Saturday, March 8, 2008

Novena to St. Patrick

The novena to St. Patrick begins today. Let us ask his intercession for the home-schooling debacle in California. For many years, the Irish people were compelled to find alternative ways of educating their children. They learned as a people that to be a Christian is to be a contradiction to the world. They learned this early on, as their often intense commitment to the monastic life bears witness.

Daniel Mitsui, an artist who writes as well as he draws, describes the permanent scars of the long struggle of the Church with her enemies.
Among certain Catholics, there is a sort of easy optimism regarding the near future of the Church; an expectation that if things ever get too bad, God will raise up some new saints and heroes and geniuses to make everything good again. It is an expectation that this will happen as a matter of course.

But the promise against the gates of hell was a promise of ultimate victory only, not of stability and comfort in our lifetimes. If the Church would survive, it would at times survive as it did in the Roman catacombs, the caves of Lebanon, the English recusancy, or the Goto Islands. It would at times survive despite staggering material defeat in desperate circumstances. Hope would be no virtue were it easy.


But we were never promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against Christian civilization. In Europe, Christian civilization was resurrected five times; there is no promise of a sixth. Christianity may very well need to survive without Christian civilization, as something brutally persecuted, internally conflicted, and societally irrelevant. This really is nothing more than the normal state of Christianity.