DAILY CATHOLIC     MONDAY     September 6, 1999     vol. 10, no. 168


To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE and SECTION TWO and SECTION THREE
          Pat Ludwa, a committed lay Catholic from Cleveland, has been asked to contribute, on a regular basis, a lay person's point of view on the Church today. We have been impressed with his insight and the clear logic he brings to the table from his "view from the pew." In all humility, by his own admission, he feels he has very little to offer, but we're sure you'll agree with us that his viewpoint is exactly what millions of the silent majority of Catholics believe and have been trying to say as well. Pat puts it in words that help all of us better understand and convey to others what the Church teaches and we must believe.

          Today Pat talks about the current war being waged, not in the theatre of Asia, Africa and Central America so much as in the trenches between the pews where dissident groups taunt and bait orthodox Catholics. Pat reminds us it would be easy to fall into the trap of retaliating with the weapons of hate, but he shows where this was not Christ's way and should not be our way. We are to win our enemy over with love, not hate and violence. It is easy to be a dissident, much harder to be loyal and toe the line. It is easy to lash out at others, much harder to hold our tongue and open our heart. These are the lessons Pat details in unveiling the battle strategy of Christ's followers in his column Spiritual Warfare.

          If you want to send him ideas or feedback, you can reach him at Padraic42@aol.com

For past columns by Pat Ludwa, click on VIEW FROM THE PEW Archives

Spiritual Warfare!

        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" (Ephesians 6:12).

        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 their own.

        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 wrote was: "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 expected. "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 6:13-17).

        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 lose theirs.

        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

September 6, 1999       volume 10, no. 168


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