My latest book, Beyond Tenebrae: Christianity Humanism in the Twilight of the West, is now out from Angelico Press. In it, I consider not the end of the West, but the twilight of the West and the individuals who have done so much to struggle against its demise.
“But the Christian God needs no world in order that He might be; subsisting alone He is sufficient until Himself. The doctrine of creation most decisively reveals the power of God, the Infinite Sovereign. The world was created out of nothing by the freedom of the Almighty Whose commanding Word gives to all things being and nature; of itself that world lacks any trace of internal necessity or external possibility. This created universe is found only in the Bible. Elsewhere the origin of the universe was always thought to have been mythical; either some formless chaos had evolved into the world or some divine power had fashioned it from an equally formless chaos. The Revelation of Scripture contradicted all such myth: the world is created by a God Who does not have to create in order that He might be, nor does He need the elements of the world in order that He might create.”
–Romano Guardini, THE END OF THE MODERN WORLD
What values and virtues do we pass on to our children? Should they be proud of the “race”? Should they be proud of their “nationality”? Should they be exclusively one nationality or another? Should they be proud of their material success and wealth? I hope they value above all, family, culture and faith. Generosity and love are, I believe, the keys to happiness and abundance.
Ruben Navarette posted a recent missive from a reader who complained about Navertte identifying as Mexican-American.
“If, as you say, you are true blue then you would refer to yourself as just plain “American.” You, quote are a “Mexican-American” Yankee doodle etc.
My husband’s grandparents were born in Ireland. He calls himself American. Likewise my son-in-law whose 4 grandparents were born in Poland, calls himself American.
You say only one of your grandparents were born in Mexico, then why the hyphenate?”
Navarette, quoting his nine-year old daughter said, because “You’re not the boss of me.” Just so. There was a time when a King would say: “you are my subject and you must follow the religious faith of the realm.” In America, things are different. And if you honor your mother and father and if they come from a culture and faith tradition you love it is very normal and reasonable to feel a close emotional tie to that other nation that “patria chica” -that “wee homeland of your heart.” Legally my forefathers were British subjects (all of them including the Irish in the family). But no one I have know had ever considered himself “British”. Technically a British person is a Welsh-speaking Briton. Some Scots were, in fact, descended from Welsh-speaking Britons. WIlliam Wallace was descended from Welsh-Speaking Britons. But my ancestral clans were not. They were Gaelic in identify with roots in the Gaeltacht of Ireland and Scotland. It is quite possible some of my ancestors were dual French nationals because some of my ancestors served in the French King’s bodyguards. In any case, it is very likely that at least some of my ancestors were Anglo-Normans or even Lochlanoch (Vikings). But those connections are so remote that they have little influence on my identity or character. But clan or tribal identity was strong. That feeling WAS as strong or stronger than any nationality. When my grandfather spoke of his “race and line” he was not speaking of the “White Race” (I never once heard him speak in such terms. He taught me there was only one race now and in the future -the human race). No, he was speaking of his ancestry as a member of Clan Munro and being also descended from Clan MacKenzie, Clan Fraser and Clan MacFarlane. He considered himself a Highlander (Gael) first and foremost though he was legally British and then legally, by choice an American.
I have relatives who are completely assimilated and never had any interest in the heritage, culture or religion of their grandparents. The way to get along is to go along. They are more English than the English and more Americans than any Americans. That’s fine if it makes them happy. I know a business associate of my father named “Hunter” who said he was “Anglo-Saxon”; my father was astonished to learn his brother was “Cacciatore” ; their family was Italian in origin. But that man hid his “Italian roots” (he was very fair-skinned) and married a WASP in the Episcopal Church. He didn’t even invite his Italian-speaking mother to the wedding. That was astonishing to me. But some people, then, were eager to get into the country club and the right private school and college. Today it would be different, I think. Of course, I chuckle at all this because I have been asked, hundreds of times, if I am Italian-American because my name ends in -o. I have been called “Mr Murro” many times. I have also been called “Monroy” many times as well. I never make a big deal if people mispronounce or misspell my name unless it has legal or financial consideration.
But some people ARE by their very nature, hypenated Americans. They might be dual nationals (many people in my family are dual nationals) For example, my wife and daughter in law and son in law have deep, deep cultural and language ties to Spain and Mexico. Spanish is an everyday language in our household. So almost everyone one in my family is Mexican-American or Hispanic-American (some have roots in Spain and Chile).
My own roots are Gaelic (Highland and Irish) and I am a hispanophile but have never claimed to be anything else but a Gael. Thanks to the miracle of the Internet and modern social media I can correspond to Scotland and listen to Scottish music and radio (in English, Scots or Gaelic) every day. And my hyphen came to me honestly because it was a significant part of my culture, identity, and language. I will always feel a close tie to the Highlands and Islands. My forefolk were Highlanders and Islanders for over 1000 years.
But my strongest identity is as a Christian in the Roman Catholic tradition. I have ancestors who were of the Protestant persuasion also, of course, (Free Church or Scottish Episcopal Church) but the basic tendency of my family was High Church. My parents were married in both the Anglican Communion and Roman Catholic Church for example and so were my father’s parents. Some of my maternal grandmother’s relatives were Church of Ireland (Anglicans). It was very common for Irish or Scottish soldiers serving in the British military in the 19th and early 20th century to fold into the Anglican Communion or have as we used to say “a Protestant trail.” For poor people it really didn’t make much difference. For people like the Duke of Wellington or Edmund Burke it DID make a difference because if they did not conform with the Anglican religion they could not inherit their property. Both were Irishmen, of course. Burke’s sisters and cousins were, I believe, all Roman Catholic. I was reading about Myles Keogh the other day and he came from a well-to-do Irish Catholic landowning family. He fought in the Papal Army and then later for the Union during the Civil War. He was famously killed at the Battle of Little BIghorn in 1876 with Custer and his horse Comanche was the only survivor of the battle. Some historians believe Keogh and two sergeants were among the very last survivors and died in a mini-last stand of their own and hence were some distance from the main body and therefore his wounded horse managed to survive the story. Myles Keogh was a Gael. His name is purely Gaelic. I am quite certain he considered himself a Gael and he probably was conversant in Gaelic. The evidence of course is indirect but he was fluent in Italian and one of the markers of a bilingual Gael is linguistic ability. Certainly his parents and grandparents were native speakers. It is only after 1845-1850 when entire populations were wiped out that Irish Gaelic went into a precipitous decline.
My cultural values were very close to my wife’s because we belong to the same civilization -Western Christendom.
Rome was always more important for us than London and it is easy for us as amphibious Gaels to live in the Spanish-speaking world and learn the language.
We are accepted as “honorary” Hispanics because we love the Hispanic culture and language. Hyphens are useful when they mean something. Sometimes they are almost meaningless.
We know “official” Hispanics who don’t know a word of Spanish and have very little connection to Spain or Mexico. We know “Native Americans” who don’t know a word of indigenous language but boast of being 1/8 or 1/16 Native American. Good for them.
A man’s roots are a man’s roots and a man’s culture is a man’s culture. I decided long ago that I was the last of my race.
I never had any interest, really, of dating women of my parent’s language and nationality. I encouraged our children to have interest in languages, generally speaking, but I made no direct effort to teach them Gaelic. Naturally, they picked up some words, some phrases some choruses. Nonetheless for me and for them The Gaeltacht is the past and a lost world. A distant world. There are abandoned villages and island from whence my people came but no one lives there now.
We survived the 20th century but lost our nationality and language. My grandparents came to this country with next to nothing carrying with them only a strong desire to work, to be free and to practice their religions traditions in private and freely without persecution or discrimination from the Bold State.
In a long journey some things have to be left behind.
We did retain our strong faith, the most important and enduring value IMHO. I am an American citizen and proud of that.
But that is no all I am nor is it all that my grandchildren and in-laws are.
It is only natural that people with such cultural and linguistic ties to Latin America will consider themselves “hyphenated” Americans. We are citizens of Mexico, Canada, Spain, Chile and the USA. All of us have connections by marriage or ancestry to Scotland and Ireland but as time goes by those ties are more and more remote. Perhaps our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be so mixed that they will consider themselves Americans only or Mexicans only or Chileans only. Good for them. I only hope they are happy, free and have a strong faith and culture.
I believe America is their future but if they are happy and production I don’t care where they live or how they “self-identify”. I only pray is that carry as good citizens of the world and good people of faith. One of the great questions in life is whether or not there is (or isn’t) an eternal dimension to man (the human person). Of course, Jesus teaches that there is. I believe that each person has a soul, an immortal soul, a self-consciousness, a spirit. We are married in life to our soul but of course in death we depart this land of the living and then our souls and body part. The prime teachings of the Great Teacher are love, faith, hope, gentleness, forgiveness, humility, integrity. These virtues are the essential ones I hope we have imparted to our children (two of whom have married in the church). There are no realms that endure, goes an old Gaelic saying but the Kingdom of God. And this Kingdom of God is among us. This is the unity and wholeness I seek for myself and for my children and grandchildren. We have seen many Empires rise and fall . We have served the yoke of many kings and emperors. I know what it is to be the last of my race -I have always identified strongly with the Last of the Mohicans -a book that has Munros in it and Gaels. Once upon a times there were Gauls and Gaul, once upon a time there were Galatians and Galatia. Once upon a time we dwelled in Alba, the land of the Mountains White. Once upon a time we lived in Ferindonald. It is only a memory now and only the past. Omina exeunt in mysterium. All things vanish into mystery. But a part of that heritage lives in our strong desire to be free and to belong to Christendom.
No matter what country we make our home that will be, I am quite certain an important the most important part of our heritage. For we are descended from Gaels the oldest and truest Christians of the Northern people. “Dread God and respect his commandments. That is the whole duty of man.” That’s a philosophy of life worth teaching. That’s a tradition worth passing on. And ladies and gentleman it is a way of life open to all regardless of race or national origin. Race and nationality are nothing compared to this. They are just passing fancies in this mortal storm.
Hello Readers of Spirit of Cecilia, believe it or not, I’m going to be self-promotional (shock, horror!). The publisher of my biographies of J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Carroll of Carrollton, ISI Books, is currently offering each for 1/2 price. How great is that? Now, you can have your Shire and your Philadelphia!
Just imagine. Rather than a quote or a snippy comment, you actually get me at my thoughtful best (well, thoughtful most).
If there’s something the mighty Christopher Dawson (1889-1970) wrote that I have failed to love and appreciate, I have yet to come across it.
The following quotes are my favorite from his 1920 essay, “On the Nature and Destiny of Man,” a quasi apology for his conversion to Catholicism.
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The Counter Reformation in all its wonders. Enjoy.