Thursday, December 31, 2015

From Fr. Delp's Diary, 31 December 1944

Spiritually we seem to be in an enormous vacuum. Humanly speaking there is the same burning question - what is the point of it all? And in the end even the question sticks in one's throat. Scarcely anyone can see, or even guess at, the connection between the corpse-strewn battlefields, the heaps of rubble we live in and the collapse of the spiritual cosmos of our views and principles, the tattered residue of our moral and religious convictions as revealed by our behavior. And even if the connection were fully understood it would be only a matter for academic interest, data to be noted and listed. No one would be shocked or deduce from the facts a need for reformation. We have already travelled so far in our progress toward anarchy and nihilism....

That England is on the down grade even I am beginning to believe. The English have lost their keenness and their spiritual gifts; the philosophy of materialism has eaten into England's bones and paralyzed the muscles of her heart. The English still have great traditions and imposing forms and gestures; but what kind of people are they? The social problem has been overlooked in England - and also the problem of youth and the problem of America and of spiritual questions which can all too easily masquerade as cultural or political questions.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

From Fr. Delp's Diary, 29 December 1944

Far more than a civilization or a rich heritage was lost when the universal order went the way of medieval and ancient civilizations.  Western humanity today is spiritually homeless, naked and exposed.  The moment we start to be anything beyond "one of the masses" we become terribly aware of that isolation which has always encompassed the great.  We realize our homelessness and our exposure.  So we set to work to build ourselves some sort of house and shelter.  Our ancestors, those among them who were really great, could have left us a legacy much more helpful for our progress.  We can only account for the contorted thought of men like Paracelsus or Böhme on the grounds that life's insufferable loneliness and lack of design forced them to build a shelter for themselves.  And although it is such a self-willed and distorted and angular structure it still has the marks of painstaking care and trouble and in that must command our respect.  Goethe had rather more success; his instinct was surer and it led him to guess at some of nature's more important designs.  Moreover, he had a good - thought not in all respects dependable - master whose ideas he copied to a very large extent.

Every now and then someone comes along and tries to impose his own plan on the rest of the world, either because he knows he has stumbled on a universal need or because he thinks he has and overestimates his own infallibility.  Such people will never lack followers since so many people long for a well-founded communal home to which they can feel they "belong."  Time after time in the end they come to realize that the shelter offered is not all it purports to be - it cannot keep out the wind and the weather.  And time and time again the deluded seekers conclude they have been taken in by a mountebank; the man probably had no intention of deliberately deceiving but he was nevertheless a charlatan misleading himself and others.


It is quite remarkable.  Since Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve I have become almost light-heartedly confident although nothing outwardly has changed.  Somewhere within me ice has been melted by the prayer for love and life - I cannot tell on what plane.  There is nothing tangible to show for it and yet I am in good heart and my thoughts soar.  Of course the pendulum will swing back and there will be other moods - the sort that made St. Peter tremble at the wind and the waves.


I have a great yearning to talk with a few well-loved friends... when?

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Fr. Delp on the Fourth Sunday of Advent: The Final Hour of Darkness

Fr. Alfred Delp's meditation for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, written in jail while he awaited trial at the hands of the Nazis, is considerably longer than that for the First Sunday, making it impractical to reproduce in full. Nevertheless, the first paragraph alone is worth quoting, quivering as it does with the anticipation of Christmas, made all the more striking by the personal circumstances of Fr. Delp's life.
What is true of the Advent prayers applies also to Advent in life. Before the curtain rises and the scene is disclosed, stretching into infinity, expectation mounts in a crescendo of excitement. Our confidence is well founded and so is the suspense of waiting because the promise is already fulfilled and its truth demonstrated. Day triumphs and the darkness shrinks back into nothingness - like the shadows in the wings when the stage is set as a temple of light. On the forth Sunday in Advent the acute awareness of shrouded mystery is deepening for the final hour of darkness that heralds the dawn. There is an intense awareness of captivity, of crippling disability and despair, but it is already shot through with a premonition of divine grace - the premonition that will soon become certainty.