"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
I lied about something really important today. I told my daughter that there are no monsters in the world and that she is safe and that there really isn't anything scary. The thing is, she doesn't need, at 3 1/2, to know differently. But I know.
Evil walks the earth and kills children for some perceived political gain. I don't know what it is. I sit, this morning, with my coffee and I look upon my daughter and I am so ineffably sad and I try so hard not to show it to her because she doesn't need that.
But I wonder, are we next? Will it be some pre-school in Tacoma or Miami or White Plains?
Three years ago our nation suffered a terrible storm. Some thought God slept. "Does he not care that we are dying?" Some of us saw many things on September 11. In one moment in the midst of a big crowd running from the smoke, a young couple were pushing a carriage. The baby was calmly asleep. Like Jesus in the boat. Priests looked into the eyes of firefighters asking for final absolution before they went into the flames. Those eyes keep looking at us for they will never close. "Are these the men with whom I am to defend America?" Yes. These are the men and these are the women and these are the children of all creeds and races who cannot rebuke the winds themselves but who have a God who can.
When asked what kind of government we had been given, Benjamin Franklin said, "A republic, if you can keep it." He meant virtue. There is no freedom without order and no order without virtue. Mockery of virtue has become an art form and the anti-hero is called a hero. G.K. Chesterton saw this already in the early twentieth century, for he said: "The decay of society is praised by artists as the decay of a corpse is praised by worms." In classical Corinthian halls and great Gothic halls and bombed out halls of Parliament in the Battle of Britain, across the ages that divided them and in languages peculiar to each, Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas and Winston Churchill said this: "Courage is the first of virtues because it makes all others possible." Courage is the ability to react to the threat of harm rationally. Because it is rational it requires caution but caution, says Aquinas, is the prelude to an action, not a substitute for an action: if you want to be sure that your boat will never sink in a storm, you should never leave port. The cynic for whom all righteousness is only self-righteousness also calls courage bravado. True courage is the right use of reason in the face of evil…
In the 19th century a young man confessed his sins to a peasant priest in the village of Ars in France, Saint John Vianney. The floor began to shake, knocking the fellow over. Vianney picked him up, brushed him off, and said cheerfully: "Do not be afraid, my son. It is only the devil." The young man was impressed but he admitted that he would never go to Vianney for confession again. It is only the devil. It takes courage to say that in the face of terrorism. It is only the devil. That is the simple answer but it is hard to say.