In the Dark Ages following the disintegration of the Roman
Empire, people struggled with war, poverty and disease. Society
seemed to have lost its intellectual and cultural center.
So, here is a thought: During those dark years, probably few
people woke up and thought how glad they would be when the hard
times were over and civilization revived in a new explosion of art,
music and exploration. They thought the life they had was the way
life would always be. They had no way of knowing we would look back
on the years 400 - 1000 A.D. and label their time as the "Dark
So, here is a question: Are we living in a new "Dark Age"
without realizing where we are? When we see the senseless violence
everywhere, we seem to be living in a time of spiritual darkness.
Where the human spirit is concerned, our center grounded in faith
in the Eternal appears to have fallen apart. It feels as though
lack of faith, cynicism, depression, greed and hate gain ground
with every senseless act of violence.
In addition, in spite of all of our technology, war, hunger,
poverty and disease afflict a growing number of people in too many
countries. Peace has become the Holy Grail of modern civilization.
We continually chase peace, but it is always just beyond our
We have a letter our older daughter sent some years ago when she
traveled among the small islands in the San Blas Territory off the
coast of Panama. She wrote; "The Kona Indians on these islands have
maintained their traditional lifestyle in spite of the pressures of
modern society. They believe they are God's chosen people and that
God wants them to live in peace and harmony. Any time anyone in the
clan causes a disruption, the entire tribe is in jeopardy of not
going to heaven.
"They don't have jails. They don't need them. They frequently
have town meetings where people talk about any problems. It's just
like a big group therapy session. Over the years several different
missionaries have come to the islands. However, since the
missionaries always fight among themselves, which the Indians know
goes against God's plan, they prefer their own faith to ours."
How can we stop the darkness from overwhelming us? A son of the
early years of the Dark Ages (480-583), St. Benedict must have
wondered the same thing. His answer was to establish small pockets
of peace where work and study and community could flourish.
I think we are called to do the same. Our homes can become
little pockets of peace where children and parents safely grow in
love and faith. Our schools and churches can become havens against
the darkness. Each of us must light a candle and let it shine. The
little each of us can contribute makes a difference to someone here
In J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, Gandalf says: "Saruman
believes it is only great power that can hold evil back. But that
is not what I have found. I have found that it is the small
every-day deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay.
Small acts of kindness and love."
Just as the Renaissance in art, music and literature grew out of
the old Dark Ages, I think perhaps a new Renaissance, one of the
human spirit, is waiting just a little further down the road. Just
over the horizon, where we can't yet see, there may be a new dawn
of faith, a new understanding of how interconnected we are, a new
appreciation for our broken planet and a new gratitude for
Even if we can see it yet, we can help us get there one small
act of peace and kindness at a time.