I enjoyed reading The Coming Age of the Laity by Christopher Manion, and I would like to add one small thing that may be useful. Far from me to even compare myself to a writer and thinker of that caliber, I am only adding my two cents or rather two cents that I found along the way while catechizing myself.
My saints of Baptism and Confirmation are the first clue: St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Isidore of Seville. Both of them lived at the end of the Roman world order and both took care of leaving a legacy strong enough to build the Christian order of the Middle Ages. Some of their charism must have rubbed on me. A friend of mine wrote these very telling verses:
While the world rages
Carlos reads pages
About unknown sages
Of the Middle Ages
Someone told me that my friend may have plagiarized one of the Inklings but that story is for another day. The truth is that the end of the Roman Empire came less because Rome was out of energy or ideas and more because the Christian order was ready to shed its host and live on its own. All the persecutions were in vain. The more the Romans killed Christians, the more Rome debilitated. The end was inevitable not because the Romans were weak but because their institutions were basically an “old wineskin” and the force of the “new wine” burst through them with unstoppable force. I agree with Nietzsche that Christianity was what killed the ancient world. But I think the ancient world needed killing and Nietzsche would probably disagree with me on that.
Our Holy Father chose the name Benedict. I believe there is a strong reason why the Holy Spirit guided him to be named so in his first decision as Bishop of Rome. Why? Because St. Benedict was a builder of both the Church and of the then incipient Christian order. Many things started right there. The old Roman inventions were perfected and modified to suit new tasks. The monks i.e. drained swamps across Europe using ancient inventions. The monasteries invented new wines and perfected beer, new forms of preserving food, thousands of varieties of cheese, bread, preserved meats. In the process of financing their own operations they invented the hotel for weary pilgrims, the pub, and the hospital. They advanced metallurgy and chemistry… etc. etc.
They did that because the faithful could not support them. The faithful simply lived in a collapsed economy. The prince was not a friend in many cases because the monks often chastised the noble and their public sins. So in the process of spreading Christianity through Europe they were forced or rather they run into problems that forced them to be inventive and resourceful, hence Champagne and English Ale, better pumps, better leather wear, knives, pots, pans, etc. The new economy was born.
The faithful continued to support the Church the best they could but in reality the monks strove to be self-sufficient and that was their genius: to allow Divine Providence and the Holy Spirit to “renew the face of the Earth” with monks as willing instruments of God’s genius. In doing so they inadvertently laid the foundations of the European hegemony: the Church created the West.
When Joseph Ratzinger took the name Benedict to reign over Christ’s Church he sent a hidden signal that the Modern World was as good as dead. This abomination that calls itself Postmodernism is nothing but the apotheosis of Modernism. Modernism specialized over 500 years in one product: death. It is in the nature of the culture of death to die after having killed as much as possible: “And unless those days had been shortened, no flesh should be saved,” Jesus warned us of the powerful thirst for killing that this monster was going to have.
Like the first Benedict, this last one has been engaged in a titanic struggle to renew the Church and the world. If this is going to be the Age of the Laity we have to do like the monks of old and throw ourselves at the task of renewing the culture by seeing the problem with new eyes. We have to innovate. We have to drain this enormous swamp using the latest tools and even improving those tools. In the process we shall solve new problems and moved by the Holy Spirit we will be able to lay the foundations of the world to come while the old world crumbles all around us. The futile enterprise of Modernism started dying in 1968 when it turned its disorderly appetites on itself. If it is going to kick the bucket in ten minutes or ten years it is none of our business because we have more important things to do. Let the dead bury their dead, we are in the business of life.
Published 23 February 2012.