Our Lady weeps …
Moreover, it is a striking thing how often the Blessed Virgin Mary is seen to weep.
Her naked tears, as I have said before, are explicitly related to the de-Christianisation of the West. And here one must consider the stripping of the Seven Sacraments, which is our theme today.
Now, last time, I indicated I would say more of hope, rather than tears. And indeed I will soon publish something very profound regarding this vital theme of hope. (It is much more profound than anything I could write myself!)
Still, Our Lady weeps and there are no doubt reasons she does not weep privately, but appears either mournful or actually weeping. For example, in the Rue du Bac, at La Salette, Pontmain and even Lourdes.
In a New Age neo-pagan world, one may be castigated for appearing insufficiently upbeat or positive. One may even be accused of despair, should one dare to mourn publicly.
But a universe of difference exists between the sin of despair (or ranting) and authentic weeping.
Today, I publish a short section from my upcoming book that I hope is neither despair, nor ranting. It is my aspiration to participate – as much as my tiny, fallible, fallen human nature permits – in the Blessed Virgin’s tears.
Now, extracting a short section from a larger manuscript is not easy: The reader loses a lot of context.
It may help if I say, first, my book is subtitled From Secular Materialism and the New Age to the Catholic Mystery – and it very much concerns how the Catholic Mystery is obscured today.
On the one hand, this Mystery of Mysteries is beclouded by New Age mysteries. On the other hand, it is buried by Secular Materialism – by which I mean the cultural complex that has replaced Christendom in the West – a complex that stresses both materialistic theory (e.g. utilitarianism) and praxis (e.g. commercialism).
That being said, here is my manuscript extract, slightly adapted for greater clarity.
Catholicism has been under assault from an increasingly aggressive secular world for generations now. But around the 1950s or 60s that assault became amplified by an array of technology – television, above all.
Television, for example, did not arrive in Ireland till the Sixties, where the Irish started to see all kinds of American and British programming for the first time. Oddly and disturbingly, it may have seemed to many of them, the Catholic Mystery was hardly mentioned once!
Still, this phenomenon was hardly limited to television. From 1954 onwards, the youth started to carry the new invention of transistor radios, wherever they went, listening to the new phenomenon of ‘Top 40’ hits. Later, of course, the youth started wearing walkmans and now ipods.
People became increasingly isolated in an all-surrounding ‘entertainment culture’. This entertainment culture drew above all on America and Britain, profoundly Protestant cultures. Unsurprisingly, the Catholic Mystery hardly features in Anglo media.
In this chapter, I picked out the relatively little known example of Julian Lennon – a noble soul, I think – literally brought up by the Beatles and now imparting Beatles’ philosophy to the world.
But the noble Julian Lennon is hardly alone: Most young people are catechised in pop culture and many, in their turn, later become pop catechists themselves. Some will be ambassadors of the Beatles’ vision, others will become ambassadors for the vision of the Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath, Beavis and Butthead, horror films like the Friday the Thirteenth series – or even worse.
This threat to the Catholic Mystery has been well-rehearsed in this book. Yet we should stress that not just Catholicism, but Christianity itself, is threatened. Because the future of Protestantism in the West would seem even grimmer than Catholicism.
A gallup poll of Europeans in 2008 asked ‘Does religion occupy an important place in your life?’ The ‘no’ responses clearly indicated the failure of Protestant Christianity in Europe. Of the top ten highest no responses – ranging from sixty six to eighty four per cent, only two countries might conceivably be considered Catholic.
Unsurprisingly, one was France, the other was the Czech Republic – both victims of terrible religious persecutions.
By contrast, the Protestant nations on the list never suffered persecution – only the constant erosion that comes with Secular Materialism. The top four countries – where seventy eight or more per cent of respondents said religion was not important – were Estonia, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Historically, these are all lands where the Catholic Mystery was reduced to the very minimum.
The case of Sweden is instructive here. According to some reports, only two per cent of the Church of Sweden go to services each Sunday and a 2010 Eurobarometer poll found that only seventeen percent of Swedes capable of declaring a belief in God. And there are many surveys which suggest that Protestantism in the West is following the Scandinavian path.
Until now, the outstanding exception to this pattern was, of course, America. In many ways, that is still true – however even America now witnesses her so-called blue states becoming ever more like secular Europe. Moreover, many of her so-called red states may be trending blue. Christian values, never questioned one or two generations ago, are certainly questioned now.
Given this, one may legitimately ask, whether non-sacramental forms of Christianity will be strong enough to survive.
In the new millennium, Christians of every kind may find the Sacraments – all seven – are desperately needed, if their faith is to withstand the burgeoning challenge of materialistic media inundation.
Christians everywhere should remember that, for the first fifteen hundred years, the only Christianity that existed was the Christianity of the Seven Sacraments.
It was this Christianity that built Christendom. Christians then, whether religious or laity, benefitted from all Seven Sacraments. For the last five hundred years, we have witnessed the spread of de-sacramentalised Christianity. During the same epoch, Christendom fell apart.
Secular Materialism has grown, first and foremost, from de-sacramentalised Christianity.
Thus, a key aim of this book has been to illumine how resistance to secularism was always greatest in non-Protestant countries.
Whether it is Orthodox Greece or Catholic Ireland, Secular Materialism progressed far more slowly in cultures imbued with the fullness of the Seven Sacraments. To withstand Secular Materialism, Christianity may have no choice but to return to the full sacramentalism of its first fifteen centuries. It may need ordained Priests, rather than ministers, who are fortified by the supernatural Sacraments; it may need Catholics with the same zeal as pre-Vatican II Catholicism wherein all Seven Sacraments – including cleansing absolution – were common practice.
In the end, Reformation Christianity may turn out to be a five hundred year detour within the greater Christian trajectory – because de-sacramentalised Christianity may simply be incapable of surviving.
Certainly, Hilaire Belloc thought so decades ago. He predicted the death of Protestantism at the beginning of the twentieth century.
On a more personal level, my recent return to England lent substance to Belloc’s view. A 2005 British survey of young adults, aged sixteen to twenty nine found that if the young have two church attending parents, forty six per cent of them still attend. If they were raised with one church-going parent, the likelihood of the offspring going is twenty three per cent; with neither parent, that figure becomes reduced to three per cent. This led the researchers to conclude:
In Britain institutional religion now has a half-life of one generation, to borrow the terminology of radioactive decay.
In a generation or two, then, it would seem that British Christianity will be all but wiped out. All this refers, of course, to a country, which has been overwhelmingly Protestant for centuries.
It might be added that whereas Catholicism forms less than ten per cent of the English population, there were more Catholics in church on Sundays than Protestants – even while the enormous majority of the English still have Protestant roots. This fact even gave rise to press reports that, for the first time since the Reformation, England might be called – in terms of practice – a majority Catholic nation.
None of this has anything to do with any Catholic resurgence – but simply Protestant withering. No, the sad fact is that (a Protestantised) Catholicism is also beleagured in Britain’s intensely secularised culture. Still, Catholicism is surviving there, whereas Protestant Christianity is clearly going the same way as Scandinavia. In a generation or two, America may be the same.
All this, dear Reader, leads me to the conclusion that the only hope for Christianity in Europe, at any rate, lies in traditional Christianity – Catholic or Orthodox – whose Seven Sacraments continue to vitalise the faithful.
Here is why I emphasise the Seven Sacraments so strongly in this book.
Deprived of the Sevenfold Sacramental mystery, Christianity becomes either secular-liberal or New Age.
Either way, it dies.