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“You hid in that ditch because you think there’s still hope. But, Blithe, the only hope you have is to accept the fact that you’re already dead. And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll be able to function as a soldier’s supposed to function. Without mercy, without compassion, without remorse. All war depends upon it.” — Captain Ronald Speirs to Private Albert Blithe, Band of Brothers
Give up hope? I’m not one to argue with Saint Paul on the theological virtue of hope, and neither am I advocating we adopt the tactics of antifa or BLM, but something rings tragically true about the good Captain’s statement. I’m “hoping” Ricochet’s warrior caste will have something to say about it, so I guess I haven’t given up on it completely.
But, I have found, after a number of significant tragedies in my life, that hope for resolution in this life is unhelpful to basic functioning, at best. I could hope that the drug used to treat Little Miss Anthrope’s brain tumor will cause it to shrink and the results will show up in the next three-month MRI, and the next one, and the next one. . . I could hope that her condition (NF Type 1) will not further devastate her body and she’ll be able to lead a normal life one day. I could hope that Elder will overcome the effects of her medical conditions and treatments and that she will thrive at Hillsdale and reach her goals.
Some are more mundane hopes, like the hope I could have every afternoon when Colorado’s notoriously violent thunderstorms roll in that the hail won’t trash the garden I love and tend.
But, these hopes are debilitating when they don’t pan out. If I give into them, it makes me want to passively sit in a ditch and watch the battle rage around me. I stop fighting the everyday fight: get up, bathe, dress, take care of my family, tend the garden. . .
Politics is war, too. Some of us hope that, after Donald Trump, we can return to more conventional (Reagan) Republicanism. These same people are sitting in a ditch radioing in their complaints to Decorum Conservative HQ about how Trump is conducting the war. He’s doing it all wrong!!! Meanwhile, well before Donald Trump ran for president, the forces of the Left captured all the cultural high ground of idea transmission, from academia, social media, entertainment media, news media. . . and it is holding these advantageous positions and, rapidly now, taking more of them. “But, Trump tweets!” is just an act of capitulation, or worse — betrayal.
Life is war, too. It’s a constant battle against princes and principalities — against our own fallen nature. This is what Saint Paul is getting at with his theological virtue: without God, we’re hopeless. There’s no way we win this war on our own.
I once commented on a profound lesson I learned from the BBC drama Apparitions, about a Catholic exorcist in London. In the two episodes I watched, it is Satan who gives hope to the suffering at the price of their souls. He actually keeps his promises to win the temporal battle (to cure leprosy, for example), but by enticing the person into the ditch, he condemns the victim to hell. In real life drama, Jesus is the one who says, “take up your cross and follow.”
“Our perfect rest is Paradise. Here below we must stay near Jesus, and upon earth, Jesus presents himself above all upon the cross. That is his official portrait. He gives us little joys so that we may be able to endure life and merit our heaven, but he blends a portion of the cross with them. He will certainly give you the grace to manage your affairs if you confide yourself to his love. Don’t think too much of the future. Live in the present. The future will bring its own grace when the trial comes. . .
“Blosius, a great Benedictine mystic, says that the best form of mortification is to accept with all our heart, in spite of our repugnance, all that God sends or permits, good and evil, joy and suffering. I try to do this. Let us try to do it together, and to help one another to reach that absolute abandonment into the hands of God. . .
“Keep your soul set at large and act with the holy liberty of the children of God who has taken possession of your soul and if you abandon yourself without reserve to his wisdom and love, he will send you many mortifications far better than any you could choose for yourself.” — Blessed Columba Marmion, O.S.B.
In my own phrasing, lay down the struggle with temporal hope; take up the eternal fight and get out of that ditch, soldier!
Epilogue: Private Blithe did climb out of that ditch and learn to kill Germans. In 1944 (corrected), he was leading a patrol when he was injured and, unlike as portrayed in the series, he did not die of those injuries in 1948. He survived and made it home, but died of a perforated ulcer in 1967 in a German hospital. He’s buried in Arlington Cemetery, PA. He fought the good fight. RIP.Published in