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Righteous Gentile

In 1943, there was an uprising against the Nazi occupiers in the Jewish ghetto in Częstochowa, Poland, which the SS quickly crushed, killing many Jews. Many more were sent to death camps. Those who remained in Częstochowa worked on as slave laborers, until the Red Army liberated the city, by which time it was, as the Nazis would have proudly proclaimed, almost completely Judenfrei.

As history has shown since Poland emerged from its post-war communist past, that “liberation” was double-edged. Poland truly was, as Fulton Sheen put it, a nation “crucified between two thieves.”

Just 13-years-old on January 28, 1945, an exhausted and malnourished Jewish girl, Edith Zierer, found her way to a depot along one of the train lines that ran through Częstochowa. Believing her family was alive in Kraków, she climbed into a coal car that was part of a train she hoped would take her there. But the cold wind that blew through the open car was too much to bear, and about two hours later, in fear of being frozen to death, she climbed out of the car when the train stopped. She limped onto the platform at the station in Jedrzejow – a providential decision, not least because the train she abandoned had been heading east. Kraków was south.

She sat inside the station alone. If passersby noticed her, they ignored her, though it was clear she was a refugee. She was dressed in the numbered uniform, now ragged, that the always-efficient Nazis made slave laborers wear. Anyone with eyes to see could tell how weak and hungry she must be. But no one came to her aid.

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Miner’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

New Year Resolutions

Happy New Year! Yes, we’re still living in annus horribilis MMXX, but yesterday we began a new liturgical year, another cycle of feast and fasts, commemorations and celebrations, designed to help us remember that life in the world is not – as seems to have settled in on the secular level – just “one damned thing after another.”

I wrote here earlier in the year that, in Christian perspective, God permits scourges like plagues, widespread rioting, political upheavals in order to bring some good out of them, usually as a sharp reminder that we ought to change our lives. He isn’t vindictive; he’s just administering a kind of slap in the face to our hysteria, intended to bring us to our senses. That’s almost the whole of the Old Testament in a nutshell.

We ought to have spent these past, severely trying, months figuring out what we, individually and in common, were supposed to get out of this non-ordinary time, and to live accordingly. If we didn’t, that’s on us.

When you are faced with the truth that you are not in control of your life, that the usual institutions and authorities aren’t either, that you need to look elsewhere than you have been for the way forward, at the very least it should bring you to a bedrock humility and recognition of reality.

Click here to read the rest of Professor Royal’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

Thanks . . . Again

On Thanksgiving eleven years ago when – or so it seems to me now (and in Tolkien’s words), “The world was young, the mountains green, / No stain yet on the Moon was seen” – I wrote a column here entitled “Thanks.” It ended this way:

I sigh and thank God I’m a father, a husband, a friend, an American, and a Catholic. Gratitude comes easily to me for what’s right before my eyes, but I have a somewhat harder time giving thanks simply for being, and as I stand staring out the south-facing windows I close my eyes and look inward to the love of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit which spreads over me like the sunshine streaming through the panes of the tall mullion windows. I turn left, facing east, the light illuminating half my face, and with eyes closed find the Empty Place and truly, truly say with Saint Paul: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”

Illness and loss in the time since have only deepened my personal sense of gratitude, and I want to make a special request of all who read this to recall on Thursday how many blessings we share.

2020 is a year about which few will say, “Best year EVER!” In conversations I’ve had with friends, most have acknowledged it as the worst they’ve ever experienced, and I agree. The shadow of the coronavirus hangs over everything, and what formerly seemed the inexhaustible optimism of the American people now seems all but spent.

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Miner’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

Faith without Hope

Downtown Washington D.C., capital of the greatest nation on earth – arguably, the greatest in human history – is already boarded up, expecting what the media will doubtless call “mostly peaceful” demonstrations after tomorrow’s elections. In more than thirty years living here, I’ve never seen anything like it.

All that plywood is a strong sign that, whoever wins tomorrow – or, still worse, after days, weeks, or even months of wrangling – our immediate divisions and deeper problems will not be solved by politics.

If Biden wins, maybe there won’t be rioting. Despite media propaganda, we know it’s leftist groups that encourage looting and burning. Then again, rioters won’t be much bothered by the incoming administration. They may decide to take advantage of the situation. They don’t really care about “protest” or “reform.” They want regime change.

If Trump wins, more babies will survive in the womb, religious groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor will not be persecuted, and fewer institutions – including federal offices – will be forced to submit to wokeness. But many places in America will burn.

One Twitter commentator has published a list of Trump-supporting organizations with Washington addresses to be attacked if he’s re-elected. Several have mapped out targets in other cities. Almost needless to say, our digital masters at Twitter (or their algorithms) did not see fit to take down these open incitements to post-election violence.

Click here to read the rest of Prof. Royal’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

Two Crowns: a Review

Last year, I reviewed Polish director Michal Kondrat’s fine docudrama, Love and Mercy, the life story of St. Faustina – she of the Divine Mercy image and chaplet. I liked it, even though there were aspects of the film I found unsatisfying. Still, I was able to write: “please, see this film, because it explains why Divine Mercy Sunday and its chaplet are so important.”

Several years before, Mr. Kondrat directed another docudrama about St. Maximilian Kolbe called Two Crowns, and – although I like this film less – I still urge TCT readers to keep an eye out for it, and, in fact, Fathom Events has the film in theaters TODAY only. (It will be available on disc or to stream soon.)

The story of Fr. Kolbe is even more remarkable and dramatic than Sr. Faustina’s.

What then is my gripe about Two Crowns? Let me start by recalling a third film with a Polish setting, one I truly loved: Anne Fontaine’s The Innocents. I won’t go into detail about that great motion picture, except to say that it’s about a Polish convent ravaged by Soviet soldiers in 1945. I mention it here because the film was shot in two languages: Polish and French and then subtitled in English. Love and Mercy was mostly in English and used subtitles for those speaking Polish.

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Miner’s review at The Catholic Thing . . .

End Times

There are certain Christians utterly fascinated with – sometimes all but eager about – the end of the world. In the past, they’ve almost always been confined to the wilder reaches of Protestantism, though they also pop up these days in various Catholic circles. The world, to be sure, will someday come to an end. But since we have it on the Highest Authority that “concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father,” (Mk. 13:32), it’s always seemed better to me to spend our short time here on earth on other things.

Yet for obvious reasons – 2020 has months to go, and has already given us plagues, fires, wars and rumors of wars, storms, riots, looting, mayhem, stories of corruption in Rome itself, and political upheavals that remind you of the great Beasts in the Apocalypse (chs.13 to 17ff.) – people, with some justification, start raising the old question: Is this finally it?

Which is why I’ve been reading the Book of Revelation and related works (at least in my mind) with students at Thomas More College this semester. As we’ve mentioned here before, I was asked to be the first St. John Henry Newman visiting chair there this year – thanks to a generous grant by an anonymous donor – and my initial thought was: If people are speculating about the End Times anyway, why not study what Scripture actually has to say in the book that is the culmination of the whole Biblical account that began in Genesis?

Revelation is not an easy text to read and unless someone knowledgeable is taking you through it, I’d recommend a commentary. My own favorite is Joseph L. Mangina’s in the Brazos series of theological commentaries, overseen by our friend R. R. Reno, editor of First Things.

But St. John, author of the Apocalypse, says it is to be read aloud in all the churches. And in some of the very last verses of the Bible he warns, “if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”

Click here to read the rest of Professor Royal’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

Goodbye, Columbus

This is not about Christopher Columbus – at least not directly so. All I ever needed to know about the “Admiral of the Ocean Sea” I’ve learned from Robert Royal’s Columbus and the Crisis of the West. (If you haven’t already purchased a copy signed by the author, click here.)

No, this is (partly) about my hometown, Columbus, Ohio, a city well-known these days for two reasons: as the home of The Ohio State University Buckeyes football team; and for the city’s ingratitude to the people of Genoa, Italy.

I’ve nothing to say about my beloved Buckeyes, whose COVID-delayed season begins a week from this coming Saturday, nothing except: Go Bucks!

But about the dreadful ignorance, avidity, and cowardice of the city’s current government, I have plenty to unpack. I apologize in advance for any lack of Christian charity in what I’m about to write.

I’ll begin at the beginning: October 12, 1955. That was when Edoardo Alfieri’s statue of the world’s greatest sailor was unveiled in Columbus, a gift from the people of Genoa, Columbus, Ohio’s first “sister city.” Sister cities were an initiative of President Eisenhower, and the Columbus-Genoa union was among the first to engage in Ike’s “citizen diplomacy” – a lovely outgrowth of the ugly realities of WWII. You’d think, maybe, the current mayor of Columbus, a Democrat named Andrew Ginther, might have thought a bit more diplomatically and historically before surrendering to the leftist mob, which he did in July by removing the statue from outside City Hall.

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Miner’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

Breathing Fire

The late great physicist Stephen Hawking once speculated that, besides the mathematical equations he and others had developed about the nature of the universe, something was needed to “breathe fire” into them – i.e., make them a reality. Reading through Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, released just this weekend, you can’t help feeling that it, too, is seeking some concrete, creative fire.

If I were a Catholic progressive, and someone asked me what to read to understand where the Church stands today, however, this wouldn’t be the text I would press into his hands. And it has nothing to do with liberal or conservative. With all due respect to the Holy Father, it’s all but unreadable. Only those of us who love the Church and are loyal to the pope will get through it, from duty, not intellectual or spiritual interest. And that’s a serious shortcoming for a text addressed not only to Catholics but all people of good will.

It would be surprising if it does not produce disappointment among Catholic progressives, who have been expecting something big. Their favorite policies are here – and the media will push them as something fresh. But such sparks as are struck are buried under mountains of repetition, conceptual vagueness, and utopian aspirations.

Recent papal documents are not exactly known for succinctness – St. John Paul II often went on a lot longer than he should. And there’s a kind of inside-Church-speak that enters into all of them. But usually they have some central stabilizing clarity. Here, it’s universal human brotherhood – “fraternity and social friendship” in the title – which is anything but clear even after nearly 200 pages.

Click here to read the rest of Professor Royal’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .

Blue and Black

Do you know about G.K. Chesterton’s example of the blue world? He writes in Orthodoxy of a reformer whose passion is to make the world blue – not in the sense of unhappy, mind you, but actually the color blue.

“He could have heroic adventures,” GKC writes, “the putting of the last touches to a blue tiger. He could have fairy dreams; the dawn of a blue moon. But if he worked hard, that high-minded reformer would certainly (from his own point of view) leave the world better and bluer than he found it.” It’s a silly example of reforming, he admits, but therefore simple to grasp.

However, “if he altered his favourite colour every day, he would not get on at all. . .there would be nothing to show except a few blue tigers walking about.”

Chesterton’s famous summary is this:

So it does not matter (comparatively speaking) how often humanity fails to imitate its ideal; for then all its old failures are fruitful. But it does frightfully matter how often humanity changes its ideal; for then all its failures are fruitless.

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Miner’s column at The Catholic Thing . . . 

Lying for Justice?

Some years ago, a friend told me about how he’d chosen the title of his book, which was about to appear. He wasn’t primarily a writer. He’d long worked with the homeless in San Francisco – until he saw what was really going on. He went to bed one night, praying to come up with a title, which had been elusive. He woke with what he knew was exactly right: Lying for Justice.

His book argued that social justice activists claimed people were homeless because of capitalism, racism, sexism, etc. Then, as now, those were sometimes factors. But by far, the homeless suffered from psychological problems, drug and alcohol abuse, and – most commonly – family breakdown.

SF policies, intended to remove the stigma from homeless people and open public spaces to them, only made things worse, inviting hordes onto the city’s streets – a phenomenon that has worsened, and spread to Los Angeles, New York, Washington, recently even Rome.

Our unwillingness to see and act on hard truths has become something of an epidemic. Many homeless, sadly, need vigorous intervention, even institutionalization, for their own good.

Click here to read the rest of Professor Royal’s column at The Catholic Thing . . .