A global darkness is spreading. As a boy I lived with the dark specter of nuclear war from Soviet Russia. The darkness spread in the 70s and 80s as “enlightened secularism,” Europe’s version of Marxist materialism. This darkness has taken children off the streets, it has cast a shadow over the joys of marriage, it has splintered families, it has spread terror among nations. The Polish people were brave enough to chant “we need God” to their Soviet overlords, but how many can articulate our need for Something Greater in Europe or America today?
Living in such constant fear is the bitter price a society must pay for abandoning faith in a power higher than itself. Europe is perfectly aware that the weak remnants of its Christianity cannot defend the continent against the ardent faith of Muslim believers. Go to a mosque, and you see people praying. Go to a Catholic basilica, and you see people talking and taking pictures. I entered St. Mary Major to pray my office one morning but nowhere could I find a prayerful corner. The distinctiveness of Christian prayer is silence, but there was no silence at St Mary’s. Our churches are not so much houses of prayer as museums, and we don’t seem to miss the silence.
Without silence, we have no prayer, and without prayer no real faith, and without faith, we sink into darkness and fear. A society without God is a society that fences in its neighborhoods and encircles its public areas with guns and metal detectors. Without a Father in the room, we decline into endless squabbling. Without a Higher Law, especially the Christian law of love, everyone is your potential enemy. It’s pretty dark out there, but the flames of faith are not entirely extinguished. I followed 30 people yesterday who bore tiny flames into a dark church, toward a well-lit sanctuary, where Mass would begin. And it was a beautiful Mass. Happy Candlemas!