Anno Domini 2009 Print
By James Schall   
Thursday, 01 January 2009

As we begin a new year:

An American friend in Rome emails me about The Election: “A radical break has occurred in our country’s history!” The “change” seems complete; what went before is “irrelevant.”

The Wall Street Journal writes of an ex-Soviet-KGB agent-scholar. He famously predicts that the United States will break up around the year 2010-12 into some six different nations with incompatible interests and alliances.

The Weekly Standard carries a detailed essay on Detroit, which is in such bad shape that third-world countries should begin to offer it aid.

The Los Angeles Times has an account of wide-spread bribery and corruption in China. Little is done without offering something to party officials.

Another California paper records last year’s death toll in Mexico, 5,200 drug-related murders. Iraq is safe by comparison. California is still on Mexican maps as Mexican territory. Our job situation has slowed down border crossings, with help from the wall.

Not a few relatives and friends are out of work or worried that they soon will be.

No major college, as far as I have noticed, has yet lowered its tuition. The UAW offered no concessions to the car companies.

My niece stopped at a gas station in California. She filled her tank. “Just a couple of months ago it would have cost me $50, now it is about $20.”

When George Bush became president in 2001, the last thing he expected was a suicide bombing of the Twin Towers. I suspect that he will look better with every day after January 20, 2009.

A front-page photo in The Washington Times on the last day of the year showed that retail stores are empty but thrift shops thriving. (My father died in 1964 still worried about the next depression.)

I received a Christmas card from a Canadian grandmother. Her granddaughters, late grammar/early high school ages, want to know about the “Peace Marches” in the Sixties. One noted that they did not end wars. Another told her, while watching her great grandfather being buried with military honors, that “War was bad.” The grandmother wonders how to explain that some things have to be defended.

Samuel Huntington just died. He predicted that the coming ages would not be peaceful. They will see a clash of civilizations.

In Russell Berman’s introduction to the Telos Press edition of Ernst Jűnger’s On Pain: “Jűnger’s insistence on the centrality of pain as the driver of culture is cut from the same cloth as the terrorists’ documented affinity for death: ‘You love life and we love death,’ said the al-Qaeda spokesman three days after the Madrid bombing on March 11, 2004, proposing a distinction between a warrior movement of soldiers prepared to die and a complacent consumer culture.” This is what grandmothers now have to explain.

The pope has sought to confront Islam with reason. Not a few in Islam think that they should rule the world and are taking steps to do so.

The attorney general of California, a former seminarian named Jerry Brown, found in its constitution “reasons” that would enable him to reject the initiative on the normalcy of marriage between one man and one woman. There is a universal “anti-natural law ‘natural law’” in California.

The breviary’s reading for the last day of the year is from Colossians: “See to it that no one deceives you through any empty, seductive philosophy that follows mere human tradition, a philosophy based on cosmic powers rather than on Christ.” Several professed atheists recently wrote books preferring, in effect, the cosmic powers.

On the shortest day of the year 2008 in St. Peter’s Square, Benedict XVI said: “Beyond its historical dimensions, the mystery of salvation also has a cosmic dimension: Christ is the sun of grace who, with his life, ‘transfigures and enflames the expectant universe.’”

On New Year’s Day, the breviary’s second reading is from Saint Athanasius, bishop (d. 373 A. D.): “Our Savior truly became man, and from this has followed the salvation of man as a whole. Our salvation is in no way fictitious, nor does it apply only to the body. The salvation of the whole man, that is, of soul and body, has really been achieved in the Word himself.” I like that: “Our salvation is in no way fictitious.” It will be carried out no matter what the political condition of our world. What we actually are will be saved in no other way.

Anno Domini 2009. We begin a year that, like all those after the Nativity, is rightly called, “The Year of the Lord.” We are no closer or no farther away from our salvation than any other of our kind. The important part has already been accomplished. What remains is how we choose to live, what we know and believe.

James Schall, S.J., is a professor at Georgetown University, and one of the most prolific Catholic writers in America.

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