Our Island Home

I recently finished reading Evelyn Waugh’s short biography of the English martyr, St. Edmund Campion, and it strikes me as a very appropriate story for our times.  Though faithful Catholics do not face torture and death the way Catholics did in Elizabethan England, we now live in a world increasingly hostile to faith of any kind, but especially reverent, traditional, full-blooded Catholicism.

True deprivation of the Faith in England under Elizabeth brought about a renewed religious dedication:

“Catholics no longer chose their chaplain for his speed in saying Mass, or kept Boccaccio bound in the covers of their missals.  Driven back to the life of the catacombs, the Church was recovering their temper.  No one now complained of the length of the services, a priest reported to Father Agazzari; if a Mass did not last nearly an hour they were discontented, and if, as occasionally happened, several priests were together, the congregation would assist at five or six Masses in one morning.”

Many in the Church today are realizing how much we have lost, just as Catholics under Elizabeth were awakening to a new reality:

“To the Catholics, too, it meant something new, the restless, uncompromising zeal of the counter-Reformation. The Queen’s Government had taken away from them the priest that their fathers had known; the simple unambitious figure who had pottered about the parish, lived among his flock, christened them and married them and buried them; prayed for their souls and blessed their crops; whose attainments were to sacrifice and absolve and apply a few rule-of-thumb precepts of canon law; whose occasional lapses from virtue were expected and condoned; with whom they squabbled over their tithes, about whom they grumbled and gossiped; whom they consulted on every occasion; who had seemed, a generation back, something inalienable from the soil of England, as much a part of their lives as the succession of the seasons–he had been stolen from them, and in his place the Holy Father was sending them, in their dark hour, men of new light, equipped in every Continental art, armed against every frailty, bringing a new kind of intellect, new knowledge, new holiness.”

For those of us who remain committed to revitalizing the Church, we must rededicate ourselves to forming “men of new light” “armed against every frailty” who bring “a new kind of intellect, new knowledge, new holiness.”  More than ever, in a Church internally divided, we need to strive to be holy lay men and women, and we need to pray for holy priests and bishops.

G.K. Chesterton wrote that “things must be loved first and improved afterwards.”  This strikes me as our immediate goal and objective.  It is the overarching project of the Benedict Option.  We must love our Faith and our Tradition before we can save them.  We must love our Mass and our Sacraments before we can save them.  We must love in our marriages before we can save Marriage.  We must be focused on making our communities islands of orthodoxy and tradition and reverence, so others may be drawn into them and thereby spread the Faith.

St. Edmund Campion’s example must be ours.  His mission was not to interfere with the nascent Anglican church, but to minister to suffering Catholics.  His call was not to overthrow the oppressive state government, or even to convert Protestants to the faith.  It was simply to tend to the wounded Catholic communities of England – to offer Masses, to hear confessions, to provide counsel, and to preach the Gospel.

Yet, Campion himself understood how such a mission was not an isolated one, just as our mission to build up our communities affects the world around us.  In a letter written to the Queen’s Privy Council, to defend himself in case of his capture, he wrote:

“Many innocent hands are lifted up to heaven for you daily by those English students, whose posteritie shall never die, which beyond seas, gathering virtue and sufficient knowledge for the purpose are determined never to give you over, but either to win you heaven, or to die upon your pikes. And touching our Societie, be it known to you that we have made a league–all the Jesuits in the world, whose succession and multitude must overreach all the practices of England–cheerfully to carry the cross you shall lay upon us, and never to despair your recovery, while we have a man left to enjoy your Tyburn, or to be racked with your torments, or consumed with your prisons.  The expense is reckoned, the enterprise is begun; it is of God, it cannot be withstood.  So the faith was planted: so it must be restored.”

In truth, the end goal of our mission, like Campion’s, is to win heaven, or to die upon the pikes.  To borrow yet again from the English, Catholicism may now be reckoned our island home.  We are surrounded.  Some around us are adversaries, seeking our end; others are indifferent, even to the notion that our demise may eventually lead to theirs.  And we must shore up our own defenses before we can invade foreign territory.  So the faith was planted; so it must be restored.

Catholic News

Four Cardinals have publicly released a letter they sent to Pope Francis months ago asking him to clarify issues in Amoris Laetitia after he refused to respond privately.  You can read the full text of the letter here.  Phil Lawler imagines a simple scenario that clarifies the problem.  Eye of the Tiber’s satirical take.

Sandro Magister recaps the USCCB elections that produced two bishops not exactly in the Bergoglian camp.

Papal apostolic letter permits priests to continue to absolve the sin of abortion (and to presumably lift the censure of excommunication) and indefinitely extends the faculty of SSPX priests to validly and licitly absolve sins.

Catholic Thought

Is Catholicism’s conception of the common good obsolete?  Andrew Latham writes:  “The body of Catholic political thought that crystallized between the promulgation of the encyclical Aeterni patris in 1879 and Lumen fidei in 2013 is essentially the product of the church’s encounter with Beck’s first modern era. It addresses that era’s concerns, is grounded in its assumptions, reflects its anxieties and aspirations, and is tempered by its realities. Now that the first modern moment has passed, the political concepts and frameworks it produced can no more provide Catholics with a reliable guide to political action today than a map of nineteenth-century Europe can provide them with a reliable guide to contemporary European political geography.”

Catholic University’s C.C. Pecknold will be leading a Twitter discussion and reading of St. Augustine’s City of God beginning in January.  For those interested, here’s the relevant information so far: announcement, schedule, and hashtag.

Catholic Culture

In the month of November, it is appropriate to reflect on the dead and the souls in Purgatory.  Fr. Schall explains why it matters how we are buried.  K.V. Turley tells an amusing, though sad, story about the profit to be gained from praying for the deceased.

Michael Brendan Dougherty reviews Anthony Bourdain’s and Alton Brown’s new cookbooks as spiritual autobiographies.

How Madeleine L’Engle’s faith and fiction pushed back against the modern world.

David Warren writes on a theme similar to today’s Benedict Post: “They have a view only to your destruction; they thrive on your fear, your wish to cut and run. They will leap on your backside, the moment you turn. Your task is to turn the tables on them. It is to show that they have picked the wrong target; that you grasp the game is for keeps; that you will die, before you will surrender your children to these hyenas. And that far from granting them little concessions, for the sake of some momentary peace and quiet, you will take great pleasure in destroying them.  In the end we will take back the public institutions, one squalid mudfight at a time. Or, we will not, in which case they will crumble, and we must build anew, starting from the roots, underground. Either way; it doesn’t matter. For in the end Christ wins.”

Book Review: Peter Kwasniewski reviews Liturgy in the Twenty-First Century.


“I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our Island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone….Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall…we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end…we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
– Winston Churchill, June 4, 1940.