To save Europe's soul
Fr Adam Lach
For a long time Europe, although strengthened economically, has been ideologically and morally on the skids, the evidence being a peculiar resolution of the European Parliament, which reprimands Poland for its alleged racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and homophobia. It is worth reflecting on our continent a day before the feast of Europe's patron St Benedict.
Europe's immune system
( Christianity and its ethos are the immune system of Europe. If one really cares for European civilisation he will defend Christianity even if one does not feel a Christian. An excellent example is Oriana Fallaci. I repeat: without Christianity our civilisation will not survive - this is the answer of Bishop Stanislaw Wielgus, outstanding philosopher and historian, to the question about the role of Christianity in Europe.
A question arises immediately: why is Christianity so important to our continent? Historically speaking, it fulfilled a role of some melting pot in which all values of the Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Jewish heritage were united. Thus it formed the foundation to build modern Euro-Atlantic civilisation.
St Benedict of Nursia, monk living at the turn of the 5th and 6th centuries, played a substantial role in this process. Seeing that the wonderful, ancient, Christianised Greek-Roman civilisation was collapsing under the blows of the barbarians who rummaged around made patient efforts to save both the treasures of the ancient culture and the Christian reason and morality against savagery, irrationality and pagan lasciviousness.
Attack of contemporary barbarians
In some ways the present situation resembles the one of the 6th century. Today paganism that questions reason and faith is flourishing. It also fights against morality based on the Decalogue and the Gospel.
'There are some forces, under the influence of the leftist-Trockist ideology of 1968, that question the Judeo-Christian ethos and proclaim cognitive and ethical relativism as well as subjectivism, i.e. selective acceptance of the truths of faith and moral principles. They aim at undercutting the foundations of the Euro-Atlantic civilisation', the President of the Scientific Council of the Bishops' Conference comments on the resolution of the European Parliament.
According to Bishop Stanislaw Wielgus contemporary man is attacked by the dictatorship of the barbarians of our times who have announced that there is neither objective truth nor objective good nor any deeper spiritual value because their source, i.e. God, does not exist. Thus the European culture, which has existed for 25 centuries and has been built on these values, has been undermined. The very soul of Europe has been questioned. Instead of that the contemporary barbarians offer people fulfilment of their hunger of new things, powerful experiences and more and more lascivious pleasures, which the overwhelming advertisements have hyped' stresses Bishop Wielgus.
Coming to St Benedict for help
This picture of Europe and its inhabitants does not instil optimism in us. Can this, as it seems, irreversible process, which pushes our continent into the mists of neo-paganism and moral destruction, be stopped?
St Benedict can help us here. By making him Europe's patron Pope Paul VI stressed his great merits in the process of civilizing and forming spiritual face of our continent. After all it was him and his collaborators that contributed to the development of mediaeval education, various sciences, crafts and arts in Europe. The mediaeval followers of St Benedict taught our ancestors how to cultivate soil, raise cattle, build roads and bridges, houses and churches, and moreover, they taught them medicine, geography, mathematics, astronomy and many other disciplines. The monks' activities, characterised by evangelic love of your neighbour, focused on the three most important institutions that the Middle Ages created: school, hospital and monastery.
'Following the known motto: Ora et labora, Pray and work, St Benedict and the numerous monasteries he founded in the entire Europe, began to build a new civilisation of love, reason and moral order', says Bishop Stanislaw Wielgus. He also reminds us of the famous saying of St Bernard of Clairvaux, which comes from the Benedictine tradition: Serva ordinem et ordo servabit te ( serve order and order will keep you. The thing is that we should keep legal order but first of all we should keep intellectual and moral order, the order that is in the Decalogue, in the natural law, in human reasoning and evangelic love of your neighbour. Then one can save what is the most important thing ( European soul, Wielgus adds.
New Benedict for new times
By choosing the name of Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger focused on the figure of St Benedict as the one who saves Europe, and perhaps the world, from ideological moral decay. Very few people know that three weeks before his election, on 1 April 2005, in the convent of St Scholastica in Subiaco, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, received St Benedict Award for the promotion of life and the family in Europe, which was granted by the Foundation 'Life and Family'. He was awarded for his involvement in defending the Christian roots of Europe, mainly during the discussion about the European constitution and Christian tradition of our continent and of the Church.
Will Benedict XVI join the battle against the pagan vision of Europe and the world? The Bishop of Plock is convinced that he will. 'The Pope is the most outstanding contemporary theologian and a versatile expert in philosophical trends which endanger human civilisation today. He is also a staunch defender of the deposit of Christian faith and the supernatural dignity of man who in his eyes is the image of God and child of God and not some animal form of primates whose final lot is death and decay, which we are attempted to be convinced of by various means', he says. This firm statement also shows the reason of the very dangerous course Europe has chosen. The source of evil is the false concept of man that broke away from the truth and moral principles. In order to save Europe's soul we must return to the truth about man who is God's creation and his child. The Benedictine motto Ora et labora conveys this truth very accurately.