While there is a long-standing tradition to “ring in” the New Year with bells that peal in sanguine salute of a new year with new opportunities and new resolutions, there is also a tendency to wring our hands over the year past. And while Catholics are often all too ready to wring, perhaps there is another wringing we should undertake as we ring in 2022. Let’s consider some of the main news events that gave Catholics concern or comfort in 2021 through the lens of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s famed 1850 New Year’s poem, “Ring Out, Wild Bells.” And from it, let us judge carefully what we must celebrate and what we must condemn and what we, as faithful Catholics, must gear up our loins for as we head into 2022.
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
2021 was not much of an improvement over the infamous 2020. The times remain as wild and weird as ever, and the call to advance toward the rational and righteous light of life in our culture remains as strong. As Catholics, we believe that death is a portal to life, and so we welcome the passing of things as moments of resurrection. 2021 is dying out under the indifferent palls of cloud and frost, of political vendettas and pandemic variants, and the only thing that can promise a breaking up of shadows and shackles is an attitude of courage and hope. Onwards.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring in 2022 with the happy determination not to fall to sloth, that wintry vice that despairs over the difficulty of virtue. Let us let old grievances die so that we can assist in the grace of Christ that makes all things new again in the wild miracle of salvation. “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life,” says the Lord, and the way to life is truth. So be it. Ours is an age of prescribed falsehood and intentional ambiguity, which are the devil’s chief tools in bewildering those who would find the solid ground of right and wrong, reality and unreality. Let us stand firm on what we know to be true regarding sex, life, and love and begin to take what steps we can away from the seemingly comfortable confusions of the world.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
The divisions that define our society are so much divisions of mind that are often willful and wily. To be a racist, or intolerant, or homophobic, or Republican, or Democrat are all weaponized terms that are meant to marginalize and, to use Hamlet’s words, “spread compost on the weeds to make them ranker.” George Floyd was not a race martyr, though he was a victim of Derek Chauvin’s culpable neglect. It is finished. Kyle Rittenhouse was a child thrown into a government-sanctioned terror event and, thankfully, was given the redress that a child deserves. Rise above the feuds.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
The Capitol “insurrection” of January 6 is constantly foisted as a brainwashing tactic to paint the Right red with blood, when it was nothing more than a foolish frenzy of frustrated citizens. The trouble is agreeing to the truth. We can all find relief that Theodore McCarrick was dragged into court to answer for his secrets of sexual misconduct. Truth prevails. Why, then, when the truth is spoken boldly by Fr. James Altman, he’s banished?
We are better than that and should act like it. We are all Americans. Some of us are Catholics. Many of us are Christians. We are all, at least, believers in decency and civilization. Let us grieve for what is tragic but call a spade a spade, and grind out the fabricated divisions of class, race, religious bickering, and political posturing and let all that is “woke” wither in a growing dawn of truth and law. It is never too late.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Faithless coldness nips sharply at the Catholic bloodstream with Pope Francis launching an all-out cold war against the Traditional Latin Mass, edging it and its Christ-loving adherents toward exile and perhaps even a preplanned schism. The uniquely lukewarm liturgies of the broken Vatican Council are being spitefully paraded and applauded and insisted upon as though they were the emperor’s new clothes. At the same time, Austin Ruse’s book proclaims there’s “no finer time to be a faithful Catholic,” and he’s right. Let us ring like singing minstrels on the road with Fr. Altman and the FSSP. “Vulpes foveas habent et volucres caeli nidos Filius autem hominis non habet ubi caput reclinet.”
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
As a publicly professed Catholic, President Biden should uphold the natural law and protect the innocent lives of unborn babies—especially if he approaches the Lord’s Table, despite what Pope Francis allegedly told him in Rome. Of course, the highly anticipated USCCB Eucharistic document overtly sidestepped all the overt issues of the day regarding the proper reception of Holy Communion. But scandal and slander though it be, let us not forget the beams in our own eyes and let those who eat and drink to their own judgment deal with their conscience now and their God in time to come.
Justice will come to those who pray patiently for the common good, as may be proved if Roe v. Wade ends up on the Supreme Court’s chopping block after the 2022 ruling on the Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. (Thank you, President Trump.)
Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
The time has come for COVID-19 to assume the shape of seasonal flu. Though lives and livelihoods have been sadly lost, buried somewhere in the panic over the pandemic is a lust for political power and pharmaceutical gold. Foul feelings over lockdowns, masks, and vaccine mandates still fester, and Catholics should stand their ground wherever and however they can against absurdity and moral compromise. But calmly accepting this strain of sickness for what it is, is the realistic and scientific stance. The media above all want this war to drag on like another Afghanistan, but it is old news. Let COVID die. Let us resist what we must in an attitude of peace and leave the wild war of the epidemiologists in our wake.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.
The thing that makes the Catholic Faith beautiful is its indomitable optimism. For us, there is always forgiveness, a chance to begin anew, and the expectation of Christ. The world is not unhappy and broken. The pessimism that fragments reality is a chimera. Creation is not divided but unified. Like Don Quixote, we ride forth valiantly in the power of Christian optimism, Christian ingenuity, and the glorious Christian folly that perceives the highest realities in the lowliest realities. With larger hearts and kindlier hands, we must ring with the brightness of great faith in a faithless land to catechize, convert, and conquer with the simple, steady insistence of a bell.
We ring in the New Year with bells rung backwards because we have dreams that are lofty, and we believe in them. It is only when the vision is lost, when pragmatism shakes off perfection, when marvelous ideals are replaced with mundane impositions, that tragedy sets in, ringing in what Tennyson calls “the want, the care, the sin/The faithless coldness of the times.” Let us ring in 2022 with joy, and instead of wringing our hands over the misfortune and madness that infests the past and threatens to infect the future, let us wring out the old year like a rag and keep scouring with a will.
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