Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth

The video  recently posted about the closing of the Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity, a Trappist Monastery in Utah, spoke to me profoundly. It conjured up all sorts of images about similar closures, suppressions and secularizations over the centuries. And beyond monastic life to the matter of the state of the Church today, it posed questions for me about what my attitude should be toward defections from church life in general and what should be the role of apologetics in the life of every Catholic. 

In the video, almost right off, the one old monk pointed to the inevitability of their having to close the abbey by observing that they could see it coming as no one who had come to them in the last thirty years had stayed... There is something terribly meek about this way of staring reality in the face. He says his part without bitterness or rage, just simply. If you want to recognize your own malaise, you have to be not only honest and perceptive, but also humble.

The video reminded me of the account of the violent suppression in reformation times in England of the monasteries in Robert Hugh Benson's historical novel The King's Achievement, where we find the older brother Ralph, attached to Cromwell, destroying the monastic world of his Catholic younger brother, Christopher. Ultimately, the persecuted monks and nuns in the story show themselves at their best and of Christ-like stature when they shoulder the injustice heaped upon them like lambs mute before the slaughter. Catholic meekness probably even saves from hell on his death bed the executor of the king's will, Ralph, and deprives Henry VIII of the surety of his gloating over a good family's son lost to greed and falsehood.

Coming two centuries closer to our time, any number of incidents from Enlightened Monks. The German Benedictines 1740-1803 by Ulrich L. Lehner came to mind as well. Here too the marauder was on the inside, in those unhappy though supposedly enlightened monks, self-proclaimed intellectuals and sophisticates among the brethren, who surely undermined German monasticism by their willful pride, when they were not openly contesting in the name of freedom the Medieval monastic order of their communities and universities.

Friends of mine today in both the neo-conservative and the traditional camps speak consistently of standing up to the menace facing the Church, whether from within or without the fold. Both contest the disbelief, the crass errors or indifference, which would deprive us of the fullness of faith in the Living God. This troubled hour, whether we are talking about the vocations crisis or the empty pews and moral decadence among our ranks, certainly calls for a new zeal. My thought, however, would be that neither alone nor in combination will the popular conservative binary of cleansing the temple or preaching in and out of season win the battle against decay. The binary does not fully display the obedience to the will of the Father, witnessed to by Christ in His Passion and so needed to save the day. Spittle on our faces, we need to stand silent in identification with our loving Lord before the tribunal of Pilate's expediency.

The media, social communications make it harder for us to be ignorant of the plots laid or the attempts made against the good order of the great Tradition and maintain our serenity. Yet, that is where meekness like that of Jesus before Pilate comes in as that one essential. Be it said that quietism or passivity is not a Gospel strategy, but the point here is of entering into the mystery of death swallowed up in the Death of Christ.

Our days' "illuminati", for all their boastful ranting, for all their pride cannot seem to see their hand before their faces or recognize, like my meek little old monk in the video, that which is all too sadly evident. We need to spend more time mulling over just what Jesus meant in teaching that the earth and the victory belong to the meek.


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