October 24th marks several anniversaries: The Treat of Westphalia was signed on this day in 1648, which ended the 30-year war of ‘religion’, fought primarily between Catholics and Protestants, although sides got mixed with nationalistic ambitions clouding spiritual principles, and allegiance to the one, true Faith. The syncretic motto imposed after the war spoke of the secularist era that was dawning: Cuius regio, eius religio – literally, to whom the region, to him the religion. Or, more practically, the religion of the prince would be the religion of his domain, and of his people.

The Pope at the time saw through this insidious false irenicism, to seek peace at all costs, and called the Treaty null, void, invalid, iniquitous, unjust, damnable, reprobate, inane, and devoid of meaning for all time. People, including Pontiffs, did not mix words in that more blunt and bold era. For Innocent saw that the end result of this was the end of religion, first, as an influence upon society, and then, upon the individual person: In other words, religion would cease to matter, with secularism and atheism would soon be the order of the day, as we see all around us. And speaking of religion not mattering, it is perhaps not a coincidence that this is also the anniversary of the official inauguration of the United Nations in 1945, as a means of keeping peace in the wake of the war.

But peace at what cost? As Dostoyevsky rightly saw two centuries after Westphalia, without God, anything goes, and the nations and its people, thinking their houses swept clean of cobwebbed, mediaeval ‘superstition’, would be infested and possessed by legions of devils, who would wreak havoc. Damnable, indeed. Covidiocy is only a manifestation of our far deeper problems – a panicked fear of death and judgement looming large, at least over our subconscious. We must face those demons, and exorcise them. As Christ warns in today’s Gospel, unless we repent – undergo that deep metanoia – we will all likewise perish, and the Saviour is not talking only about the earthly and passing sort of death. Fear not him – or it – who can kill the body, but fear the one who can cast both soul and body into hell.

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