As we drove along, I read aloud from a tote bag full of books I had selected for the purpose of sharing specific chapters with my friend, a like minded Catholic, thoughtful, very smart, and leaps and bounds ahead of me, a convert, in knowledge of Church history and doctrine.Our trip each way took three days in the car so we had a LOT of time to read and discuss and read and discuss. It was a kind of “retreat from the world” which whizzed by us, as we rolled along from one state to the next, and an opportunity to step outside our daily routines and spend the kind of time you generally only WISH you had with a good friend.
The first thing I read to her was Whittaker Chamber’s Introduction to his book, Witness, published in 1952. The introduction is in fact a letter addressed to his children. He was old, and they were still young at the time, and he was never sure when the communists he had betrayed would try to kill him. His life could be over at any moment and he knew that. I have mentioned this book more than once on this blog, and I hope one day you will get a copy if for no other reason than to read this letter. The book did not sell many copies when it was first published because it is very fat and off putting to timid readers. So fat you could probably use it as a wheel block to stop a 747 jet from rolling on the tarmac. I personally enjoyed and appreciated every incredible page of it. Chambers was not just someone with a story to tell, he was first of all a professional writer with great talent and it shows in every sentence he wrote.
Chambers begins his letter:
I am sitting in the kitchen of the little house at Medfield, our second farm which is cut off by the ridge and a quarter-mile across the fields from our home place, where you are. I am writing a book. In it I am speaking to you. But I am also speaking to the world. To both I owe an accounting.
It is a terrible book. It is terrible in what it tells about men. If anything, it is more terrible in what it tells about the world in which you live. ………………”
“It is about what the world calls the Hiss-Chambers Case, or even more simply, the Hiss Case. It is a about a spy case. ………….
But if the Hiss Case were only this, it would not be worth my writing about or your reading about. It would be another fat folder in the sad files of the police, another crime drama……..”
“At heart, the Great Case was a critical conflict of faiths; that is why it was a great case. On a scale personal enough to be felt by all, but high enough to be symbolic, the two irreconcilable faiths of our time-----Communism and Freedom---came to grips in the persona of two conscious and resolute men. Both had been schooled in the same view of history (the Marxist view). Both were trained by the same party in the same selfless, semisoldierly discipline. Neither would nor could yield without betraying, not himself, but his faith; and the different character of these faiths was shown by the different conduct of the two men toward each other throughout the struggle. For, with dark certitude, both knew, almost from the beginning, that the Great Case could end only in the destruction of one or both of the contending figures, just as the history of our times (both men had been taught) can end only in the destruction of one or both of the contending forces.”
Chambers said of communism,
“It is not new. It is, in fact, man’s second oldest faith. Its promise was whispered in the first days of the Creation under the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil: ‘Ye shall be as gods.’ It is the great alternative faith of mankind. Like all great faiths, its force derives from a simple vision. Other ages have had great visions. They have always been different versions of the same vision: the vision of god and man’s relationship to God. The Communist vision is the vision of Man without God.”
Later in the letter he says,
“There has never been a society or a nation without God. But history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations that became indifferent to God, and died. (My emphasis added) ………………
Economics is not the central problem of this century. It is a relative problem which can be solved in relative ways. Faith is the central problem of this age. The Western world does not know it, but it already possesses the answer to this problem---but only provided that its faith in God and the freedom He enjoins is as great as Communism’s faith in Man.”
One of my favorite passages in the letter, speaking of communists, is the following:
“Hence the most secret fold of their minds is haunted by a terrifying thought: What if we were wrong? What if our inconstancy is our guilt? That is the fate of those who break without knowing clearly that Communism is wrong because something else is right, because to the challenge: God or Man?, they continue to give the answer: Man. Their pathos is that not even the Communist ordeal could teach them that man without God is just what Communism said he was: The most intelligent of the animals, that man without God is a beast, never more beastly than when he is most intelligent about his beastiliness. ‘Er nennt’s Vernunft,’ says the Devil in Goethe’s Faust, ‘und braucht’s allein, nur tierischer als jedes Tierzu sein’ ---Man calls it reason and uses it simply to be more beastly than any beast. Not grasping the source of the evil they sincerely hate, such ex-Communists in general make ineffectual witnesses against it. They are witnesses against something; they have ceased to be witnesses for anything.” (My emphasis added)
And that, my friends, is the most important thing to bear in mind. It isn’t enough to attack, attack, attack what you see is wrong in this world. We must witness, all of us, FOR SOMETHING. John the Baptist did it. St. Paul did it. The martyrs have done it. Each of us CAN do it if we worry less about what others will think if we pray in a public restaurant, or display sacramentals in our homes, around our necks, in our cars, etc. We can do it if we speak with confidence what Holy Scripture and historical record within the Church has always said about sodomy, marriage, women, who can be saved, and who will go to hell, and worry less about what the world will think if we speak and live the truth. This does not mean we must abandon meekness and run over others, shouting them down with our beliefs, but we must never shrink from the opportunity to witness for the truth.Conservative news media engages the enemy 24/7 in a battle of politics. We Catholics need to remind ourselves the battle is not one party vs. another, but one faith opposed to the other. Man vs. God. Whose side are you on? If you are committed to the answer, God, then, start today living like you mean it. Throw off the politically correct chains that have you bound and be a WITNESS for what you believe. Stop living on the defense and let your life be for others the light out of the darkness of all the errors of communism/socialism, in other words, godlessness. Stop just calling yourself a Catholic and start acting like one!