I have some good news and some bad news.
The good news is that we’re more than half way through 2020.
The bad news is that we have nearly half of 2020 left.
It’s become cliche to joke about how bad the year has been. The problem is that it’s the kind of joke nobody finds particularly funny – even the person who’s telling it. Everyone has been affected differently, but no one has been left unscathed.
I find myself thinking back to early January, when my parents were finishing up their first visit to Arizona, having joined us here for Christmas. Before anyone was really talking about a pandemic, and nobody was expecting riots on a mass scale. I took them to the Grand Canyon, which was covered in a thick blanket of snow. I showed them where to go to get the real tacos. I took them off-roading on the Four Peaks mountain trails. I drove them to the San Xavier del Bac mission down in Tucson and fed them Sonoran dogs. I dug up some pictures to share with you (click them if you want to enlarge):
The time during my family’s whirlwind visit was one of the last times I can remember that anything felt normal.
Fast forward to this month, and it feels as though we’ve been living in a non-stop dystopian dream. I sat on a conference call this week where administrators for the school our children go to tried to explain how distance learning via computer was going to work this year. My kids haven’t set foot in a school building since February. Yesterday, I saw a video of a woman in her 60s in a store. She was wearing a mask, and expressing how upset she was to see a young mother and her children who weren’t. She looked at the family – children included – and actually said, “I hope you all die.”
Can you imagine?
I’ve watched other videos in the past couple of days showing violent clashes in the streets, as riots in some cities — ostensibly about racism, but really about Marxist disruption of social order — have been going on for nearly 60 days. A conversation with friends this past weekend included discussion about our respective firearms inventories, and whether or where ammunition was available in this or that caliber. This morning I wrote an article about the rapidly metastasizing social cancer that is cancel culture.
This is the new normal. Incivility. Disruption. Disinformation. Chaos. A bizarre, oppressive, artificial status quo.
Today, a tweet showed up in my timeline that summed up what so many are facing:
People losing jobs, livelihoods, homes. Affecting their relationships. Having their sense of purpose taken away. Uncertainty about the future. And to top it off, they’re being told what they can and can’t say or think.
A recipe for disaster in the brain.
— Nicola B. (@PsychBeaulogy) July 29, 2020
A recipe for disaster for the brain.
My wife and I have been discussing the oppressive feeling we’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to shrug off. It has to do with that loss of a sense of purpose. As though it’s difficult to be positive, motivated, and driven when the future is so uncertain. Every day, I go to social media looking for some sign that things are returning to how they should be. Every day, I’m disappointed to find that the insanity continues, unabated.
In my personal life, a family crisis that had been building for a long time and was headed for disaster was miraculously averted a few weeks ago, almost certainly as a result, at least in part, of many, many prayers – probably many of your prayers, to be honest. (Deo gratias!) I’m still reeling from the suddenness of the thing. Still trying to understand how something that felt so impossible one day could have been turned around to something absolutely positive the next.
It makes me wonder about God and His providence. Why sometimes it takes so long for Him to (seemingly at least) even acknowledge our prayers, let alone to answer them. We cannot expect miracles. We have no right to. And yet, sometimes when we least expect or deserve them, they come.
I wonder, too, if this might be His mode of operation for the Church. Increasingly, I find that it feels as though almost all is lost. The Church’s decline seems only to accelerate. For many of us, the nature of the present situation means that the sacramental life has become infrequent and sporadic. I’ve been trying to be more committed to prayer, but sometimes the pulse of Catholic life feels like a faint echo from far away. And yet, what if, just like in the situation I recently experienced, God shows us a way out at the darkest moment? What if, by some unforeseeable miracle of grace, He turns the entire thing around?
I am living proof that when He chooses to intervene, nothing is off the table.
I’m going to be taking some time to work through what I’ve recently gone through, and to hopefully deepen my connection to Him. I know that before its resolution, the situation I was dealing with was affecting the quality of my work and the tenor of my faith, and that I forced myself to keep going long past burnout, to my own detriment. But I recognize that I need to heal. To let inspiration grow back. To take the time to do more reading, more praying, more reflecting, so that my work can be enriched by these things. I can’t offer what I don’t have. With that in mind, I am planning to (mostly) take the summer off of making videos for 1P5. (If you didn’t know we did videos, there are lots to choose from on our YouTube channel.) Videos are fun to make, but time consuming, and I haven’t spent nearly enough time writing lately. Even there, I may be somewhat reserved for a while as I seek to recharge and renew those efforts. Fortunately we have many talented writers here who will continue to fill any gap left by my reduced presence.
And I think a reset is needed not just for me, but for 1P5. I’m thinking a lot about where we stand as we approach our 6th anniversary on August 1st. There are nagging questions in my mind about whether we are fulfilling our mission, and how to do it better. When we began our publication in 2014, very few others were willing to take the kind of stand we took. Now, it seems that the space is getting a bit crowded. Traditional Catholic media outlets, both in written and in media form, are flourishing during this time of crisis. In my opinion, this should give us all a certain amount of pause – if something is bad for souls, but good for “business,” we should remain vigilant about falling into sensationalism.
It is my firm conviction that people need hope right now far more than they need sharp-witted (or worse yet, salacious) assessments of all that is wrong. Neither can we afford to lose our heads chasing down every new conspiracy theory that crops up. We need to remain grounded, firm in faith, informed by history, and rooted in prayer.
Another question is: can we really keep saying the same things again and again while hoping for a better result? There has always been real value in tackling topics like the liturgy, the infiltration of the Church, and the sterile, failed experiment that the post-conciliar version Catholicism has increasingly proven to be. These topics can never be abandoned. But we are seeing a groundswell of Catholics looking to tradition for the first time because of the tumult in the Church. We are seeing, at least partially, a re-integration of the two camps that have existed since the Roman rite was split. There are old questions that will need to be answered again, but also new ones that remain to be addressed.
We are losing, perhaps already have lost, the war for the culture. We have failed to produce much in the way of compelling Catholic art or media. There’s little reason to think that anything will ever return to the “normal” that we knew before. But we’re not going to simply wave a white flag and jump ship to join the secularists, or adopt degeneracy as a way of life. Neither can we simply retreat to our bunkers, hoping the storm will pass. We need a path forward, and we need now, more than ever, to be careful about reflexive tribalism. We need alliances, potentially even with some of those outside our fold. We need approaches and understandings that will help us engage with them. We should be allergic to the purity spiraling that so often plagues our discourse. We need to find the positive role we can play in continuing to build toward a future where faith and reason can flourish together.
So. Lots to ponder. And I’d like to hear your suggestions. It would be my preference to receive them via email, rather than just in the comments, so I’m going to close the comments on this piece and ask that you please make use of our contact form if you have ideas about what you’d like to see more of from us. We want to know what we’re doing that works, and what we’re doing that doesn’t. Where can we focus our efforts to best help you?
Finally today, I have to ask for your continued financial support. We’re facing the second month in a row with a significant shortfall on our fundraising. We’re at a point where we’re trying to bring you more content, not less, but with fewer resources, we’re facing a need to potentially scale back our efforts. We’ve had some very generous benefactors this month, and I want to thank them so much for keeping us going, but we have two days left and need another $5,000 to hit our goal. If you can help, we ask that you please do so today.
True story: I received a message the other day from a reader who donated a single dollar. He apologized, telling me that he was embarrassed that he could only offer such a small amount. Our work, he said, had been such a blessing to him.
I told him that he might be surprised to hear it, but I’m often given the greatest hope when I see someone donate a small amount. Most people won’t do it, because they think it’s too little to matter, or are, as he said, embarrassed by it.
But I know every time someone gives a dollar, or five, that it’s almost certainly a real sacrifice for them, and that in so doing they are showing that this work means something to them. That it has helped them in some way. And I also know that with an audience of hundreds of thousands, if more people would give just a dollar, we’d never have to scrape to hit our goals each month.
So I’m asking you, if you can only give a dollar, please, consider doing so. It really does make a difference. And if you can give more, please consider doing that as well. We need your help to do what we do. We can’t do it without you. If you’d like to join us in our efforts, please just click the button below, or make a donation by mail using the information right here.
I pray that God blesses you abundantly. Thank you all for your readership, prayers, and support.
Publisher & Executive Director
P.S. – It’s important to remember, in times like these, to look up from our screens and remember that the world is still full of beauty and wonder. The banner image on this article is a crop from a panoramic photo I took during a thunderstorm last week over the desert behind my house.
Here’s a full view, along with a few others from that night. This world we live in may have gone crazy, but it’s still pretty spectacular – and God is in control.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.