By Charlie Johnston
On Monday, when I checked email, I found I had a gentle rebuke from EllenChris of the TNRS Answers Team. She wrote:
“This morning for the first time, I saw a very long thread of a lot of emails concerning a discussion at the Blog about “The Collapse.” Thank you, Beckita, for sending the conversation so I could read it. A comment from you, Charlie, was quoted as follows (with my emphasis):
“I ponder sometimes whether to comment on the specific details of the unfolding collapse I had told you about. I think to do so would just be a form of dancing in the end zone. Yes, it is happening all around us as I have speaking privately with my priests for 21 years and publicly for two and a half years. But what I remain focused on is what we are to do…how to participate in the Rescue that has already begun. Right now, I am very focused on the Planned Parenthood business, mainly because I see this not as the normal part of the debate – but as a chance to deal the culture of death a mortal blow.
That really is where I am at…I will comment on and highlight various specifics as I see how understanding them and how to respond helps us recall people to life. I think of the 3rd Secret of Fatima, where the Pope is walking among a great city strewn with a mass of corpses. I regard those corpses not as the literally dead, but the spiritually dead – and that our work is to recall them to life. So that is ever my jumping-off point.” So, may I respond with some thoughts — offering these not as an exhortation or as crankiness, but simply as a perspective to consider. Humans need a lot of reality checking, also known as “mirroring.” A very small child comes to his mother with a flower and says, “Flower?” If the mother smiles and says, “Yes, flower!” the child has his experience validated and has a name for this thing in his hand. If the mother brushes the child away or shows negativity toward the child, he will then go away wondering if this thing was something else and not a flower, or if maybe there is something wrong with flowers or something wrong with himself. We keep on doing this right into adulthood with mentors and friends and coworkers. We bounce things off each other in order to make sure that our perceptions are correct and acceptable. So let’s apply this to the process going on at TNRS. People come to the Blog wondering what is going on and how to get a handle on responding in a good way. They are Reality Checking. They need to know if their perceptions of The Storm are correct. Let me say at this point, Charlie, that you are doing an amazing job of responding under difficult circumstances. You do strike a balance. But as usual, I always have my two cents to throw into the pot. Let’s use this little parable: People are walking through the woods with a guide (Adirondack style). They hear noises in the trees and ask, “Is that a bear?” The guide could say, “Ignore the noises, just keep walking: step along.” But the people on the hike are fearful and inexperienced. If they hear a growl, they might run off and scatter in the woods and get lost. If the guide says, “That is just a raccoon, it’s okay.” they will calm down and keep going. If he says, “That is a bear; now everybody shine your flashlights and blow your whistles so it will run away” (which black bears do), then everybody is safe. If the guide says, “Yes, that is a bear and she has cubs with her — everybody hide behind that log and be very quiet until they go away,” then the guide has helped the hikers to survive. Sometimes some specific information is really needed for people to know how to take the next RIGHT step. So, Charlie, I am sure you get the point. We are like babes in the woods here. Like it or not, you get to be the Guide or the Mama with whom we are doing our Reality Checking. I really do believe (as I have said before) that almost everyone at TNRS is not so much looking for the inside scoop as they are simply trying to figure out if what they seem to be perceiving is a racoon or a shy black bear or a grizzly about to eat them. It is my never-humble-enough opinion that being a little more specific with events as they are occurring is NOT a “victory dance in the end zone” but rather an effective way to “remain focused on what we are to do” as you said. This reality checking is just what is needed to “recall people to life” out of their confusion and fears. In the kingdom of the blind, Charlie, the one-eyed man does not have to be king, but he can certainly be the only reliable guide so that everyone doesn’t fall into ditches. I am not asking for timelines or predictions, of course. However, indicating where we actually are, and the significance of events at any given time — it is my own two cents here — is what we most need from you, especially as events heat up and speed up. May I encourage you not to be fearful to name the flowers and the raccoons and the bears as we step along. Sometimes exhorting people to look at their feet and ignore the growls and falling trees, etc is just not enough to get them through. But may I give back my own little reality check, Charlie, that as you said, “comment[ing] on and highlight[ing] various specifics as I see how understanding them and how to respond helps us recall people to life.” really is the best way to go — please do not be tempted to be stingy with this approach. We are very much in need of being called back to life by having your reality check on all the things collapsing around us.”
Ellen is, of course, entirely right. I have had decades to adjust myself to what we are all living in real time now. As things go from bad to worse, I don’t focus on the specific events that usher it in. Even more, while most I know want to know the specific moment of final crash, I don’t know and I don’t care. For me, the important thing is what we do to participate in the Rescue of our poor bleeding world.
Right now, the world economy is held together by paper and paste. The system has been hollowed out. Every day, it seems a new very staid, traditional outlet is warning of economic collapse and global depression. China is shaky, Portugal is in collapse, the European Union is busting apart at the seams.
Meanwhile, war lurks in every corner of the globe. ISIS threatens that it has a very big series of attacks scheduled for both Europe and the United States. Russia is provocative, China is more provocative, North Korea is insanely aggressive and Iran is taking a victory lap over the billions of dollars the U.S. has given it to prop it up and fund more terrorist aggression.
In the midst of all this, the American political and pundit class frets over micro-aggressions, glass ceilings, disarming police while causing the murder rate to skyrocket and calling it justice, and controlling the weather. Our problems are so big – and our leaders are so little. It is a baffling, frightening time in America – even more fearsome because so many of our fellows seem to think this cultural and economic suicide as victory.
In Matthew 24, Our Lord, Himself, explains that we should not be alarmed that there should be wars and rumors of wars, that wickedness multiplies and people’s love grows cold. These things must come. But the Lord also assures us that he who endures to the end shall be saved. I understand that many of you look at the details unfolding of a Storm you feared but hoped would never happen – and are rightly horrified by it. I look at the details of the Storm I have long expected unfold and think this is prelude to renewal. Without this chastisement, created by our own hands, there would be no repentance and return to God.
That the details are unfolding in real time is an expected consequence of our rebellion. These things must come. To dwell on them is to miss the point of to what we are called. We are called to participate in the Rescue of humanity that, even now, Our Lord is mounting. And the way to do it is simple: acknowledge God, take the next right step, and be a sign of hope to those around you. Trust God. Become an intentional disciple, one who is willing to get outside yourself to be that sign of hope.
Today is the Feast Day of Lourdes. Five years ago today, I embarked on a great cross-country waling pilgrimage. It was filled with many trials and more fearful moments than I usually talk about. But it was also filled with great joy, great meaning, a great unity with God. Today, we are all embarked on a great pilgrimage that will bring us the same – grea challenges, many fearsome moments, but also a new joy that comes with the certainty that life does have great meaning and that, even in the midst of terrible trials, God never abandons us.
I will try to do better in assuring you on details that the Storm that swirls around you is not for your destruction, but for all of our renewal. It is all falling apart – and so it must in order to make way for the new that God prepares for us. Let us begin and relish our pilgrimage to the Rescue, not getting overly distracted by the walls continually falling around us.