Last week I commented on the devastation of the basilica of St. Benedict and the monastery in Norcia and suggested that this was a sign of the death of what we called Western Civilization since the early Middle Ages. I write this column this Wednesday morning bleary-eyed, having stayed up until the wee hours of the morning, mesmerized by the drama unfolding on the TV screen as votes were being counted across the country in the presidential election. I was interested not only in the results of the election but also what the talking heads of all persuasions had to say—and they always have a lot to say—about the results that defied all predictions, all polls, all expectations.
I could not help linking the earthquake in Norcia with the results of the election. I am not yet clear about this link, but I know that both events signal the end of something and also demand hope for the future. My hope is firmly with the monks in this wise. As I have said elsewhere, I follow what the psalmist says, and I do not put my trust in princes or in the legs of horses. My help is in the name of the Lord.
Whatever we make of what happened on November 8, we must always remember that Catholics should have a sense of detachment from the political world. This does not mean at all that Catholics should not be involved in politics. Catholics should be actively involved in the affairs of the world and do whatever they can to infuse the world of government and politics with a Catholic understanding of reality and of moral values. But just as detachment is needed to love our families with their imperfections, so too detachment is necessary to love one’s country with all of its imperfections.
Perhaps what we saw on Tuesday was the end of a brand of political liberalism that has come to an end, a liberalism peopled with elites who despite their professions of care for the “little man” have created a culture of selfishness and amorality. It is pathetic how they think that having the support of Hollywood stars and singers and rappers and hugging them on the eve of the election has anything to do with most people’s understanding of the world and its problems. Dare we hope that they will rest in peace from now on?
But what will take its place? We do not know. Will it be a beast slouching towards Bethlehem? Or something new that we cannot yet imagine? There is anxiety about the future after this election. And there are good reasons for that anxiety. But what we must do is to watch and pray, pray and watch.
I watched much of the election night returns with my son in Los Angeles by way of FaceTime. We provided commentary on the unfolding events and on those who were commenting on those events. I close this column with a part of what my son wrote on his FaceBook page.
“I choose to be cautiously optimistic. This country has lasted 240 years, survived an invasion by the British, a civil war, plus countless other travails and tragedies. This country is stronger than one man or woman, and will outlast both of the candidates. I choose to be optimistic because I have faith in the people of this nation, and, just as importantly, in the laws and government of this nation. I choose to be optimistic, because the other choice is to be fearful and defeatist, and I fail to see how that would help anything. Here’s to the future and moving forward past this night”.
Well said, I think. But I would add: Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made both heaven and earth.
Father Richard Gennaro Cipolla