Perhaps it is only now, towards the end of 2020, that some of us are beginning to see this year as the best one in recent memory, perhaps in our entire lives. But that's only possible if you've really been reflecting on what is truly going on this year and you've taken the time to diligently compare perception with reality.
After extreme measures taken in China and Italy, most of Europe and the United States followed in an extreme "lockdown" posture. The infamous "flatten the curve" phrase made its way through public discourse, and we were told that all these measures were necessary for our safety. There were some muted protests, but the media presented a zombie apocalypse scenario, in which millions would lie dead on the street all because you wanted to get a haircut. Seemingly, the only thing we can do is shut up and do as we are told.
Doubling down, scientists showed themselves to be unscientific. Instead of looking at new data and making adjustments, we were told that even as projections were wrong by serious orders of magnitude and hospitals sat empty without ever accepting a single patient, we were to "stay at home" and "save lives." Liberals showed themselves to be illiberal as they shouted down anyone who disagreed with them in any way as "conspiracy theorists." Politicians of various countries repeatedly showed they didn't believe what they were spouting as they consistently violated their own rules which were obviously just for the plebs. It started to dawn on many Catholics that the closing of churches was not at all in the form that was expected, but it presented a wonderful opportunity, particularly during the Lenten season, to offer those sufferings to Our Lord.
Lockdowns began to ease in some places. Among the more intellectually honest, studies started to circulate showing that lockdowns were the worst possible, and perhaps not even truly effective, way to deal with the disease. But rumblings of a "Great Reset" begin to be heard and the phrase "build back better" appeared. Some cautious air travel started to build up inside the European Union and in the United States. We were told to wear masks outdoors in many places, despite previous claims from medical authorities that masks were not effective, and even if so in a limited way, they were for indoor use. We were also not permitted to ask the glaringly obvious question: if masks were so effective at preventing disease, why have we never heard about this our entire lives until now? We saw the hypocrisy of protests being permitted for "Black Lives Matter" but not to protest the lockdown itself. So scientific and liberal!
The promised "second wave" hit, and new lockdowns occurred. We had a chance to witness clear voting irregularities in the US Presidential Election. Victorians in Australia were finally allowed to go beyond their mailboxes, though, with no promise that a future blunt, brutal lockdown could be ruled out. Some in the US chose to homeschool their children this year rather than subject them to 7-8 hours a day of masks, despite the attack propaganda pushed by Harvard since the summertime. More recently, President Macron, under cover of cracking down on "Islamism" (whatever that is), threatened to effectively end homeschool in France in the near future.
Winter and Beyond
The new liturgical year is just days away, so it's a wonderful time to reflect on the lessons 2020 has given to us, if we've been open to receiving them.
- Decouple "good" from "what I want." If you had asked me at the beginning of the year what would have made it a great year, I would have listed a number of projects I planned to complete and places I planned to visit. A good year was defined by me getting to do as I wanted. But this isn't a Christian worldview. Of course free will is at the heart of human nature (and the Christian religion), but every time we say the Our Father, we ask that "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven." So, if you're saying that 2020 was "bad" because you didn't get to do what you wanted, you've missed a great opportunity: something is not "good" because you willed it. It is only good if God wills it. All things happen by God's active or permissive will, therefore, 2020 is unfolding just as He had ordained. Complaining about it removes any merit from suffering that we may endure.
- See that our "persecutions" are small in the light of history. There are many mornings that I wince while reading the Martyrology, as I visualize the tortures and deaths that the Saints were put through. As I've done research for our radio series The Councils I'm reminded that in centuries past bishops have been dragged from their altars, churches burned, and popes left to die in exile. Many of our priests have continued to say Mass in public, or have prudently been saying them in secret, with instructions given to trustworthy faithful, but hardly anywhere are priests being murdered or churches being burned in the name of Covid...at least not yet. For those with internet access, there have never been more non-una-cum Masses streaming worldwide in various time zones than there are at this moment.
- Realize that our "losses" are only such if we think them so. Many of us with businesses have suffered a serious loss of revenues. Many with jobs have become unemployed or have taken on whatever job is available, often helping to supply the large corporations which have been deemed "essential" and are apparently not a health threat despite providing places for hundreds, if not thousands, to gather near each other every hour of every day. But who are we compared to Job, who lost so much more than we ever had? Did he complain? Never, despite all around him encouraging him to do so.
- Perceive that internet "activism" is pointless and distracting. So many people, shut in their homes, have decided to "take to the internet" to vent their frustration. But, ultimately, keyboard activism is a distraction apart from being a tremendous waste of time. God's requests for us before this purported pandemic are exactly the same now: fulfill the duties of your state in life, pray, love God, love your neighbor. If you have taken the time that has been given to you by the lockdowns and used it to endlessly rail on the internet against your "persecution," you may have really missed one of the biggest chances to grow spiritually in 2020.
- Realize that the disguises have slipped well and truly off. A good deal of the first part of this year was shock for many of us. We were shocked that people:
- accepted without a single question what the media and governments told them
- began to berate neighbors and strangers (as well as tattle on them) for non-compliance
- didn't look beyond the surface of things to reality
We had been naive. We were silly enough to believe that a world which had thrown off the sweet yoke of Jesus Christ centuries ago would still hold to the fact that 2+2 = 4, male is different from female, and that black is different from white. We had been getting hints for some time prior to March 2020 that such logic had begun to become wrongthink. The transgender and infanticide wars were following hot on the heels of Greta's dreadful face scolding us at the UN. These people lived in a different reality than we did, we thought. But surely, we mused, there were still decent and "normal" people throughout our society? 2020 has shown us that this is not the case. We are quite alone, and no longer believe that society is inevitably puttering along on the dying embers of the great force of Christendom that built the civilized world. But it is good to be disabused of delusions, and even better to be reminded of what is so often seen in spiritual writings: our truest and only friend is Our Lord, and our only job in this life is to go back to Him.
While some of us in the past months grew ever closer with friends and family who are one in mind and heart in the Faith, we realized that those who do not share our convictions, who cling to this passing world, seemingly ignorant of the fact that death comes for all of us, and only at a time appointed by God, not before, and not after, were not friends and family that would endure as such after (or even during) this purported pandemic. All of the shared memories and camaraderie of years past were swallowed up in the lies of this year, and as we stood at the edge of a great gulf which separated them from us, we understood, perhaps for the first time, how desperately far apart we truly were in mind and heart.
No year since I have been brought into this vale of tears has offered more of an opportunity for radical change in my personal and spiritual life. Indeed, as we approach our annual "reset" of the Church's year, which begins on the First Sunday of Advent, may I propose some Great Resets that would really matter? Use the new liturgical year to reset:
- Your intake of the news. "Being informed" is overrated and offers you no information on the only thing that matters, going to Heaven. What little relevant information for your life here on earth is mostly obfuscations and corporate-approved social engineering.
- Your spiritual life. Have you been praying enough? If you haven't been saying the Rosary every single day, what is your excuse in lockdown? This time has not been given to you to complain, but to remember that the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
- Your economic life. If you were caught off guard by the lockdown measures, what can you do to lessen and reduce your exposure for what may come in the future? There's nowhere to run from the forces of organized naturalism, but there are many ways to mitigate their influence in your life, be it growing more of your own food, creating barter/trade partnerships with others, reducing and eliminating your debt, or finding a way to earn a living that can't be turned off instantly by those who rule us.
- Your friends. The spiritual writers constantly remind us how much care we should take with those we surround ourselves with. Sometimes it takes great world events to shake us out of our comfortable complacency. Surely this year may have left us with many fewer friends, but the ones that are with you now are the truest of the true.
- Your attachment to the world. Where our heart is, so our treasure will be as well. If we are troubled by elections and appointments and policies, it is because we are attached to this world. If we remove this attachment, we can learn to accept that Our Lord remains in charge, despite mask mandates and the votes of the dead. Justice will be done, if not in this world, in the next. Channel that hunger and thirst for justice into prayer for these villains, who are quite definitely our enemies.
Most of all, remember that shortly after the beginning of this liturgical year, we have the great joy and mystery of Christmas. Christmas can never be "cancelled." Not now, not ever. No lockdowns or restrictions can take away our joy at contemplating the mystery of the God-man who came to save us from ourselves. Such thoughts can and should be the light in the darkness as the end of 2020 approaches.