The Plains States and America's Future

The halls and vast columned spaces of the St. Scholastica convent in Atchison, Kansas, are dark and empty now. The sisters who filled these buildings with busy religious life for several generations are dead or departed into the secular world with the virtual demise of convent life as a result of Vatican II. I talk quietly in a corner of the chapel with an aged nun who remains true to her vows and who, after 60 years as a religious, is dutiful, obedient, and devoted. The world is full of disappearing or vanished eras, and the ordered life of a large convent, grounded in the ancient ways of Christendom, is only one of many forms of existence that have been damaged by time's relentless flood.

The end is all around us in life, as small and large epochs are eclipsed. In small towns and great cities entire communities lie asleep in graveyards, marked only bv weathering letters on marble markers. Life that is so vivid for a little while quickly becomes lost from sight. With each generation there is a new, albeit ephemeral phase of modernity, which in time fades away. Civilized life is periodic in character. In Atchison, London, New York, Mexico City, or wherever, the vibrant structures of a decade, generation, or century soon become skeletons. Entire eras, like individuals, disappear unless uncovered and brought to life by scholars, writers, and moralists.

Only in the historical mind's eye do the human actors and patterns...

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