LAST week we suggested in this column that the few days preparatory to the official ending of the war in Europe might well be spent in considering the singular way in which our own country has been preserved again and again from seeming horror and disaster throughout the course of ' the struggle.
And now that the enemy has finally surrendered and we live in the first days of victory accomplished, we shall do well to consider a furttier point.
If we rightly interpret the preservation of our country as a special and exceptional Divine favour we must certainly agree also that we have been enabled to retain the traditional great power and prestige of Britain for an equally special and exceptional purpose. Almighty God, in other words, protected this country because He has work for this country to do—and that work can be no other than, in the large sense, the work of Peace.
And this, judged even by the common standards of temporal and political affairs, is by no means an extravagant idea.
/ At first sight it might have seemed that such a work must fall in a primary sense on a Catholic country—or at least on some country in closer relation with Europe itself and the Holy See which is the centre of the European tradition.
But God, it would seem from history, is accustomed to make use of the most apt natural means to effect his temporal purposes, and it cannot be denied that our own country is in many ways naturally fitted to Further God's will for peace and justice in a stricken world.
Certainly had our enemies triumphed the world could have expected nothing better than peace in totalitarian and armed . force, awaiting a distant day of possible liberation. And to-day, after victory in the West, what country is morally, culturally, commercially and geographically better placed to fulfil in practical terms the grand role of mediator
between victor and vanquished, arid, above all, between the rival and potentially hostile ideologies that so sharply divide the world?
After so many generations of a widespread turning away from the authority and dogma of Christ's Church, it would almost savour of the miraculous if men were suddenly moved in their masses by the direct call of Christ's Vicar or by the full burning light of Christ's teaching from which they turn away in blindness. But, in God's providence, this country has preserved, perhaps better than any of the other great secularist Powers, its belief in and feeling for the broad base of Christian behaviour between man and man and between country and country. There are certain excesses, certain open commitments to evil, certain realisms and cynicisms which, we confidently believe, are still unthinkable in this country.
The Catholic Duty
It would be foolish, even in a week like this, to deceive ourselves. By any honest Christian standard the position is shaky. Internally there is scepticism and disillusion and the makings of serious social troubles. In our relations with others, we have not only too easily accepted appeasement of " evil things," but we have shown little sign of understanding the hard values that make for peace among men as contrasted with the worship of materialism and ease and pleasure which in the past have brought is to this pass.
Still, here we are: a country which honestly and spontaneously turned to thanksgiving when the perils of war are over; a country united round its Christian monarch and with the example of the life of the grand Royal family; a country whose inner social and economic problems have, to some extent, actually been solving themselves in the hard school of war, a country which, in forcing itself to sponsor acts that are evil, insists on paying its tribute to virtue— and does so desperately, sorrowfully, rather than cynically; above all, to-day, a country whose island position between the old world and the new, away from, yet part of, the Continent, places it in the best possible position to be an honest broker between nations and faiths.
But we, as Catholics, may never ,pretend either to ourselves or to others that the way of peace can be other than the hard way of God's peace—peace founded in God's truth and God's justice. And because we, through no merit of our own, are in a position to know what this means, a tremendous responsibility falls upon us. If we wish to return thanks to God adequately we must resolve to live in such a Way as to guide our fellow countrymen along the only lines which can enable this moral capital of England to earn the returns of which it is ultimately capable.