To help people on the road to true happiness, society needs to guide and direct people along this path. First, one must know and identify the destination, i.e. Heaven, and have a good and accurate understanding of what a human being is, i.e. a soul and a body, so we can be guided there safely. One must identify what helps and what hinders us on this path.
‘It is the function of society – or the union of men working together to achieve happiness – to provide the conditions of life in which men can work successfully to attain true happiness…We might say briefly that society provides the peace and the harmony which enable men to work together to attain the common good of all men.’ ‘My Way of Life’ – Frs Farrell & Healy.
The ‘common good’, in the above quote, does not refer to what the majority of people believe to be good but rather what is good objectively. The ultimate common good remains the same even if all the citizens in a particular nation happen to be unaware or ignorant of it. Direction towards the common good, which involves the promotion of the virtuous life, is essential for the mind. The mind is nourished on the truth. Those who live a life perfectly in accordance with the truth and direct their soul on a straight path towards Heaven live a perfectly happy life (As happy as can be achieved in this valley of tears on earth at any rate). The lives of the saints who lived lives completely dedicated to knowing, honouring and loving God are the examples of how a life should be lived. Carol Robinson in her excellent book, ‘My Life with Thomas Aquinas’ describes how ‘the normal man is the hierarchical man, of whom the exemplar is the saint…The saint is the most sane of men, because the concept of sanctity includes perfect sanity. That is why peace is the fruit of holiness, because peace is defined as the tranquillity of order, which tranquillity consists in all the appetitive movements in one man being set at rest together.’ A society with true happiness/Heaven as the objective for its citizens, i.e. the common good of all, would be ordered in such a way as to promote and encourage sanctity and, therefore, sanity as well. It would realise that there are many temptations that can pull people away from the straight and narrow path and it would structure itself so the snares of the devil, the corruption of the world and the passions of the flesh would have less chance of gaining an upper hand on people and leading them to their eternal demise. As Pope St Pius X advised the French Hierarchy, in his Letter on the Sillon, at the start of the twentieth century, ‘The social machinery ought to be so organised as by its natural action to paralyse the efforts of the wicked.’ Social efforts, in this regard, not only protect the soul but they protect the mind as well.
These modern times in Ireland are particularly crazy as the social machinery works against the common good and encourages people to lose both their mind and soul. The legalization of homosexual ‘marriage’ and ‘abortion’/the killing of innocent babies, have been the two most obvious recent examples of this. The promotion of vice through TV, internet, advertising, smartphones, and the lack of systematic attempts to stop this, are just more signs of the social machinery working towards the corruption of souls. This promotion of disorder contributes to people’s passions getting a hold of their reason and minds becoming detached from reality. Vice and sin have become so much part of the air we breathe that what was once considered evil is, now, considered ‘normal’ or acceptable. As Fr Ripperger points out, ‘Culturally, in the past, fornication was looked down upon as a great moral and societal evil because of all the evil effects to the individual and society, one of which is the general erosion of morality within a society. As fornication and sexual licence became more pervasive, the society began finding it difficult to judge fornication as morally evil and today it has virtually no evil connotation at all. What started out as particular individual difficulties with respect to passions has affected, over the long haul, the universal judgement of society about the evil of fornication in general.’ (‘Introduction to the Science of Mental Health’). Our society is becoming sicker and sicker and its contagion is spreading. There are some people pushing back courageously against this contagion at a personal or familial level as they find strategies and ways of keeping themselves and their loved ones safe. For example, parents taking their children out of school and homeschooling them to protect them from corruption. At a societal level, the battle is being lost and the ‘progressives’ and ‘liberals’ are marching on, while leaving a trail of destruction in their path. God have mercy on them!
There are some noble efforts to push back against the disorder in society, which usually come from conservative nationalist movements, but these groups must remember the wise words of Pope Leo XIII from his 1888 encyclical on ‘The Right Ordering of Christian Life’, Exeunte Iam Anno, ‘They who strive by the enforcement of law to extinguish the ever-growing flame of popular passions, strive indeed for what is right and just; but they will labour with little or no result so long as they obstinately reject the power of the Gospel and refuse the assistance of the Church. These evils can be cured only by a change of principles, and by returning in public and private conduct to Jesus Christ and to a Christian rule of life.’ For those who challenge the idea that the Catholic Faith is not the solution to societal ills, Pope Leo XIII replies with these words from St Augustine, ‘Let those who say that the teaching of Christ is hurtful to the State, produce such armies as the maxims of Jesus have enjoined soldiers to bring into being; such governors of provinces; such husbands and wives; such parents and children; such masters and servants; such kings; such judges, and such payers and collectors of tribute, as the Christian teaching instructs them to become, and then let them dare to say that such teaching is hurtful to the State. Nay, rather will they hesitate to own that this discipline, if duly acted up to, is the very mainstay of the commonwealth.’ Unfortunately, Pope Leo XIII’s words fell on many deaf ears during his time. Today, the rot has gotten so bad that one sees the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, attempting to push Catholicism out of health and social policies altogether, tweeting that ‘Religion will not play a role in our health and social policy anymore’. The damage that this is doing and would do will be catastrophic. May he realise the error of his ways before it is too late!
In the midst of the social chaos around us, one could become disheartened and potentially fall into despair. This service, Truth and Freedom Therapy, acknowledges that there are some natural ways of fortifying yourself against the craziness of the world, e.g. basic healthy nutrition and exercise, getting away from the city and its toxicity, talking to a good Catholic friend or therapist, but it also acknowledges its limitations and knows what it cannot provide. To keep one’s sanity in the current climate one needs as much grace and supernatural assistance as possible as Don Felix Sarda Y Salvany points out in his brilliant book, ‘Liberalism Is A Sin’, ‘Unless supernaturally fortified and enlightened, human nature under this moral oppression soon gives way to “human respect”’. The danger of giving into human respect is a huge temptation today with the faithful vastly outnumbered and ridiculed for sticking to the truth. We need every drop of grace that Our Lord blesses us with. We need to nourish ourselves on the Faith, reject the world and its madness and give the world what it needs, i.e. the Truth, rather than expecting anything from it. People who are determined to hold onto the Faith, their reason, and their sanity, face a tricky battle today, but, as Henry Sire points out in his powerful book, ‘Phoenix from the Ashes: The Making, Unmaking and Restoration of Catholic Tradition’, ‘The great missionary successes of the Church have been won by men who had no illusions about the world that they faced, and who knew that their task was to give it the things that it lacked. Gregory the Great did not patronise armed hordes to show how he could immerse himself in the chaos of his time; he fostered monasticism, a withdrawal from the world that ended by conquering the world. St. Augustine did not go to England with an obsequious wish to flatter the cult of Thor and Woden; he went to offer it the light of Rome, and by doing so he conquered a nation for Christ. To know that one faces an unpropitious world does not imply an inability to evangelise it, or despair at doing so. The Church has never faced such a mortally hostile world as the one that crucified its Saviour, yet the lesson of the crucifixation is that the world is saved in its very hostility.’
So, while the social machinery encourages and promotes the efforts of the wicked today, let us not marvel or wonder at the hatred the world has for the truth and those that live it (1 John 3:13). Instead let us acknowledge the reality of the challenge before us and let us ‘be wise as serpents and simple as doves’ (Matthew 10:16) and use these times to sanctify ourselves.
God bless you in your endeavours. May you respond to and be nourished on the abundant graces He generously offers.