The Flame: March-April 2021
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In January I received an email to a YouTube video audio clip of the late Paul Harvey, an American news commentator. I had heard some of Paul Harvey’s news commentary over the years so I listened to his three-minute clip entitled If I were the Devil.

In my investigation of this clip I read that this audio clip first aired in April of 1965. It was somewhat prophetic. Paul Harvey saw seeds being sown that would come to fruition in the dominant culture we have today. Though tweaked and re-aired over the years, it has remained substantially the same. Here are some of the lines of If I were the Devil.

So I (the Devil) should set about however necessary, to take over the United States. I would begin with a campaign of whispers. The minds of many people are filled with suspicion. They distrust the news, politicians and their neighbors. Since the beginning of the year, a number of people have called me saying that their loved ones have gone off the deep end. The isolation of the pandemic and the constant barrage of news media has left people mistrustful of all institutions and authority.

I would caution them not to be “extreme” in religion, in patriotism, in moral conduct. And yet, it is our lack of being extreme that has made the faith of many people lukewarm. In his book A Church in Crisis: Pathways Forward, Ralph Martin commented, “There has been a tendency in the Catholic Church for the Christian truths to be intellectually held and perhaps accurately expressed, but not adequately incarnated in life or action. Often this has been due to what Spanish bishop, Juan Hervas, one of the founders of the Cursillo Movement, called the “minimalist corruption of the Gospel.” By this, Bishop Hervas meant the tendency in practice to ask less of Catholics than what the Gospel asks and to offer less than what the Gospel offers.” (page 299.)

And the old I would teach to pray — to say after me — “Our father which are in Washington.” Instead of asking, “What can I do for my country?”, many people are looking for the government to solve all their problems. Have we forgotten that we already have a Savior in Jesus Christ? Are we so occupied with earthly things that we have forgotten that we are first citizens of heaven awaiting the return of the Lord (Philippians 3:19-20)? Though we make use of all the freedoms we have as earthly citizens, in truth we are aliens and sojourners (I Peter 2:11) on our way to our heavenly homeland.

tomb The problems that I mentioned in the preceding paragraphs will not go away when the pandemic ends. They were there before the pandemic. Like an earthquake, the pandemic shook our lives and showed us where we have some foundational weaknesses.

What is the solution to this mess that we are in? Simply put, we need more of God! Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Russian dissident who spent time in the Gulag (Russian prison for dissidents), once said this regarding those in the free world: Men have forgotten God. For sure, God still lurks in the memories of people. However, the impact that God has on the values, choices and behavior of people has been minimized.

I see that the way forward begins with deepening our relationship with the Lord. He must be our first trust. Only by being deeply rooted in Christ can we resist the worldly influences of our time. If we find ourselves on the bandwagon of political extremism (liberal or conservative) and being suspicious of all institutions and authorities, perhaps we have been taking in too much media (social and otherwise) and not enough of the truth of our faith.

We tend to think that we are impervious to propaganda. The truth is that if we are not renewing our minds (Romans 12:2) by soaking our souls in Sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we are probably being highly influenced by a worldly ideology. I must admit that I find many people who fancy themselves as experts in the coronavirus, vaccines, politics, the election and many other things and few people who are on fire with the love of God and neighbor.

Our liturgical seasons of Lent and Easter summon us to die and rise with Jesus Christ. It is time to give alms, pray and fast. Besides fasting from food, we can abstain from those media influences that get us worked up about worldly things and quench our desire from God. We can turn our eyes on Jesus Christ, especially as He comes to us in the “distressing disguise of the poor” (St. Mother Teresa’s phrase) and find ways to show them compassion and service. We can pray, baring our souls to the light of God’s grace in order to be set aflame with God’s love. In these ways, we ready ourselves to celebrate our Risen Lord and the coming of the Holy Spirit. In doing these things we find our true and certain hope.

In Christ,
Fr. Bob Franco