We are now aware that a martyrdom of a Catholic priest, Fr. Jacques Hamel, has taken place in France. It was only a matter of time before ISIS began its assault on Catholicism in Europe, and eventually, the United States. Other than in the Middle East and Asia, Christians have not been the primary target of ISIS and other radical Islamic groups. It has largely been secular institutions that have been attacked. Catholicism in the West is now a target of ISIS. The difference between the attack on Catholicism and the attack on secularism is that Catholics can win this war.
The West is largely impotent in the face of radical Islam. We do not seem to fully grasp this truth. We look to our political leaders for decisive action, but all we seem to get is the occasional air strike and hollow words. We Christians watch as our brothers and sisters in Christ are slaughtered and sold into slavery in the Middle East and Asia. There is no talk of the plight of Christians in Syria, Iraq, and even Saudi Arabia by political leaders in the West. Why? Quite honestly because the West has chosen to abandon its Christian roots for nihilism. (Oh, no. There she goes writing about nihilism again.) Quite frankly, we will never understand what is going on in Europe, and soon-to-be the U.S., until we understand the impotent, deadly, and destructive nature of nihilism that is the predominant philosophical influence in the West at this point in history.
Why is the West’s nihilism impotent in the face of radical Islam? Nihilism is a creed in which belief is predicated upon nothingness. I do not mean that nihilists believe in nothing, although material atheism does tend to occupy the thoughts of some nihilist adherents. Nihilism is the belief in nothing objective or concrete. This is best understood through the creed of relativism: What’s true for me doesn’t have to be true for you. This results in philosophical and moral incoherence. There is a reason Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke so much of the dangers of modern philosophies and relativism. Is it possible for all of us to have our own set of beliefs and not impact others? Obviously not. If relativism is true, then it is morally permissible for a jihadi to walk into a Catholic Church and slit a priest’s throat. This is the serious problem we face with secularism and its nihilistic principles. The belief in nothing results in a free for all and objective truth is abandoned. When grave evil rears its ugly head in history, the nihilists either turn a blind eye or end up committing their own evils. The problem is that this incoherence is defended over and over again in our culture. Rugged individualism tears humanity apart because it contradicts our ontological being. I hope this is blunt enough because we have got to get this through our Catholic heads. This is what we are facing in secularism.
Nationalism and democracy cannot possibly confront the grave evil and violence of radical Islam. First, nations cannot seem to come together to confront this evil, which is spreading worldwide at an alarming rate. Since we all have our own set of beliefs we cannot come together to form a solution, whether it be military or diplomatic. Although, in my mind, the time of diplomacy has ended. Nihilism and relativism destroy unity. There is no cause or good to fight for in these philosophies. This is why the West shuffles its feet while thousands are slaughtered worldwide. Second, just battles are waged for a sense of belief in the good. World War II was waged on two unified fronts because the Allies understood the dignity of the human person and the need to defend good. In the West, there is no objective good, so we cannot come together and confront the bloodlust of ISIS.
Democracy, really a Representative Republic or Parliamentarian Republic, are superior forms of government with the best shot at protecting freedoms. History has shown this to be true. The problems within these types of government arise when there is no longer a clear understanding of freedom. Freedom in the West has devolved into an individualistic self-worship that has made our cultures cave in on themselves. Since there is no longer an ordering to the good, there is no way to confront evils such as ISIS while we ourselves murder unborn babies by the millions. Quite frankly, it is time for the West to wake up and see where its philosophies have gotten it. This isn’t a blame the victims at all. This is a matter of survival. If the West wants a chance at winning this battle it has to abandon nihilism and relativism. It needs to turn to its Christian roots.
As Catholics what does all of this mean for us?
First, we need to be working hard at the New Evangelization. Our culture is sick and its only cure is the Living God. The answer to the world’s evils was in the Catholic Church where Fr. Jacques Hamel was martyred. The answer was in the Tabernacle. The healing salve needed by the wounded West and violently divided Middle East is the Holy Eucharist. It is Christ present body, blood, soul, and divinity to us. We have forgotten the spiritual weapons we have been given.
We need to be people of serious prayer. St. Padre Pio said, “The Rosary is the weapon for these times.” That is just as true today as it was when St. Padre Pio walked on this earth. Prayer changes history, it changes hearts, and it changes the world. We must trust in God’s goodness and the power of prayer in the conversion of the West, so that is may be equipped to defeat radical Islam. There can only be one winner in this war. We cannot win without Jesus Christ.
We must live the Christian life. Being Christian is a life-long conversion process. We must do battle with sin and weakness, but we must begin to seriously live a life ordered to holiness. We must truly put Christ and our Catholic Faith first, not our political party, desire for individualism, or material possessions. Our joy should radiate throughout our communities. Holy joy is infectious. It is contagious. People already desire Christ, they just don’t know it, yet. We must show them the answer to that longing deep in their heart that cannot be satiated through promiscuous sex, pornography, material possessions, money, power, adultery, and the list goes on and on.
We must pray for our enemies. Christ compels us to pray for our enemies. It is difficult. It took me 12 years after being a 9-11 relief worker to pray for the hijackers, but it changed me and who knows what else my prayers could have impacted. There is no limit to how God will use us to bring the world into conformation with the Blessed Trinity. We need to pray for the souls of the murderers. Yes! Every single time there is an attack, we pray for all of the dead, including the perpetrators. We must pray for those who are radicalized now. We must pray for peace. We must also pray for the radical secularism that is attacking the Church. Both nihilism and radical Islam are at war with Christ and His Church.
We must start living lives of joyful witness to the power, beauty, peace, joy, and healing of Catholicism. We must share the gift of the Holy Eucharist. We need more Eucharistic processions! We need to take Christ to the people in the West and those trapped in the evil of radical Islam. We have the answer to what is destroying the world and taking so many lives in the process. Secularism, nationalism, nihilism, and relativism have no hope in the face of radical Islam. How could they? They believe in nothing, but their own selfish desires. This is sin. In the Church, we have the answer to sin and it is the Cross and the Resurrection.
We can’t force our leaders to act. We can call and write to them, but in the end we must pray hard for the conversion of the West and those in radical Islam. Most of all, we must start living holy lives, so that God may use us to change the world and bring more souls to Himself. And of course, there are legions of angels fighting alongside of us. I leave you with the St. Michael prayer. The very same prayer my dad sent to me when I was a 9-11 relief worker. St. Michael is a powerful defender and intercessor, which is precisely why my daughter is named after him.
St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
Editor’s note: the featured image is of Jumièges Abbey, which existed in Normandy until being destroyed by the French Revolution.