Have you ever felt like the world no longer makes sense to you?
Do you look at the chaos on the news and the general breakdown of all of the moral pillars on which you were raised and think “I don’t recognize this world anymore?” On top of that, things that you used to believe seem completely out of the mainstream, so that you feel like you are the only one who is out of touch with the modern world. You feel like civilization is passing you by and that you alone are holding to traditional beliefs. And it gets to the point where you start to think that maybe it is YOU who are the problem. Perhaps you really are the closed-minded anachronism that the popular media calls you out to be.
When these thoughts come to you, remember:
They want you to feel alone.
By “they,” I mean those forces that attack our Christian faith. The gates of hell have always been at war with the Church. And make no mistake, psychological warfare is an important part of the evil one’s campaign.
People who feel alone are more likely to give in to despair and they are easier to manipulate. It is always the case in abusive relationships that the abuser isolates their victim from friends and family. Even though the victim may have a powerful support system, they are led to believe that they are alone and dependent on their abuser. The same is true of those who attack the faith. You are meant to think that there is nowhere for you to turn. You are told that the Church is shrinking because it is dying and that their victory over our culture is inevitable.
So with this overwhelming sense of loss as the world continues its seeming march towards oblivion, how are we to respond?
Here are a few points to keep in mind.
1.We have always been the remnant.
It is important to reflect on history and on Scripture in these times. When you look back at the Old Testament, it is the story of a world of faithful believers who are occasionally assailed by small pockets of revolutionaries who want to tear down the faith?
The Old Testament is the story of a world of violence, sin, and godlessness with one tiny Middle-Eastern people descended from nomads and slaves who are chosen as God’s own. They are a small remnant of humanity that keeps aflame the light of God’s Word. And these people are not perfect saints, but susceptible to the overwhelming corruption of the world around. Very often within this Chosen People there are only a remnant of faithful ones like the Prophets, who feel assailed even by God’s people. Read, for example, the indignities that the Prophet Jeremiah had to suffer from those he was sent to serve. How alone, he must have felt.
With the coming of Christ, we were still the remnant. There was a time when the number of faithful disciples included only those handful at the foot of the cross. After Christianity was legalized in 313 by Constantine, the Roman culture found a great influx of Christians who were not as devout. Even though our numbers increased, the intensely faithful still remained a remnant. Baptized Emperors would still commit murder and the select few holy bishops like St. Ambrose would stand up to them.
You are always going to find the truly faithful smaller in number than the general population of so-called believers. That is one of the reasons Christ said, “Narrow is the path to salvation and very few find it.” (Matthew 7:14)
2.Everyone Feels Out of Touch
You may feel more alone today because the outer signs of Christian culture seem to grow fainter than when you were young. That is actually fairly normal.
Since ancient times, people who get older have lamented the slide of civilization. Our childhood experiences, especially of our faith, are foundational to who we are. They seem to be a bedrock on which our lives are built. But when that bedrock seems to shift, it seems like a corruption. In the parish I grew up, the pastor constantly spoke about the evils of abortion. It is one of the reasons I am so strongly pro-life. Nowadays, it seems I almost never hear a homily on the subject. You can imagine that this might cause me to wonder if the Culture of Death is winning?
But as civilizations change, those who grew up in the earlier generations always begin to feel the backslide. Ecclesiastes says “Do not say ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For this is not wise to ask.” (Ecclesiastes 7:10) There are many reasons why this is not wise, but one of them is that even in our day, the world was in the middle of spiritual war, but we may not have noticed because we were growing up in it and have now come through it. In the same way, the young do not see the spiritual war around them for their souls.
3.You Stand With The Past and The Present
Chesterton often appealed to what he called “The Democracy of the Dead.” This means that when surveying humanity, we must not just look to how humans live now but have always lived. And most humans who have ever walked the face of the earth believed in some Higher Power, believed that kindness was greater than cruelty, that civilization was better than anarchy, and held that tradition and history must be preserved or we can never grow beyond what we are.
When you stand for traditional virtues, even if they are no longer fashionable today, you stand with most people who have ever lived.
And when you look to the future, remember that our destiny is in Heaven. You are standing with the saints yet to be born, who will be your co-citizens in eternity. And perhaps they were able to stand strong in their future days because we were able to stand strong in the present.
4.Above All Else, You Stand With Christ
I remember I was teaching something controversial in class one day, I believe it was the Church’s teaching on contraception. This is an area where around 90% of Catholics admittedly disobey the Church. But my job as a teacher is to give my students the fullness of truth. One of my incredulous students heard what I had to say and replied, “No one believes that anymore.” The statement was clearly to make me feel out of touch with the modern world as it is. Rather than argue with him about how many people are faithful to the truth, I simply responded:
“I believe it. My wife believes it. And if we are the only ones who do, if the Church is reduced in size to only her and me, then so be it.”
I think of poor saints John Fischer and Thomas Moore, whose feast day is the day of this posting. King Henry VIII of England forced the clergy and public officials to swear allegiance to him as head of the Church. These two men were the only ones who refused and so were subjected to imprisonment and death. Can you imagine how alone they were made to feel when all their friends, their peers, and their leaders abandoned the Catholic Church and left them alone?
But they were not alone.
They were standing with Christ.
He gave them the strength to endure until the end.
You are not alone.