"Fear is useless, what is needed is trust."

Pondering the possibility of America being “remade” under the auspices of a Health Care Non-Vote-Deeming, I found myself thinking of St. Patrick, and the conflict between the English and the Irish; the Irish famine and the longview of God, which we cannot see or understand.


Many in America -a distinct majority, if polls are to be believed- are against the Health Care reforms we call “Obamacare” and they’re angry about the manner in which the Democrat-run Congress is trying to force them into law.

There is talk -and for some it is more than mere talk- of a revolutionary response, to the bill’s passing in its current state and by currently argued (or ignored) measures.

All of this is being perceived by many -on the left and the right, but most particularly on the right- as profoundly negative and worrying. “This cannot be allowed to happen” is what I see in my emails. “Americans will not stand for it,” is what I hear on my radio.

And yet, there is a very good chance that an arrogantly forced-through action making Obamacare the law of the land will happen. Because Americans are basically law-abiding, and because many of them are deplorably uninformed as to history or civics, the Democrats are counting on the American people to (after some initial hesitation and predictable noise) settle down and fall in line with an abundance of new laws. There is every reason to believe that largely-unaware and short-term memory challenged Americans (quickly, ask around you, who remembers the death of the Space Shuttle Columbia?) can be induced to plug in their iPods, download a few amusing apps to their iPhones, and more or less tune out a coup that is being dressed in the dreary robes of policywonk speak.

So for those Americans who are still wide-awake, whose consciences have not yet switched off and retired them into a monosyllabic haze, this is a very anxious, fretful time. People are distressed about the present, concerned about the future and wishful for a way to “go back” rather than forward.

Going back, however, is not an option and it will never happen; the thrust of narrative is always forward.

Then how do we deal with this present moment? How do we rein in our imaginations about the best and worst possibilities in our future, when all around us seems to be only but chaos, confusion and looming catastrophe.

This is where St. Patrick comes in.

The mind of God is unknowable; he works with a slow, centuries-spanning hand. But when we look back at history and events we can always see -if we really look- how sometimes terrible things had to happen, in order for that narrative thrust to be properly propelled.

St. Patrick was Romano-Britain -a Roman citizen of Britain- who was captured by Irish raiders and sold into slavery. After escaping and entering the church, he returned to Ireland as a bishop, and is universally credited with converting Eire to Christianity.

His slavery was a terrible thing that was allowed to happen; it drove him back to Ireland for a larger purpose. Read Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization to understand how the inarguable negative of Patrick’s capture and enslavement became the impetus for an absolute good.

Patrick’s Catholic Ireland eventually suffered much, of course, at the hands of Protestant Britain; the penal codes the British used to subjugate and disempower the Irish Catholic majority was a horrendous bit of legislation, brutally enforced. It kept the Irish ignorant, unschooled, unpropertied, and dependent upon the potato as its basic food supply. When the potato crop suffered a blight, over a million people died of starvation; several million more immigrated, mostly to North America. Their broad backs and their adrenaline-junkie temperaments helped build and safeguard our cities, and today nearly 40 millions Americans can trace some part of their heritage to Ireland. The Irish then, share abundantly, in the story of America’s success and prosperity.

So, the British oppression of Ireland was a bad thing that was allowed to happen; another inarguable negative that laid the framework for an eventual “good”.

I’ve written many times before that sometimes a bad thing must happen, before eventual good things can take place. You have to look for it.

Unfortunately, the “positives” often do not show themselves for lifetimes and generations. Patrick’s mother could not imagine that her son’s enslavement would eventually result in the rescue of the history, art, philosophy and literature of an entire civilization, that his converting the Irish would strengthen them to endure catastrophe, and then launch themselves into the world as the burly shoulders of civil, military and community leadership. The “Apostle of Ireland” could could not have imagined it, himself.

For that matter, the apostles who laid low in an upper room after the crucifixion of their master could not have imagined that 2000 years later, Christianity would be the world-force it is, for better and for worse, and still evolving, still learning, still building within the mystery.

God’s hand moves slowly; his mind is unknowable, but we have been told there is a plan. “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord; plans of fullness, not of harm, to give you a future and a hope.”

Throughout scripture we read “do not be afraid.” We read “only believe.” We read that “faith the size of a mustard seed” is enough to move mountains.

We read “fear is useless; what is needed is trust.”

That does not mean that when we see injustice we do nothing. It does not mean that if we see our government tumbling, we sit back and let it tumble.

But it does mean that we look at what happens around us with a Godly eye -with a genuine and faith-filled trust toward that longview that we cannot see, but which is full of God’s creative intention.

God is all-good. His intention can be nothing else but good.

While we’re fretting, while we’re activating, while we’re gathering, we should also consider that every “good” has its opposite, and so does every “bad.” American notions of liberty has been “the last best hope” for much of the world, but it has also made us self-indulgent, sometimes to excess. American prosperity has bettered the lives of hundreds of millions; it has also fed the human instinct to greed. In the eyes of God, well, all have sinned; none are perfect save Christ, and who knows what His justice is, compared to our understanding?

All of that is worth pondering, and praying about,
as we watch what is taking place in our country today. Since we are in the middle of a picture, we cannot see the totality of it; we have a notion of how the picture began and how it might end, but we do not really know; our most outlandish imaginings cannot tell us.

But we do have a clue. Patrick’s enslavement took place in the 4th century; that not-especially unique event in the life of one man has had effect into the 21st. Everything that happens, for good or for evil, reverberates through the centuries, all of it the means of serving not our own finite ends, but God’s eternal ends.

In which case, I am sorry to seem simplistic, but “do not be afraid.” And, “fear is useless; what is needed is trust.”

I think I’ll file this under “Crucible of Faith.”

If the whole world were to crumble…
Apostle of the Isle and the States

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Mark L

    I don’t see why people are worried about the Democrats using extraconstitutional means to pass this bill. If they do, come 2011, the Republicans can use the same techniques to “repeal” the bill. Just deem it to have been repealed and that deem that the repeal has been signed into law.

    Then let the lawyers wrestle with the issue of whether or not the origninal health care bill (passed unconstitutionally) and its repeal (passed unconstitutionally) are the law of the land until after the 2012 Presidential election. Then — worse case assuming the law is found to be constitutional but the repeal is not — it can be legally repealed.

    In the meantime the House can defund spending on it.

  • Rand Careaga

    A little early to be counting your chickens, Mark, don’t you think?

  • Mary Ellen Cooper

    Anchoress, Thank you for your words, well spoken and timely.

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  • DeLynn

    Excellent post, Anchoress. Something we all needed today!

    “Unfortunately, the “positives” often do not show themselves for lifetimes and generations. Patrick’s mother could not imagine that her son’s enslavement would eventually result in the rescue of the history, art, philosophy and literature of an entire civilization, that his converting the Irish would strengthen them to endure catastrophe, and then launch themselves into the world as the burly shoulders of civil, military and community leadership. The “Apostle of Ireland” could could not have imagined it, himself.”

    This paragraph made me think of the story of Joseph—sold into slavery by his brothers, imprisoned for years—yet God used him to save the people of Israel—including those jealous brothers of his.

    “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”
    Gen 50:20

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  • Jennifer

    How do we get this magnificent post on the front page of every newspaper and every church bulletin? Once again, you present the voice of faith, reason, calm and trust in a very unsettling and scary time. Thank you for these words. I will read them over and over.

    Also going to link back here.

    God Bless You.

  • http://degreeofmadness.com Julie

    Oh my goodness. I was watching Fr. Corapi on EWTN and he had just said “Fear is useless, what is needed is trust”. I clicked on your blog, and there it was. I don’t know why I decided to check the web at that time, I was really enjoying watching Fr. Corapi, but for some reason I did. I guess I needed reinforcements!

    I have really been stressing over the health care bill and so much else going on in DC, especially today. Thanks for this post.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    But it does mean that we look at what happens around us with a Godly eye -with a genuine and faith-filled trust toward that longview that we cannot see

    Problem is — speaking of Joseph, notwithstanding God’s mercy and providence, sometimes it just so happens that where you are in history is after the good times, after the rise to power of a Pharaoh who knows not the service he did, and you are at the beginning of the 400 years of oppression and servitude in Egypt, and not at the end, awaiting the Exodus.

    What Maximum Leader Obama said today to Bret Baier is beyond appalling, and beyond mere stupid ignorance about the Constitution — “I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what the procedural rules are in the House or Senate,” Obama said. “What I can tell you is that the vote that’s taken in the House will be a vote for health care reform. And if people vote yes, whatever form that takes, that is going to be a vote for health care reform. And I don’t think we should pretend otherwise. . . . And if they don’t, if they vote against it, then they’re going to be voting against health care reform and they’re going to be voting in favor of the status quo. So Washington gets very concerned with these procedures in Congress, this is always an issue whether Republicans are in charge or Democrats are in charge.”

    He doesn’t give a flying @$%& about the Constitution. He will do whatever he will do, to hell with things like the rule of law. He is a dictatorial menace.

    [But you must remember, Bender, that to his way of thinking, Obama does not need to care about constitutional procedures because -in his words- the constitution is "a flawed document" he doesn't necessarily respect. Voters knew that he thought the constitution was flawed, that it protected the people too much from the government and "doesn't say what the government can do for the people." I tend to believe he is not as smart as everyone seems to think he is. He might be clever, and a quick study. But that's not "smart." -admin]

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  • Left Coast Conservative

    Your article is timely. You are right – “if we take happiness from God’s hand, must we not take sorrow, too?”
    I’ll be Keeping focused on the 10th commandment (though shall not covet – taking that to mean that I will not long for another time or place but I will accept the gifts that I’ve been given), John Paul II, taking the long view.
    My last thought – when the fear that lurks at the edges of our life starts to make inroads into the center. Remember that we are uniquely qualified for this time and this place – created by God for a specific role.
    Thank you Anchoress. May your days be long. May your roads be even. May God shine upon you and your household. May He bless you all the days of your life. Pax

  • Greta

    Yes, we need to stay close to prayer, but also vigilant and on our phones to let the party of death know that they are not only trying to take our money to kill babies, but they are screwing up our healthcare and with it the economy so bad that they will probably drive the US into a deep depression. There are things in the senate bill that will force the cost of insurance to go through the roof for almost everyone and the cuts to medicare will make it hard to find a doctor who will take medicare. States will go broke under changes to medicaid even more than they are today and so taxes will have to go up as most states cannot run red ink like the fed. States are also about to explode with all the civil servants benefit plans coming due that most people are totally unaware of and that are driving states to bankruptcy.

  • Trump

    No disrespect Anchoress, but the Saints prescribe 1 way to handle things….but our founding fathers had another one.

    “The Tree of Liberty” and all that.

    Violence draws near I think. And tell you the truth, I am no longer sure it would be unjust.[Then you missed the point of what I was saying, completely. I didn't say "sit around and pray and be angelic." I simply said be prepared for any eventuality because you do not know what God has in store. Anything from martyrdom to philosophy, near as I can tell! :-) -admin]

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Were these less “enlightened” and refined times, Trump, the people would have risen up in open rebellion and the blood of tyrants and patriots would have started being spilled long ago.

  • dry valleys

    The best account I’ve read of St. Patrick, & the whole business regarding the interaction between Gaels, Britons, Christians, pagans & what have you is in The Princes of Ireland by Edward Rutherfurd, a fiction author who writes historical fiction & is staggering in his meticulous research & bounds of the imagination.

    You’ve got the legacy of the Roman Empire (which never formally conquered Ireland, but left its mark), druids converting to Christianity (as in their view, their pagan wisdom was groping towards an understanding of Christ & they now rejected such practices as human sacrifice) & all sorts.

    The author has also written about New York, various parts of Britain throughout time, & just to show off about Russia too. His style is to take one place & follow it throughout time, & often a chapter will be centuries after the beginning of the story & feature the descendants of the original charachters. The follow up to the above book is called Ireland Awakening (well, that’s what my copy is called, it probably has a different title in America- who knows?) & covers the British occupation. Between them they cover pretty much all of Ireland.

    Of course it wasn’t anything like as simple as evil Britain persecuting the Irish (Africans, Indians, Americans etc). Because speaking for myself, I can say that my forefathers were penniless & illiterate agricultural labourers who couldn’t even vote for the government that presided over the potato famine, never mind run it.

    It’s funny, as an aside- there’s a programme called Who Do You Think You Are? which I’ve never watched, but I’ve read about. There was one in which a black man was horrified to find that one of his forefathers was a white slave owner. Well, that’s probably what I would think if I found out one of my family wasn’t working-class :)

    Likewise, with the treatment of the American colonists, such people as I identify with (you know how in history you instinctively take sides with some people & against others) from past times agreed that the colonists’ grievances were legitimate & should be righted. As for what the majority of Britons thought, who knows? They were never asked.

    This Edward Rutherfurd, he’s not exactly casual light reading as his works are often more than 1000 pages long. But I read them all because I can see what I gain from it.

    I would say “he could serve as inspiration for anything you may like to write” but I’d hesitate to say that. Like Ministry of Truth his effect on me is to bludgeon me into submission by making me think he’s said all that could possibly be said, ever, & anything I might wish to add is pointless :)

  • http://bit-of-blarney.blogspot.com/ Cathy

    Excellent post. Thank you for you insights and clarity. May God bless you abundantly!!

  • http://americanslytherin.wordpress.com/ Zophiel

    The latest Hillbuzz article is quite timely, I think. And the comments to it are well worth the time to read as well.

    Thank you, Anchoress, for this post.

  • Manny L.

    Well, the long view is worth thinking about, but the short view requires activism. Unless you just want to get rolled. Actually the more I think about the long view, the more disheartened I am. Not only is this a step into socialism, with the potential of a socialist legacy, but the extra constitutional means that this process will have undertaken is corosive to the Republic. Just look at MarkL’s comments above: the Republicans will do the same in return. And I have no alternative but to agree and say they should. But what will that mean to the belief in the sacredness of our Constitution? Who will then obey it? What will it mean for the process of legitamate law? I’m not calling for armed conflict, but what is required is activism and energetic though respectful resistance. Call me a hot head.

  • Sal

    Dear Anchoress,
    You do well to point out that our American strengths have their corresponding weaknesses.
    Obama is a chastisement that we have collectively (and I include myself in that collection, even though I didn’t vote for him) brought on ourselves.
    Not every Jew who wound up in Babylon was a Baal-worshiper.
    Part of the prayer that will bring us out of exile is repentance- for the trivializing of our lives, for our excessive love of comfort, not just physical, but mental and spiritual. We know what our own faults in this manner are.

    Ora et Labore. To me, the thought of the faithfulness of ordinary people while the world shook around them is immensely comforting.

    Thank you for these timely and strengthing posts.

    oh- and Bender’s point about Joseph? Brilliant.

  • Doc

    Very nice post, Anchoress. Oh, and Mark, you forgot about the presidential veto. This thing passes and it’s law until at least 2013, likely far longer. Republicans will take the House if they’re good, the Senate if they’re lucky, but a veto-proof majority ain’t gonna happen.

  • Shari

    Thank you, Anchoress, for a terrific post. My own readings these days (in Jewish sources) point in the same direction.

    Bender’s comment about Joseph is a point well taken. It’s hard to be in the “tough years” rather than the “redemption days” but somebody’s got to do it. And what we do can affect the future profoundly.

    As the Jewish community celebrates the season of Passover-to-Shavuot, going from slavery to freedom (physical/mental/spiritual), I can only pray that we reach redemption very, very soon, speedily!

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Who needs a veto-proof majority??

    Those aren’t the rules we are playing by anymore.

    We don’t care about the niceties of “procedural rules” anymore. The American people don’t care, they just want the results — Obama said so.

    So, we’ll just “deem” any veto to be overridded. To hell with an actual vote to override.

    You think I’m kidding? You think I’m being facetious?

    To tell you the truth — I really don’t know if I am or not. I only know that I didn’t rail against the Communists in Poland and Cuba and Vietnam and Nicaragua and Angola and Afghanistan and Hungary and Czechoslavakia and East Germany and Red China and the Soviet Union just to have a @#%& Communist takeover in the United States of America.

    Dear Lord — Give us even one-tenth the fortitude and bravery of the people of Honduras — Honduras! — to stand fast and do the right thing.

  • Doc

    So, can Boehner and the House Republicans deem Obama impeached next January?

  • Roz Smith

    Saints and revolutionaries have much in common. Political revolutions start when the middle class comes to believe their aspirations are being thwarted by a corrupt government. Such revolutions have never depended upon majority support. At such times a majority of citizens tend to run for cover and stay there until it becomes clear which side is winning. Revolutions only require that a small but significant subset have a vision of something better, the will to force the issue and the courage to stay the course. Faith in something bigger than themselves has always been instrumental to such people, even when such faith has turned out to be misguided.

    To me the lesson that comes from Patrick is that of faith reinforcing an iron will. Indeed, all the saints, from Joan of Arc at one end of the spectrum to the Little Flower at the other, seem implacable in the pursuit of their divinely inspired ends.

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  • Rand Careaga

    Violence draws near I think. And tell you the truth, I am no longer sure it would be unjust.

    Please enlighten us, Trump, as to the nature of this not-unjust violence you descry on our horizon. Not yearning for our informal fourth branch, the “lone crazed gunman,” are we, old son?

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  • Trump

    Violence draws near I think. And tell you the truth, I am no longer sure it would be unjust.

    Please enlighten us, Trump, as to the nature of this not-unjust violence you descry on our horizon. Not yearning for our informal fourth branch, the “lone crazed gunman,” are we, old son?

    >>>Not a lone one, no.

  • Trump

    Just to be clear, I don’t WANT any violence. But if the Democrats continue to ignore and shred the Constitution…..well, I see it happening on a wide scale. And again, I don’t think it would be unjust.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    So, looking at the actual language of the “Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010,” it purports to amend the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” which does not exist!

    Are there really over 200 members of Congress, and perhaps a majority, who are actually going to go along with this farce? How the hell do you amend a law that does not exist?

    And how the hell could any judge not grant a summary declaratory judgment and injunction against this whole monstrosity to the first person with standing to apply for them?

    [Don't like the things I'm reading here - admin]

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