Sunday, December 4, 2011

The End of History?

The other day after a talk and discussion with a class of university students, a young lady came up and asked me if I was familiar with a lecture by Francis Fukuyama, later published as an article entitled: "The End of History?" She asked me what my opinion was on the thesis that the end of participatory and/or representative democracy would signal the end of history. I told her I did not know the article, but that for my way of thinking as there was history before democracy so there could be history after democracy. ["Sherman's Lagoon" today reminded me of this brief exchange.]

Yesterday, I started watching a lecture by Peter Kreeft on how to win the culture war [on Youtube] which he introduces by stating his thesis, that the Catholic Church is the only thing which stands in the way of the total collapse of Western Civilization... whew! It sort of reminds me of the courageous little Dutch boy who saved his town by plugging the hole in the dike with his finger.

If that were not enough, I also took in the 2nd part of Fr. Robert Barron's marvelous commentary on the figure of King David in which he draws a corollary between David's failures as a father and the failures (in fathering or governing) of the Catholic hierarchy today [Word on Fire]. Well taken, but I think the word is: ouch!

All of this and much more draws forth additional reflection for me and on my part on the question: "Where is or what is the locus of the Church?" I am asking not only about its place in my life but about its place or role in and for the life of the world. I still find no better way of dealing with this question than did Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman in his beautiful little novel "Callista: A Tale of the Third Century". In most modern and credible fashion he illustrates the miracle of how the blood of martyrs can be the seed of Christians. He paints a picture of a Church lost, a civilization really collapsed, which is renewed by a martyrdom which was willed perhaps only by God Himself.

The quintessential witness of the Church, its locus par excellence, is that of standing with Mary, John and the Magdalen at the Foot of the Cross of Christ. That witness in martyrdom doesn't necessarily attract volunteers and so I think it important to reflect on the importance of watching and praying in the Garden of Gethsemane as that which prepares us for Calvary and lest we fall into temptation. Besides coming to a knowledge of Christ and of our faith in Him through study, identifying with Him through that personal exchange with Him which is our watchful/attentive prayer, certainly goes in that direction and beyond a shadow of a doubt. Even if we do fall asleep, we pray that Jesus will come and wake us, as He did Peter, James and John in Gethsemane.

Today, as far as the greater role of the Church for the sake of civilization I was struck by the dynamics of Chapter 10 of St. John's Gospel. The setting for the part of the chapter I have in mind is winter, with Jesus walking up and down in Solomon's Portico of the Temple. The exchange or engagement between Jesus and those who surround Him, the one I maintain could save society, is very much under way. In a sense, this is all that really matters in life, especially in the life of the Church for the sake of the salvation of the world: that we engage the other, that the discourse be honest and open, that the possibility of knowing what Christ offers through His Church be provided such that those who are destined for salvation might come to be saved.

Peter Kreeft says that the only thing which stands in the way of the total collapse of Western Civilization is the Catholic Church... OK... he's a philosopher and a big name. I guess I'd say it differently. The life of the world depends upon my coming to know Christ, upon my study, my prayer, my watching with Him, as the old hymn goes... "in His temptation and His fast".

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