Vi Vil Vinne

Black Friday came early this year, to Ferguson, Missouri, with a major looting event that made the annual Walmart convulsion look almost tasteful. Yet while I do applaud people who avoid smashing glass, and stop to pay for their purchases, there is a generic similarity, such that the difference between looters  and bargain shoppers may not be outwardly apparent. In my own limited experience, one must wait patiently for the arson to begin, to distinguish one event from the other. I notice stores advertising discounts of 70 percent; what’s an extra 30? Patrons may become confused by nuance in such commercial expressions as, “Absolutely free!”

But shopping for bargains — something I’ve been known to do myself in e.g. secondhand bookstores — cannot be done with any likelihood of success, in an atmosphere of desperation. The person who is not psychologically prepared to decline any offer, is in a poor negotiating position. Unless he is willing to forego any good or service until the price is right, he is open to manipulation.

And “price” is a more subtle issue than is suggested in the sales flyers. This is so even in the restricted dimension of dollars and cents. Why, the ten-dollar book I obtained the other day — a bargain to me, for I would have paid twenty for this Compendium of the History of the Cistercian Order — was a trick of false accounting I played on myself. After adding the trolley fare, going out, and coffee stop with pastry in the course of walking home, I see that I had already spent sixteen. Moreover, I paid five for another book I wasn’t sure I wanted; and now that I examine it more closely I see that I have a disposal problem. Which leaves me a dollar over what I was willing to pay, before (remember, I am genetically Scottish) evaluating the time I invested.

The matter is of course more complicated than that. I enjoyed both the walk and the pastry. The latter was improved by the opportunity to peruse this anonymous work by a Trappist in Kentucky (published 1944). There were several moments during the walk in which extraordinarily beautiful effects of lighting were observed from winter-angle sun in back alleys. A full accounting could be done only by God, and I have no idea what the economists think they are up to in their pathologically reductive calculations.

To my mind, entering any shopping mall or big-box store would be a substantial cost in itself, and if I had to elbow a thousand other customers to get at some glitzily-packaged item that could only disturb the aesthetic peace of my domicile — well, there are holes not worth digging. I see “poor people” struggling home with these huge packages, and it is hard not to pity their Sisyphean efforts. Or to feel heartbroken for their squalling little ones: being trained by parental example to believe that, say, a big-screen TV could be worth owning, regardless of the mark-down.


The old year is ending. With Saint Andrew we begin the new liturgical year, tomorrow, in the season of Advent. It is a season of joyful abstinence, fast, self-denial, gratuitous acts of charity, bejewelled by several glorious feasts, all in anticipation of the Nativity of Our Lord.

That is one way to live, and the other was heralded by Black Friday. Indeed: I spotted an editorial congratulating businesses for reducing the rush, by starting their sales on the very day of American Thanksgiving. To the depraved, post-Christian mind, I suppose the capitalists could display their public spirit by starting their Boxing Day sales on Christmas morning.

This is our world, and the challenge to all Christians is to be in yet not of it. With each passing year we should resolve to make fewer concessions to the depravity. This cannot be done without the fortitude of the Sacraments; but meanwhile, help is on the way.


While outwardly the Church appears to be collapsing, making more and more concessions to the progressive, materialist, populist, enslaved, “Black Friday” way of life, God is repairing her. My piece at Catholic Thing, Friday (here) was succeeded by a better piece today (here) on the unaccountable revival of Catholic vocations and worship in Scandinavia and northern Europe. Lately, I am getting such news from all over, and also witnessing it in my own tiny corner of “defunct” Christendom. It is a phenomenon of the last decade or so: an unexpected development of this XXIst century.

The call to priesthood, and more broadly to obedience and holy living, is being heard especially by many of the young. By no coincidence, this is closely associated with the revival of the Old Mass. To that, in its Latin, and its otherworldly beauty, the young are attracted, even as the old and weathered, in their constantly diminishing numbers, cling nostalgically to the Novus Ordo. The Church of twenty centuries is gradually recovering from the despoliation of the nineteen-sixties.  Christ is rebuilding His Church, even as liberal bishops make their last geriatric stands on behalf of the “Spirit of Vatican II.” Much remains to be endured, but the light is returning: the candle of reverence. Christ has not abandoned His Church.

The phenomenon is recent, but I am convinced it will not be snuffed out. One man of stalwart faith can easily prevail over a hundred who are chestless. As the alternative of serious Christian commitment becomes more visible, others will join. The persecutions that will inevitably come, from that world of ideological “progress,” will themselves help to fill our ranks. Our task becomes simpler when, as now, the Prince of This World reveals his nakedness.

(I think of those Norwegians who, in the darkest days of the Hitler occupation, painted a message on the road for our allied flyboys to read: “Vi Vil Vinne!”)

It is the eve of a New Year: to each of my readers faith, hope, and love. Fight the good fight, and for all the moral stench and darkness of our “secular” surroundings, do not doubt the light will prevail.