Essays on Faith, Family and Culture

The Most Disturbing Thing This Week

…wasn’t the Kavanaugh hearings or how accusations from 30+ years ago may be enough to ruin a man’s life…

That was disturbing enough.

You want to know the most disturbing thing I read this week?

Comments on “A Canticle for Leibowitz” left on Amazon.

“I didn’t understand the reason, why, in the last book, the Abbot was so against the woman’s suicide. What was the point?”

And this gem:

“I don’t believe the Catholic church would be the sole source of knowledge during a dark age.”

Hello? Have you never heard of European history?

These were actual comments on book reviews.

If you aren’t familiar with A Canticle for Leibowitz, it’s a science fiction classic that my friend Regina convinced me to finally read. She’s been raving about it for years and I haven’t read science fiction in a long time so I thought, Meh, I’ll just skip it for now. Only I really needed something good to read so I thought I would just try it.

I can’t stop thinking about it.

Written in 1959, it’s a classic of post-apocalyptic literature. Walter M. Miller Jr.’s book features an abbey in the middle of the desert in a post-nuclear holocaust world. The so-called “flame deluge” wiped out most of the Earth’s population and knowledge. The subsequent looting and anarchy afterward almost wiped out all knowledge. The monks of the Cistercian Abbey of Blessed Leibowitz preserved knowledge by saving every book. So-called bookleggers hid books in the abbey walls and memorized texts to preserve them.

As soon as I read the first section, I nodded, chuckling to myself at the cleverness. I, a student of both Catholicism and European history, loved it. I understood immediately the connection between the Cistercians and the books (although Dominicans probably would have been a more likely choice – or maybe Benedictines or Ursulines).

Of course, I thought to myself, during the Dark Ages, the Abbeys were the source of knowledge. If it wasn’t for the monks and nuns copying manuscripts and preserving the knowledge of ancient Greece and Rome, it would not have survived. The Renaissance would not have happened without those monks and nuns. So much knowledge, so much learning and discovery came about because of the Holy Catholic Church. History is built on her shoulders.

But people don’t know that anymore. Specifically, young people. Millennials.

I scanned through the comments. They followed a pattern. Young people under age 30 did not ‘get’ the Catholicism in the book. Nor did they seem to want to explore it in any way.

I remember in high school being curious about Islam. I took out books from the library so I could understand it. I read books about Hinduism and Buddhism too so I could learn more.

My husband and I made a point of visiting the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City on our honeymoon so we could better understand the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

We’re like that; we explore. We listen. We compare. I’m still Catholic, but I understand what is around me and respect believers. I also understand how each religion fits into history, how the Mormon church shaped Utah and the West, how the Catholic church shaped Western Europe, how Hinduism and Buddhism have shaped the Orient.

Not so, our younger generation. Have they taken this out of the textbooks? Have they painted Catholics solely as the bad guys?

I wonder. I feel a sense of anger at this, of betrayal.

We have come full circle. In ancient Rome, during the early days of the church, Christians were mocked for their crazy beliefs. “See how they love each other!” was the cry. Loving the poor, the widow and the orphan wasn’t a Roman thing. Being kind wasn’t either. Being tough was.

Now we are in Roman times again, my friends. The lions are hungry for our skins in the Coliseum. The barbarians at the gate are our own kids, neighbors, citizens. They are ignorant of what Holy Mother Church has done for civilization. Chances are good they are also ignorant of the good that other faiths have done for their cultures, too – Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism.

Photo by Michael D Beckwith on Unsplash

A tip from your old auntie, the writer, kids: If you read a book like A Canticle for Leibowitz, heavy with Catholicism, look up what you don’t understand. Discover. Read. Learn.

Try to understand the other point of view for a change.

It’s a superb book, by the way. Highly recommended.