My children, we are here to conquer or die. In death or in victory, you will win immortality.
Don Juan of Austria to his sailors and troops prior to the battle of Lepanto
One of the more distressing aspects of contemporary Catholicism is the transformation from the Church Militant to the Church Mushy. Catholicism did not survive for twenty tumultuous centuries by being a religion for lukewarm cowards. Father Z explains what the Church Militant is for the benefit of poorly educated, in the Faith, Catholics who probably comprise a majority of the members of the Church these days:
I post this because our dear Michael Sean Winters had a little nutty about my use of this term over at the Fishwrap (aka National Schismatic Reporter).
All of you Catholics who are reading this, even if you mostly identify with the dissenters at the Fishwrap, are members of the Church Militant, the Ecclesia Militans.
“Militant” is a scary word for libs (keep that paper bag handy) because it looks like the English word “military” (which must be a bad thing to belong to).
Militant comes from Latin milito, “to be a soldier, to perform military service”. Note, “service”.
As a Catholic who is militans, “militant”, that means that we dedicate ourselves with obedience and zeal to the role we are given in life through our calling and through our talents and good inclinations, our vocations in life. It means that we are also prepared to fight the enemy wherever and whenever threats to the salvation of our own souls and our neighbor’s souls present themselves. It means working together as units and not as individuals merely. It means good conditioning and through drills in knowing well our Catholic Faith and practicing virtues and discipline in the use of the Sacraments. It means submission to the Church’s teaching authority and her duly ordaining pastors. It means fidelity, loyalty and even a willingness to die.
I now urge the Fishwrap types to have at hand a paper bag they can breathe into.
The Church Militant is made up of the living, we who are still on pilgrimage through this vale of tears, as the Salve Regina describes our earthly life. The whole Church can be described as having three main kinds of membership, namely, those who are still alive here on Earth, those who are in an earthly sense dead but who live in Heaven (the Church Triumphant) and those who have died but who are, during their time of purification in Purgatory, awaiting their entrance into Heaven (the Church Suffering or Penitent). These three are united, in one Holy Church, in a common “communion of saints”, even though we of the Church Militant often aren’t very saintly.
Church Militant is a common and traditional way to describe the living members of the Church. For example, find it used as a hinge pin in the Catholic Encyclopedia. Even though the Catechism of the Catholic Church 954 doesn’t explicitly use the terms Militant, Suffering and Triumphant, the concepts are clearly there when it describes the membership of the Church:
The three states of the Church. “When the Lord comes in glory, and all his angels with him, death will be no more and all things will be subject to him. But at the present time some of his disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating ‘in full light, God himself triune and one, exactly as he is”‘
That paragraph in the CCC quotes Lumen gentium 49; Mt 25:31 (which describes the separation of the blessed from the damned); 1 Cor 15:26-27 (which describes the ultimate triumph of God at the end of things); and the Council of Florence (1439) in DS 1305. I will add that LG 43, on religious institutes, uses the phrase “militia Christi” to describe the support given by religious families to Church.
The old Catechism of St. Pius X uses the tripartite division, describing the Church Militant as the Church to which we actually belong. Of course, you have to know that “actually” means “now”, and not loose English “really”.
In the Baltimore Catechism, in its explanation of the articles of the Creed, we find a great description
“The communion of saints:”
There are three parts in the Church. We have, first, the Church Militant, i.e., the fighting Church, made up of all the faithful upon earth, who are still fighting for their salvation. [The catholic Left, the Fishwrap types, are going to hate that description because of the implication that not everyone is saved (except for those meanies who don’t want to redistribute wealth or approve of sex with just about any carbon-based life form] The Holy Scripture tells us our life upon earth is a warfare. [Get that bag if you need it! Then check 1 Tim 6:12: “Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” Then check 2 Cor 10: 3-5: “For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” Yes. We have enemies.] We have three enemies to fight. First, the devil, who by every means wishes to keep us out of Heaven-the place he once enjoyed himself The devil knows well the happiness of Heaven, and does not wish us to have what he cannot have himself; just as you sometimes see persons who, through their own fault, have lost their situation trying to keep others out of it. [The devil has earthly agents, even within the Church. Think of, for example, the horrid example of priests who harm children and also writers in the catholic media who consistently deceive souls and undermine the faith and good discipline of the Church by promoting dissent.]
Our second enemy is the world. This does not mean the earth with all its beauty and riches, but the bad people in the world with their false doctrines; [See above.] some telling us there is no God, Heaven, or Hell, others that we should pay no attention to the teaching of the Church or the laws of God, and advising us by word and example to resist our lawful superiors in Church or State and give free indulgence to our sinful passions. [I have the impression that the catholic Left’s agenda is mainly focused on sex. When they perceive that something is a threat to their own desires, they attack it. Of course they will attack any traditional expression of the Faith, because worship and doctrine are inextricably intertwined.]
The third enemy is our own flesh. [See above] By this we mean our concupiscence, that is, our passions, evil inclinations, and propensity to do wrong. When God first created man, the soul was always master over the body, and the body obedient to the soul. After Adam sinned, the body rebelled against the soul and tried to lead it into sin. The body is the part of our nature that makes us like the brute animals, while the soul makes us like to God and the angels.
When we sin, it is generally to satisfy the body craving for what it has not, or for that which is forbidden. Why did God leave this concupiscence in us? He left it, first, to keep us humble, by reminding us of our former sins, and, secondly, that we might overcome it and have a reward for the victory. [Yes, its a war and, as Christians, we are soldiers on the march.]
The Devil is not a myth, friends, and Hell is real. Continue reading
All I can say is amen to this from Saint Corbinian’s Bear:
What happened in the decades following Fr. Peyton’s rally is the same thing that is happening right now. There’s a precise word for it: evil. “Bitter clingers,” the old men of Vatican II have sunk their cold, yellow talons into the Church, determined to do as much damage as possible before death brings their sorry careers to a welcome close.
When they’re gone, the faithful must pick up whatever remains of their Church — a pitiful remnant, to be sure — and reclaim it. Everything that marks the modern Church must go up in a bonfire of the vanities. Ugly, modern churches must face the wrecking ball. Protestantized Masses must be replaced with the old form. Homosexuality and modernism must be thoroughly rooted out of seminaries. Let’s see the Index of Forbidden Books make a come-back. Demand that Catholic universities be Catholic. Oh the howls will be music to the Bear’s ears! Let’s do a thousand different things to build a fortress Church that does not engage the world in endless, whining “dialogue,” but marches forth to conquer it.
This, indeed, is probably one of the Enemy’s motives for creating a dangerous world – a world in which moral issues really come to the point. He sees as well as you do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.
CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
Paul has mentioned here the wonderful post by Pat Archbold in which he longs for John Wayne, a death bed Catholic convert, Catholicism as opposed to what he calls the Woody Allen Catholicism adopted by too many Catholics in the past half century:
Oh how I long for a religion with enough boldness to loudly, proudly, and incessantly proclaim uncomfortable truths, even to its own supposed adherents, until they all understand what it means to be Catholic.
How I long for a religion with that quiet and gentle resoluteness. A religion that can acknowledge the mistakes of its members while loudly proclaiming the Church One, Holy, Apostolic, and Infallible.
I agree. The Catholicism that Pat longs for is the Catholicism that has existed throughout almost all the history of the Church. Some reminders:
1. John Sobieski- After defeating the Turks at Vienna in 1683 he sent the green flag of Islam to the Pope with this message: “Venimus, Vidimus, Deus vincit”! (We came, we saw, God conquered!)
2. The Martyrs of Otranto-Twelve years before Christopher Columbus discovered a New World, 800 men and boys of Otranto laid down their lives for Christ. The city of Otranto, at the heel of the boot of Italy, was seized by the Turks under Gedik Ahmed Pasha, grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire. Archbishop Stefano Argercolo de Pendinellis was murdered in his cathedral by the Turks and the garrison commander was sawn in half. Following a massacre of most of the population the Turks offered some 800 men and boys the choice between conversion to Islam or death. Led by an elderly tailor, Antonio Pezzulla, the men and boys chose death rather than apostacy, and were beheaded on the hill of Minvera outside the town on August 14, 1480, their families forced by the Turks to help in the executions.
The witness of the martyrs of Otranto was truly remarkable. Not priests or soldiers, they were just plain, ordinary folk. They had every earthly reason to attempt to save their lives, but with supernatural courage they went to their deaths for a love that passes understanding. The old tailor spoke for them all when he addressed them after the Turks had given them their grim choice:
My brothers, until today we have fought in defense of our country, to save our lives, and for our lords; now it is time that we fight to save our souls for our Lord, so that having died on the cross for us, it is good that we should die for him, standing firm and constant in the faith, and with this earthly death we shall win eternal life and the glory of martyrs.
The martyrs in response cried out that they were willing to die a thousand times for Christ.
3. Archbishop John Hughes-After the anti-Catholic riots in Philadelphia in 1844 he called on the mayor of New York, an anti-Catholic bigot, and informed him that if a single Catholic church were touched in New York, New York would be a second Moscow. (The reference was to the burning of Moscow in 1812 during Napoleon’s occupation of the city.) Not a Catholic church was touched. On another occasion when a threat was made to burn Saint Patrick’s cathedral the Archbishop had it guarded within hours by 4,000 armed Catholics. No wonder his enemies and friends nicknamed him “Dagger John”!
4. Father Joe Lacy-On June 6, 1944 at 7:30 AM, LCA 1377 landed the Rangers on Omaha Dog Green Beach, the first landing craft to land on that section of Omaha Beach. Father Lacy was the last man out just before an artillery shell hit the fantail. Everything was chaos with the beach being swept by German artillery and small arms fire. Wounded men were everywhere, both on the beach and in the water feebly trying to get to the beach. Father Lacy did not hesistate. With no thought for his own safety he waded into the water to pull men out of the ocean and onto the beach. He began treating the wounded on the beach and administering the Last Rites to those beyond human assistance. On a day when courage was not in short supply men took notice of this small fat priest who was doing his best under fire to save as many lives as he could. While his battalion led the way off Omaha Beach, Father Lacy continued to tend their wounded and the wounded of other units. For his actions that day Father Lacy was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest decoration for valor, after the Medal of Honor, in the United States Army.
5. Don John of Austria and his Men-Before the battle of Lepanto Don John of Austria went about the ships of his fleet and said this to his crews: ‘My children, we are here to conquer or die. In death or in victory, you will win immortality.’ The chaplains of the fleet preached sermons on the theme: “No Heaven For Cowards”. Many of the men were clutching rosaries just before the battle. Admiral Andrea Doria went into the fight with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe aboard his ship. Back in Europe countless Catholics were praying rosaries at the request of Saint Pope Pius V for the success of the Christian fleet.
At the hour of the battle, and this fact is very well attested, the Pope was talking to some cardinals in Rome. He abruptly ceased the conversation, opened a window and looked heavenward. He then turned to the cardinals and said: “It is not now a time to talk any more upon business; but to give thanks to God for the victory he has granted to the arms of the Christians.” So that Catholics would never forget Lepanto and the intercession of Mary, he instituted the feast of Our Lady of Victory. To aid in this remembrance G. K. Chesterton in 1911 wrote his epic poem Lepanto:
If we are going to be Catholic spokesmen going public with our views, we have to pay special attention to our spiritual lives. I can see how easy it is to get bogged down in the blogosphere in the mire of negativity, in heated exchanges like we never encounter in our normal daily lives- like before in the days before the internet.
With the recent scandals rocking the Catholic Church here in America as in President Obama receiving an honorary degree at the University of Notre Shame to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claiming that abortion is an open-ended issue in the Church, we have seen a reemergence of ecclesial leadership on behalf of our shepherds. Many bishops have awoken to the fact that being “pastoral” has been a remarkable failure in resolving the deviancy emanating from Catholics and Catholic institutions.
The upsurge of young adults rediscovering their faith to the excellent parenting of Catholic families in raising fine orthodox Christian children, we have seen what is only the beginning of a Catholic renaissance here in America. And let us not forgot the ever faithful cradle Catholics among us that have contributed in keeping the faith in the tumult arising from the Second Vatican Council to today.