John A’s and Saint Bartholomew’s Imperfections

Erase this man!

The iconoclasm and historical revisionism continues apace in the United States, with statues toppling on the left, right and centre, mainly on the right, and has now spread its new-speak tentacles all the way to Canada.  The ‘Elementary Teachers’ Federation’, such as it is, has voted to rename all of the schools currently named after the first Prime Minister of this country, John A. MacDonald because, you may have guessed, he was supportive of the ‘residential school system’.  How was he supposed to know that a few deviants and miscreants would misuse what was generally intended for the good?  Apparently, now his name, and his statues and pictures, provide an ‘unsafe’ environment for students. Say it ain’t so.  I doubt most students could tell you more than two things about John A., inclusive of his last name.

This is becoming insane, in the literal sense of that term.  In-sanus, unhealthy, for mind, for culture, for the nation.  The obsession with whatever zeitgeist moves people, the emotional reaction to the vagaries and limitations of history, that our historical figures were not perfect, and saw things within the horizons of their own perspective, as do we all.  Father George Rutler has his usual witty and insightful article on this rewriting and attempted whitewashing (pun intended) of history in a recent article, wherein he quotes the prescient George Orwell’s 1984, with the omnipresent State dictating what everyone will think and remember:

Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right  

We are entering just such a phase, through a soft totatlitarianism, which with most of us are almost completely compliant, whether aware or not, sending our children through a school system that is quite literally brain-washing them, cleansing their thoughts of nearly everything that is true, whether that ‘truth’ is good and beautiful, or somewhat imperfect, leaving only what is functional, efficient and, most important of all, ‘correct’ according to the current political breeze.

I wonder, if we ever do return to sanity, how people will remember Justin Trudeau, Kathleen Wynne, who have perverted MacDonald’s original ‘Liberal’ party, all their hangers-on and fellow travelers,  purveyors of death, euthanasia, abortion, sodomy, perversions in various forms and guises, all smiles and hugs?  What statues will future ages put up, or put up with?

Yes, John A. MacDonald was an imperfect man, but in the main had a straight moral sense, who struggled with various things in life, booze amongst them.  We all have such, whether it is bibbling a bit too much wine, or gabbing too much in talk, or holding opinions which we may later regret.  But he helped build this nation, and for that he should be remembered, warts and all.

Even the saints were imperfect, and as Saint Philip Neri once declared, what we know even of such haloed hagiographic figures beaming piously from stained glass windows and statuaries across this fair land ‘is the least part of them’.  The reason anyone is ‘great’ is by the very fact that he struggles against his weaknesses, whether or not he overcomes them; the battle itself is in large part the victory.

We don’t know all that much about today’s saint, Bartholomew, who seems also to have been known as Nathaniel.  At least, he is identified with the somewhat mysterious figure in the second chapter of Saint John’s Gospel, the Apostle who asked the famous question ‘whether anything good can come from Nazareth’,  in whom Christ ‘found no guile’.  After Christ opaquely declared that He had seen Nathaniel ‘under the fig tree’, Nathaniel made his confession of faith: ‘Thou art the Son of God, thou art the King of Israel’. Whatever was going on under that fig tree, Bartholomew-Nathaniel seems to have been converted then and there.

Tradition has it that Bartholomew preached the faith all the way to India and Armenia, converting the king and people, whose brother, resisting, ordered the Apostle’s execution by the horrific method of being flayed alive and crucified upside down.  Hence, Bartholomew is often depicted in art with his own skin in hand (as seen here in Michelangelo’s Last Judgement)  Hmm.  The Catholic faith is nothing if not incarnate.

Bartholomew likely had many of his own weaknesses, lost now to history. But commemorate him we do, until the end of time.  And we should do so, even with far lesser figures, to remember the past, and recall God’s providence as moving and guiding history through all its imperfections, its crooked lines and apparent dead-ends, towards its ultimate perfection and culmination, when “the Son himself will also be made subject to him who subjected all things to him, that God may be all in all”.  For in the vain attempt to seek utopia here and now, that is all, we will find, u-topia, no place at all.