After the Normandy invasion on D-Day and the liberation of Paris, every
German General knew, the war was over, was lost. Likewise, every Allied
General knew the war was all but over, was won. But the Germans didn't stop
fighting. And, the Allies got lax, so when the Germans launched a massive
counter-offensive (the Battle of the Bulge), the Allies came dangerously
close to losing it all. For the historian (military and general) names like
St. Vith, Malmedy, and Bastong serve as a reminder to those who presume that
something is accomplished, when it isn't.
We're engaged in warfare ourselves, every day, every moment of our
lives. That's why we are called the Church Militant, because we are still
struggling. Against whom? Call To Action? Dignity? Secular Humanism?
Yes, to a point, but in many ways, these are only the forces we see. Just as
the American GI was fighting the German soldier, the real enemy was the
person or persons directing those forces.
"For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the
principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present
darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places"
For some, this 'war' is waged against the agents of these 'powers and
principalities'. Priests, nuns, brothers, theologians, and apologists to
name a few. They hope, by God's grace, to blunt the attacks of the enemy
against Him and His Church. And they use His weapons, the weapon of love.
You see, if we use the enemies' weapons against him, the only winner is the evil one.
But if we follow Christ's example, we win.
"And when those who were about Him saw what would follow, they said,
'Lord, shall we strike with the sword?' And one of them struck the slave of
the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, 'No more of
this!' And He touched his ear and healed him" (Luke 22:49-51).
"Now the men who were holding Jesus mocked Him and beat Him; they also
blindfolded Him and asked Him, 'Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?' And
they spoke many other words against Him, reviling Him" (Luke 22:63-65).
"The high priest then questioned Jesus about His disciples and His
teaching. Jesus answered him, 'I have spoken openly to the world; I have
always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together;
I have said nothing secretly. Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard
me, what I said to them; they know what I said.' When He had said this, one
of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, 'Is that how
you answer the high priest?' " (John 18:19-22).
"'You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come
into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth
hears My voice.' Pilate said to Him, 'What is truth?' (John 18:37-38).
We could go on and on. Christ never raised His voice or struck out
(with the exception of the Temple merchants and even then, He only wanted
them out of the Temple, not their destruction or harm). We can also point
out the many martyr's, from St. Stephen onward, who spoke for Christ. They
knew what their testimony, their actions, would mean, but they could not
simply let it go. In order for the truth to be heard and survive, they had
to do it.
They remind me of the soldiers on D-Day going ashore, knowing that the
odds of their survival were almost nil. But these are the actions of the heroic 'soldiers' for God. Just as
every soldier is backed up by an 'army' of support people, so most of us are
called on for support. St. Francis of Assisi founded an Order based on the
Gospel rule of poverty and humility, as were the Poor Clares. But not
everyone was called to such asterity. Many simply simplified their lives in
accordance with the Rule of St. Francis.
Some outside of the Church seem to think that since Christ has won, there
is no need for us to struggle, to continue to fight. "Once saved, always
saved" they say. Others, even some in the Church, feel that God is so loving
that we can be lax and enjoy, the 'war' being over. And just as that
thinking helped bring about the Battle of the Bulge, so to, it can lead to a
'spiritual' setback which the person may not recover from.
St. Paul said it best.
"I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I
pommel my body and subdue it" (1 Corinthians 9:26-27).
But the enemy uses all sorts of tactics. Fear, intimidation, false
compassion, etc. For our enemy, there is no sweeter irony than to use religion to
draw us away from God and His mercy, His mission.
G.K. Chesterton pointed out, as early as the early 20th century, that it
seemed that the only 'religion' Christians weren't to be tolerant of, was
So we see the modern dictum that all religion is good, but to be a
Christian is to be ignorant, hateful, and foolish. Ted Turner said that
Christianity was for wimps. But G.K.Chesterton makes two points relating to
that. One was that it wasn't that Christianity had been tried and found
wanting, but rather it was tried and found difficult. The other thing he
"People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as
something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or
so exciting as orthodoxy. It was sanity: and to be sane is more dramatic than
to be mad . . . The orthodox Church never took the tame course or accepted
the conventions; the orthodox Church was never respectable . . . It is easy
to be a madman: it is easy to be a heretic. It is always easy to let the age
have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one's own. It is always easy to
be a modernist; as it is easy to be a snob . . . It is always simple to fall;
there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one
stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian
Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to avoid them all has
been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the Heavenly chariot flies
thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the
wild truth reeling but erect."
(Orthodoxy, Garden City, NY: Doubleday Image, 1908, pp. 100-101)
Our enemies may attack us with slander, innuendo, etc., but that's to be
"If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If
you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not
of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates
you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than
his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you; if they kept My
word, they will keep yours also. But all this they will do to you on My
account, because they do not know Him Who sent Me" (John 15:18-21).
So the war rages around us. But for most of us, the battle isn't from
without, but within. This is the one battle we are all called to engage in,
the personal war, the war within ourselves. It's the war between what we
want to do and what we need to do. It's the battle with noisy, misbehaving
children. Unruly neighbors, and unthinking relatives. Traffic jams and slow
grocery lines. And like any battle, we may lose some. For as Christ said,
"The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." We struggle, we fall, and,
hopefully, we get back up and try again. For it isn't losing the battle
that's all that important, but losing the war. So, we must put on the
'entire' armor of God. As St. Paul writes:
"Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand
in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having
girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of
righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of
peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can
quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of
salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians
So armed, we are given even more protection, by God's mercy, by staying
secure in the fortress which is His Church.
" And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church,
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16: 18).
But if we venture out of that Church, we are left to fight alone. And the
enemy, with tricks and enticements, may well strip us of the rest of our
armor. They have taken way the protection form our loins by saying truth is
relative, they try to shatter our breastplate by saying we have sinned, they
have unshod our feet by making the Gospel irrelevant, and, finally, taken
away the shield of faith by saying any 'faith' is good.
Yes, it's a war, but not like any war that man knows, just as the peace
that man gives can't compare to the peace we receive in Christ. To
paraphrase a poem popular in the 60's, IF we keep to Christ and His Church,
we may keep our heads, our lives, while the world spins in turmoil and others
And if we do this to the best of our ability, hoping in His mercy and
love, we may well hear our Lord say, "Come, O blessed of My Father, inherit
the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 25:34).
Then, no longer part of the Church Militant, we will join the Church
Triumphant, and rest in His love and glory.
Pax Christi, Pat