[Pope Pius XI] faced a number of enormous problems brought about by the course of World War I; for the first time since Constantine, there were no Christian emperors -- indeed, there was no great power at all with a professedly Christian outlook. Moreover, Russia was actively exporting revolution....the defeat of Greece by Turkey in 1922 resulted in virtually the entire Armenian and Greek population of Asia Minor being driven out of Asia Minor (or killed). Thus, for the first time since St. Paul of Tarsus, a region once as Christian as Italy or Spain was almost totally bereft of the faithful....The construction of a power vacuum by the destruction of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the creation of the Weimar Republic boded badly for continued peace in Europe. The intial replacement of the "autocratic" Central European regimes with poorly established "democratic ones" would indeed be followed up by true totalitarian ones."In response to the terrible political situation during his pontificate, Pius issued three encyclicals: against Communism, Fascism, and Nazism. But political totalitarianism wasn't the only challenge. Pius also faced the explosion of tremendous moral evils. Russia legalized abortion, Margaret Sanger spread her toxic birth control and eugenics agenda, Sigmund Freud encouraged people to throw off their "sexual repression" and let it all hang out. A spirit of malaise and rebellion against any type of moral standard swept across the world in the aftermath of W.W. I causing many to embrace the immorality of the "roaring 20's." Labor and capital were at war with each other as well. It was a time of chaos much like today.
On the other hand, there was also a type of Catholic revival with great thinkers and writers rising up who were zealous to spread the faith. And Pius magnified that spirit by beginning Catholic Action, an international group that trained laymen to evangelize in their life circumstances. Frank Sheed and Maisie Ward began their great publishing house, Sheed and Ward, and would spread the Catholic Evidence Guild in the U.S. training street corner preachers to defend the faith. "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times."
It's good to remember then that the times have always been difficult. While, in many ways, the moral evils and spirit of rebellion today are similar to the time of Pius XI, ours is especially marked by the fact that, instead of faithful and holy men committed to Christ, many in the hierarchy (and in our local dioceses and parishes) are hirelings and false shepherds. That's when faithful (as opposed to dissenting) laity have a particularly important role. We need to call back both our national and spiritual leaders to the truth of Christ.
If you aren't at the March for Life today, pray for all those who are. They witness to our state leaders, not that the solution to abortion is in politics, but that the only reason for government is to advance the common good and protect the weakest and most helpless in our society. Our government officials need to hear that message not only for the good of the country, but for their personal salvation.
Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, have mercy on us.
Mary, Queen of Heaven, pray for us.
Pope Pius XI, pray for us.