in soul pursuit

in soul pursuit

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Brexit - a Europe of the Spirit

A Europe of the Spirit


On hearing the Brexit news last week the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales prayed the prayer of the late Cardinal Martini invoking the call for a ‘Europe of the Spirit’ – the Europe of saints and philosophers, artists and reformers. How fragile and vulnerable that spirit seems today. We have witnessed a volte face in the past few days. One correspondent noted that ‘nothing has changed’. She was right, nothing has changed. Yet, as Wittgenstein once said, ‘nothing has changed – yet everything has changed’. The facts have not changed. The fact of widespread, crippling and endemic unemployment has not changed. The fact of the greatest refugee crisis facing Europe since 1945 has not changed. The fact of brutalised people wanting to slaughter innocent citizens has not changed. The facts have not changed. What has changed is our attitude. We have let the genie out of the bottle, and history teaches that once this is done it is harder to squeeze it back in. We have released the toxic dialectic of race into our discourse. The electorate has proposed a racial solution to the facts. We shall resolve these problems through racial lenses – an English solution for an English people. We shall pull up our drawbridge and deal with these problems on our own terms. So be it. However for Christians this is troubling. First and foremost, our Christian response should be, not what we can grab from the EU, but what can we give to the EU. The UK is amongst one of the richest nations on earth, we must be prepared to shoulder our burden for the common good.
Amongst our European saints and philosophers is one who witnessed at first hand the last time these ‘solutions’ were tried out on European soil. Edith Stein (St Teresa Benedicta a Cruce) was a Jewess, atheist, German, Catholic and Carmelite nun. For her, labels are meaningless. Yet during the gravest crisis that Europe faced in the 1930s she recognised that at the heart of human existence was our intimate, fragile and mysterious relationship with the Divine. She also recognised that once that secret relationship was distorted and maimed by unscrupulous voices nothing can stop humans from entering the abyss. Now more than ever do we need her intercession. I have been praying to her constantly since last week. Not to protect us from our outside forces but to protect us from ourselves. We must heed the call to repentance. We must ask ourselves what part our own prejudice and ignorance is playing in the events that are unfolding with terrifying rapidity around us. How have we allowed our own racist fears to creep into our interpretation of the facts? How have we brutalised ourselves from the cries of our fellow human beings drowning and weeping on the shores of Europe? How have we ignored the gentle promptings of the Holy Spirit in our dealings with our fellow human beings? Like Edith, we all must now face these difficult questions today, at this hour, if greater catastrophes are to be averted...


As Matthew Parris has detailed in the Times last Saturday, this is not a fait accompli. What we have now is a constitutional mess. Two forms of democracy have clashed and the one that has worked more or less successfully for around 500 years (representational democracy) has been trumped by the third experiment  in direct democracy for the whole country in the history of the United Kingdom. The displeasure (and in some cases nausea) of our elected representatives to enact a vaguely kneejerk direct mandate is apparent – as Parris with his inside knowledge of parliament and the Tory party makes clear. It is clear that we must have another general election to secure this new mandate and this will happen within the next 12 months. This is the only way a Brexit mandate could be secured and enacted. The 60 million dollar question is – will the British electorate support such a mandate? This election will be a Brexit Election, it will be the only issue on the table. It is highly likely that such a mandate can be rejected – especially as seems now likely that we have entered into six months of unremitting economic and political chaos. So, now, for all who value freedom and the Europe of the Spirit (especially the young) the way forward is clear. We must prepare ourselves mentally, spiritually and physically for the struggle of the election to come. This will be the only issue we can fight and we must support all candidates who oppose the Brexit. At the same we must be extremely vigilant about our thoughts, actions and reactions.

Edith Stein, St Teresa Benedicta a Cruce, Pray for the United Kingdom, Pray for Europe, Pray for All Suffering Humanity. Amen.

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