This blogging game is a funny business and it’s remarkable what one finds other people write. Even the language of pointing to what is to be found on another blogg is quaint. So one can say, “over at”, when referring to “a recent post” somewhere else is the “bloggosphere”. All rather charming. Anyway, here’s what I found over at www.exlaodicea. It got me thinking and scribbling. The passage is from Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical letter Caritas Studium from 1898:
Scotland, so dear to the Holy See, and in a special manner to Us, has its place in Our care and solicitude… We have constantly sought to promote the welfare of your nation, which is naturally inclined to embrace the truth. The terrible storm which swept over the Church in the sixteenth century, deprived the vast majority of the Scottish people, as well as many other peoples of Europe, of that Catholic Faith which they had gloriously held for over one thousand years. It is most pleasing to Us to revert to the great achievements of your forefathers on behalf of Catholicism, and also to allude to some of those, and they are many, to whose virtue and illustrious deeds Scotland owes so much of her renown… This was the faith of St. Columba; this was the faith kept so religiously and preached so zealously by the monks of old, whose chief centre, alone, was rendered famous by their eminent virtues. Need We mention Queen Margaret, a light and ornament not only of Scotland, but of the whole of Christendom, who, though she occupied the most exalted position in point of worldly dignity, sought only in her whole life things eternal and divine, and thus spread throughout the Church the luster of her virtues? There can be no doubt she owed this her eminent sanctity to the influence and guidance of the Catholic Faith. And did not the power and constancy of the Catholic Faith give to Wallace and Bruce, the two great heroes of your race, their indomitable courage in defence of their country? We say nothing of the immense number of those who achieved so much for the commonwealth, and who belong to that progeny which the Catholic Church has never ceased to bring forth. We say nothing of the advantages which your nation has derived from her influence. It is undeniable that it was through her wisdom and authority that those famous seats of learning were opened at St. Andrews, Glasgow, and Aberdeen, and that your judicial system was drawn up and adopted. Hence We can well understand why Scotland has been honoured by the title of “Special Daughter of the Holy See.”
It got me thinking about what Scotland was when it too shared the ancient Faith. What has remained and what has been lost? I’m not sure, but maybe now it’s only the accent that remains, or is it that then Scots were not homeless but, like many others today, there is a sense of homelessness.
“Geeee, I just love your accent!” – is a familiar enough phrase. It is often uttered innocently. It was often said by students who believed a particular professor was from Ireland. He tried, as best he could through his rough words, to explain that historically his country and Ireland were closely linked but that, no, he wasn’t Irish despite the fact that his mother was from Ireland’s most northern county. To his own embarrassment he remembered thinking a priest from the Outer Hebrides was Irish! Still, the students looked on with horror that someone really could sound like a character from Mel Gibbson’s Brave Heart yet only have seen the movie once. The professor, for his part, looked on in horror when a student confessed to having watched it thirty-six (36!) times. His accent spoke of a certain people, but when he reflected on that same people he came to realize he knew them, in a certain sense, but that Scotland – the Scotland of Wallace and Bruce – was foreign to him. What was the cause of this disconnect?
Being measured against a previous generation is not easy. Maybe it is why many people run from the past – trying to flee the acts of those who went before them? What is more strange, however, is that other people are keen to know where someone comes from in order to identify that person with a certain group of people. In societies where grave injustices have been carried out in the name of one group against another the degree of mistrust is almost tangible as people try to get around the involuntary association they have with the acts of their ancestors. The Scots often identify the English by the accent – even although a Scotsman could have as strong a London accent as any Londoner – in order to place themselves in a certain position. The Irish will do the same. The accent is a sign, however, that is easily misread but the point is one of seeking identity. What is behind this? It seems to be an attempt to achieve security. The English often mimic the Germans. Where does that come from? Probably from an attitude of ‘the Hun sounds like this’: a basic education in identifying the enemy. The straightforward question of, “Friend or foe?” is often by-passed for an accent-identification-process. Surprisingly, international airports don’t yet have such an official security channel where one needs to line up and speak into an accentometer (I know, that’s another, neo-logism)! That, however, doesn’t stop the security personnel noting how one speaks – they can’t avoid what they’ve always done. Human beings look for safety indicators.
The accent, the familiar sound of one’s childhood can be also very refreshing. The foreigner abroad often finds solace when hearing that tone, which takes him back home. The sound of home – maybe that’s what one’s own accent is? But what of those who find their neighbours to be strangers? Or maybe it is not those nearby, but the society outwith one’s own circle, neighbourhood, or district that is foreign or strange? Immigrants often find this difficulty. In Scotland, where many Irish immigrants’ children grew up during the Twentieth Century, the word ‘home’ was a land across the sea. What about the Germans, Italians and others who went to America, and whose children then fought in Europe during World War II, did they find it strange to be going ‘home’ to fight against their own? Yet, how many of them returned to where their parents came from only to find that it wasn’t really home after all? Is this not the story of so many – unable to answer that basic question of where home is, and then classified according to an accident know as an accent? How many have never actually known the country in which they were brought up – especially since that country’s history was not the history of their ancestors? Maybe many Muslims today are being more honest than they are given credit for – the European countries they live in are not historically home to them even while governments pretend to try to ‘integrate’ them into something that is not theirs. Strange though it may seem both Jews and Catholics (those living in what became known as ‘Protestant countries’) can identify more closely with this than those who either claim to be atheists or simply national ‘Christians’.
The Jewish people historically do not trace their roots to Europe – they would be the first to say so, even although they contributed to the building of Europe. Their history for the last two thousand years has been intertwined, in a for-or-against posture, with those first Catholics who were themselves Jews and who moved within the confines of the Roman Empire. Those Jews who first became labelled as ‘Christians’ in Antioch were called such by their own kinsfolk who rejected them as heretics. The cast-out-Jews (i.e. the first Catholics) were labelled as such, not to hold them up as examples to be followed, but to identify them as those who were religiously and politically unacceptable. It was a way of pointing to them as foreigners, or even betrayers of the qahal YHWH. They lived within the Roman domain (as their forefathers had done in the Greek and Assyrian empires) but they were not of the Empire. Their forefathers’ origin was not geographical, despite Jerusalem being the physical place to which they turned, but from God Himself. Other peoples, those around them, had land but it was never promised to them from the Source of the land itself. The pre-Christian Jews, however, had this Promise that announced a land divinely given. As they moved from place to place – be it in times of peace, war, or disaster – this Promise united them, pointing them towards Jerusalem. They lived, therefore, orientated toward a place of worship, a place away alien to the pagans around about them who worshipped local-gods (i.e. false-gods, demons). They knew these people; were born and raised close to these other people; but they were not of these people. When they were faithful they knew them not. One could say that they were orientated towards their true home.
Knowing ‘home’ is rooted in knowing where one is going. It seems also to be deeply religious and, therefore, related to a certain cult. The question of cult leads to the what kind of culture one has around about oneself. For the pre-Christian Jews their worship was focused on the ancient site of the Temple in Jerusalem, and this led them to consider themselves as a people set apart for worship. No matter where they found themselves, they looked to Jerusalem as the fulcrum of their identity. They turned towards God. As they remembered so they knew who they were. Without memory one looses awareness of ones identity – and also that sense of belonging.
What happens then if a people’s culture is changed by a change in the cult? Such a change is bound to lead to a loss of the sense of home. Imagine the horror of those who survived the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. No Temple means no cult; no true cult means a loss of ones true identity. For those who experienced such a horror, “Where is God?” was an obvious thought. They seemed to be faced with an existential threat to their very existence.
Trying to highlight such cultural threats, or actual happenings, today is like trying to point out that the emperor has no clothes. Such changes, such acts of idiocy of standing-by and watching a naked king wonder around, often come from above rather than from below within a society. Failure to recognize insanity and care for the insane surely points to cultural madness. Millions afterall, were not recently out shouting, “End Marriage!” (Although millions were already acting as if marriage didn’t matter because the glitteratae, and the grovellers around them, were living against marriage for long enough). The farce of a naked emperor is always because of a connivance with injustice, or stupidity, as with England in the days of Henry VIII. Fear (or gain) was the driving principle for those who went along with his madness. The product has been an England that many living through it could not identify with. The England of their fore-fathers was destroyed as the cult was destroyed. In Scotland, during the same period of the religious revolt, it was the destruction of cultural icons, such as Christmas, and the great cathedral at St. Andrews, that were used to change ‘home’ into something it was not. Pagan practices were re-invented in order to change a people, and their promotion excluded those who tried to hold onto the old religion. And today, it is just the same. Marriage and the family, as centre pieces of civilization, has been officially cut-off from their proper place in the home. Would anyone who died fighting to defend their childrens’ and grandchildrens’ civilization during World War II recognize a culture where sex is worshipped rather than recognized as a power to be controlled for the well-being of the whole society? A power to be ordered for the glory of God.
With false cultures rooted in the principle of every individual for itself (thanks to a German preacher who 500 years ago saw himself above all authority and went mad with power), what more is to be expected than a sense of homelessness? A sense of homelessness is what arises from rejecting the true cult, the true religion. It cuts one individual off from another; one generation of from another; and one people off from another. Falsehood only has one outcome and that is confusion, and the falsehood of that 500 year old nonesense is what exacerbates today’s cultural loneliness in former Christians lands. The fact that it has Nominalism built into highlights how it is also to be found in Islam too, although in a manner that finds itself more cleverly wrapped up in sense of belonging.
How then do Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and even atheists all come across a sense of not being at home when they are in foreign lands? This would seem to arise from the natural desire for God (for Truth Itself) that is written in man’s nature. Man cannot satisfy his deepest longings – history teaches that lesson for sure! And so it is with ones own people, and ones own earthly home. These cannot fill the deepest longings of the human heart. Truth, however, expressed – and even more so in the true Faith supernaturally made present in the Holy Sacrifice – points man to God. He alone Who is man’s true home. And so, if a people turns away from the truth, at any point in its history, it looses its orientation toward its eternal home. For the present author Scotland is not what it should be, and never was as he grew as a child amidst a people who often said, “This is a Protestant country, and don’t you forget it!” He never knew Scotland because it did not reflect the Truth as it had done in the days of Margaret, Wallace, and Bruce. It embraced the principle of radical me-ism and later sought to rectify this by declaring itself for the worker, and a fighter for the underdog. Now it is ruled by those who think in narrow, materialistic, and hedonistic terms. It’s religion is the self-annihilation whatever-ism, enforced by powers pretending to care, but who will use whatever it takes to keep Scots (and whoever live in Scotland) cut-off from the True Blood that was offered on the field before the battle of Bannockburn. England still has Walsingham, where the True Queen can be honoured – even if awkwardly – but Scotland has lost it’s Mother. She, however, still looks for her Son’s own. This land, this people, once declared Specialis Filia Romanae Ecclesiae – I never knew you! It has been only through the Truth that I have seen what you could be.