As the local churches gradually open again, one is reminded of the persistence of Benjamin Stoddert Ewell, president of the College of William and Mary, ringing the school bell during seven years of closure after the Civil War. It is yet to be seen how many return to our churches after the quarantine, but the churches will be strengthened by the perdurance of the truly faithful, and I have been edified by their patience.
Nor have I been scandalized by those who call the worship of God "non-essential." No surprise there. I write this on the feast of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, the only bishop and the one high-level magistrate who placed Christ before the Crown. "Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help" (Ps. 146:3).
Perhaps not by coincidence have social riots accompanied the health crisis. The anarchists, whose numbers include ignorant pawns, are the latest effervescence of the ancient Gnostic heresy, which in modern times has assumed the fatal dialectic of Marxism.
The supine "virtue signaling" of failed leaders bending their knees to barbarians makes them poster children for what Lenin called his "useful idiots." Civilization stands on the precipice of what already seemed chaotic, as William Butler Yeats perceived over one hundred years ago:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Demagogues who lack all conviction ignored one of the most important civil acts of recent times — our president's "Executive Order on Advancing International Religious Freedom." On June 2, he dared to proclaim, "Religious freedom, America's first freedom, is a moral and national-security imperative."
The First Amendment is not "non-essential" because, for example, thousands of Christians have been slaughtered in Nigeria (in attacks ignored by Westerners who claim to be "champions of black lives"), and in China, churches are being destroyed by a government with which ecclesiastical bureaucrats have naïvely tried to cut deals.
In the present cultural war, parishes are on the front line. We have an obligation to the needs of the larger Church, but we exercise the "principle of subsidiarity" by assuring our people that any donations specified for the support of our local church will be honored as such. After months of closure, our parish, perhaps like most, is in financial peril. But the greater peril is surrender to vandals who would smash the very fundaments of our civilization.
If "the center cannot hold," such is only the case in the material order. Christ is the true and unfailing nucleus of all life: "He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together" (Col. 1:17).