World War I ended one hundred years ago today. There are many anecdotes relating to Catholicism from this cataclysmic event we could invoke to inspire us. There are also lessons from the conflict, which took 20 million lives, which we could apply to the spiritual and moral life to help us grow. With this in mind, allow me to quote at length an insight about the Great War from the historian James L. Stokesbury in A Short History of World War I:
In 1914, Europeans almost uniformly believed in the superiority of European culture, in their God-given right to dominate the rest of the world, to impose upon it their value systems, their ideas of politics, their economies. They had gone through the world carrying Manchester cotton and Solingen steel, the Bible in one hand and a repeating rifle in the other, and they had assumed that 'lesser breeds without the law' would eventually see the wisdom and superiority of their ways. Europeans thought they had a right to patrol Chinese rivers and run the Chinese customs service and indeed they did it pretty well. An Englishman could face down an Indian mob simply because he was an Englishman and the mob were not. That was gone now. World War I showed Europeans in stark clarity that they were human after all. To be human is not only to err, it is also to doubt, and once it doubted its ability to do so, this little corner of the earth, this little appendix of Asia, would no longer be able to dictate to the rest of the world. What World War I really killed was Europe's sense of itself. It was not Europeans, in the long run, who caught the torch thrown by failing hands.
Nationalism leads to destruction. We, as Catholics, must be ambitious about holiness and nothing more.