Thomas Malcolm Muggeridge was born in England on March 24, 1903 at the end of the pontificate of Pope Leo XIII. Though he wouldn't realize it until he was in his seventies, the ideas he espoused were first embraced by this Pope who bridged the 19th and 20th Century. Perhaps it was because he had been brought up a socialist because his father was so involved in politics as a member of Parliament. Whatever it was, it prompted him to think below the surface and see that socialism was not the answer. After graduating from Cambridge University in 1924 he traveled to India to teach but returned three years later to pop the question to his sweetheart Katherine "Kitty" Dobbs. They were married shortly thereafter. In early 1925 the couple moved to Egypt where he was offered a job as a teacher. In the land of the pyramids he began getting to the point with his writings, landing a freelance position as a journalist. Soon his byline was in the Manchester Guardian, Calcutta Statesman, Evening Standard and Daily Telegraph newspapers. The Manchester Guardian was so impressed that they offered him a correspondence post in Moscow. From 1932-33 he could see first hand the devastation and Marxist suppression in the Ukraine, a country starving from famine. It opened his eyes wider than ever that socialism and communism were not the ideals to strive for or embrace.
His next position was as assistant editor for the Calcutta Statesman but that was interrupted in the forties when he enlisted in the Army Intelligence Corps serving in Italy, Mozambique and France. After the war he became correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph stationed in Washington D.C. Here he began writing more than just journalistic articles. Always gifted with a satirical wit, he polished his style to project to the new medium of broadcasting - both radio and TV. It wasn't long before he became one of the more controversial personalities of his time. From 1953 to 1957 he was the editor of Britain's leading humor magazine Punch and he gave it quite a punch. Time and again he tweaked consciences and provoked emotions both good and bad. He was making an impact and meeting and interviewing giants of his time - Gandhi, Charles de Gaule, Nikita Kruschev, Graham Greene, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy, John Foster Dulles, to name a few. But none left as deep an impact as a frail little nun from Albania whom he first met in Calcutta.
It was during the sixties, as a producer for the British Broadcasting Company that he came across this relatively unknown nun who was attracting women to her new order. Not a Catholic, but curious as to what prompted women the world over to join her and don the blue and white sari, for this was around the same time as the Guyana tragedy with Jim Jones, he delved deeper into the phenomena of the Missionaries of Charity. The more he researched the more he realized she was for real and something greater was motivating her to sacrifice her all for others. The more time he spent with her, the more he realized the truth he had been searching for. He produced "Something Beautiful for God" and the world discovered a modern saint.
Mother Teresa, always the prodder, wouldn't let go of his soul and through her prayers and example, he became an expert Christian apologist, pouring through the works of G.K. Chesterton and the scholars of the Church from Augustine to Aquinas. He became a crusader for the orthodox cause and, ever the satirist and iconoclast, his writings changed drastically for the good. He and his bride of 54 years Kitty were received into the Church on November 27, 1982 at the tender age of 79. His conversion was a very welcome addition in the storied annals of other great converts from Saint Paul to Saint Augustine to G.K. Chesterton to Scott Hahn in our present day. Malcolm Muggeridge would live eleven more productive, fruitful years, passing from this life on November 14, 1990.
His legacy he personally attributes to Mother Teresa whom he credited solely with his conversion, "Words cannot express how beholden I am to her. She has given me a whole new vision of what being a Christian means; of the amazing power of love, and how in one dedicated soul it can burgeon to cover the world. Mother Teresa told me in Calcutta how the Eucharist each morning kept her going; without this she would falter and lose her way. How, then, could I turn aside from such spiritual nourishment?" From his first meeting with Mother Teresa to his death his writings reflected his strong orthodox stance on matters of faith. He was not afraid to take on the dissidents and the liberal, modernist radicals who tried to ramrod their own will on the faithful through bogus reforms that they attempted to pawn off on unsuspecting churchgoers who were led to believe Vatican II dictated those changes. Malcolm was an expert at stripping away the mask and exposing the false charlatans.
Never one to be a "joiner," it surprised many when he was baptized a Catholic. His own words bear out his convictions. "There are a lot of things to admire in the Roman Catholic Church - its survival, its plainsong, its authentic internationalism, the tough, obstinate battle it has waged against the 20th century; above all, the fact that, with all its villainies and chicanery, it has managed to keep the allegiance of the poor...the Protestant churches have long ago become, like N.A.T.O., a headquarters without an army." He backed up his words when he resigned his position as Rector of Edinburgh University in Scotland. He had been elected by the students for his strong views and engaging, cryptic but powerful style of writing and presentation. A year later, however, the student council voted to distribute birth control pills and other contraceptive methods and Malcolm, a strong proponent of Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae, resigned his position out of principal because he believed so strongly in the Sanctity of Life. He wrote, "It was the Catholic Church's firm stand against contraception and abortion which finally made me decide to become a Catholic...The Church's stand is absolutely correct. It is to its eternal honour that it opposed contraception, even if the opposition failed. I think, historically, people will say it was a very gallant effort to prevent a moral disaster." From that time on the media dubbed him "St. Mugg" which he took in stride, not because he felt he was a saint, but because he had so little respect for the follies of his fellow journalists who, for the most part, wrote on the surface without ever delving deeper to discover the truths in the fathoms of faith and reason.
His best works came after his Godincidence meeting with Mother Teresa. Shortly after producing the documentary on her that literally made her an international celebrity, he wrote Jesus Rediscovered, followed by a book on Mother by the same title as his documentary and which sold out three printings. In 1973 he wrote Chronicles of Wasted Time in which he mulled over his choices and concluded that Catholicism was the only path. But he hesitated because of the human elements within the Church and he had to work that out in his heart, especially one that so embraced orthodoxism. It can be said that the drastic changes wrought by the "spirit of Vatican II" delayed his conversion for five to ten years. The Washington Post said of his latter work, "one of the most delightful and entertaining memoirs of our age." In 1975 he published Jesus: The Man Who Lives followed two years later with Christ and the Media. Three years after that he came out with The End of Christendom followed by A Third Testament in 1983. In 1988 he released one of his most soul-searching works in Confessions of a 20th Century Pilgrim. He was truly a 20th Century Pilgrim, spanning the entire century by decades. As his days waned, he became a correspondent again, this time writing for New Oxford Review, a staunch orthodox Catholic publication which took on his persona and continues to this day to be a beacon in the dark seas of liberalism within the Church.
Before he died, Malcolm summed up his journey "Our entry into the Church is settled, which gives me, not so much exhilaration as a deep peace; to quote my own words: A sense of homecoming, of picking up the threads of a lost life, of responding to a bell that had long been ringing, of taking a place at a table that had long been vacant." The world is an emptier place without his sharp, needed barbs to keep us all on the straight and narrow and we thank him for alerting us to a soon-to-be saint and thank Mother for bringing ol' St. Mugg out of the cold and into the fold.
In the most recent issue of that excellent monthly publication The Catholic World Report, the editor Phil Lawler wrote an eye-opening editorial entitled "The Second Collection" in which we need to take note of where our donations are going. This editorial is not about that so much as the fact that a few weeks ago parishes in every diocese took up a second collection for the victims of the Turkish earthquakes and that is commendable. In keeping with this spirit, we encourage the NCCB to take up another second collection in the near future for the poor people and Church in East Timor. We doubt few have had their population so depleted as in this far eastern island in the Indonesian archipelago where Saint Francis Xavier brought the faith in the sixteenth century. The people there were weaned on the faith by the Portuguese over the centuries while all the other islands were building a Muslim monarchy, if you will, to become the largest contingent of Islam in the world. Like the middle ages and the Saracens' slaughter of thousands of Christians which prompted the Crusades, the infidel's scythe of terror has raised its ugly head again in East Timor, not only suppressing, intimidating and denying the people there of their God-given right to freedom, but annihilating over a third of the entire population. In addition, the pro-Jakarta militia, aided by many in the Indonesian military who were trained by the U.S., have wreaked havoc on the people and the Catholic Church, persecuting many priests and religious and uprooting hundreds of thousands forcefully deporting them to West Timor where they are forcing them to either forsake their Catholicism or face the consequences of death and destruction.
As we near the third millennium we, as a society, have not really improved much have we? Consider that a little less than 2000 years ago the Romans were persecuting the Christians in similar fashion, deporting them to islands off the Italian coast, slaughtering them in the Circus Maximus, persecuting them by trying to find their hiding places in the catacombs and hunting them down. Now fast forward to the early evening years of 1999 and there is little difference. Catholics are being hunted down as anti-Independence guerrillas try to ferret out those Timorese Catholics hiding in the mountains. Priests and nuns are being executed, villages set ablaze, half the population left homeless. Had it not been for Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo alerting the world a few years ago no telling what worse dangers would have befallen these poor people; though it's difficult to imagine anything worse than what has happened to date. Had it not been for Pope John Paul II entreating the world and the United Nations to respond to the plight of East Timor, who knows how many might have been killed. The Holy Father remains the lone voice of reason, hope and trust in a world besieged by the culture of death. And as death visits East Timor in the aftermath of the people's overwhelming vote for freedom, praise God the Australians have arrived to save the day. They have been at the ready for a month but weren't given authorization to land in Dili, East Timor until the damage had been done. How many leaders from Indonesian President B.J. Habibie to Kofi Annan to Bill Clinton will have to answer for the delay and answer to God for the tens of thousands more killed because they dilly-dallied, playing politics with a corrupt Indonesian military while priests, nuns and laity were slaughtered, churches and homes torched to the ground.
To their credit, Australia has been the lone dissenting voice that has steadfastly refused to recognize East Timor as part of Indonesia, always opposing the forced annexation of East Timor several decades ago. Now Australia has finally taken action, albeit it late, but as they say better late than never! In the days ahead East Timor faces the monumental task of rebuilding both their lives and hopes, not to mention buildings - homes and churches. Crops have been destroyed, rice is scarce. Water is contaminated by the blood of the martyrs. The United Nations and other countries need to subsidize East Timor in every way they can. And the Church in America that has funded dissident groups, partisan political causes and many organizations not compatible with Church Doctrine, needs to take note and focus their efforts on helping fellow Catholics on the other side of the world; far away in distance but close to our hearts and thoughts. After all the Catholic Church is universal. That means helping Catholics universally. Isn't it time to take up a second collection and fill the coffers with generous love offerings for the survivors of the martyrs of East Timor? We ourselves can't afford much, but whatever widow's mite we can spare we will gladly give to keep the Faith alive for though man cannot live on bread alone, it is vital that they have the Bread of Life. Besides rice and relief, the Bread of Life is what East Timor longs for and needs! Our prayers and offerings will help provide nourishment for the body and the soul for these poor, persecuted brothers and sisters. It's the least we can do to help East Timor! Now it's time for the Bishops to begin the campaign and pass the collection plate! As members of the family of the Church militant the hurts that East Timorese have endured hurt all of us, so with just 100 days left, let's live our faith and give until it hurts!
Richard I the Lion Hearted is captured by Saracens thus basically ending the Third Crusade.
Death of the celebrated Pontifical Librarian Bartholomeus Platinum.
Pope Clement XIV issues his first encyclical Decet quam maxime on abuses in taxes and benefices.
Pope Benedict XV donates one million lira to feed the Russians.