To arms

Have we lost the awareness of the close bond that links the knowing of truth to the condition of purity? … You betcha.

The line above is paraphrased from memory; it is surely from Josef Pieper. (Actually, the “you betcha” was added by me.) It came to mind while reading Barbara Kay’s review of When Everything Feels Like the Movies, latest winner of a national children’s book award. (Here.) It would be counter-productive, I suppose, to launch my own tirade against a work that, by Mrs Kay’s account (and I trust her as a witness) is so morally repellant. I might quibble with her term, “values-void”; for it seems the book is laced with values, which I would characterize as poison. The author celebrates masochism, for instance, as his protagonist incites people to bully him. The whole sordid enterprise is to get a reaction. Provide what he wants, and of course the organized forces of political correction will come down on your head with a tun of bricks.

It would moreover be redundant to observe that by giving the book a Governor-General’s Award, the obliging arts committee holds it up as a model for imitation by young readers. That the G-G himself didn’t pick it, could go without saying. That, like one of our frightened bishops, he hasn’t the intestinal fortitude to stand against these tax-monied operators acting in his name, we may also take for granted. They would make him the scandal if he tried, count on their friends in liberal media to smear him, and raise his intervention to the status of a constitutional crisis. We would get smug lectures about “censorship” of a book no one dreamt of censoring, simply because it was prevented from receiving a big public payout. I can imagine the new stickers bleating, “Je suis!” The publicity would meanwhile increase sales of the book more effectively than the award.

But so what? … (“They have their reward.”)

Can you imagine a Governor-General, nominated by a politician, having the courage to draw such obloquy on himself?

Can you imagine him prepared to resign his office, rather than allow both himself and the office to be used in this way?

Can you imagine what effect it could have, were such a line drawn? For it would inspire others to come out of hiding, and show some spine. How often in history has a battle turned, on the gallant gesture of a commander.

Challenging a moral order that has already disintegrated — thanks to cowardice, over generations — is today a cynical means to wealth and advancement. There are no risks, and the worst that can happen is, the audience will become bored and ignore you. This is increasingly the case: we yawn when we see another pervert strutting. The shock value is now close to nil, and we needn’t worry about the exposure of our children, because they’ve already been got at through every other channel of secular indoctrination, both in and out of school. They’re bored, too; they have seen it all, and are world-weary even before adolescence.

If we wanted to shock them, we would confront them with books that give compelling accounts of heroic chastity; that depict sincere devotion under the stress of persecution; that recall the many instances in history when sanctity prevailed against evil, even through death. We would champion, with examples, the joy of standing as the last man on the field of battle, or in the chamber as a Minority of One — for Love does not care about numbers.

The imam of a large Ottawa mosque recently warned that every time there is a terrorist hit, such as the recent one in Ottawa, he sees a spike in young men coming forward, to convert to Islam. (See here.) He worries most about those whom he never sees again, after he has explained the tenets of his religion, and questioned their motives for converting. We may guess that “moderate Islam” was not their cuppa chai.

On the day of this feast of Saint Timothy (old missal), bishop and martyr, to whom Saint Paul wrote two scriptural Epistles, expounding the task of bishops, this is worth bearing in mind: “Impose not hands lightly on any man.” The young generally, and the testosterone-charged young men especially, are drawn to bravura acts — whether they should be for good or for evil. And they are easily bored. Set an example of true heroic self-sacrificing goodness, and they will come to you. Set an example of murderous rage, of blood and fire and wanton destruction, and they will also come to you. Each tilts in the balance; and this is so whether or not nature has endowed them with better than average smarts.

It is useless to mumble about the filth, stench, and septic degeneration of our public life and culture; plain speaking is required. Every intelligent observer can know what is before his eyes, ears, and nostrils. The calling is to raise that consciousness above the environmental slime, and show the pleasure in being washed of it. This cannot be done by shrinking half measures. We need an appeal that is equal and opposite to that which inspires the next Muslim fanatic. This is what Christians, from our bishops down, must find in our hearts to teach, by word and by deed: holiness, in an immortal cause.

The purity required for this task is no superficial hygiene. It is rooted in profound truths, and expressed in a heroism so paradoxically meek that often it is visible only to God. Heroes do not wait for applause, like politicians. They do not make a show of their humility, either.

My father used to exhort me to take cold showers. “You will feel like a million dollars,” he’d say. But there is no price that can approximate to the pleasure of a clean conscience. We must preach cold showers: send them to the stalls for the Sacrament of Penance to wash them clean. And then we must teach them the modesty and wisdom of the truly brave. We must draw our swords in the spiritual combat and, as Saint Paul famously advised his beloved old travelling companion, “Fight the good fight!”

Yes, that Saint Timothy, Bishop of Ephesus, who died in the combat, around AD ninety-seven: Pray for us, in the same battle.