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Like most people, I was angry, resentful, lonely, and aimless during lockdown in spring 2020—when the world as we all knew it ended. I had been thriving at Hillsdale College, where I was studying literature, forming my first deep friendships, and experiencing a reversion to the Catholic faith of my childhood, propelled by my first encounters with Augustine, Dante, Hopkins, and professors who cared. I unwillingly packed up my books and things and followed I-80 through Ohio and Pennsylvania. Corn fields turned into suburbs as I neared my home in Connecticut, and fellow travelers started eyeing me suspiciously if I got close to them at rest stops. As two weeks turned into forever, I felt that things had been stolen from me: a semester at classes, my professors’ guidance, my friendships, a sense of purpose, the body of Christ, time. A weariness crept over me.

It was at that crucial moment that First Things entered my life. I lit on R. R. Reno’s article “Say ‘No’ to Death’s Dominion,” especially this line: “Satan rules a kingdom in which the ultimate power of death is announced morning, noon, and night.” In these words, I realized that behind my anger was an instinctive recognition that physical life is not the ultimate good, and that making basic survival the goal creates a culture of fear and materialism ruled by death’s cold hand. We must not mistake a long life for a good life.

When John Paul II introduced “culture of life” to our lexicon in the ’90s, he was reflecting on Christ’s words: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Death has been conquered! A culture of life, therefore, means not just preserving physical life, but developing rich spiritual, intellectual, and emotional lives. We cultivate this abundance by receiving the Eucharist, building rich communities, forming friendships and familial bonds, sacrificing for others and fulfilling our duties to them, reading and thinking, exchanging ideas, and joyfully celebrating the blessing of life with feasting, song, and poetry—all things we must do together.

First Things offers its readers a cornucopia of life. Here, we know life doesn’t flourish in solitude or fear. That’s why First Things offers the world nourishing essays and poetry; it is why we host annual Erasmus lectures in New York City and intellectual retreats around the country; it is why we partner with the Athenaeum Center and Belmont Abbey College to reach readers in Chicago and North Carolina; it is why our editors witness for life in the hostile streets of New York City; it is why we have developed a YouTube channel; it is why we hold an annual poetry reading in our office; it is why we celebrate the ROFTERs groups you create, which bring our pages to life in communities of love and friendship.

Again, life does not flourish in solitude, but in fellowship. Consider contributing to our cause by supporting First Things this Advent season.

Elizabeth Bachmann is assistant editor at First Things.

Resist junk food journalism. Support journalism that nourishes the mind and soul by contributing to our year-end campaign today.

Image by Wikimedia Commons via GetArchive licensed via Creative Commons. Image cropped.

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