Living through an Apocalypse

Note: It’s fundraising season, as you will read below. But if you look just above, you’ll also notice that, if you click on the arrow, you can now listen to the daily column as well as read it. We hope that those of you who requested an audio version will find it makes following us even more convenient and enjoyable.

When the history of our times comes to be written, scholars won’t be able to ignore how much recent years have been marked by widespread feelings of apocalypse. That’s, of course, assuming that there are any historians who survive. Because from threats of nuclear war to climate change, from AI (artificial intelligence) to the digital technologies damaging our very bodies and brains, from the virtual erasure of the sex “binary” (i.e., women and men) to a media hell-bent on encouraging social division, it at least feels like the radical end – of something. Maybe everything. And not just for eccentric sects gathering on hilltops, waiting for the end. There’s a sense that the next year-and-a-half or so will be decisive both in American electoral politics (and society), and in the way the Synod on Synodality will affect the self-understanding of the One, Holy, Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

So, what do you do in apocalyptic times – real or imagined?  There’s the way of the world, and the way of wisdom.

The way of the world is hysteria – and, in fact, a strange liking for the constant agitation of the news and social media. If nothing else, it masks existential boredom, the kind of boredom that many people in developed societies feel on a daily basis when basic needs and even luxuries are readily available in relatively calm and peaceful settings. This achievement – the dream of ages – has come at the cost of regarding virtually the entire created universe as mere energy and matter to be exploited and manipulated for human benefit. Under the circumstances, for many people, it’s better – and easier – to let loose moral outrage in fights over over climate change or racial “privilege” or recently invented “genders,” than to face the fundamental problem: the bleakness of modern materialism.

The way of wisdom, by contrast, is what it’s always been: a realistic acceptance that we all die, that an end will come, someday, even to the earth, the sun, the very created universe. That all our lives, precious as they are to us, our loved ones, and to God Himself, will pass and be forgotten in mere human terms. But that we can learn to face all this with true serenity and even happiness because our names are written in the Book of Life, the thing that really matters.

And that sense of the other world has good effects on our lives in this world as well. We cannot turn away from the challenges of our time, of course. That’s not wisdom, but despair. But we can approach them in a different spirit, knowing that whether we succeed, or fail is not ours to determine. And that the humility to which that truth should lead is a very good thing, in that it helps repair the original human hubris that separated us from God’s order and one another.  So we can both face great evils and calmly seek to do good.

That realism is what we at The Catholic Thing have always pursued and hope to continue bringing you over the crucial next eighteen months – and beyond. We want to be truthful about how troubling things look in the Church and the world, and yet how good it is to be here, in the very times and places that the Creator has chosen us to be. A Catholic should be the bearer of spiritual steadiness and clarity even in the midst of great upheavals.


And that’s why, starting today and for the next few weeks, we must ask for your support. As regular readers know, we only come to you twice a year, in December and shortly after Easter. The donations we receive during these two campaigns support all our activities – the daily columns (and their translations into various foreign languages), TCT courses, Papal Posse, and our coverage, in Rome, of Church events.

We’ve reported on – and tried to shape – every one of Pope Francis’s synods since 2014 from Rome. And we will be doing the same this October and in October of 2024 during the two month-long sessions that are the culmination of the Synod on Synodality. Fr. Murray and I will be doing brief regular videos and written commentaries from the Eternal City as well.

As we’ve already been arguing here – and in the Vatican – the Synod language is packed with terms like inclusivity, accompaniment, listening, participation (especially of women, young people), the “marginalized,” even LGBTQs. In other words, with contemporary political categories. But the heart of the Faith – crucial realities like sin, redemption, grace, repentance, judgment, Heaven, Hell – is nowhere in evidence. The political and social have all but replaced the moral and spiritual.

Whatever you think of the synodal “process,” that shift in focus is monumental. It risks turning a 2000-year-old global Church into a minor chaplaincy to a world in crisis.

There’s much about the current moment that Catholics themselves have to learn or re-learn. Which is why we’ve been offering online courses now as well on classic figures like St. Augustine, Dante, St. Thomas More (with Judge Robert Conrad), Fr. Murray’s Calming the Storm, and (with Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell) St. Edith Stein, with many more on the way. And all of them are available after live presentation in an On Demand format (click here), which means you can not only take a course at your own pace but even retake it, free, as many times as you want.

We’re also planning some live events in various places this year with some members of the Papal Posse – Raymond Arroyo, Fr. Gerald Murray, and your humble scribe. Stay tuned for more news about this (and let us know if you’d like to organize an event in your area).

And we’re continuing our Summer Seminar on the Free Society in the Slovak Republic – the brainchild of one of TCT’s great founders, Michael Novak – which is in its 21st year of bringing together young people from Europe and America (and occasionally Australia, the Philippines, or Latin America) to discuss the kind of political, economic, and moral/cultural needs of healthy polities.

I mention all these things not to boast – though I’m gratified by what we’ve been able to do so far with your help – but to encourage you to be generous at a time when we , the world, and the Church need every bit of sanity and holiness we can muster.

So if you’ve never donated, now’s the time to start. And if you’re a regular supporter, thank you, and please continue to be generous. I often think of St. Francis of Assisi who, despite his unprecedented work of renewal, regularly urged his brothers, “Let us begin again, for as yet we have done nothing.”

We’ve done something here at TCT, but there’s much more to do. And with your help, we’ll do it.

*Image: Allegory of the Catholic Faith by Johannes Vermeer, ca. 1670-72 [The MET, New York]. Vermeer, a Catholic convert, was arguably the greatest painter of the Dutch Golden Age. This work, done when Mass was illegal in Holland, is thought to refer, in part, to the celebration of Eucharist in “hidden churches,” i.e., private homes.

You may also enjoy:

+James V. Schall, S.J.’s Legal Persecution

David Warren’s How Bad Are Things?

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent books are Columbus and the Crisis of the West and A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century.