By Charlie Johnston
I had a profound sense a few weeks ago that this would be a very consequential, perhaps even transformative, Lenten Season. I felt a real urgency to get up to the mountains, to the cabin, to prepare in my peculiar way in deep solitude. I was surprised when I got here that I am even more isolated than usual – that the land telephone line is down and won’t be up again for a while. God knows what He is doing. When I want to catch up on calls, I have to wend my way down to a small town some 20 miles away. I have to be deliberate. That is as it should be this Lent.
So far, Lent has not disappointed my expectations. Russia is warning that the escalating events around Syria are liable to trigger World War III. Get in line: Pope Francis spoke of the danger of entering World War III last year.
An insightful Priest from St. Louis wrote to tell me he thinks that sometimes there is a disconnect between me and readers because I watch for causes and others are waiting for effects. I thought that brilliantly hit at the heart of the matter. Certainly, causes and effects are coming much closer to each other right now, gathering speed and force.
I kind of chuckle at policy makers, economists and banks these days. The Royal Bank of Scotland, a major European Bank, began the year by telling its clients not to panic, but to sell off their investments and do it with some dispatch. Others, like Citibank, are warning of a major financial disruption of massive proportions.
In this piece, five major former U.S. national security officials write an almost panicked warning about the imminent danger from North Korea and Iran. They end by noting that North Korea is working with Iran to coordinate nuclear capability. Hey, you heard it here first.
The reason I chuckle is because, all of a sudden, so many normally sober, restrained security officials, banks and economists are making me sound like the restrained and calming voice of sweet reason.
In America, the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia makes explicit the relentless drift to a post-Constitutional country where the rule of law has been replaced with a raw grasp for power by ideologues. The four overtly progressive justices are utterly unconcerned with the Constitution except to mount some rhetorical flourishes in their rulings that pervert the plain language of the Constitution to mean whatever supports socialist power-grabs. This will trigger an intensive battle, with only Senate Republicans as the firewall to prevent an explicitly Post-Constitutional Regime of rulers. I am not encouraged by that.
But the Orwellian advance of government supremacy is well advanced. The EPA does not even dock the pay of the people who created the Gold King Mine disaster, the sort of situation they send others to jail for. IRS agents who targeted Christians and conservatives for their views don’t get fired; they get bonuses. Now the president, through a new joint policy draft of the Dept. of Education and that of Health and Human Services wants to take coercive authority over all parents in the country.
Things that the progressive left furiously denied 10, even five years ago as smears against them whenever they were exposed, that same progressive left now openly pushes for. As I have said, these things must come, for before things can be set to right, all things must be revealed for what they are. And come they are, fast and furious. With every new failed disaster given us by self-proclaimed “experts” the progressive left tells us we must docilely submit to even more of their “expertise.”
I have said that my walking pilgrimage was mounted because I was told that the time appointed was upon us and this was my proper preparation. I have joked that when I was directed that way, I asked in no little wonder what the rest of God’s plan was. That WAS the plan. While I joke about it, that really was my reaction for some time. I thought I should go and run an activist foundation, take a more direct role in certain events…something. Taking a long walk just really baffled me and I could not imagine how it could help. I had long foreseen that a time would come when I would have to go a long way on foot, but I thought it would be some sort of flight. I never imagined that it would be a voluntary and affirmative act of religious faith and a radical reliance on God’s providence. But that was the plan. In retrospect, it was perfectly devised as preparation. Yet I could not have come up with it thinking on my own in a thousand years. God’s ways are not man’s ways.
It is largely why I said last month that the key for this year is Eucharistic and Marian Processions. In the face of a growing darkness, it is a forceful, yet gentle, affirmation of unwavering faith. Foolishness to those around us, it is the wisdom and strength to know that the battle belongs to Christ and that we are His. As the frothy waves of dissension and oppression rage around us, it is to join ourselves to the stately, unstoppable, yet nearly unseen elemental power of the tide of rising faith in Our Lord. This is the plan.
I have often emphasized how important it is that we play our positions well and stay close to what we are called. It is very important that these public processions be led by Priests, Deacons or Bishops – those who have been consecrated to the orders of Priest, Deacon and Bishop are our proper spiritual leaders. It is they who must lead us and we must rise in support of that leadership. Then all things will be well. Oh, it will get stormier and stormier, but the tide of faith will not be stopped or blocked. It ultimately sweeps all before it.
I have thought, with some amusement these last few days, that what a pilgrimage really is is an extended procession of one. Let us all begin our pilgrimage even as the days around us darken. That is God’s plan – and He will lead us safely to Rescue and victory, even as we don’t understand.
There was a political official I once worked for who was a dear friend. One night at dinner, he told me I was unique: the only guy he knew who, when completely surrounded in a seemingly hopeless situation, came fully alive and fiery, convinced that now I had my opponents right where I wanted them. With a little grin, he added that the unique thing was that I was usually right.
The anti-Christian bigots and oppressors are not quite where we want them just yet, but they are close now. Let them froth up the waves of controversy and hatred. These pass away quickly. Connect with the tide that is faith in Christ and ride it on to victory. Let every Diocese in the world publicly proclaim their faith in their own streets, uniting the faithful to our two strong pillars, the Eucharist and Mary, led by our Bishops and Priests.