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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Christmas, Israel, Stepinac and Tito: Lost in the Fifties, Too

Written by  Walter L. Matt (RIP)
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Walter Matt in Libya, WWII Walter Matt in Libya, WWII

Remnant Editor’s Note: One of The Remnant’s more popular print-edition columns, “Lost in the Fifties, Too” is made up of a long series of weekly articles written in The Wanderer back in the 1950s by the founder of The Remnant, Walter L. Matt. 

The column is meant to remind critics of traditional Catholics that we are not motivated by mere nostalgia for the “good old days” before Vatican II when everything was lollipops, "Leave It to Beaver” and Father O’Malley, and there were no troubles anywhere in the world.  Not so, not true.  The war against Christendom started a long time ago, certainly well before the disastrous Second Vatican Council. 

That said, this column also serves to remind us of a better time, a saner time, than ours today.  We believe it helps The Remnant strike the proper historical balance.  This particular installment first appeared at Christmastime, 1951. MJM

Notes and Comments, The Wanderer, December 27, 1951

Sickness is making the rounds. A friend of mine, a young priest, was in to see me the other day and when I told him about my bursitis he listed at least half a dozen St. Paul priests who are, or until very recently were, on the sick list—among them Fr. Richard Lee, pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish, who underwent a very serious operation, and Fr. Richard Dougherty of the St. Paul Seminary, who also has been ill. I know of many others who, for reasons known best by God, were sorely afflicted this Christmas.

At our house three of us were on the list—my mother, sister, and myself. Dad, too, was not up to par. But we managed to be up and around nevertheless. And all in all we had a happy and blessed celebration, even though our outdoor crib—the one I told you about some weeks ago—could not be completed and had to remain in the basement for this year. But we did have our traditional big tree as well as the quaint old stone crib (which we’ve now had in the house for the past half-century), and we all went to Midnight Mass, exchanged gifts, sang songs, told tales of the long ago, and, thus fortified and strengthened anew, put aside the fears of the world for the future.

With each new Christmas I realize more strongly the debt I owe Almighty God, the debt I can never repay. For if there is one priceless treasure that I have and fewer and fewer of my generation have been blessed with, it is a home, a happy Christian home. And at Christmas time especially, when serious-minded columnists like George Sokolsky speak of the “decline of the home” as the root cause of the world crisis of our day, I cannot help but feel sorrow for the millions of victims of broken homes, for the youngsters without parental love and guidance, for the poor separated parents competing in the courts for their children, for the Franchot Tones and Tallulah Bankheads whose names appear in glittering lights even as their souls hunger for warmth and love and they chase unhappily after the empty, the ephemeral and the meaningless. For such as these our minds and hearts must turn anew to Bethlehem, to that holy Father and Mother and Son who for the first time and for all time gave example to the world where its joy and its peace are to be found.

The Associated Press reported on Christmas Eve:

“For several thousand persons in Bethlehem there is no room at the inn. There is not even a stable with manger. These are the Arab refugees, who, until a little more than three years ago, lived in a part of Palestine which became Israel.”

Image result for arab refugees 1951 christmas bethlehem

It is a sad and disconcerting fact that even today in Bethlehem the same inhumanity of man which the Holy Family experienced two thousand years ago should be repeated on such a vast scale. The Arab refugees, the majority of whom are Christians, number approximately 600,000. Many of them are unemployed, their property has been taken away and they have precious little to eat. As a result, according to the Associated Press report, “they wander, like human driftwood, across the barren and rocky land so familiar to the Bible readers.” For them there is no home, no room at the inn.

And for approximately 30,000,000 other refugees throughout this fear-ridden and war-torn world the situation is much the same—no home, no room at the inn. Heartlessness and tyranny and fear again rule the day. The glad tiding the angels sang long ago threaten to be drowned out anew in the mad race of the nations toward war.

And yet the glad tidings can sometimes still be heard even above all the din. This Christmas Eve there was an echo of it from the tiny village of Krasic in Yugoslavia. It filtered through from the 400-year-old church there which, according to an Associated Press report, “was not big enough to hold the crowd of peasants and their children who streamed to hear Archbishop Stepinac celebrate Christmas Mass”—his first Christmas since he was conditionally released from prison only a few weeks ago by the Communist Government of Marshal Tito. The associated Press said that the Church was jammed with more than two thousand people and that several hundred peasants knelt on the church steps outside.

Strange, that so many thousands of people wanted to be with the much maligned and victimized Archbishop on Christmas!—What was it the Yugoslav Ambassador, Mr. Popovic, was telling us here in St. Paul only last week—Oh yes, he said the Yugoslav Catholics themselves have little sympathy for the Archbishop and they realized the enormity of his “crime”!

No doubt. And that explains why Krasic, a village of four hundred people, was the center of a gathering of many thousands this Christmas and why, according to the Associated Press, the village “was alive with the Christmas spirit, and children were singing carols before the small homes of the village, and villagers passing each other in the frosty evening gave the age-old Catholic greeting ‘Christ be praised!’”

Ah, yes, Mr. Popovic, no doubt the Yugoslavs themselves were singing their carols to Tito!

The Remnant Print/E-edition--it really is about so much more than the Mass. Subscribe today!

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