A strange title veils what is probably Hilaire Belloc's most important book. For here this great Catholic historian analyzes for us-in sort of a culminating statement-what is the position of the Catholic Church in the world today, particularly as seen vis-a-vis her enemies. It is the Church's enemies, he maintains, and the nature of their attacks upon her, that reveal what exactly is her place and influence upon the world at any given point of history-and what are her opportunities for success.
The enemies of the Church, he says, always consist of three sorts: The "Survivals," or those enemies whose major attacks are on the wane, though still surviving; the "Main Opposition," whose attacks are presently at their peak; and the "New Arrivals," or those enemies of the Church that are just coming into the battle, whose attacks against the Church are just beginning or are only in the bud.
First published in 1929, Survivals and New Arrivals names "The Modern Mind" as one of the three main opponents of the Catholic Faith, which it obviously still is today. His analysis of "The Modern Mind" is nothing short of brilliant, and in places would be even hilarious if it were not so terribly and tragically true. For the Modern Mind, he says, is like a "blob of mud." You cannot penetrate it, filled as it is with all sorts of preconceived, undigested and unanalyzed notions it has accepted "on faith" from its two great sources of information: compulsory education and the popular press. The truths of the Catholic Faith cannot penetrate this sort of mind. (Belloc's comments about modern compulsory education are positively classic and more than worth reading the entire book.)
The overriding value of Survivals and New Arrivals, that which puts it in a class by itself among all Belloc's writings, is his description of "The Modern Mind" in union with his analysis of the "New Paganism," and what opportunities the present situation poses for the Catholic Faith at this particular juncture in history. For he sees a chance for the Church to turn things completely around because the advance of the New Paganism, he thinks, may come so fast as to offend the sensibilities of many non-Catholics and poorly formed Catholics, who will realize-from a cultural point of view-that something is dreadfully wrong.
No Belloc fan should miss the final chapter of this book, which might well be called "the culmination of all his historical analyses," for it contains the final fruit of his entire life, work, thought and writing, and contains as well, in germinal form, the battle plan for a Catholic counter-attack and final triumph. Belloc proclaims: "We live not only in a moment of confusion disappointment and anger, but also in a moment of Opportunity for the Faith."
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