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Deliver us, good Lord / … From all that error teaches, / From lies of tongue and pen, / From all the easy speeches / That comfort cruel men, / From sale and profanation / Of honor and the sword, / From sleep and from damnation / Deliver us, good Lord. ...
— G.K. Chesterton, O God of Earth and Alta
The above lyrics are from the second verse of a magnificent penitential hymn from the inimitable Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton.
Few will be familiar with Chesterton’s hymn, as it is not found in the modern hymnals, which are largely filled with trite, banal songs about us being gathered in, all being welcome, and the general wonderfulness of the singer. Penance is out of place with the modern mood. How could it not be? When most churches have no more than a half-hour of confession weekly, few people would likely go even if more time were available, and “sin” is a four-letter word, all but banished from our discourse. And yet we have need of penance — indeed, penance of the most vigorous sort. How could it be otherwise in a state that has just legalized the destruction of the life of an innocent human being right up until the moment of birth and then celebrated this by lighting One World Trade Center in pink in an Orwellian celebration of “women’s health”?
We need penance and deliverance from all that Chesterton saw — from what error teaches: the lie that a human fetus is somehow subhuman; from the “easy speeches” that make abortion an essential part of women’s health and rights; from profaned honor and the profaned sword, as we no longer fight for those things worth fighting for, defense of the unborn, our faith in the public square, and instead stand and piddle about recycling and giving trees; from damnation in which we hardly yet believe, but about which Our Lord declared its road wide and those who find it many; but, most of all, perhaps, we need deliverance from sleep. For we have been asleep.
How else to explain how a law that Cardinal Timothy Dolan rightly termed “ghoulish” — “demonic” would have been a better term — passed with nary a whimper from most Catholics: from laymen, to priests, to bishops.
We may no longer believe in the devil — a world that no longer believes in sin can hardly believe in a father of sin — yet to look at what has passed and fail to see his influence on the world, our state and our churches, one would have to be asleep. For that is how the devil has worked today; he has lulled us to sleep.
For years, we knew this law was coming, and yet rather than sharpen our swords, we let them rust and we slept. We were lulled to sleep, by dull homilies that dared not mention abortion — easy speeches designed to comfort — by dull hymns and dull worship, by caring more for the approval of man than the wrath of God. And brave letters and speeches after the fact (like the present one) are no proof against this. We have reached a crossroads. And a crossroads means the cross. We can shake off our sleep, in speech, worship, music, sharpen our swords and take up our crosses, or else continue down the easy road of sleep, the slow, sure and safe road to hell. From sleep and from damnation, deliver us, good Lord.
Raymond J. Dansereau
Albany, New York
- letters to the editor