I just discovered this morning, after my reflections on Olympic modesty, that today is the memorial of Blessed Jacinta Marto, one of the Fatima visionaries, who died on February 20th in 1920 of the Spanish influenza. It was Jacinta who warned that in the future (from her perspective) “certain fashions would be introduced that would offend Our Lord very much”.
I know that modesty is a touchy subject, and I will leave it alone for now, but it is worth pondering how much we may be like the proverbial frogs in boiling water, not realizing how far we have gone along the road until we’re well on the way.
But anon, besides Olympic dressing, which sounds like a protein-supplement salad topping, we should congratulate the recent gold-medal winners, not least the improbably named Tessa Virtue, and her partner on ice and in ‘real’ life, Scott Moir, in their retirement-gold medal-winning routine, making them the most decorated figure skaters of all time (figure skating became an official Olympic sport in 1924).
Canada is third in the medal standings, with 19, behind Norway (23) and Germany (29). All these countries have a leg-up, so to speak, on many others in the Winter Olympics, not least our own great white north with its seemingly never-ending winter; to paraphrase the country ballad, there’s always snow somewhere, if one has a hankering to ski, skate or snowboard, the good fortune to live nearby, or enough money to fly there.
But I keep not track, in general, for I am with Saint Paul’s advice to Timothy on this one (1 Tim 4:8): Bodily training is of some profit, but godliness is good in every way, of far more value, and I cannot help but think that for these young athletes to reach this peak, how many hours upon hours, days upon days, are spent skating circles. A sort of virtue, perhaps, and one can sanctify any kind of work. I hope they did.
But need we accolade them like demi-gods, in what stands for a Canadian pantheon? Virtue and Moir have had a Tim Horton’s donut, pardon me, doughnut (even though Tim’s is now American-owned) made in their honour, which now seems a higher honour than the sullied Order of Canada.
But to what end? For all its earthly and bodily goodness, it is still far better to strive to be a saint, and better yet, a hidden one, than an honoured and medallioned athlete. One small sacrifice done in charity is worth more than a whole set of triple axels.
On more serious matters, the war in Syria continues, a vicarious battle wherein the great powers, for various esoteric and complex reasons, vie for superiority. One hundred civilians were reportedly killed in an airstrike the other day, one of countless tragedies with untold thousands upon thousands of victims. Pray for them, and for peace. As revelation attests, there is something apocalyptic about these Middle East conflicts, leading up to the ‘big one’ at the site of ‘Armageddon’, in Hebrew, ‘Mount Megiddo’, where the final battle between good and evil will be waged in some real or metaphorical sense. Tel Megiddo, as it is now known, is in northern Israel, not far from the border with modern Syria. Hmm.
As Lent reminds us, this world, and our lives, are ‘ashes’ compared with the reality to come. Most people in this vale of tears live lives of what Thoreau called ‘quiet desperation’, which is a paradoxical help to fixing their hopes in the life to come, for they don’t have much this side of the grave. Blessed are the poor…and blessed are those who mourn, and thirst for justice…
An eye-opening read is this analysis on the philosophical and religious roots of the ‘alt-right’ movement in the United States (and elsewhere), a quasi-Nietzschean pastiche, almost a prelude to the religion of Anti-Christ, an exaltation of Man to the point of ‘infinity’, with pale Christianity as a cancer limiting our potential.
It made me think that we need to reappropriate the true ‘virtue’ and strength of the Christian message, which is not just about ecology and helping the poor (although it is much of that, especially the latter), but also teaching the truth, building civilization, and defending all that is true and good, even by just war, self-defense, and military might, if necessary. Such movements as Alt-Right, and, in a different way, machismo-ist radical Islam, are filling a void left by the modern all-too milquetoast and feminized presentation of Christ’s powerful and life-changing message.
A revitalization of Christianity is well past due. Men, young and old, deserve to be told that the Gospel perfects them in their masculinity, to be husbands and fathers, whether of the biological or spiritual sort, in virtuously exercised authority and leadership flowing from a properly ordered and disciplined interior life.
We need a few more good men, like the ones who by their hard labour, their sacrifices, blood, sweat, tears, and even the offering of their very lives, built and defended all that we now take for granted. As John Paul II wrote in Centesimus Annus, life is a work to be accomplished, and not a series of experiences to be enjoyed.
Nothing wrong with experiences, but without a ‘work’ to define them, what will our lives be worth before God? In our world’s ingratitude and complacency, we are in grave danger of letting it all crumble to dust, leaving our traditions like the cast-off, crumbling head of Ozymandias in the desert sands, if we do not conserve and defend what we have been given, and hand it on to others.
Blessed Jacinta Marto, ora pro nobis!