The romantic soul of William Wordsworth thrilled over the French Revolution:
"Oh! Pleasant exercise of hope and joy! . . . Bliss was it in the dawn to be alive. But to be young was very heaven!"
He crossed the Channel to see it in action, but when the Terror began he fled in horror. Then there is the story of Beethoven tearing up the first page of his Sinfonia Eroica, originally dedicated to Napoleon, upon news that his hero had succumbed to the vanity of a crown. The anarchist Emma Goldman hailed the Russian Revolution, but when fact obliterated her fantasy, she acidly described the Bolshevik State "crushing every constructive revolutionary effort, suppressing, debasing, and disintegrating everything." The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact shattered the illusions of many armchair Communists.
Disillusionment can decay into cynicism, but it can also be a salvific dose of reality. Eugenicists in the last century envisioned a demographic utopia, only to find that illusion cruelly mocked by the Nazi death camps and made macabre by abortion mills today. Arthur and Elizabeth Rathburn of Grosse Point, Michigan are just the latest of people on trial for trafficking in the body parts of unborn babies. In 2013 the FBI discovered in their warehouse over one thousand heads, limbs and organs of infants. Their indictment seems to have been delayed because of what was previously a political reluctance to implicate Planned Parenthood. Increasing numbers of our population are recognizing unpleasant truths.
Recent changes by our Executive Branch mark a shift in policy — reinstating the pro-life Mexico City Policy, moving to defund the United Nations Population Fund, expanding the religious exemption to the Health and Human Services Department's contraception mandate, and favoring a Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act — as well as encouraging the annual March for Life this January 19, marking the 45th anniversary of the tragic Roe v. Wade decision. One does not want to be overly optimistic, but illusions are being shattered and, save for stone hearts, the consciences of many may be recognizing the consequences of naïvely underestimating the forces of evil cloaked as social progress.
The Scottish king Robert the Bruce provided a lesson in persistence. Defeated in battle, he was tempted to give up, but for three months he took refuge in a cave where he watched a spider persevere in building a web, after failing numerous times. "If at first you don't succeed, try, try, again." The line has edified schoolchildren, but it also helped the Bruce secure his kingdom after victory at Bannockburn. Various places claim the site of the cave — Dumfriesshire, Arran Island, Craigie, Taitlin Island — but that cave is wherever people learn from their mistakes and do not succumb to cynicism. "Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching" (2 Timothy 4:2).
Father George W. Rutler. "Salvific disillusionment." From the Pastor (January 14, 2018).
Reprinted with permission from Father George W. Rutler.
Father George W. Rutler is the pastor of St. Michael's church in New York City. He has written many books, including: The Stories of Hymns, Hints of Heaven: The Parables of Christ and What They Mean for You, Principalities and Powers: Spiritual Combat 1942-1943, Cloud of Witnesses — Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive, Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections, A Crisis of Saints: Essays on People and Principles, Brightest and Best, Saint John Vianney: The Cure D'Ars Today, Crisis in Culture, and Adam Danced: The Cross and the Seven Deadly Sins.Copyright © 2018 Father George W. Rutler
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