Rorate Caeli

100 years ago, the Dual Monarchy delivered its ultimatum to Serbia
- A recommended video on World War I -- and the end of Civilization

July 24, 1914 paper reports on Ultimatum:
the July Crisis reaches its zenith
Vienna had received on July 6 the "blank cheque" (Blankoscheck) from Berlin, and, on July 23, 1914, the ultimatum related to the aftermath of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his consort was delivered to Belgrade -- exactly 100 years ago today. The ultimatum had been drafted in such a way that it would be impossible for any honorable nation to accept it, and Serbia had until Saturday, July 25, 1914, at 6 p.m. to accept it, or risk war.

At this moment, the mechanism that would trigger the war was almost in place but, incredibly, Russia and the British Government prevailed upon Serbia to practically accept all of the ultimatum's demands, except for a minor detail. In France, the secularist elite had alienated the Catholic majority of the population (that was in those days with their eyes fixed in Lourdes for the 25th International Eucharistic Congress, held from July 20 to July 25), and the country was still divided in half right before the conflict.

In any event, with the systemic failure of the elites of some (not all!) of these countries avid for war, even the late-moment efforts for peace failed, and the localized affair became a general European conflagration in just a matter of days.

The following short documentary by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Catholic News Service on all aspects surrounding World War I, from its origins to its consequences, is a little web jewel, because in a very short time (under 20 minutes) and with the help of historians such as Christopher Clark, Margaret MacMillan, David Berlinski and the great Roberto de Mattei, it shows what Europe was and what Europe became.

Europe is our cultural center. Explaining it better, Europe itself, geographically, is just a mostly verdant tiny angle in the huge continent known as Eurasia, the largest in the world, and it was the Church that, following the collapse of the Roman Empire (which was not properly a European affair, but a Southern-European/Levantine/North African affair) and the Arab invasions, gathered as it were with her own hands the heritage of the Christian Faith, and of the civilized remains of Greece and Rome and coalesced these and the traditions of so many different tribes and peoples in a true Civilization, the greatest and most beautiful the world has ever seen. It was as if God had created a little beautiful, though agitated, resting place for Himself in the continent before the Church expanded rapidly and globally in the age of discoveries and beyond.

Many Christians were left behind in the older parts of the former Empire in the East when the Muslim hordes cut them from Christian lands -- a process that, as we can see with our very eyes, is ongoing. Europe in the early 20th century, as we can read in the stern warnings of Popes Leo XIII and Saint Pius X, had imbibed too much of an anti-Christian discourse. It appeared -- not merely appeared, it truly was -- at the height of its global power. Yet, as Saint Paul had warned, "Wherefore he that thinketh himself to stand, let him take heed lest he fall."(I Cor. 10:12) What an astounding warning of the frailty of the human condition and political power the First World War is for us!

As Benedict XV warned, and as de Mattei reminds us in the video, the Great War was nothing less than the collective "Suicide of Europe." Saint Pius X, the ailing Pope who would pass away only days after the beginning of the conflict, died along with his Civilization. And Berlinski's words resound powerful:

"The one thing we can take away from the 20th Century is the unquestioned, the undoubted fact that it destroyed Western Civilization, it destroyed a great, ancient, 2,500-year-old Civilization. There is just nothing left of it."

He is slightly mistaken, which is quite fine for a non-Catholic. There is one thing left of it: the Traditional Liturgies of the Church, and, in the West, the Traditional Roman Mass in particular, which crafted this Civilization. In it, Christ is truly alive, and the voices of our forefathers in the faith speak to us with a freshness ever new, as if a new masterpiece came to light every single day. Not like the representation of a great work of the performing arts, which remains dead to all effects, but the Re-Presentation of the greatest event in History, in the language and signs of a City that will never die.

Please, watch the video below