My fictional character Theophilos is a Greek physician, like his adopted son Loukas, and he is a man formed by the best of the classical pagan age. He is intelligent, educated, cultured, gifted, humanitarian—and proud. The novel is the story of a literal voyage as he seeks to rescue Loukas from the “cult of the Christos”, and Theophilos’s deeper voyage into the core of his unbelief, which hides his unacknowledged despair. In this sense he is very much a modern man.
The massive failure to respond in a Christian manner to the exhortation of Humanae Vitae is not so much the result of selfishness or a spirit of rebellion on the part of families, as it is a loss of nerve. The root problem is fear. Anxiety saturates our age, and for a family the generalized angst is multiplied exponentially. It becomes very difficult to maintain a “nuclear” family when the “extended” family disintegrates. And when a society’s economy rolls over in the direction of great benefits to the infertile and relentless troubles for those who are fully open to life, it becomes difficulty squared.
Lev Grossman, in the July 23, 2007, issue of Time magazine, writes, “If you want to know who dies in Harry Potter, the answer is easy: God.” In this he has expressed the core problem with the Potter series. There is much that could be written, and has been written, about the specific problems in the books. Without neglecting the valid point that good fiction need not be overtly Christian, need not be religious at all, we might ponder a little the fact that the central metaphor and plot engines of the series are activities (witchcraft and sorcery) absolutely prohibited by God. We might also consider for a moment the fact that no sane parents would give their children books which portrayed a set of “good” pimps and prostitutes valiantly fighting a set of “bad” pimps and prostitutes,and using the sexual acts of prostitution as the thrilling dynamic of the story. By the same token we should ask ourselves why we continue to imbibe large doses of poison in our cultural consumption, as if this were reasonable and normal living, as if the presence of a few vegetables floating in a bowl of arsenic soup justifies the long-range negative effects of our diet. Leaving aside a wealth of such arguments, let us consider Lev Grossman’s insight.
What about this whole End Times scenario? What does the Catholic Church believe? IgnatiusInsight interviewed author Michael O’Brien whose fictional work Father Elijah is built around the character of a priest who is a convert from Judaism. Father Elijah is sent by the pope and the cardinal secretary of state to penetrate the inner circles of the man they believe is the Antichrist and call him to repentance. The plot for O’Brien’s book came to him in one inspiring moment while he was praying in a parish church for the state of the world and the Church. O’Brien, who is first and foremost the married father of six children and a Christian painter, went on to write an entire series, published by Ignatius Press. He is known as a strong voice for the Church’s moral values in Canada and in the West. Most recently, O’Brien gave a talk about the Apocalypse and Christianity at St. Patrick’s basilica in Ottawa, Canada.
Not only have God and His angels passed beyond recognition in these books, the Kingdom of Heaven has become something against which man should wage war. The Vatican document, Jesus Christ, The Bearer of the Water of Life, cautions that in the New Age Movement, humanity exalts itself at the expense of God. What is called the “Kingdom of Heaven” in this trilogy shares nothing in common with the Kingdom of Heaven known to Christians to be already among us (Lk 11: 20) and even within us (Lk 17: 21), but only reaching its complete fulfillment at the end of the world (Mt 25: 31-46; 1 Cor 15: 22-28). The trilogy portrays the Kingdom of Heaven as a tyrannical regime and attacks the Church, in truth given the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven by Christ (Mt 16: 19, 18: 18), as an oppressive force. God Himself, Who alone makes Heaven Heaven and Who alone can satisfy the human person, is presented as the enemy of mankind.
Time moves with incredible speed as one gets older. It accelerates especially as one’s children advance into adolescence and begin to move off into the world, carrying with them whatever strengths and weaknesses we have imparted. A few years ago our eldest son left for a minor seminary. He fought hard to be allowed to go, and he had an amazing array of arguments to support his desire. The only thing my wife and I had against it was his age. Fourteen is a short number of years to have lived. Is it enough time to outfit a boy to meet the modern world? Has he been sufficiently formed in the hurly-burly of family life to believe in the truths which we are called by God to live, and to know that we shall sometimes fail in the attempt? Has he learned mercy as well as justice? Truth as well as compassion? I stayed up many nights talking the matter over with my wife, praying, thinking — and worrying, as fathers are prone to do in these times.