The following reflection from contributor Peter Hála offers one perspective on how to respond in our current times of controversy. As befits a magazine in the truly ‘Catholic’ tradition, we should be open to differing points of view – within certain limits. As the saying goes, in necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas.
So peruse his unique commentary, and feel free to let us know your own thoughts.
The world-wide lockdowns due to the second wave of the corona virus will result in one of the strangest Christmases ever. Pandemic experts and our state-funded media have been preparing us for quite some time by painting a gloomy picture of our highly advanced socialist healthcare collapsing under the increased stresses of the disintegrating social networks.
Besides, Canadian Catholics, (really all Catholics around the world), including our bishops whose churches are practically locked-down and whose flocks have dispersed into the Canadian wilderness, must be baffled by what is going on in the pandemic stricken Vatican. It not only looks like we will be loosing Christmas this year, but the Catholic Church, which has so far represented the fullness of Christmas and Christian truth, is on a brink of a major division or collapse similar to the current Catholic division in the USA.
At first some media and mean journalists suggested a tough stoical ‘suck it up princess’ attitude.
To add insult to injury they were gratuitously telling us to get used to this new normal and they were asking the stressed out citizens to “sacrifice” and “defund” Christmas, whatever such baffling nonsense means.
Welcome to the Canadian Covid Christmas nightmare 2020!
Yet, the response of Canadians was opposite, proving that deep-down Canada is not an atheistic or even a ‘progressive’ country as the secular media like to portray us now. Most of us still cherish Christmas, although for Christians it seems to be a dreamy spirit of the Christmas past when Canada was still a Christian nation. Others hope that the virtual Zoom Christmas will at least satisfy the hunger for social contact, hugs, and kisses, the smells and tastes and the laughter of the real rollicking Christmas. But it is clear that the majority of Canadians will not abandon Christmas at any cost, even if many are confused about what to do and how to properly celebrate Christmas under lockdown.
I started writing this article with the hope of clarifying some of the massive confusion about the pandemic and Christmas in Canada, so that regardless of the severity of the situation, and all the confusion, God willing, we may find peace and blessing of the newborn Christ whose ‘mass’ we will not be able to celebrate this Christmas.
Our situation is worsening daily as I write this, and Alberta is quickly becoming the worst hotspot in Canada. A sense of desperation is falling all around us like a deadly midwinter fog setting on a cold dark slippery highway. Cases are increasing exponentially. There are numerous deaths in the retirement homes. Double-bunking is happening the ICU units, and the government has asked some hospitals to conserve oxygen. There are reports that hospitals pump so much oxygen into the lungs of the afflicted that it exceeds the capacity of the centrally installed oxygen pipes. Additional field hospitals are being prepared. Mathematical modeling predicts 50 deaths a day in Alberta. Medical experts expect a catastrophe similar to Italy or New York. Army reservists are being trained to handle the bodies of the deceased. There is an expectation of a very severe lockdown well past Christmas now.
Crumbling elder care, shattering economy and basic services, education in shambles, small business bankruptcies, unemployment, increasing debt, family violence, divorces, child payment neglect, crime, opioid crisis, the chief cop in charge of the national Internet security has been locked up. Not to mention the practically locked-down churches and non-existent spiritual support. All this despite the unprecedented government spending which will come back to haunt us. Can it get worse? Let’s hope and pray it won’t!
In the midst of this misery we are told to isolate and take care of our health the best we can, (so we don’t have to go to the hospital), and exercise or walk daily, (excessive baking and TV watching is not a good idea). The result of all this is increasing stress, insomnia, and rapidly disintegrating physical, mental, and spiritual health of Canadians. Experts are preparing a “national grief strategy”, with psychologists of grief, and a legion of phone therapists and Zoom grief counselors.
The physically and mentally collapsing medical personnel will have to be re-educated and psychologically re-invigorated. All of them supposedly need to re-imagine a higher sense of duty because their meta-cognitive heroism cannot be maintained any more.
I don’t mean to rub it in, but I could give numerous historical examples of religious orders whose sisters sacrificed their lives caring for the sick, basically for free, doing a fantastic heroic job even without meta-cognitive re-education.
Some time ago the Bank of Canada wanted to add images of inspiring Canadian women to their banknotes. I suggested to the Prime Minister and to the Bank of Canada that the religious sisters who founded and ran the first hospitals in New France, Canada and Alberta would be a perfect choice, perfectly representing “Canadian values”. Well, we got the Museum of Human Rights and Mrs. Viola Desmond.
I don’t want to be critical of the leadership of various authorities in charge of Covid. They have an unprecedentedly difficult situation to deal with, evaluating a plethora of complex scientific, medical, mathematical and psychological information from around the world most citizens have no clue about. In time of national crisis partisan political attacks are caddish. Supposedly, “we are all in this together.” Nevertheless, the stunning failure of the most advanced socialized healthcare systems, which are the cornerstone of modern society, is mind-boggling.
A typical flu shot used to be 10-40 % effective, so let us hope and pray that the new vaccines will indeed turn out to be 95% effective, providing long-term immunity, and that their “immune response” will be favorable. If there are any glitches, Heaven forbid!, or if the vaccines underperform, some really unconventional out-of-the-box thinking beyond meta-cognitive psycho-babble will be required to solve the conundrums.
(Military style distribution more complex than the “moon landing”, network hacking threats by rogue agencies, privateers and pirates who can lock down hospitals or infrastructure networks and demand ransom, shortage of crucial equipment made overseas, and shortage of vaccine raw materials was in the news in the last few days.)
I pity the multitudes of dumbfounded children for whom Covid has become an existential nightmare, and whose parents are desperately trying to shield them from the tragic deaths of their grandparents. (Many were touched by the “happy” Covid song of a four year old girl.) I am deeply empathetic with the over-worked health care providers and first responders who must continually wear masks and elaborate protection.
So I am doing all that has been asked of us! I carried disinfectant before it became mandatory. I bought masks at my pharmacy and I obediently mask-up whenever required. Before those were recommended and available I had cut-up a pillow case, but I was always nervous about these makeshift bandanas since they were not scientifically tested.
I was dismayed when the pope met with the NBA basketball players in a sizable social gathering, even taking a group photo, the whole happy smiling congregation without masks and disrespecting proper distancing! I haven’t heard that the NBA players, who were invited to discuss social justice at such high level, had quarantined for two weeks in Vatican before meeting the pope and his staff. And, why exactly are the basketball players especially qualified to understand sociology and justice? Well, sociology has never been considered true science anyway, and as far as ‘justice’, since the French Revolution it has always been more like mob justice.
Neither has the media reported that Vatican has recently installed an advanced ultraviolet-light air purification system, powered by Vatican solar panels of course. Perhaps the large medieval windows are sufficient to provide enough fresh air to kill the virus? Or could it be that the Vatican doctors have found an effective lung disinfectant president Trump was so desperately looking for?
Nah, it must be some special divine Covid grace the Vatican is surrounded with, and it could have rubbed off on the large crowds of social justice protesters who certainly did not social-distance this summer. (It has now been reported that 48 NBA player have contracted the virus, hopefully they haven’t brought it from the Vatican.)
Just a few months ago the pope was concerned about the pandemic when he released his new encyclical. I sure hope some of his learned theologians will explain to us his infallible social-justice virology, because I find his logic and his politico-economico-financial pandemic associations just as confusing as his Covid protocol.
Symbolism is important and it shocked many faithful Catholics that instead of a truly Christian or Christmas motif, something expressing or encouraging Christian values in the midst of the deadly midwinter pandemic, the pope has released the Pachamama coin to inspire us. A woman with a tortured look, just prior to giving birth to a globe the size of a basketball. Ouch! This will be a painful birth! Giving birth to a real baby seems like a walk in the park compared to this global delivery. No painkillers for the poor unidentified woman? Perhaps a little Datura ceratocaula, or Pernettya furens? The Vatican doctors better be standing by for an emergency caesarean section.
The pope calls her Pachamama. Journalists speculated that the Andean fertility goddess, who was also identified as “Our Lady of the Amazon”, was in fact the Blessed Virgin Mary. In response, Paolo Ruffini, head of the Vatican’s communications office, hastily clarified that the woman “fundamentally represents life”. Now I am curious what the Vatican means by words “fundamentally” and “life.” But I am glad the Magisterium does not mean the large statues scattered around the Andean countryside of fat naked erotic looking women with signs like “Monumento a la Pachamama.”
(A little research into native pharmacopeia reveals that the Daturas were the most widely used narcotic plants in the world. A number of species is found in South America, especially in the Adean regions. The power of the Delphi Oracle came from smoking Datura, Buddha’s preaching supposedly caused heaven to sprinkle dew on Datura, and Algonquins used it before their manhood initiation. Hernández described toloatzin’s widespread use by the Aztecs, but warned that it could cause madness. Various species are known in American Spanish speaking countries as “torna loca.” Another popular native medicinal plant is Pernettya, with over 25 species from Mexico to Chile. The Chileans call it “hierba loca” because it causes mental confusion, even permanent insanity.)
The wooden Pachamamas displayed at the Vatican Amazon Synod were all naked, and they had the same tortured look and big pregnant bellies, but at least they weren’t as vulgarly erotic as the native Pachamamas. Still, some outraged Catholics objected and threw them into the river Tiber.
The multitude of Pachamamas displayed raises another theological concern – why a number of them, why not just one? Considering Paolo Ruffini’s explanation, would there be a multiple of supernatural life giving principles? This would be indeed a new and truly revolutionary polytheistic reinterpretation of Christianity!
I am glad that the pope kindly pardoned the perpetrators who desecrated the Pachamamas. But I don’t share his enthusiasm that the wooden idols were promptly caught by the Carabinieri as they were floating down the river Tiber. It might have been better to let them disappear in the Mediterranean Sea.
I don’t envy the poor Commander of the Carabinieri in whose office the wooden pagan idols were kept for safekeeping. I am not sure how “happy” the Commander really was to follow the pope’s enthusiastic press conference in which he urged the journalists to take “initiatives” regarding the reinstatement of Pachamamas. I bet the pope’s secret service was ready to take down any further desecrators of Pachamamas at the closing ceremonies of the Vatican Synod.
One Pachamama is supposedly worth ten Euro, but I would not use it to buy Christmas gifts from the Vatican gift shop even if Santa Claus dumped a sleigh full of these coins in my backyard. Will the Vatican gift shop accept bitcoin? Perhaps sooner than we think. The only rational action would be to melt down all these sacrilegious coins before the Pachamama’s expected delivery.
Speaking of money, neither am I thrilled with the Canadian $10 ‘museum’ banknote. The recent museum scandal has soured my feelings about the enterprise. Whenever I get one of these I promptly get rid of it so it doesn’t clutter my pockets. Alas, what can one expect from a secular proposition from which the key Christmas principle of the brotherhood of all men has been removed?
Ironically, the museum’s credo is printed on the banknote in letters so minuscule that it is illegible. It might have made more sense to print on it in large letters “Whereas Canada is founded upon the principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the Rule of Law.”
Elegant Viola Desmond was a fine Canadian hairdresser, and she is an excellent example of a good-looking Canadian woman. I don’t think she would approve of the modern Canadian hairstyles, colors and facial tattoos. It’s a pity, or maybe not, that the hair salons are closed and Canadian women have to hide their shaggy Covid hair. But, in any case, it seems to me the righteous Mrs. Desmond would not have been thrilled by carrying the weight of the corrupt museum on her back.
A microscopically tiny encouraging thing can be found of the banknote, however. Although it might take a Sherlock Holmes with a large magnifying glass to find it and explain it to doctor Watson. One of the banknote’s security features is an almost invisible Canadian Coat of Arms with the Canadian motto “A mari usque ad mare.”
This, of course, refers to Psalm 72, a prayer that God give good judgement and justice to the king and ruler – one that rescues the poor and oppressed, shows pity to the needy, frees his people from extortion and saves them from violence – so that he may rule (have dominion), being blessed day by day by God, from sea to sea, from the river to the ends of the earth.
“Dominion” is used in some English Bible translations, and the name “Dominion of Canada” explicitly linked Canada to Psalm 72. Many Canadians were sad when the Dominion Day was replaced by Canada Day because it removed Canada and its rulers from the protection of the Eternal King.
The original idea came from the chief mastermind of Canada, George Monro Grant (1835-1902), who saw Catholic and Protestant Christianity as two separate rivers, (St. Lawrence and Ottawa), which eventually blend into one river of Psalm 72. Grant proposed that only systemized religions could produce a civilization and culture. Quoting Origen, Grant understood that Christianity is more than just one of these major systemized religions – “It is the declaration of the way of righteousness,” and wherever we find righteousness, “we find testimony to Jesus.”
Historically, and sociologically, the birth of Jesus has thus not only sidetracked the major systemized religions, but it put the plethora of primitive, animistic, shamanistic, and pagan cults, into an everlasting coma, into “a long euthanasia”, as Grant put it.
By unsystematic religions Grant meant all the inconsistent ad-hoc quasi-religions and myths which lack proper philosophy, theology, ethics, and a systematic logical world-view. This would include all the confused ‘mother-earth’ pachamama cults and the multitude of various primitive drug-induced hallucinations found in barbaric ‘cultures’ all over the world! (From the Mongolian and Siberian shaman-cults to the jungles of Amazon.)
This is how Christmas has always been understood, by all intelligent people of all ages, many of whom gladly turned away from their barbaric ancestral paganism. This is how St. Paul, an educated Jew, explained it to the “stupid” (Gal 3:3) Galatians: “For all of you who were baptized in Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave or free person, there is not male or female; for you are all one in Jesus Christ.” (Gal. 3, 27-28) The same also applies to Romans (10:28), Colossians, Scythians, barbarians, (Col. 3, 9-11) and everybody else who truly wishes to celebrate the spirit of Christmas.
Clearly, as difficult as it has been to fulfill, and considering the social failure and the chaos the ‘progressive’ policies have created, the only viable idea on which Canada can be sustained is the original notion formulated by the principles of the Canadian Founding Fathers. The phrase “A mari usque ad mare” was proposed by the civil servant Joseph Pope, who was very proud of his contribution. Pope knew very well what he meant, and it was primarily as Grant’s oft used Biblical reference to Psalm 72 that the Canadian motto proudly stands underneath the Canadian Coat of Arms, and only secondarily as a geographical feature of Canada from ‘coast to coast’, based on Grant’s 1873 book “Ocean to Ocean.”
The proposed 2007 amendments, which, Thank God, haven’t been officially adopted, (even if 75% of Canadians supposedly were in favor), have created even more confusion. The unbiblical and geographically baffling “A mari usque ad maria”, (from the sea to the other seas), is a perplexing mouthful of stupidity exponentiated to the n-th degree! We should pray that the prime ministers and politicians will finally realize what the official “A mari usque ad mare” means, and started to use the correct “sea to sea”, rather than the nonsensical “sea to sea to sea”. If they refuse there may be no seas or coasts to baffle the multitudes of disenchanted solitudes.
To express the progressive ‘all-inclusivity’ of Canada, and to include the Arctic regions, the secular media and politicians have adopted the geographically and politically correct “coast to coast to coast”, but they avoid the term ‘coast to coast’, since that also carries the Biblical connotation of Psalm 72.
Canada has a very cold climate and most Canadian buildings and houses have not been designed and built with large opening windows. Heating in cold climates is expensive, and mosquitos and flies are a problem during the hot summer, so most of the air in the Canadian buildings is recirculated. If the air systems are correctly set up, a certain minimum of “fresh air” is mandated by the code, but, in reality, buggy failure-prone control systems may fail to provide even that.
Many condo dwellers are desperately escaping the cities into the countryside where they don’t have to breathe the recirculated air of others. These, as well as the schools and office buildings will require expensive upgrades to make them Covid-compliant.
I would install a UV filter if one were available, but, I am sorry, I couldn’t power it with snow-covered rooftop solar panels since we have already had a foot of snow. A two-story house not far from me has rooftop solar panels, and there used to be a broom and a tall ladder permanently leaning against it each winter. I hope the owner is safe and hasn’t slipped and tumbled down trying to keep his panels clear of snow. (A true story!) Besides, we now get more moonlight than sunlight, it is mostly pitch black here during our long midwinter.
The poor man was grateful when the saintly Good King Wenceslas brought the gift of pine logs, and I daily thank God for the heat and energy provided by the Alberta fossil fuels. Given our “cruel” Canadian winter’s rage, without oil, gas or coal my blood would freeze even more coldly than the poor man’s. There are no vast ‘crown lands’ with forests nearby, and I don’t think it would go over very well if I tried to gather some “fuel” in the nearby river-valley parks.
The early Edmonton pioneers barely survived in their coal-heated tents. Windmills and solar panels will not be sufficient to sustain life in most of the cold Canada. If the half-baked teenage foolhardiness of Greta Thunberg will convince our politicians to ‘defund’ and shut down Alberta’s fossil fuels, Rick Mercer’s crazy comedy about shutting down Canada may indeed become reality.
Incidentally, there are rumors that Greta also contracted Covid, since she hasn’t been seen back at her school. The only news the reporters could reliably report was that none of Greta’s teachers drive electric cars, none car-pool, and most of them drive old high-emission gas-guzzlers, off-roaders, and large luxurious SUVs.
My conscience is clear and I don’t feel any guilt for polluting the planet. I haven’t taken a flight since 2011, I compost, reuse, minimize my emissions, and I do other things to keep our environment as clean as possible. I am not sure with how many millions of tree plantings Greta will be punished with by the green gods of Mother Earth for hypocritically flying all over the world spreading dissent and deceptive misinformation.
To fight the pandemic I wear a mask, I don’t frequent social gatherings of any kind, I have eliminated my gym workouts and restricted in-person shopping to absolute minimum. I haven’t driven anywhere for my vacation this year, my recreation was my sustainable garden. In summer I ride my bicycle, now I walk everywhere. I often keep even more than a 6-foot distance from others, and since my childhood I was taught to be pedantic about my hand hygiene.
But there is one thing I will staunchly refuse – to defund or sacrifice or pervert Christmas!
I don’t want to sound like a prophet of doom, but it seems to me as if Covid is the punishment of God. I am surprised the pope hasn’t considered this rather straightforward proposition.
(Our premier seems to be aware, as he has stated a few minutes ago announcing the lockdown in Alberta, that the Covid has especially hit hard all the “developed” countries.)
The logic is simple, one doesn’t need a complex meta-mathematical proof akin to Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem to get it. God’s ‘Dies Irae’ might have come upon mankind because the world’s most prosperous and advanced societies have failed to ‘keep Christ in Christmas’.
(I am aware that some may consider such a proposition an outrageous nonsense. If you do, go ahead and make my day – disprove me!)
Or, one can put it in another way, and any Christian can easily form such a corollary already proposed a century ago by the Oxford historian Hillaire Belloc. It is always ‘Christ or chaos’, meaning that any society that dismisses or minimizes Christ will inevitably end in chaos. Rather than a lot of sophisticated tutti-frutti pandemic theologizing, all we need is basic common sense, humility, penance, and a lot of simple sincere prayers.
A joyous cry “Vaccines are coming!“ has been sounded as I was writing my closing words, the cheerful commentators declared it to be the best Christmas present, because we “deserve normal life.” Will we get the old normal back? Perhaps next fall, the elated experts cautiously replied.
This will be a long lockdown, and since I don’t have a Covid puppy to pet, I was looking for a suitable stuffed animal to alleviate my stress. I considered the new popular FeistyPets, but I found Karl the Snarl too scary. I wanted to order the slyly smiling Jack Nicholson puppet satirizing his famous rant “You can’t handle the truth!” Unfortunately Amazon was sold out. Well, I can watch old videos of my favourite Canadian Air Farce comedian Jock McBile. I don’t mind when he tells me “Get stuffed!”
So given our bleak situation, how can we make some sense of this misery and joyfully celebrate this Christmas? I will try to give some insights next week.