Padre’s Corner

Worst year in history?

By Padre Capt Mark SG Sceviour,
Fleet Chaplain

What a year 2020 has been. Some would argue that it has been the worst year. I would suggest that it has been a bad year, but maybe not the worst ever.

Let’s not forget 1349 – The Black Death came and killed almost half of Europe’s population. Surely 1520, when approximately 60 to 90 percent of the indigenous peoples of North America died of smallpox, should also get a mention. What about 1918? After four years of bloody warfare, the Spanish Flu killed 50 million people. And for some, 1933, when Hitler came to power, is the worst of all.

But none of the above mentioned years can compare to 536(CE). To be fair, 536 in itself wasn’t the worst year on its own. It is what spiraled from that year that makes 536 the real winner of the worst year award.

In 536 a dense unexplainable fog rolled in nearly all over Europe. The fog stayed over parts of Europe for two years. Imagine living two years in the fog (if you live in Eastern Passage you might not find this amazing). With the fog constantly rolling in, the annual temperatures dropped, which meant crops didn’t grow. With smaller crops and less variety, people’s diets were drastically reduced. With reduced nutrients, people were susceptible to diseases. In 541, the Bubonic Plague swept over Europe, killing 25 million people. Uncontrollable outbreaks of the plague would last for centuries. This constant cycle of poor crops, poor diet, and mass death lead to constant violent conflict over resources and people. This era of death and dying is known as the Dark Ages.

The Dark Ages is also known by another name – The Migration Period. It is the time when the Huns, Goths, Vandals, and Franks moved into Southern Europe. This migration brought fear, and caused some to fight violently for a bygone era, a world before the fog.

A small few, however, saw this change as a chance to start anew. The migration brought new ideas, new perspectives and a new hope. Without the math, science and wonder that the migrating people brought to Europe, we wouldn’t have the Renaissance. The Dark Ages (very slowly, for the people living through it) transformed into the Renaissance. The Renaissance brought us art and culture that we are still in awe of today. From the death and dying of the Dark Ages came an age of discovery and revelation.

There is no doubt that 2020 was a bad year. Just watch the news, we are still feeling the effects. The question is: where do we want to be when we come out of this? We can’t go back to living life the way it was before ‘the fog’. We have to accept that things have changed. We can choose to find hope in all of this, or we can choose to keep fighting. We can choose to live our own version of the Dark Ages, or we can choose to migrate our thinking and enthusiastically enter a new era – one where we are kinder to each other, where life is more important than money, and where seniors are not hidden away, but embraced as our elders.

We are all in the darkness right now “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light, and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” (Ephesians 5: 8-14)

With prayer and guidance we can find a way out of the darkness. “I will turn the darkness before them into light.” (Isaiah 42:16) 

We need to leave the darkness behind and have our own Renaissance. Perhaps someday, someone will look back at 2020 and say ‘That was a bad year, but look what came out of that darkness. The world is now a better place.’