100 Years Later
War is a horrible, horrible thing. I wish it to no one, and hope there’s as little of it as strictly necessary.
But war is an unavoidable product of our fallen nature, a fallout of the Original Sin. Which is why calls to end war qua war are as stupid as calls to end poverty, or sadness, or bad weather. The unforgotten senseless slogan of Paul VI in front of the United Nations, “no more war, war no more!” tells us that stupid papal rhetoric wasn’t born with Francis.
Still, God in His goodness arranges things so that out of the bad the good may come, and no tragedy is allowed that does not hide in itself the seed of spiritual advancement; a way to Heaven, so to speak, hidden below the rubble of our lives.
I can’t think of the First World War anymore without thinking of that moving episode reported by the great Garrigou-Lagrange, which I remember so: two soldiers lying in dying near each other in a field hospital: the French soldier is praying the “Hail Mary”, and dies in the middle of it; the German soldier continues his prayer to the end, on behalf of the dying soldier as it were, and dies after ending it. Can’t think of it without getting watery eyes.
100 years after the beginning of WWI for the then British Empire, as we remember the tragedy of First World War, we must ask ourselves who had it better in life: the two soldiers who had the priceless privilege of dying with the Hail Mary on their lips, or the countless oxes of our times, living and dying like heathens, with countless mortal sins on their conscience but without any serious thought about them and believing that Christ was a nice chap vaguely resembling Che Guevara, or one who today would certainly approve of their lifestyle and fight with them to save the fox from the hounds, or the earth from the evil humanity.
I say the two soldiers were, compared to the countless oxes of the XXI century, very privileged and blessed with great graces.
War is a horrible, horrible thing.
But living a life with no fear of the Lord, and no thought for its consequences, to the end is an infinitely worse disgrace.
As we pray for the dead of the First World War, we must soberly recognise that a far worse massacre is taking place on the Western Souls battlefields every day, with countless souls irrevocably losing the only battle that count. Let us pray for them too, and that the madness of the modern times, a far more dangerous and devastating one than the First World War (then every soul in infinite, and infinitely more worth than her short sojourn on earth – may end soon.