sun shrouded in smoke showing through burnt tree trunks

Light in the Darkness

by Paulette Curran

In Canada, euthanasia and assisted suicide are now the law of the land.

In the United States, the Supreme Court recently struck down a Texas law requiring abortion clinics to adhere to the same basic medical standards of cleanliness and safety as any other medical facility—also setting a precedent to strike down pro-life laws in other states.

I am mentioning only two recent happenings, just two steps along the relentless path that is extending what Pope John Paul II called the Culture of Death. Most likely there will be more by the time you receive this newspaper.

What can we do?

Someone asked this question at the end of a talk given in a nearby town by Michael O’Brien* a few years ago.

He answered: “Two things:

1) Know very clearly that it is only God who can turn things around.

2) God has given each of us a small part to play. Pray to know what that part is. And do it.”

What might that part be? What are some of the possibilities? Ideas come immediately to mind. Praying and fasting, obviously. That is a call to everyone. Our Lady told us this at Fatima.

And working politically: organizing, educating people about the issues, attending marches, signing petitions, writing letters, working to elect good political leaders, etc., etc., etc.

But these methods, essential as they are, are not what I am going to talk about.

It has been coming to my awareness more and more lately that there is also a third area of effort that is part of “our part” in the struggle—an area that is less obvious.

That area is actively living and working to build a Civilization of Love.

When Pope John Paul II was a young man, Poland was occupied by a brutal conqueror—Nazi Germany.

What part did he take in opposing this evil? For one thing, he acted in plays! Why, for heaven’s sake? Well, these plays were tales from Poland’s history and folk traditions.

The future pope knew that this reign of evil could not last forever and that, when it was over, the Polish people would have to rebuild their society.

For this, they would need to know the Christian principles on which their nation was founded and which had sustained them for centuries. They needed to have a vision of a Christian culture.

The Nazis, too, knew the importance of this kind of drama; they didn’t look at it as innocent recreation. The plays had to be performed in secret, and had Karol Wojtyla and the others been caught, they may well have been executed.

Close to the same time, in Nagasaki, after the bombing of that city, a Catholic doctor, Tagashi Nagai, was gradually emerging as a spiritual leader of postwar Japan. The city had been levelled, people were living in shacks, and not a blade of grass was growing.

One time, when Nagai was given a sizable donation, he used it, no doubt to the amazement of many, to buy cherry trees. He knew that the devastated people needed beauty, and he had those cherry trees, which blossom so beautifully, planted all over the city.

At a far earlier time, in the early fifth century, St. Augustine, as bishop of Carthage during the invasion of the barbarians, had the same God-given instinct.

He gave his people the leadership they needed and directly and successfully confronted the enemy. But at the same time, he also wrote The City of God, a set of books that gave the vision and laid the foundation for the re-building of Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire.

This re-building took time—several centuries, in fact—but what gradually emerged was the tremendously rich culture of the High Middle Ages.

(Yes, it is a relatively unknown fact that it was a very rich culture—in the arts, music, architecture, philosophy, literature—by any measurement.)

So what about you and me? What about today?

The Church has been around for two thousand years. Of course, its people have been attacked over and over and have also committed many horrific sins during that time. But during all those two thousand years, the gates of hell have not prevailed against it (Mt 16:18).

God made us that promise in Scripture. It is He who will turn things around. We have his promise to stand on now and in the future.

What is our part—besides the obvious prayer and fasting and the fighting of the fight before us? Nothing less than preserving and building the foundations of a new civilization.

How do we do that? Well, I dare say we are doing some of it already—for a culture is something lived.

First of all, of course we need to live our faith, to incarnate it—in ways that have been passed on and continually developed over the centuries.

Moreover, a culture needs beauty. And though few of us have the time, the talent or the vocation to be what can truly be called artists, we have a part to play in this as well.

Every time we create beauty—in however small a way—we are creating a civilization of love: painting a picture, planting a garden, dressing attractively and modestly, cooking a nourishing, good-tasting meal, cleaning and tidying a room, playing good music and singing good songs.

Every time we do any of these things or other such things, we are creating, even in a tiny way, a civilization of love.

In this time of so much mass-produced ugliness, so much superficiality and coldness, how vital are even the smallest instances of beauty, truth, and goodness!

The work by which we earn our daily bread may not seem to be creating a culture of love, but if it is useful work and we do it in the way God wants it to be done, we are doing so. And if we do it for love of him and offer it to him, well, then he can use it even more.

The farmer whose methods reverence and care for the land does this. So does the employer who respects his employees and acts towards them accordingly, the employee who gives an honest day’s work, the policeman who protects us, the parents who lovingly raise their children to live the Gospel. The examples are endless.

And how important is the celebration of feasts! Even a simple “Merry Christmas” can bring life—as the forces of evil know well.

Anything we do to create and bring beauty, truth, and goodness to our tiny part of the world, whether we know it or not, is preaching the Gospel with our lives and building a civilization of love.

But will these things still be a priority if things get worse? Absolutely. The darker the times, the more vital it is that we all be fed and feed ourselves with beauty, truth, and goodness. How else will we get the strength we need?

And it helps to remember that God is with us, no matter what, all along the way. Ultimately, though it may take a long time, God will triumph. We have his word for it.

When that happens, those who come after us will be faced with the task of rebuilding a civilization. They will need to know and have experienced the living beliefs and traditions that the Church has preserved and passed down through the ages.

Whatever else we do, it is up to each of us, in whatever way God asks us uniquely to do it, to keep these beliefs and traditions alive, no matter what the cost.

*Michael O’Brien is a Catholic writer and artist.