By Charlie Johnston
One of my favorite book titles is Dennis Lehane’s, Mystic River. Lehane is perhaps the most literarily pleasing of the authors of crime thrillers. At his best, it can make his work sublime. At his worst, he ends up channeling his inner James Joyce – poorly – and it is a disaster. But Mystic River is one of his better efforts. I often think of history as a sort of mystic river. One generation flows into the next – and we each see only the little portion of the river that encompasses our lives, while from on high God sees the whole thing, where it has come from, where it has been, and where it is going. Both for me and for the world, it has been quite the hectic flow the last couple weeks, like we’re coming around a bend in that mystic river.
As you know, the car I travel to my visits with broke down with significant – but reparable – damage almost two weeks ago. I thought I was going to have to have my schedule re-arranged for a month. Amazingly, because of the collaborative action of some of you, there have only been two changes to the schedule of visits and talks. I added a talk in the Berkshires (western Massachusetts and southern Vermont) near where I broke down and moved last Friday’s talk near Sandusky, Ohio to Sunday afternoon.
The way this was all accomplished has gotten me misty several times. Mary Lapchak called some troops who volunteered into action – primarily from CORAC Region 6. Bill Badgero, coordinator of the Region, coordinated the crisis management. A driver picked me up at the little roadside hotel I was at last Friday and drove me to Albany, where a gentleman (also named Charlie) had flown in from Michigan. We rented a car – and he proceeded to drive me eight hours to Ohio – then turned around and drove another two and a half back home. Another couple drove me from Ohio after my talk there to Michigan, where yet another couple had the rental car waiting for me to use after my talk near Ann Arbor. I am off to Indiana today. The rental car has been covered by a reader couple.
Meantime, Mark and Mary Lapchak worked with the shop in the Stockbridge, Massachusetts area, overnighting them the parts they needed to make the repairs. The same couple who drove me from Ohio to Michigan will drive to Stockbridge to pick up my car, then drive it to me in either Indiana or eastern Tennessee after it is finished and turn in the rental. There have been a ton of moving parts involved – and everybody involved has been so kind and, even, downright enthusiastic. The upshot is that the schedule has not been disrupted for our readers except to add a meeting and shift one a couple of days. It has been like a mini-rehearsal for how we will make things work at the height of the storm: nothing is normal, but nothing is lost (and maybe even something added) as many people collaborate to do what they can to get through the crisis. It has been amazing, heartwarming, and inspirational.
Meeting information is being added regularly at the CORAC Meeting Tab (which also offers videos from some previous meetings and a map of locations). Please remember, you have to be signed up for CORAC and logged in in order to see the videos or details of future meetings and make contact to reserve a spot. There is no charge – either to sign up or attend a meeting.
I have been deeply heartened by the seriousness, commitment and resolve of people who have been attending the meetings this year. No more am I getting questions like, “When does the comet hit?” Instead people are focused on what they can do to help each other and others through whatever crises may come. We are going to do just fine – and hopefully present a bountiful harvest to Our Lord of people who have endured the Storm and who have repented from the diabolical disorientation that shrouds the world when we have come out the other side of the current madness.
Many of you read in the National Catholic Register last week of the planned Veritatis Splendor Christian Community in East Texas, under the spiritual guidance of Tyler Bishop Joseph Strickland. The board of this project and that of CORAC share several members. It is a wonderful project, at the earliest stages of embryonic development, yet has already been received as a great sign of hope to many. As the country and the world crumble into ever more unbelievable absurdity and chaos, it is inspiring to see profound candles of hope spring up. The madness will pass, the hope will grow, and the chaotic consequences of our neglect over multiple generations will primarily serve as a prod to return to the Lord and to the virtues of faith, family and freedom that bring light and life.
I have heard from five chanceries around the country now that, whatever happens, they are not going to shut down again. Maybe so and maybe not – but when Bishops get in the habit of talking boldly and taking a stand for the faith, it is a rehearsal for acting boldly when the fullness of time comes for it. I sense a real stirring growing across the land. Yeah, we have some religious leaders who actively seek to undermine the faith, having lost their own faith in anything but their own advancement long ago. But they are a minority. Most of our leaders were caught off guard by the virulence and coordinated nature of the establishment attack on the faith and the faithful. In the end, I suspect (and pray) that all the attacks will have accomplished is to have awoken a sleeping giant and filled him with a great resolve – a renewed and intentional fidelity to God and to the faithful. Now is the time to pray for our Bishops, Priests and Ministers with renewed intensity. They are stirring. At CORAC we will be supporting a Christian concert and Mass prayer for our religious leaders late this spring or early this summer. It was initiated by another (though he is a CORAC member) but we will be actively supporting and working to augment it. It will be in New Hampshire. We hope it will be a sort of Catholic Woodstock (though without the mud and disordered behavior).
I suspect that with the full opening up of Texas and Mississippi the panic stage of Covid is near the end of its ‘sell by’ date. Astonishingly, Connecticut is coming very close to the same conclusion and I expect Alabama to announce its full re-opening within days now. Most of the media and the left are not telling you about how the virus is caving in on itself, even with new strains. Joe Biden calls the re-openings “neanderthal thinking.” Gavin Newsome, governor of California, one of the states which has handled things the most incompetently, calls re-opening “reckless.” Boy, if anyone knows reckless it would be Gavin Newsome, kind of a feckless clone of New York’s Andrew Cuomo, but without the fangs and claws.
While in the Northeast, I constantly asked fearful people if they ever wondered why the states with the lightest touch are getting so many fewer deaths and infections than those with the heaviest touch. The best alternative explanation I heard was that it is population density. That could work for New York, but it does not account for the disparity between Florida and California. Several Florida cities have comparable density – and Florida has a MUCH higher population of the most vulnerable demographics – yet has MUCH better results. We were told last summer that there was going to be mass death in Florida because of its lighter touch, while California would be in clear recovery because of its draconian fear-mongering. The results are in and they are exactly the opposite of what “the experts” told us would happen in the two states. Now the fearmongering experts tell us that everyone in Texas and Mississippi are going to die. Meh…you can only say the sky is falling for so long before the folksies get wise to your game.
Frankly, the left is panicked about re-opening because once it happens the contrast between red states with a light touch and blue states with a heavy touch is going to be undeniably stark. The draconian blue states devastated their economies, ruined a lot of lives, and did a much worse job of managing the virus than did the red states with a light touch. In fact, blue state draconian policies, cheered on by the irresponsible establishment media, will be seen not only to have created economic and psychological wreckage, but have been responsible for tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths. It is not the safety of the “people” the left is worried about, but the safety of their own reputations and ability to control a fearful population. And more than a few are worried that lampposts and yard arms are going to become a growth stock.
Melissa MacKenzie of the American Spectator offered some marvelous tongue-in-cheek advice to all those in panic about the trickle of re-openings that is about to become a flood: Stay Home, Stay Safe. Cower all you want, but leave the rest of us about the business of living our lives, caring for our families, going to Church and to work and re-opening our back yards for barbecue.
In the movie, Braveheart, Mel Gibson’s William Wallace character says at one point that all men die, but not all men really live. Time to get back to living. So even as the official fiefdoms of bureaucratic America descend into darkness, light a candle and let your light shine to give new hope, new warmth and a new glow to all those around you.