|Fr. Brian Harrison, O.S. outside St. Mary of Victories in downtown St. Louis.|
The year 2012 is coming to an end. But as I attempt, as usual, to put together a few reflections on the Church in the world over the last year, I confess that I can’t remember a Christmas when it was more difficult to write you a cheery newsletter. Let’s get the bad news over and done with first.
To begin with, all Americans and many others round the world are still suffering trauma and indignation at the most shocking school massacre in U.S. history: twenty innocent infants as well as seven of their teachers were coldly gunned down less than two weeks before we honor the birth of the Divine Infant. As usual, commentator Patrick Buchanan showed good insight. He reminded those wondering what on earth could have motivated the 20-year-old mass murderer that this lonely, attention-craving misfit believed only in things “on earth”: no judgment, no heaven, no hell. So the devil he considered a myth could lure him all the more easily to this horribly ‘sure-fire’ means of gaining instant, headline-hitting name recognition around the world. That perverse satisfaction probably filled the killer’s mind when, on hearing the expected wail of police sirens outside, he finally pulled the trigger on himself.
Less macabre, but with more menacing long-term consequences, was Black Tuesday, November 6, 2012. (If you’re one of my few readers who isn't a traditional Christian believer, or if you've already had enough party politics for this year, you may care to skip this and the next two paragraphs!) On that day, thanks largely to 50% of all Roman Catholic voters, Barack Hussein Obama – the most anti-Christian, anti-life, and anti-marriage president in American history – was re-elected, and in four U.S. states voters endorsed same-sex “marriage”. Pope Benedict XVI, his U.S. Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó, and most U.S. bishops had repeatedly warned that the Democratic Party’s aggressively secularist policies contradict basic, ‘non-negotiable’ human and Christian values. But the 10,000,000 professed Catholics who voted for Obama either ignored those values or at least let them take a back seat to other more ethically debatable issues such as the economy, war, welfare, immigration, and health care. So one suspects the American Catholic community currently merits in God’s sight a similar excoriation of His own people to that which opens the Bible’s greatest prophetic book, and with which the Church has launched us into the new liturgical year. In the Divine Office for the 1st Sunday of Advent we heard the prophet cry out bitterly, “The ox knows its owner, the ass its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand. Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity!” (Isaiah 1: 3-4).
Now, some better news. There are some silver linings to these glowering clouds. A number of U.S. cardinals, bishops, and other seriously practicing and well-educated Catholics have started to offer stronger and more outspoken resistance to the Obama administration’s immoral policies (epitomized by the infamous ‘HHS Mandate’ requiring Catholic employers to pay insurance coverage for abortifacient drugs, sterilizations and contraceptives). Now that the Democratic Party has turned its back on God and traditional Christianity, it is encouraging to see that white Roman Catholics are the group who over the last four years have most turned their backs on the Democrats. Only 40% of them voted for Obama in 2012, down from 47% in 2008. Indeed, that 40% is apparently an all-time low for white Catholic support of Democrat presidential candidates. And when we look at seriously Catholic white voters (i.e., those attending Mass at least weekly), the picture continues to improve: only about 30% of them voted for Obama this year. Now, within the U.S. Catholic Church, her regularly practicing white (‘Anglo’) members, although diminishing percentage-wise as the Hispanic population rapidly increases, are those who are generally the best-educated, the most aware of the deeply anti-Christian side of the modern Democratic Party ideology, and also the most aware of our bishops’ recent public denunciations of it.
The election results, then, suggest that those denunciations have not fallen on deaf ears, and that a small but committed élite nucleus of well-informed, faithful American Catholics, uniting behind a new crop of increasingly orthodox bishops, is spurring the rebirth of a stronger, more authentic Catholic identity in this nation. As the cultural darkness around us deepens, it seems that a brighter Catholic candle is now being lit to challenge it. St. Peter Canisius (on whose feast-day I’m writing this) put it so well: “Better that only a few Catholics should be left, staunch and sincere in their religion, than that they should, remaining many, desire as it were to be in collusion with the Church’s enemies, and in conformity with the open foes of our faith”. (Another straw in the wind is the strong preference of practicing U.S. Catholics – 70%, according to a recent study – for the more accurate and traditional English translation of the Mass that we have now used for a year.) Nor need we be resigned to our Latinos “inevitably” voting overwhelmingly Democrat. A much higher percentage of Hispanic Protestants than Hispanic Catholics vote Republican. Let’s learn why, and take appropriate pastoral action.
On a more personal note, this has been my busiest year so far in St. Louis as regards pastoral duties, now that I am Chaplain (priest-in-charge) of St. Mary of Victories Church. This has meant, in addition to new administrative duties, an extra Mass on Sunday mornings – mainly for the Hungarian-American Catholics of the St. Louis area. You may remember reading in last year’s letter about our three-year-old who was already ringing the bells correctly during Mass. Well, last August, aged four years and four months, little Louis Bigari graduated to become a fully-fledged, Latin-responding server of the traditional Mass, resplendent in the world’s tiniest cassock and surplice (see photo attachment). (Louis, unbeknown to himself, was found worthy of a cover story in our archdiocesan newspaper.) Other highlights of my year have been visiting old friends in Puerto Rico, and two weeks’ vacation back in Australia. For the first time in nearly 20 years I returned to my home town, Armidale, for the 50thanniversary reunion of my school leaving class, on which occasion I had the honor of delivering the banquet speech. Talk about ‘auld acquaintances’! A very rewarding experience.
The Pope has designated 2012-2013 as a “Year of Faith’; and that leads me to conclude with another Christmas ‘silver lining’ – this time to the first dreadful cloud I mentioned above. Fr. Luke Suarez, the priest at Newtown, Connecticut, has said that no media coverage of the school massacre “has even touched the deep, beautiful awakening of faith that has occurred there. The tiny church. . . has been full of people in prayer without ceasing since this tragedy happened. Love is stronger than death.” Indeed. And that’s why even the ’culture of death’ now afflicting America and the West cannot overcome the faith, hope and love that the Child of Bethlehem renews in our hearts at this time.
Wishing you and all your loved ones every joy and blessing this Christmas,
Fr. Brian W. Harrison, O.S.
Chaplain, St. Mary of Victories