapid secularization and enmity towards authentic faith.
The inevitable consequence is persecution. Of course, we’ve not yet reached an age of martyrs, but the lines of the culture war are being drawn more clearly.
Msgr. Charles Pope, a courageous and devout priest in the Archdiocese of Washington, outlined the five stages of persecution in a blog post on Sunday: 1) Stereotyping the targeted group; 2) Vilifying the targeted group for alleged crimes or misconduct; 3) Marginalizing the targeted group’s role in society; 4) Criminalizing the targeted group or its works; 5) Persecuting the targeted group outright with heavy fines and jail time. The good priest puts us at stage 4 and well on our way to stage 5.
Consider the HHS mandate in the U.S., which imposes hefty fines on religious employers who refuse to pay for their employees’ contraceptive coverage. Or in Canada, we have Ontario’s Bill 13 forcing Catholic schools to set up “gay-straight alliances”; in Quebec, there’s the mandatory ethics and religious culture course indoctrinating children in relativism from grades 1 to 11.
Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago, famously said a few years ago: “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”
The times we live in demand that we gird ourselves for spiritual battle. We must be prepared to protect our families from the spiritual forces seeking to invade our homes, placing ourselves under the mantle of Our Lady. With the culture around us in seeming collapse and the Church devastated by scandal, apostasy, and indifference, we need a strong domestic Church; in fact, we need strong communions of domestic Churches to support each other in handing on the Faith and our Catholic patrimony with full authenticity.
In this Year of Faith and in his entire project of the New Evangelization, the Holy Father is calling us to restore the culture to Christ. And this is precisely the purpose for which I’ve launched this blog. For, though the pilgrim looks ahead to some distant land of hope, what would the pilgrimage be if he did not make good and holy use of the journey, if he were not a beacon of light in the darkness of a hostile land, if he did not hope to make some little witness to those he meets on the road?
And this, we might say, is the final message of Cardinal George’s famous prophecy. As he wrote in October, the last line had been forgotten. After the bishop suffers martyrdom, he said, “his successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”
Whether or not we think God will grant us the time needed to fully restore Christian Culture in our society, we must labor with the belief that it can be done if God so wills it.
If we take the task of Christian Culture seriously, we have a long and arduous journey ahead, and I make no claims to be able to equip or even guide my fellow wayfarers. Consider this humble blog as the occasional musings of a fellow traveller. They are at least offered, I sincerely hope and pray, in the light of faith and reason and according to the perceived promptings of the Spirit.
So with that, I welcome you to Pilgrim’s Journal.
We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin. Amen.