Beacons of Hope
A light kindled in the sky, a blaze of yellow fire behind dark barriers. Pippin cowered back, afraid for a moment, wondering into what dreadful country Gandalf was bearing him.
‘On, Shadowfax! We must hasten. Time is short. See! The beacons of Gondor are alight, calling for aid. War is kindled. See, there is the fire on Amon Dîn, and flame on Eilenach; and there they go speeding west: Nardol, Erelas, Min-Rimmon, Calenhad, and the Halifirien on the borders of Rohan.’
In the midst of great evil and darkness, the grace of God always seems to find those who are unwilling to yield to hopelessness and despair. Even as the odds are stacked against the righteous, an undaunted faith keeps them moving forward.
One of the most iconic and memorable scenes from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King occurs as the Fellowship is beset by confusion and fear in the midst of the supreme and suffocating evil of the dark Lord, Sauron, as he marshals his hellish forces to conquer middle earth. As hope appears to be fading, a string of beacons is lit from Gondor all the way to Rohan, signaling a desperate call for help from one Kingdom to another and a hope to restore a friendship, long ago estranged. Tolkien's inspiration for the beacons came from Byzantium's use of signal fires in military strategy, as his depiction of the kingdom Gondor closely resembled the Byzantine Empire.
The comparison of Gondor to the Byzantines was a clear allusion to a once a great empire now falling into ruin, much like the fate of the Catholic Church over the last 60 years. Once the greatest civilizing, charitable and religious force the world has ever known, the Church now faces the same imminent threats both within and outside her borders and on every essential point that defines Her very identity and faith. Cardinal Robert Sarah summaries it very well:
This blaze, this conflagration raging in particular through the Church in Europe, is a case of intellectual, doctrinal, and moral confusion. It is our cowardly refusal to proclaim the truth about God and man and to defend and transmit the moral and ethical values of the Christian tradition. It is our loss of faith and the spirit of faith, a losing sight of the objectivity of faith and thus a loss of the knowledge of God...I am convinced that this civilization is living through its mortal hour. As once during the decline and fall of Rome, so today the elites care for nothing but increasing the luxury of their daily lives, and the people have been anaesthetized by ever more vulgar entertainments...As a bishop, it is my duty to warn the West: behold the flames of barbarism threaten you! And who are these barbarians? The barbarians are those who hate human nature. The barbarians are those who trample the sacred under foot. The barbarians are those who despise and manipulate life and strive for “human enhancement”! (Speech given by Robert Cardinal Sarah at Église at Saint François-Xavier in Paris, May 25, 2019)
Cardinal Sarah's reference to the proverbial "barbarians at the gate" in that epic speech in Paris is now manifesting itself in the U.S. and around the world, as the unbridled hatred and violence has spilled over into the streets with calls for socialist revolution and open, violent and physical attacks on Christianity and the Catholic Church, in particular. Only the most dull and stupid can fail to realize that we have moved beyond "normal" religious and Catholic bigotry. This is, as they say, "a whole new ball game". We are moving into an era of formal, systematic religious persecution, without the veneer of religious neutrality or deference.
We are at this point because the Church, in her members and hierarchy, has lost a love of the truth to the point of mass apostasy - if not formal apostasy, then at least practical apostasy and even idolatry. Trying to reinvent Herself to be more accommodating to modern man and take on modern man's concerns, She has lost sight of her primary mission which is the salvation of souls. The secondary concerns have now been made primary and the primary matters are now secondary. It is nothing less than an infernal inversion of the spiritual order which has birthed catastrophic confusion in doctrine and practice. That confusion of meaning and mission has not only affected the Church Herself, but has affected the greater culture at large. Indeed, during a discussion o social media, a protestant minister recently observed: "Abortion will end when the Catholic Church says it should end." In other words, when the Church becomes serious about living and teaching the Gospel and mean it, things will begin to change, but not before that happens.
The future of the Church's evangelization efforts in the West will not be successful through talking about the Faith. Nor will it be fulfilled through service. The new evangelization will be realized under the sword and it will be an evangelization of blood - witnessed by persecution and suffering. If the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church, as the saying goes, then the sword which draws the blood is swung against the inconvenient truths of authentic evangelization. How could it be otherwise?
Although the persecution is coming, it does not mean the Church should not stand and openly defend Herself. Ironically, the main threats to the Church in our age: the doctrinal confusion, the laxity and scandal in our discipline, the homosexual corruption of the clergy and episcopacy. the loss of Catholic identity, and the threat of schism to the Church's unity will be solved by persecution - not futile, tedious, and interminable dialogue.
In the midst of this persecution, Catholic men must stand and defend the Church against the attacks that have started and will only increase in intensity. Although the persecution in itself is evil, much good can come of it. The Church can rediscover Her identity and unity as we focus on a common enemy, instead of fighting lesser and imaginary battles.
Today, 0ur religious freedoms are being whittled away, and our churches and statues are being attacked. Tomorrow, Catholics will be the new pariahs of the culture and we will be isolated and attacked by name. Indeed all those in whom the "dogma lives loudly" will be the targets, even experiencing that hatred physically. Right now we are, by-and-large, fearful, divided, and leaderless. We are waiting for some fearless leadership that can only come from our fathers in the faith. We are waiting for the beacons to be lit. We are waiting for the signal to unite, to defend, to sacrifice, and to die, if necessary. As Catholic men, when Gondor calls for aid, we want to answer, as the King of Rohan did: "And Rohan will answer. Muster the Rohirrim."
In the coming months and years, we do not know all the ways and how quickly the persecution of the Church will spread, but we do know one thing for certain: it is coming. And so we need to prepare for it now.
Here at The Catholic Legate, we've had some experience engaging in effective activism and mobilizing large numbers of people. When the time comes, we will do our part to join with other Catholic organizations to assist in defending the Church's religious freedom, to assist in mobilization, to provide financial assistance, and to defend the Church's property and religious symbols against the attacks that will only intensify in the days to come.
We all need to realize that there's no returning to détente with the world. Those days are coming to an end. The barbarians are not interested in peace with the Church. They seek to destroy the Woman and her offspring. Let us not pretend that we know more than the Lord who warned us: "“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first." (John 15:18). A servant, after all, is not greater than His master in either intelligence or foresight.
We all need to realize that if we don't act soon, there won't be a Shire to return to.
Our prayer is that Gondor calls for aid soon, but that can only come if the beacons are lit. When they are lit, Rohan stands ready to respond.