In our last instalment, we looked at the sort of Internationalism and Globalism that prevails in the World to-day, and at the United Nations and Papal approval thereof. And, as we saw, the record of the UN is, from a Catholic perspective, spotty. Nevertheless, as we also saw, the efforts of the Church to create an equitable international social order go back to the time of Constantine, and bore a certain fruit when Theodosius the Great not only made Catholicism the established religion of the Empire, but conferred Roman citizenship on all who are baptised. From that time on, until the abdication of the last Holy Roman Emperor, the Church preserved the memory of the idea – and unconsciously or otherwise, the Popes since St. John XXIII have chosen to hope that the UN and EU might take up some degree of the role of benevolent transnational authority. But as Catholics, we are not required to share those political judgments of our Popes that are not connected to the Faith – and here it is strictly a question of whether the international bodies in which so much hope has been reposed by the Pontiffs really deliver.
But what should our attitude toward Internationalism in general be? Well, as Catholics, we already partake of it, and always have since the Holy Ghost descended upon the Apostles at Pentecost. As Dom Gueranger say in his commentary on that event in his Liturgical Year:
How beautiful art thou, dear Church of our God ! Heretofore, the workings of the Holy Ghost have been limited; but now, He breatheth freely where He willeth; He brings thee forth to the eyes of men by this stupendous prodigy. Thou art the image of what this earth was, when all its inhabitants spoke the same language. The prodigy is not to cease with the day of Pentecost, nor with the disciples who are its first receivers. When the apostles have terminated their lives and preaching, the gift of tongues, at least in its miraculous form, will cease, because no longer needed: but thou 0 Church of Christ! wilt continue to speak all languages, even to the end of time, for thou art to dwell in every clime. The one same faith is to be expressed in the language of every country; and thus transformed, the miracle of Pentecost is to be kept up forever within thee, as one of thy characteristic marks.
The great St. Augustine alluded to this, when he spoke the following admirable words: ‘The whole body of Christ, the Church, now speaks in all tongues. Nay, I myself speak all tongues, for I am in the body of Christ, I am in the Church of Christ. If the body of Christ now speaks all languages, then am I in all languages. Greek is mine, Syriac is mine, Hebrew is mine, and all are mine, for I am one with all the several nations that speak them.’ During the ages of faith, the Church (which is the only source of all true progress), succeeded in giving one common language to all the nations that were in union with her. For centuries, the Latin language was the bond of union between civilized countries. However distant these might be from one another, there was this link of connexion between them; it was the medium of communication for political negotiations, for the spread of science, or for friendly epistolary correspondence. No one was a stranger, in any part of the west, or even beyond it, who could speak this language. The great heresy of the sixteenth century robbed us of this as of so many other blessings; it dismembered that Europe which the Church had united, not only by her faith, but by her language.
Indeed, deeply local as the Church is, rooted in home, parish, deanery, diocese, and nation, she also has not merely an international head and centre in the Pope and Holy See, but transnational networks in the various religious orders and lay associations that are transnational in scope. Once, as well – as Dom Gueranger alludes to – under the Church’s aegis the “republic of learning” linked all the scholars and universities of Christendom in a Latin chain, of which C.S. Lewis’ correspondence with several Italian Catholic priests in that language is a reminder. Until the adoption of the vernacular in the ‘60s, Latin Rite Catholics could go to any Mass of that sort throughout the World and feel at home – a privilege that those who frequent the “Extraordinary Form” continue to enjoy.
Nevertheless, national cultural and other differences are real – as are even state or provincial and local ones. Moreover, they are the gift of God to us, and within them we out our Faith. How is the Catholic to live out his life in this context, without necessarily waving the blue flag of the United Nations or forgetting his duty to country, state, town, and kindred?
To begin with, we must realise and recognise that Christ is King and Mary is Queen over the entire universe, this planet, and every nation thereon – regardless of the fact that almost all of these and their Heads of State and Government, their legislatures and judiciaries, and most of their practitioners of the arts and sciences refuse to acknowledge this reality. No country is excused, not even our own. Every State and Province, every county and city, every parish and household, and, indeed, every soul belong to this King by the threefold right of Creation, by which He made the Universe and its contents; of Blood, due to his descent from King David; and of Conquest, by His ransoming each of us as individuals through His death on the Cross. Through her roles as Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix, she partakes in her Divine Sons Sacred Royalty.
As Catholics, it is necessary for us to love all the peoples who have the Faith, as fellow subjects; and all those who do not as subjects of evangelisation and fellow human beings – capable of partaking in the great gifts given us should they so choose. These two attitudes in turn should inform our role as citizens, both of our nation and the world.
We need to buildup in our own hearts and minds a sort of “Pan-Catholicism.” Politically, that can mean attempting to direct the attention of our elected officials to the plight of Catholics persecuted overseas, and supporting them as we can with money and prayers. But it also means looking at other Catholic cultures and our Eastern Rites as part of our own heritage. Similarly, on the political plane, we should strive to be patriots rather than nationalists – loving the different cultures in our country and locale because they are here, rather than because they are like us. This is particularly true in “settler countries” like the United States. Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, whose populations have come from all over the world (as well as the descendants of the pre-European inhabitants). Indeed, many of us are ourselves products of a number of different nationalities. This can be a recipe for divided loyalties or wider love. I myself am of French-Canadian descent on my father’s side; but he himself had generous dollops of Irish and Scots. My mother was of Austrian, English, and Irish descent. I was born in a city founded by the Dutch and later colonised by the English, which has come to hold every nationality in the world – but I have lived most of my life in a city founded by the Spanish, and similarly peopled by every nation on Earth. In a nutshell, just as my Faith impels me to look at all Catholics of every nationality as my brethren, ethnicity and geography themselves force me to go beyond one people.
One thing that becomes perfectly apparent is that members of nationalities with long mutually bloody histories have a lot to overcome – the Irish and English or the Croats and Serbs say, or that ungodly mass of shared genocide that is the relationship between the Germans, Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarussians, each of whom can point to the others as having massacred or at least deported them. The list is endless – the Turks and the Greeks, Macedonians, Bulgars, Romanians – and everyone else in the Balkans. The Israelis and the Palestinians. The Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans. In our own country we have the recently reopened wounds between North and South, and the ever-simmering race issue. But what we have to understand is that each side has its heroes and martyrs – and often enough, one side’s heroes create the other’s martyrs. Somehow Catholics rarely remember the Sack of Constantinople in 1204 – but Orthodox seem usually to forget the Slaughter of the Latins in 1182. There is certainly nothing wrong with honouring our own heroes and martyrs, but Christ require that we forgive the ills done us, and perhaps part of that forgiveness is letting the other side venerate theirs.
But all of this is in the realm of attitude and aspiration. What can we do on a practical level? Well, via the miracle of the internet upon which you are reading these very words, the whole world is literally waiting for you. There are innumerable Catholic authors and movements past and present of which you have quite literally never heard. Not only can you track them down (with the help of Wikipedia, a great start to any research, if only that), but via another miracle. Goggle translate, you can get a good idea of what they are talking about. Nor is this access to the world purely a question of the dead. Most bishops’ conferences, dioceses, and the major shrines all have websites, so you can find out more about them than was ever easily possible before. On Facebook are innumerable interest groups with likeminded folk from all over the world. Nothing will teach you more about the worlds cultures than acquaintances who are part of them. The information superhighway carries more than enough dreck as it wends its way through our lives – but you do have the power to make something worthwhile out of it.
In all things, of course, we must practise moderation: we must not become so local that our vision becomes tunneled; nor so national that we hate all those unlike ourselves, nor so international that we have no loyalty to anything. But we can balance them with each other to bring out the best. A different times the Boy Scouts of America have or have had four citizenship merit badges: in the home, in the community, in the nation, and in the world. Together, these add up to a fine combination. And when we see that natural good in the light of the Faith, then we have opportunity to be far more and better than merely good citizens in the several spheres in which we all must operate. We can become true and loyal subjects of Christ the King and Mary the Queen, and work to make each of these – home, community, nation, and world provinces of their glorious Kingdom. Each of us, in our way, may then try to his part to transform Pius XI’s Vespers hymn for today, Te saeculorum Principem from beautiful poetry to triumphant reality:
May heads of nations fear Thy name
And spread Thy honor through their lands,
Our nation’s laws, our arts proclaim
The beauty of Thy just commands.
Let kings the crown and sceptre hold
As pledge of Thy supremacy;
And Thou all lands, all tribes enfold
In one fair realm of charity
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