I’ve always been a Black Coffee Christian kinda guy. “Yeah, I’d like some of your Dark Age Dogmatism, please… extra-extra-large, a triple-shot of Christ the King… and hold off on that sugar and spice and everything nice nonsense—seriously, I’m allergic to Modernism!” And whether it’s the fruit of my family tree or the soil of my moral foundations, it’s the radix of who I am as a Catholic man. But Rocket-Fuel Romanism, for all its spiritual strengths and social certitudes, comes with a cost: sometimes it leaves me with my head so stuck in The Cloud of Unknowing that the tips of my toes barely touch the terrain of everyday American life. Or, as my dad would often say, “Jeremiah, you’re so heavenly-minded that it’s tough for you to be any earthly good.”
It’s not all bad, though. I mean, c’mon, it beats being so worldly-minded that you’re no heavenly good, amirite? (I was an atheist stuck in the immanent frame of our Secular Age for seven years, so trust me, I know firsthand!) But traditional Catholics tend to come with certain temperaments and tendencies, and these can (even unintentionally) be shrouded by scruples or a self-assurance of a sense of spiritual superiority. Our detractors never grow weary of shoving this in our face, but they aren’t entirely wrong, are they?
For example, we’re well-known for wishing that more people would attend the Latin Mass, but many of us are so opposed to Susan from Parish Council’s “Sign of Peace” that we often forget to shake hands with new visitors, especially if they look like they just came from a punk show. And we’re so opposed (and rightly so) to “contemporvant” Protestant services that some folks get spooked whenever anyone proposes the parish get some Greeters—unless they’re packing heat, of course, but then they’re not Greeters so much as they are a Mega-Base Security Team. And sometimes our legitimate opposition to a world gone mad ends up falling prey to a rather subtle kind of separatism, one that transforms an otherwise healthy distaste for the worldliness of modernity into an antiquarianism that smacks of Live Action Role Play. Adding insult to injury, this often devolves into the enthusiast’s dystopia of ultrasupernaturalism, where “TradCaths rule and popes drool,” where “There’s no salvation outside the Church, but the Church ‘unchurched’ Herself,” or where, sounding sorta like the wild-eyed Protestants peddling the pre-trib rapture on TBN, “Christ is King… but everything is lost… so vote Republican… because the world’s about to end!”
In fairness, many TradCaths scoff at accusations like these, accusing me of grotesque overgeneralizations, mumbling under their breath as they waddle off into the sunset, “Ha! What does he know, anyway? I’m a monarchist! And it isn’t Left Behind, it’s Our Lady of La Salette!” Fair enough, I won’t die on that hill, even if I do think we’re splitting the hairs of a bald man. And even so, my point remains: there’s at least a tendency within traditionalist communities to be so heavenly-minded that they are no longer of any earthly good.
Case in point…
Recently, my wife and I chaperoned our son’s high school social, and sometime between line dancing and the corn maze, a woman approached me. We had spoken before, mainly about elections and mask mandates in the diocese, and our conversations were always as happy as they were hopeful; but a lot has happened since the last time we talked, and, like many other Roman Catholics enduring these tumultuous times, she is deeply worried about the condition of our culture, the sinfulness of our civilization, and the suffering being inflicted on the citizenry. And the hellscape of our social situation so impacted her that she skipped the niceties of chitchat and darted straight to the point.
“Okay, Jeremiah,” she said with a half-smile, “level with me.”
“Level with you about what?” I asked.
“Is there hope?”
“Hope for what?” I replied.
“You know, is there hope for America?”
And as a digression only brief enough to throw me under the bus, I must admit that, while I heard what she said, I was wrapped up in a whirlwind of wonder… wondering where in the world we had to be for the hayride! I ought to have known better, too. Sure, multitasking might be second only to procrastination in my list of all-time favorite habits, but unlike procrastination, I’m exceptionally bad at multitasking. Consequently, I failed to hear (or even to feel) the concern in the quiver of her voice. So I did, as I all too often do, the dumb-dumb thing…
“No,” I said with the shake of my head. “America is toast!”
I was still glancing this way and that when I said what I said, and there wasn’t a pause or even hint of reluctance in my answer. It was just a matter of fact to me, and I was sure she would agree. And, yet, seconds of silence went by, until, finally, I turned around, only to see that she was sad! She was worse than disheartened, she was dealing with despair. And there I was, whistling while I worked, flipping those words like folks flip pennies to poor people “living” on the streets. I believed what I said—America is toast!—but I imagined, even in that brief moment, a bazillion better ways I could’ve said it. And, believe me, I tried! It went a little like this…
“It happens, ya know? Every High Culture in human history has a lifespan. It’s the cycle of civilizations. The Babylonians, Egyptians, Chinese, Indian, Mesoamerican, Classical, and Arabian, all had a beginning, middle, and end… Western Civilization is no different.”
(Here’s the shovel you asked for, Mr. Miah…)
“The Federal Founders knew this—or at least they anticipated the end of epochs. I mean, look, they believed the era of the Articles of Confederation had reached its end. That’s why they did what they did, right? And the people who drafted the Articles left a previous paradigm behind. It’s just the ebb & flow of history.”
(You’re digging deep, Brother Bannister, I’m impressed…)
“Think, this didn’t start yesterday. We’ve had the cancer of classical liberalism coursing through our system for a long time! Capitalism, Separation of Church & State, divorce & remarriage, esoteric Hollywood, pornography & promiscuity, abortion & contraception, scientism & technocracy, and the newest little demon on the block, Critical Race Theory! These things didn’t pop up yesterday. Heck, while liberty-loving Silent Majoritarians were waving the stars & stripes with Hulk Hogan and Rocky Balboa, gender-bending bands were sweeping across the nation, Nancy Reagan brought the occult into the White House, and Party Monster ‘Club Kids’ were getting strung out on cocktails of ketamine, Ecstasy, Rohypnol, and heroine.”
(Whoa, bro, you are sweatin’ heavy now…)
“We’ve watched as our nation has been torn apart at the seams. We’re amusing ourselves to death with digital devices. Information silos have annihilated whatever inter-group social fabric we had left in post-Christian America. Illegal immigration is running rampant, Americans are being guilt-manipulated into hating their heritage, and we’ve allowed generations of kids to be babysat by TV stations saturated with child exploitation, all while Team America played Globo-Homo Cop on our dime! The list could go on and on and on until we’re blue in the face.”
(Hey, kid, have you dug your way to China yet?)
I stand by every word I said, and she knew what I said was true—she lived through it even longer than I had, and probably complained just as much!—but it didn’t help. Worse yet, I somehow managed to deepen her despair, focusing entirely on a litany of battles lost rather than God’s Endgame, when (and how) everything is to be placed in subjection to the social Kingship of Jesus Christ. God is gracious, though, for, despite my force-feeding her heaping portions of humble pie, He provided me with one more opportunity to say what I ought to have said all along.
“So what do you do,” she asked, “you know, just to keep on keepin’ on?”
“I focus on Christ the King. Actually, no, it’s more than that. I strive to dedicate every thought, every word, and every action to the restoration of all things in Christ the King. Heck, I dedicated an episode of Paleocrat Diaries to what I refer to as, Pope St. Pius X’s Blueprint for Crushing Antichrist and Conquering for Christ the King! And I do all these things with these mottos in mind: Never Give Up! Keep On Smiling! And Memento Mori!”
My daughter Sami taught me that before she died of brain cancer, so I’m not lying when I say, I know how hard life gets. But like my daughter, we’ll one day die, and nations die too… some of them much sooner than we’d wish. But there’s a silver lining here, as we’re made for times like these! And it doesn’t matter if you’re a Johnny Q or Sally Sue Catholic. God gave us gifts and talents, He placed us in His Church, provided us with Sacraments and a social encyclical tradition, and He beckons us to fight, first for our salvation, then for our families, churches, peoples, and lands. It’s a great commission, I know, and I’m sure it sorta feels like a lost cause—especially now!—but it’s exactly now, in times like these, where we must take heart, thankful for the opportunity to shine like stars in Vantablack skies.
In fairness and humility, though, I must admit that it’s at least possible that we are approaching the threshold of the End of Time—even if only because we’re much closer now than when we began. Still, the signs are there, and you don’t have to be John Nash from Beautiful Mind to see the constellations. Nevertheless, if, while walking the line between E Supremi and La Salette, I’m required to tilt and even drift in one direction over the other, then I tilt toward an eschatology of triumph. For beyond the basic fact that chiliastic claims tend to outlive their proponents, this much is certain:
Christ has all power and authority in heaven and on earth right now.
Christ is King, not only over the Church but over people and nations right now.
Paleocrat’s Wager: A false negative wouldn’t phase the “Always ready!” but a false positive brings unnecessary fears and disrepute upon the Church.
Meaning: If I’m wrong to have such an optimistic (and even triumphant) eschatology, at least I was, like the maidens with oil in their lamps, “always ready.” If, on the other hand, the doomer-gloomers are wrong, as they have been every generation thus far, then they add to social hysteria and discredit the Church.
Before she left, I told her about a video I made while still back with Holy Faith Media (now known as Frontline TV). It was my “farewell” to followers of the show, and it was emotional, but I ended on a note and a quote that I believed would be beneficial for my friend. I said…
Through action, a man and a woman become heroes. Through death, a hero becomes a legend. Through time, a legend becomes a myth. And by learning from the myth, a man and a woman take action. I want you to be the hero. I want you to be the legend. I want you to become the myth. I want you to be that source of inspiration for generations to come. And it’s going to require us to be willing to die. It’s gonna require that we give everything we’ve got.
We’re going to look at things that are really tough. Making the case is going to be hard. The world thinks you’re crazy. The world has gone completely mad! And the world hates you, just like it hated Jesus. But you are here right now! I’ve stood by this… and I will forever stand by this.
And there’s no sign-off tonight… I’m not going to end this show by saying goodbye in the ordinary way. But I want you to know that, as far as I’m concerned, you’re heroes now. You are legends now. You are the making of a myth right now. You’re working so hard, and you just want to do the right thing. It’s why you take a knee for Christ the King. It’s why you’ve been attracted to the idea of Never Give Up, of Keep On Smiling—because you are in the thick of it! Even if it’s hard, even if you’re afraid, you say Memento Mori; and it’s why I have to believe that, at the end of the show, you salute me back. It’s why I salute you.
I genuinely love you guys. You’ve made me the best me. And I can only hope I’ve done it for you. We’ve got a lot more to do. And the truth is… it’s only just begun.
I don’t know if she ever watched that video, but if and when I see her at Mass on Sunday, I’ll greet her with a smile, shake her hand, and tell her how happy I am to see her. And I’ll propose we pray for one another, trusting that God has placed us here, Black Coffee Catholics caught between the wolves and the precipice, to balance on the brink of tumultuous times, our hearts filled to overflowing with faith, hope, and love for a Savior whose kingdom has no end, and Whose peace surpasses all understanding.