I have just finished Michael O’Brien’s Father Elijah. I’m afraid (in my opinion) it is not a great novel–too much dialogue, and a rambling, episodic plot. However, I like the main character, and the main apocalyptic theme fits our time and the somber season of approaching Advent. For me, Elijah’s encounter with the corrupt count in Warsaw, his conversations with the cardinal in the catacombs and his own inner battles are the most memorable and powerful scenes in the book.
What the book does best is reveal the major heresy of our time. Modernism is the blend of many other ‘isms’, among them scientism, rationalism, sentimentalism, idealism and utilitarianism.
Scientism believes science has all the answers, rationalism thinks the answers are all logical, sentimentalism is the dependance on emotional urgings for decision making, idealism trusts in a great ideal and utilitarianism trusts in what is efficient or what gets the job done. Relativism is the grand-daddy of them all, and says that there is no such thing as absolute truth.
In other words, modernism is the conviction that the supernatural is nothing more than silly wishful thinking of medieval-minded, superstitious old women (of every age and both genders) and that real religion is about changing the world instead of the salvation of souls.
This basic error is at the heart of a very fundamental dichotomy in our culture and our church. It doesn’t take too much analysis to see how modernism soon leads to tyranny. The modernist idealist (who doesn’t believe in the next world) has only one lifetime to try to make this world a better place, and to do so, he will use any means necessary. Thus all the great tyrannies have marched through the last century, shedding more blood than the world has ever seen. Each one believed in making the world a better place, and believed in killing all who held back their utopian dream.
What is most disturbing is to see how this heresy has invaded the Catholic Church. So we have bishops and priests and people who invest all their time and energy in trying to make this world a better place rather than saving souls for the next.
It is all such a subtle deception, but we must constantly be aware of two things: Satan is the Lord of this world, and his temptations in the wilderness were exactly of this order: “Come Jesus–turn these stones to bread and feed not only yourself but the whole world. Come, do you see all the nations of the world? I will give them to you and see what wonderful things you will be able to do? See how you will be able to save this world rather than save souls?”
Secondly, we are sometimes given the artificial choice to feed the poor or worship Christ in loving sacrifice. It was Judas who wanted to take the expensive ointment used to worship Christ and sell it to feed the poor.
O’Brien’s book leads us to remember this battle, and this Advent (and in the years to come) we do well to remember that the battle is a spiritual battle, and it is won by the little ones who go forward on their knees.
UPDATE: Check this website for just the sort of stuff The President in O’Brien’s book was spouting…