Unity, oneness, solidarity…for this we were made. However, we are experiencing deepening chasms of division. Our country is rife with division. Since well before the horrific death of George Floyd and the tidal waves of protest, rage and fear that pound our cities and our people from coast to coast, we have been suffering from a growing tendency to favor division over unity, fighting over peace, separation over togetherness. Partisan lines have been so deeply hewn that bonds of friendship and even family have been cloven in two. Each side tends to completely villainize the other. No longer do we compare two political opponents on their good and bad qualities, their strong points and weak points, their ideas and plans with which we agree and disagree. Rather, we each hold up “our side” (whatever side that may be) as a god and the other as a devil—all or nothing. The fierceness which accompanies both our allegiance and our characterizations of the “other side” is so often viciously sharp, and increasingly extreme. The vigor with which we adhere to our own “rightness” and the “wrongness” of the other defies reason. For one thing, no man or woman, no party or movement is perfect—God alone deserves that distinction. We have become, in our frenzied fervor, makers of idols. I fear we may be worshiping the wrong gods and fighting the wrong enemies.
If we take a giant step back from the picture of the day—from the protests, the turmoil, the anger and the rage; from the campaigning and the election; from the virus, the pandemic and the fallout from it; and from the fierce polarization that seems to mark all things American—and, from more than a social distance but rather from a perspective distance, allow eternal light to shine on the scene…we can see from this vantage point that there is an enemy. There always has been, and the enemy is not our neighbor. Our enemy is older than any political party, and older than any race of man, for he is not man. Our ancient enemy, the Devil, is wreaking havoc on mankind as he stirs up hatred and division among us in any way he can. This has been his strategy from the beginning; it is the only maneuver in his playbook. First he set out to separate us from our loving Father, and then he divided us from one other—man from woman, and woman from man. And he is at it still. If we are systematically occupied in fighting each other—whom we are meant to love as our very selves—how can we fight him? How true the words J.R.R. Tolkien puts on the lips of the wise wizard Gandalf, “‘Work of the enemy!’ said Gandalf. ‘Such deeds he loves: friend at war with friend; loyalty divided in confusion of hearts.’”
I fear we are being duped. Our real battle is against principalities and powers, not against our fellow man. And while we scream at one another, he laughs. After last week, when the statue of the Franciscan Saint Junipero Serra (the first saint canonized on American soil) was toppled from its foundation in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco to the jeers and laughter of the mob, one must wonder if any of the perpetrators knew that the statue they blasphemously defaced was a man who was a great defender of the indigenous people. In the wake of this event, the Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, set an example for us all. At the site of vandalism, the Archbishop gathered with others, and on bended knees, they prayed the Rosary, the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, and the prayers of exorcism, while blessing the ground with holy water. He called the act what it was: a sacrilegious act of blasphemy—an act of the evil one. “Evil has made itself present here,” he said.
The conflicts happening in our streets are a mere surface-tremor of the much deeper, much older battle which was waged at the beginning—the battle for our souls. If we are posturing for a fight, let it be against our true enemy, and let it not be for our own souls only, or merely for our own family, race, party, or country…but for all souls. We are being summoned, not to the streets, but to our knees, with the Rosary in hand. Peace will come, but only at a price—as Our Lady has told us, the price is our prayer and penance.
Mother Clare, CFR