End of Empire

"Four Horsemen of Apocalypse," by Viktor Vasnetsov. Painted in 1887. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

“Four Horsemen of Apocalypse,” by Viktor Vasnetsov. Painted in 1887. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Like Gabriel sounding the trumpet for the Final Judgment, or like an unwanted guest who names the rope in the hanged man’s house, Francis I stood before our Clown Congress and spoke the names of four American warrior saints. If our legislators would know them, or come to know more about them, they would realize that the Pope was urging upon us the consequences—in the course of time—of following the words of these Four Riders of the Apocalypse.  

  1. During the Second Inaugural, calling the country “to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations,” Abraham Lincoln reminded us:

It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged.

Pope Francis with Congressional leaders on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, 2015. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Pope Francis with Congressional leaders on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, 2015. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

  1. During the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King made an appeal (“Beyond Vietnam”) for the courage and labor that are necessary for the upkeep of the nation’s soul:

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read: Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.

  1. One month after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Dorothy Day proclaimed a pacifism which she believed Christians had a duty to profess even in the most difficult times, she wrote:

We are at war, a declared war, with Japan, Germany and Italy. But still we can repeat Christ’s words, each day, holding them close in our hearts, each month printing them in the paper. In times past, Europe has been a battlefield. But let us remember St. Francis, who spoke of peace and we will remind our readers of him, too, so they will not forget.

In The Catholic Worker we will quote our Pope, our saints, our priests. We will go on printing the articles which remind us today that we are all “called to be saints,” that we are other Christs, reminding us of the priesthood of the laity.

  1. Thomas Merton—beat poet, activist, pacifist and Trappist monk—wrote about the discipline of saints in his monastery at Gethsemani [sic]. Monks would take turns on the “fire watch,” in which an assigned guardian walked through the halls of the monastery at night on the lookout for fire. After one such walk, Merton wrote in his journal:

The fire watch is an examination of conscience in which your task as watchman suddenly appears in its true light: a pretext devised by God to isolate you and to search your soul with lamps and questions, in the heart of darkness.[1]

The “fire watch” strengthens the soul for peacemaking; the words of the prophets—like the rams’ horns at Jericho—bring about the End of Empire.

OG

[1] Thomas Merton, “Entering the Silence,” The Journals of Thomas Merton: Volume Two 1941-1952 (New York: Harper Collins, 1996), 480.

Thomas Merton's hermitage (interior) at the Abbey of Gethsemani. (Credit: Bryan Sherwood / Wikimedia Commons)

Thomas Merton’s hermitage (interior) at the Abbey of Gethsemani. (Credit: Bryan Sherwood / Wikimedia Commons)

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