Thursday, December 28, 2006

Praying for the Impossible

THOSE OF US WITH FAITH tend to be deeply disappointed in our attempts to influence the City of the World: we seem to always fail, even in relatively trivial political matters. The degradation of the culture seems to always be irreversible, society being controlled by a kind of ratcheting mechanism that allows change in one direction only.

Many of those who oppose or are ignorant of the Faith have had extraordinary success in changing the culture by using delaying or "Fabian" tactics, named after the Roman politician and soldier, Fabius Maximus, called the Cunctator (delayer), after his successful policy of never directly attacking the army of Rome's enemy Hannibal. This caused the attrition of the Carthaginians while simultaneously conserving Roman troops. These delaying, incremental tactics of the "Culture of Death" have steadily eroded our laws, morality, and even the beauty of the arts in a seemingly inexorable process that has stretched over decades.

We are like dogs under the master's table, eating only unwanted or inadvertently dropped scraps of food. We are overjoyed when a film, song lyric, or minor judicial decision has some redeeming quality, or is only slightly repugnant.

Moral theology tells us that we can legitimately use incremental means in the political process, for we should not make "the best the enemy of the good". However, this seems to have failed badly, with victories few, trivial, and often quickly overturned. This failure does not mean that we should abandon the world, on the contrary, we have a grave moral duty to cooperate responsibly with others in society. But perhaps we should change our emphasis, by not expecting much from worldly political and economic systems, nor by placing our hope in minor victories.

Perhaps instead we should pray for the impossible.

Why can't we pray and hope for a complete conversion of our society? Instead of making New Year's resolutions to moderate some vice, why don't we instead pray for perfect sanctity? Instead of hoping for some political solution to the problems in the Middle-East, why don't we instead pray for a change of heart and the desire for peace? Instead of just accepting as adequate our contemporary arts, why don't we instead pray for overwhelming beauty and goodness?

Humanly, these things seem impossible, impracticable, going against the social trend and is counter to institutional inertia. But God can do all these things, if it is His will. Our Lord said, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." (Matt. 7:7-8) Can we infer that if we do not ask, we will not receive?

1 comment:

  1. You're on the right track. Far too many people are putting far too much faith in politics, when the "conservative" party is only marginally less secularist than the other. It's also debatable how much faith should be placed in the political and economic systems that gave rise to the culture of death.
    Yes, action is always needed, but prayer is needed even more. Prayer for the arrival of saints-they're what we need most. Prayer for conversions- they can come in the most unexpected places. Prayer for wisdom, and patience, and courage.
    Prayer for the impossible will have more and better results than trying to use Satan's ideas to bring about God's Kingdom.