Of Benedict and the Conservative Option

A blessed feast of Saint Benedict to all our readers! Although the whole monastic tradition predates him by several centuries, going back to such early figures as Pachomius and Anthony, Benedict did write the most famous rule for monks, in which he mitigated the severe penances of the Irish monks (always given to extremes). His rule shines forth with a balance and harmony, signifying a deep knowledge of human nature, and the capacity to lead men gradually to perfection. You can find the whole treatise here, and it is well worth a read, even a glance, even a brief perusal to increase your devotion to the saint.

As we ponder how to live in this fractious world, becoming ever-more anti-Christian in not only its sentiments, but even in its explicit laws, it is good to meditate upon the example of those who ‘gave everything’ for Christ. Even if we are not called to do so, at least so explicitly, the saints offer us a lodestar and ideal, which helps us see past our passing troubles and anxieties. All manner of things shall be well, said Blessed Julian of Norwich, at least in the end.

On the more secular plane, Doug Ford seems off to a good start, having a summer session of parliament to scrap the ‘cap and trade’ law, which forces companies in to ‘buy’ carbon credits, so they can, in the gimlet eyes of the Liberals, ‘pollute’ the environment with carbon dioxide, an economically stultifying measure, to which we should wish good riddance. Ford’s government will also cancel a wind farm project, those behemothic structures which produce more wind than energy, and which blot the aesthetics of any pastoral or rural land on which they are placed. Good riddance also, and let us, like John Bunyan, chop down the rest of them before they turn into rusting, useless hulks of metal. Finally, Ford will also force the striking teaching assistants at York University back to work. I am not sure of their grievances, but with the current state of our universities, I would not mind if more of them were put out of work.

The Bank of Canada is raising interest rates on loans. I am no fan of usury, nor even of debt, except of the most necessary and exception variety, as brief and painless as possible. Yet Canadians are addicted to it; well, not debt, per se, but rather all the toys and baubles they can get with going into debt, from JetSkis (a whole topic in itself) to trucks, couches, entertainment systems, vacations and homes far too big and luxurious for our income. I was heartened to hear these words from one Frances Donald, senior economist with Manulife Asset Management, that ‘the Bank of Canada wants to, and needs to, “normalize” interest rates’, going on to assert that ‘we need to wean ourselves off of those super-low interest rates and toward the more normal interest rate environment…that’s not a comfortable transition for any economy, but for our longer-run economic health, it’s necessary. We are unhinged from reality in more ways than one, and if this is one necessary step to get us back to some level of economic sanity, so be it. However, it’s going to take a lot more than a slight hike in how much it costs to borrow money we do not have, and never will, but rather a whole cultural-moral shift in how we view money and its relation to that whole project of life. Ora et labora, Saint Benedict, pray and work, and all else will take care of itself.

We must conserve more than we are doing more body and forthrightly if we, and our society, are to survive. An excellent article on this score is published today in Crisis, reviewing a recent book by Dr. Scott Hahn, that marriage is at the practical level is impossible without the grace of God, that is, as a sacrament. And what holds for marriage, holds for society: That a nation unhinged from Christ and His laws cannot survive, or, as Leo XIII put it in Immortale Dei:

to exclude the Church, founded by God Himself, from life, from laws, from the education of youth, from domestic society is a grave and fatal error. A State from which religion is banished can never be well regulated.

We are seeing the fruits of rejecting the Church, from marriage, all the way down, or up, as the case may be.

All the while, President Trump is raising the ante in more ways than one, defying NATO members to pay their own way in defending Europe against Russian aggression, which seems a Cold War anachronism to many. Justin Trudeau just renewed Canada’s mission to defend Europe with 500 or so troops in Latvia; I am not sure what these soldiers would do if Russian actually invaded, but perhaps they would stand like the Spartans, with two hundred more. Do we need Canadian soldiers in Latvia, and why cannot Latvia defend itself? Just asking.

Finally, Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, may well be a boon for conservatives, although he has apparently admitted that he will not touch Roe vs. Wade. Regardless, he will likely do much good within a very imperfect system, wherein the ‘rule of law’ is not exactly balanced. This will be a battle, and we hope God’s will is done.

Ora et labora, and Saint Benedict, ora pro nobis!