Glen Argan

Glen Argan

Glen Argan, former editor of Western Catholic Reporter, writes from Edmonton. See

Although I didn’t know it at the time, my life changed profoundly one summer evening in 1976. I was partying with friends at a cottage in central New Brunswick. After some time, I wanted some quiet and went to sit on the pier on the peaceful lake. 

In the frigid early morning hours of Dec. 21, 2021, young Calgary resident Asher Atter set out, in his own words, to “fight a downtown addict.” According to a front page story in the March 1 Globe and Mail, Atter then attacked a homeless man in a light-rail transit station. He sprayed the man’s face with a fire extinguisher and stabbed him in the back, cutting into his liver. 

The Lenten season is a time of repentance, a time of turning away from our many idolatries and toward the mercy of the Loving Presence. That turning is expressed concretely in the threefold discipline of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, all of which express the deepest fact of our existence: we are but creatures utterly dependent on the Creator in every way.

St. Paul’s hymn of love in 1 Corinthians 13 is commonly used as the New Testament reading at weddings. It is a good choice as it is a reminder that love can be difficult and that it requires husband and wife each to go beyond their comfort zone for love to be real.

Although St. Francis de Sales is counted among the great saints, the first I heard of him was in his role as patron saint of writers, journalists and the Catholic press. I remained with that meagre knowledge for years until I encountered then-Bishop Thomas Collins who was and is a great fan of St. Francis.

Few, if any, people in the 20th century thought as deeply about the nature of hope and eternal life as Pope Benedict XVI. Before being named Archbishop of Munich in 1978, Joseph Ratzinger published a theological tome on death, immortality, resurrection, the last judgment and the human destinies of Heaven, purgatory and hell. As Pope Benedict, he wrote an encyclical Spe Salvi (On Christian Hope) based on the belief that Christians know their lives are not empty, that they have an eternal destiny.

As the COVID pandemic began three years ago, many asked what the new normal might be once it subsided. In that question, there was an optimism, even hope, that a massive amount of suffering and death would smarten us up, spur us to become more concerned for the needs of others. 

It has been more than four months since the end of Pope Francis’ visit to Canada to meet with Indigenous people and apologize for the Catholic Church’s involvement and acts of terror in the Indian residential school system. It’s long enough for the next steps in the journey of reconciliation to have been at least discussed. Yet, there has been next to nothing.

Since my teenage years, I have wondered what a better world would look like. What sort of society should we hope for? I also wonder if our world did become better, would we even know that to be the case. That is, what criteria would enable us to determine when the state of the world had improved?

People in the modern Western world are often shocked when they read Plato’s Republic and see the great philosopher criticizing democracy as one of the lowest forms of governing society. For Plato, democracy and tyranny (the lowest form) are as one with the tyrant merely the most self-centred type of ruler.