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“It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness” by Fr. George W. Rutler



October 9, 2016
by Fr. George W. Rutler


Of all wars, the most vicious are civil wars and religious wars. Family and Faith are the two most intimate and transcendent elements of civilization, and when they are disrupted, the reaction is more volatile than any fracture over economics or territory. The conflict in our country from 1861 to 1865 divided brother from brother and cut psychological wounds nastier than the passions of the 1776 revolution. The clash between religions at the partitioning of India in 1947 was far more sanguinary than insurrections during the Raj.

Some of the basest human behavior sullies organized combat, but those conflicts also shape high valor. That was how the French Revolution was summed up in A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.”

The cynic sneers at the notion of heroism because he thinks that there is no light to be shed in a world that is all darkness. He logically concludes from that false premise that darkness is not dark because there is no light as its contrast, and nothing matters since there is nothing other than matter. But there are heroes, and they shed light in dark times. Valor defies villainy.

As one example, Lt. j.g. Aloysius H. Schmitt, a Catholic priest from a farm family in Iowa, was a chaplain at Pearl Harbor on the USS Oklahoma on December 7, 1941. Having been pulled out of a porthole where he had been stuck, he positioned himself for certain death in order to help crewmen to safety, blessing each one. This past month, enhanced DNA technology identified what remains of his bones. Previously his corroded chalice had been recovered along with his waterlogged Latin Breviary open to the Eighth Psalm: “Domine, Dominus noster, quam admirabile est nomen tuum in universa terra! O Lord, our Lord, how wonderful is your name throughout all the earth!” On October 8 his remains were buried with those of his parents.

The most titanic war is the spiritual battle fought every day in each soul, even though it is commonly upstaged by the lesser fights over boundaries and politics that make the newspaper headlines. In that spiritual combat, “The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never overcome it.” While no one wants to live in dark times, the Light of Christ is never brighter and more wonderfully blinding than when the nations live in shadows and human hearts are dark.
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