Getting Blown Up for the Immaculate

Who’s first?

I received the following is a message from a reader of my blog, who is commenting on my last post and graciously consented to have his words published here:

Great Blog, Father. Dicey subject. I agree that if a healthy amount of men could don chivalry– chivalry that tips its cap at all times to the Immaculate–we’d be able to cure a lot of what ails us. A cultural mine field has been planted between us and the armory, unfortunately. Only a mass charge with plenty of men will get enough of us over to the other side to do any good. A certain number of us are going to get blown up. The first wave, mainly. No one wants that honor, just yet. I wonder when critical mass will actually be arrived at, forcing the issue.

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Followup News Items

  • The Underwear Bomber’s American born religious instructer, Islamic scholar Yasir Qadhi, has a few things to say about the illegitimacy of democracy and any other law except that of Sharia.  Watch the videos in which young western men stare wistfully into their master’s eyes.  Truly frightening, and all the more reason to rub the Obama pixy dust out of our eyes.
  • The Pentagon is attempting to develop “synthetic organisms,” in a brave new effort to spawn a breed of super-soldiers.  We are on the edge of a whole new era of bio-bots, cyborgs and trans-human engineering.  I have discussed the impact of new technology relative to the values of chivalry before.  What could go wrong?:

Of course, Darpa’s got to prevent the super-species from being swayed to do enemy work — so they’ll encode loyalty right into DNA, by developing genetically programmed locks to create “tamper proof” cells. Plus, the synthetic organism will be traceable, using some kind of DNA manipulation, “similar to a serial number on a handgun.” And if that doesn’t work, don’t worry. In case Darpa’s plan somehow goes horribly awry, they’re also tossing in a last-resort, genetically-coded kill switch:

Develop strategies to create a synthetic organism “self-destruct” option to be implemented upon nefarious removal of organism.

The Armor of Love

From a Sermon by St. Fulgentius of Ruspe:

And so the love that brought Christ from heaven to earth raised Stephen from earth to heaven; shown first in the king, it later shone forth in his soldier. Love was Stephen’s weapon by which he gained every battle, and so won the crown signified by his name. His love of God kept him from yielding to the ferocious mob; his love for his neighbour made him pray for those who were stoning him. Love inspired him to reprove those who erred, to make them amend; love led him to pray for those who stoned him, to save them from punishment. Strengthened by the power of his love, he overcame the raging cruelty of Saul and won his persecutor on earth as his companion in heaven. In his holy and tireless love he longed to gain by prayer those whom he could not convert by admonition.

Armor up.

Merry Christmas, everyone.  Just coming up for air.  Christmas bustle and all.

The Holy Grail of True Knighthood

True knighthood is the Holy Grail of manhood, a revelation attainable only by the pure.  The proud are ever barred from taking a draught from it.

Our very captivation with the Holy Grail consists in the fact that it has not been found and only few have even seen it.  And, of course, the reason that the mysterious cup remains ever out of reach for the ordinary man and is because its quest is fraught with danger:  fearful obstacles, inscrutable riddles, and deadly foes.

To those who possess true manliness, such obstacles are the reason why The Quest is so appealing.  By definition manliness is the penchant to overcome obstacles. The more hopeless the attainment, the bigger and better is the man who laughs in the face perils to be found there.  Those who are lesser men still aspire to the Grail, but fear leads them to experience the danger only vicariously by following along at a safe distance, through spectator sports, litrerature and movies.

And yet there is a temptation in that boldness to which those gallant men of the Round Table too easily succumb.  The bigger and better that a man thinks he is, the more likely he is to fail utterly in attaining the goal.  Gawain, for example, showed himself the fool for this very reason.  And Lancelot had to be taken down a few notches (many actually) before he was even granted a partial fulfillment of his desire.  Galahad attained the grail, not so much by his prowess, but more so, by his humility and purity.

There is a strange and wonderful coincidence of opposites in the embodiment of true chivalry:  courage, strength, boldness and skill, on the one hand; reverence, humility, meekness, and deference on the other.

In a sermon written during his Anglican Period, entitled, “The Weapons of the Saints,” Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman couched the spiritual life in terms of a war in which the stratagem for victory demands an inversion of worldly values:

But in that kingdom which Christ has set up, all is contrariwise. “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” What was before in honour, has been dishonoured; what before was in dishonour, has come to honour; what before was successful, fails; what before failed, succeeds.

It is this inversion that constitutes the real difficulty to the attainment of the Holy Grail of true knighthood.  It is the riddle of riddles.  The Black Knight, enemy of our souls, guards the bridge that leads to the hermit who is ensconced away from the manners of worldly men.  It is from him that we are to unlearn our pride and find the real weapons by which we are to succeed in our quest.

Cardinal Newman’s sermon is a commentary on Our Lord’s words: Many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first (Mt 19:30).  And he supports his thesis from many other passages of the New Testament concerning, for example, strength made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9), the of putting down the proud and the exalting of the humble (Lk 1:52), the blessedness of those who suffer and the woes of those who are satisfied (Mt 5:2-10; Lk 6:24-26), and God’s choice of the weak and despised to do his work (1 Cor 1:27).  It should be abundantly clear to anyone with a modicum of familiarity with scripture that God triumphs in and through those who have rejected worldly ambition and self-assuredness.

The invisible powers of the heavens, truth, meekness, and righteousness, are ever coming in upon the earth, ever pouring in, gathering, thronging, warring, triumphing, under the guidance of Him who “is alive and was dead, and is alive for evermore.”

Truth, meekness and righteousness, according to Venerable Newman, are the real weapons of the saints, the means by which they are victorious over Satan, sin and death.  The Holy Grail of Christian Knighthood is so hidden that in order to find it the knight must lose himself in the process.

This is that intangible, greater thing, after which young men aspire.  It is the stuff of true nobility.  It is strength without arrogance, command without self-interest.

Venerable Newman notes that “we like to hear marvellous tales, which throw us out of things as they are, and introduce us to things that are not.”  The paradox of the cross and of the victorious King who triumphs through His own death is the cosmic myth, the retelling of which is the incantation that opens the sealed doors of our hearts. He that openeth and no man shutteth, shutteth and no man openeth, is the only one with the key (Ap 3:7).

The beloved disciple saw Him mounted on a white horse, and going forth “conquering and to conquer.” “And the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations, and He shall rule them with a rod of iron.” [Rev. xix. 14, 15.]

The Quest of the Holy Grail is a lesser myth, as are all other stories when compared to the gospel myth in which the most fantastic tale is merged with history, and where what Tolkien called eucatastrophe, a literary climax beyond our wildest hopes, is made the substance of all our hopes and the ground upon which we walk in the daylight of this world.

Indeed, the return of the king in Tolkien’s mythology is an ascendency by way of descent.  Aragorn and the Dúnedain are content to be despised if that will better equip them to protect and defend the peoples of Middle Earth.  Aragorn himself must choose the path leading downward, literally underground, through the Paths of the Dead under the White Mountains, like Christ in His harrowing of hell, if he is to triumph on behalf of those entrusted to his care.

After Gandalf  had “passed through fire and deep water,” and had completed his own christic transformation, he delivered a message to Aragorn from the Lady of Light, Galadriel:

Where now are the Dúnedain, Elessar, Elessar?
Why do thy kinsfolk wander afar?
Near is the hour when the Lost should come forth,
And the Grey Company ride from the North.
But dark is the path appointed for thee:
The Dead watch the road that leads to the Sea (Book III, Chapter V).

Aragorn chose the path of truth, meekness and righteousness.  He was prepared to face his fear, and he was not afraid to confront his own ego with the double-edged sword of God’s truth.  He chose to go down in order to go up, to be last in order to be first.  Yet the myth of Aragorn cannot be a vicarious substitute for our own humiliation.  We must really experience it.  Newman has it right:

We so love the idea of the invisible, that we even build fabrics in the air for ourselves, if heavenly truth be not vouchsafed us. We love to fancy ourselves involved in circumstances of danger or trial, and acquitting ourselves well under them. Or we imagine some perfection, such as earth has not, which we follow, and render it our homage and our heart. Such is the state more or less of young persons before the world alters them, before the world comes upon them, as it often does very soon, with its polluting, withering, debasing, deadening influence, before it breathes on them, and blights and parches, and strips off their green foliage, and leaves them, as dry and wintry trees without sap or sweetness.

We must not loose our idealism as we grow older, but “heavenly truth” should purify our tendency to experience knighthood vicariously through its trappings and shards.  Ours is to be the knighthood of the real Dúnedain, a hidden knighthood in search of the hidden, but very real Holy Grail.

As a Franciscan, I have had many opportunities to reflect upon the militant example of Saints Francis and Maximilian, and of the great tertiary St. Louis of France.  The Holy Patriarch of the Seraphic Order, Our Holy Father St. Francis, was well aware of the Arthurian legends and aspired to knighthood and the Holy Grail himself.  Later, after he too had chosen the path downward, he called the simple brothers who lived in seclusion and despised status and pomp, his “Knights of the Round Table.”

In this last week of ordinary time, during the “octave” of the Feast of Christ the King, we look for His return at the end of the world, when he will preside over the cosmic resolution to the perennial struggle of St. Michael and the dragon.  Then He will raise his wounded hands over the universe and all of us will be witnesses of the full revelation of His truth, a more powerful illumination than possession of the Grail itself.  Then we will all know what true chivalry is and whether we are worthy to drink from the cup filled by the hands of Him who carried the sword of truth and slayed the dragon by His humble acceptance of our condition and by His willing suffering and death.

The weapons of the true knight are those of the saints: truth, meekness and righteousness.  They are best fitted to help us along the way of our Quest, a path that leads up a narrow crag in a mountain.  But this path to the heights strangely leads us downward by many uneven steps, until we arrive in the sanctuary of the Holy Grail and find rest in the yoke of Christ on the Holy Mountain of His Passion, Death and Resurrection.

The Armor of God and Guarding the Heart

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I have been reflecting lately on the notion of Dom Chautard concerning that aspect of the interior life that is Englished in his book “custody of the heart.”  Perhaps a more militant way of translating this notion in modern English would be “guarding the heart.”

It is the duty of a knight to guard and protect, and we often associate this role with his perennial preoccupation with the Damsel in Distress.  Elsewhere I have noted that the Blessed Virgin is the personification of the Damsel in Distress–not so much because She is helpless, which She is not, nor is that an essential quality of any such damsel, but because She personifies everything true, good and beautiful.  She does this precisely at the foot of the cross as the personification of the Bride of Christ and as Mother and exemplar of the Church.  Ultimately the Christian Knight must be at Her service.

But the curious fact is that the knight, while an image of Christ, the Bridegroom and Savior, is first of all a sinner and one who must identify with the needy Bride as much as any woman should.  This is not to say that the knight must become a woman spiritually, but that his masculinity need not be threatened by whole-hearted honesty about his dependence on God.

In fact, nothing could be more important.  In order to stand fast in the breach that has been blasted in the wall of the City of God, Our Lady’s knight must first repair the breach in his own heart.  How can a knight defend the City of God, how can he fight for the honor of the Immaculate Heart and guard it from the dishonor of the heathens, if he has not first mastered the art of guarding his own heart?  In fact, there is nothing more urgent than the attention we pay to our own vulnerabilities.

To this end, I would like to associate the notion of Dom Chautard with that of St. Paul concerning the Armor of God.

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MaryVictrix Desktops 2009

MV Desktop 2009 Head Pic

Some time ago I designed a desktop wallpaper for MaryVictrix.  Here is a new one for 2009.  The Theme is “vigilance” and is based on our Encampment Night Watch.

The whole idea of the Night Watch is to teach the boys the importance of having a keen mind and heart.  We need to be aware of the situation at hand all the time, the dangers to one’s soul and those of others and to be vigilant in the service of God and neighbor.

The fire represents the light of faith and ardor of charity, gifts which we must treasure and protect for the love of God and out of a sense of our own welfare.  More than that, we need to realize that each of us is responsible for the salvation of others and be at the ready to protect and defend the common good.

There are many shadowy aspects of life and into each of them we need to bring the light.  Catholic manliness is a light on the hill top.  We should be a source of hope and healing for all in need.

The rendering has the light of hope embedded in the shadows.  See if you can find those places.

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Toy Knights and Kosovo

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No, Really. Actually it tells us a lot about what is happening in Kosovo right now, and in Europe at large.

O Dearest God, what shall I do, and how?
Shall I choose the earth? Shall I choose
The skies? And if I choose the kingdom,
If I choose an earthy kingdom now,
Earthly kingdoms are such passing things—
A heavenly kingdom, raging in the dark, endures eternally

The horrors of medieval and modern war. . . and appeasement.