Msgr. Ronald Knox died on August 24th, 1957, which makes today his feast day. May he, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.
"... the moment you allow people to read history in the light of their own prejudices, you must despair of finding any agreement of opinion as to what is higher and what is lower in the scale of development. One believes that our international politics are tending towards world peace and world brotherhood; another sees a progressive and a salutary growth of the sense of separate nationality going on all around us. One holds that our psychic gifts are the latest flower of our civilization, and through them lies the gateway to all further human advancement; another will tell you that these psychic gifts are a mere survival of the beast in us, and that the ordinary horse or dog is far more sensitive to uncanny spiritualistic impressions than is the ordinary man. And as to the widespread neglect of organized religion in our day, you will find some writers who regard it as merely backwash of an intellectual movement, others who hail it as the beginning of a purer, more spiritual conception of religion; others, again, who take it as evidence that the whole Christian superstition is tottering to its downfall. It's odd, isn't it, that we all agree in proclaiming that man evolves, yet no two of us can agree how, or since when, or into what?
It's odd, and it's worse than odd, it's tragic. For the world is full of young men who go about wanting to evolve as they ought to evolve (though why they shouldn't let the world evolve without them, if they think it gets better ever day, is sometimes a puzzle to me) and to them it is a life-and-death question, "Where is all this progress of the human species leading to?" And when, wearied of debate, and baffled by a thousand unanswered questions, they cease to worry about the remote future, and determine to let civilization go its own way and save itself or damn itself as it pleases, what is left to them?
There is left to them one movement still which remains untried, a movement so purposeful that it is easily mistaken for a conspiracy, yet so sure of itself that it needs no program and no platform, begs no support from the presumed approval of a shadowy posterity. Such is the Catholic Church, which has no theories as to whether mankind is moving, and if so in what direction; nor, if it were assured that there were any such tendency, would swerve aside for one moment from its appointed path. For the message which the Church of God preserves is a message not to the human race in the aggregate, but to each solitary, individual soul. Its hero, God's hero, the character in the world's drama which holds the Angels breathless with expectation, is not mankind but Man: this man or that man, you and I, with our hopes and ambitions, our difficulties and strivings, our falls and recoveries.
"Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is all man"; the human race exists to make heaven populous, and that end has to be achieved by us singly, in the dreadful loneliness of our dual destiny. Whether Christendom is marching forward to fresh world conquests, or whether the Son of Man, when he comes, is to find but little faith on the earth, the end of Man will be achieved - is daily being achieved, according to the plan of his creation. The end of Man is realized whenever the gates of heaven open once more, and one more pardoned soul struggles to the feet of its Creator."
Excerpted from The Beginning and End of Man, a series of sermons delivered by Ronald Knox at Our Lady of Victories, Kensington, in October, 1920