28 December, 2011

To steal a line from REM, perhaps 'it's the end of the world as we know it'. If so, do you know where to head to when the time comes?

According to prophecies of Hopi and Mayan mystics and the predictions of Nostrodamus, 2012 will bring catastrophic events to plague humanity, culminating with the end of the world as we know it today. Television programming, media reports, books and blogs, are all beating the drum of impending doom which resonates within many people as they stand on the precipice of the dread year’s start, tinging their celebration with a touch of apprehension. If our previous obsession with the Y2K and the fascination with failed predictions of Harold Camping are at all normative, doomsayers will find a growing audience. 'Apocalypse' is destined to be a trending topic in the months to come. 

Indeed, if these voices crying out that the ‘end is near’ are correct, it would seem an appropriate time to look back to see how we arrived at this epitome of human cognitive and cultural evolution, particularly as we stand at the eve of the promised climactic year. Historians and theologians are now taking up this task, trying to distill the essential elements of success to pass along to any remnant to bring forward to rebuild civilization. 

Recent studies of ancient documents, letters and artifacts, as well as new books from historians like Thomas Cahill (‘How the Irish Saved Civilization’) or Thomas Wood ('How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization') indicate that the Catholic Church was the conduit by which discoveries were made and shared. It was the sociological construct that preserved and transmitted the wisdom of antiquity after the fall of Rome. As the sole surviving functioning organization that continued to operate throughout the length and breadth of the entire Empire, she became the vehicle around which civilization was ordered. Using her agencies to facilitate communication, commerce, culture and everyday life, she became the vehicle by which new advances in technology spread between different cultures and countries. The same was true when it came to transmitting developments in other fields: politics and current events, philosophical and theological progressions, etc. The Church was the essential element which made possible all these advances.

This emerging consensus has created a new understanding of the vital role Catholic institutions played in creating the liberty, wisdom, and prosperity of today. It is wisdom that will be valuable if humanity faces the task of rebuilding its preeminent place on the globe in 2013 and beyond. 

Even the Vatican is getting into the spirit of the times (although accidentally) with the opening for the first time in many years of their archives for public examination. Opening such a font of primary documents for study will no doubt produce any number of example which demonstrate the essential role of religious institutions in facilitating and promoting human development across the globe. 

The Church also provided an economic morality which eventual evolved into the modern western capitalist system responsible for Western prosperity today. Monasteries and abbeys created and sustained an agrarian culture which permitted the development of trades and guilds whose innovations slowly but steadily advanced the arts, culture and technology around the known world. Towns and cities sprang up around ancient churches, monasteries and abbeys which provided a template for survival and salvation during our darkest times as a civilization. Through them, the Church sustained educational, scientific exploration, economic progress and social institutions, all while acting as the ultimate juridical agent in the wake of the fall of the Roman Empire. 

It is not just coincidental, that the nations which have attained this high water mark of human progress, were functionally and culturally Christian for almost two millennia. The fact that the West shares one primordial paradigm from which public and private morality springs is the element which explains the causal relationship which exists between the Catholic Church and the modern secular State. 

Even if the past 50 years has seen the influence of the Church wane and she has lost her privileged role in establishing Western public policy, law and morals, it is still the best proven institution at preserving and impelling human progress when faced with an apocalyptic future. Thank God that she possesses Christ's promise that she would be a successful instrument of grace until his return. For Catholics, and for all Christians in general, the approaching New Year's celebrations simply mark one day closer to that promised day of glory.


  1. "According to prophecies of Hopi and Mayan mystics and the predictions of Nostrodamus..."

    Well, actually, this is according to somebody's interpretations of what they consider to be prophecies. They are not necessarily real prophecies at all, except for what Nostradamus wrote...and I don't read the year 2012 in any of his stuff at all.

  2. Fr. Michael Smith28 December, 2011

    End of the world? Here's some music to mark the occasion:


  3. Lady Janus: Wonderful to hear from you. I trust that the solstice season was enjoyable for you, just as Christmas was great for me.

    Click on the hyperlink for the TV programming in the article and it'll take you to a large archive on the DiscoveryTV website and you will see that a great many folks believe that Nostrodamus was indeed talking about the coming year.

    Fr. Tim

  4. Michael: Thanks for the Youtube link. I incorporated into the post!


  5. Solstice for me is always better being over and done, Tim. Not my favorite time of year, nor my favorite festival. But I managed to get through it again without committing homicide, so I guess all's well, eh? ;D

    I can't get your link to work for me, but I did do a little exploring through Google, and all I can see is what I said before: interpretations of what people think Nostradamus meant. He is not specific. He does not name the year. It's conjecture. And it's not in my own copies of his works, either.

    I do love that song, though! My favorite version of it is done by Great Big Sea!


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