Evil, be thou my good (PL IV, 110)

Thus Milton, and what a chilling passage it is! It came to mind when I saw that today we commemorate Blessed Titus Brandsma, the Dutch Carmelite who saw clearly the evil tendencies within Nazism and was responsible not only for trying to get the press to refuse to publish Nazi propaganda but also for the famous Pastoral Letter of the Dutch bishops which condemned anti-semitism and the deportation of the Jews. He paid for his clear-sightedness at Dachau.

With the benefit of hindsight, most of us can see well enough; but one of the problems of fashionable ideologies is that, at the time that they are making huge numbers of converts, we don’t see them for what they are. Evil has the appearance of good. We can even embrace evil because it appears to counter something we think is wrong, not realising that we have fallen even further away from truth and charity.

There are a number of subjects on which I find myself holding very different views from others, and I am sure you do, too. It can be very lonely and uncomfortable. Few of us have to pay for our beliefs with our lives, but some do β€” and they do not always make the headlines. Today I would like to pray for those whose determination to live truthfully has won them no friends, secured them no advantages, left them uncomfortably on the margin of what society approves or endorses, but whose integrity is as a shining light for humanity, being filled, as it is, with God.


12 thoughts on “Evil, be thou my good (PL IV, 110)”

  1. Increasingly I encounter total hostility and contempt towards anyone with religious beliefs. While in no sense at the same level as the martyr you refer to, it is a widespread view. It ranges from the “look” when someone mentions prayer/God/Church to the attitude that it is acceptable to rant and rave blaming one for all the wars in history/poverty/child abuse…
    I have found it more than uncomfortable. Do I accept the tirade and pray for the person later? Do I “stick up” for my beliefs and answer the accusations?
    Tried both and either way left feeling hollow and quite unsettled. Some of this vitriol is from fellow Catholics who seem to think it is trendy to throw bits of science/the crimes of a minority of priests/social views on sexuality at me to prove God either does not exist or that Christians have got it all wrond or that I am feeble minded and indoctrinated to even hold on to the faith they disgarded on leaving primary school.
    Very difficult but small beer compared to the terrible suffering by people around the world, persecuted for their beliefs. Thanks for raising this topic.

    • I think you have touched on an important topic, Joseph. The hostility one encounters, even from the brethren, can be very, very wearing and is one of the reasons, I think, why many people in Britain are wary of identifying themselves as believers. I don’t know what the answer is, or even if there is an answer as such, other than to go on as best one can, trying to be true to what one understands. Another, but related, problem for Catholics in particular is the quite appalling ignorance of what the Church actually teaches as distinct from what people think she teaches. But that will take us a long way from today’s subject . . .

      • That applies to the Anglican church as well. A good many people think that Elton John’s views on anything are as important as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s.
        Never mind, things will change in time.

  2. Titus and many brave Christians died at the hands of fascists because of their views and attempts to resist against the politics and policies of hatred and selective persecution perpetrated by evildoers.

    I sense that there may be an undercurrent of regret in your commentary about those who may be LGBTQIA and those who campaign for this section of our community. The Bible is very specific, particularly in the Old Testament, about declaring same sex acts sinful. However, such activity was rolled up together with all other sexual activity which was not concerned with married reproduction. There was no welfare state and very little protection for the individual. The family was the cell of sustenance at the base of society and anything which militated against this was condemned. Females were nothing more than chattels. Males were in the ascendancy and the Bible, being written by them, was designed to reinforce their position.

    But Jesus was concerned with garnering love for the Lord and ensuring that all of us should live at peace with each other whatever we did or were. God’s love was just not for the Jews but for the whole of humanity. We are all His children and loved by Him. He wants us not to hate or harm each other but to help and love one another whatever we are.

    • Never try to second guess what I think, please, because doing so puts an interpretation on my remarks that they do not bear, eg. your second paragraph is wide of the mark as far as I am concerned and seems rather to reflect your thoughts than my own. Fair comment? There are many fashionable ideologies circulating at the moment, in the Church and in society at large. You may have noticed that many of my posts concern suffering, death, euthanasia and so on. These, for me, are the life and death questions where I find myself profoundly out of step with what many others think.

      • I stand admonished. Please accept my profuse apologies for my comments. I am at one with your views on suffering, death and euthanasia.
        God bless you, peace and love be with you.

        • No need to apologize! I can quite see why you might have thought, with all that is in the news currently about sexuality, I was hinitng at that in some way; but I wasn’t β€” and that’s my point. The questions that keep us awake at night, that make us wrestle with God, are not necessarily predictable. The refusal to accept pain, suffering and death as part of life have led us as a society to make some terrible anti-life choices which we justify with our own version of compassion β€” which isn’t what I, and probably you too, would understand by compassion at all.

  3. I sometimes use silence, particularly on social media, just as Jesus himself did when accused and betrayed. I suspect he prayed during those moments too.

  4. A sideways step, but yesterday I returned my ‘father’s copy’ of Milton to its rightful home, Heswall Sunday School Library.
    It was borrowed in about 1922 so I hope they will be lenient about library fines!

  5. Thank you .. and thank God for the grace of being able to lift our hearts to Him and to ask for help when we can see no way out of the abyss… somehow the Holy Spirit brings His message … Jesus shows us the Way … however hard … and we finish with a smile on our face …. and a prayer on our lips … To fight another day .. for Truth .. for Justice .. and for Peace.

  6. Thank you for using this post to share the witness of Blessed Titus Brandsma. I was not aware of his story.
    It is good to be reminded of the importance of integrity and the price people have paid for doing their best to live with integrity.

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