Heroes, Then and Now

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In the face of attacks upon the sanctity of human life, of marriage and family life, Catholic men are called upon to sustain their Christian honor, and to consider inaction in the face of peril to be a blemish upon their person, a breach of their duty to protect the weak, and most of all, a failure to serve faithfully their Lord Jesus Christ, and His Queen Mother Mary. In this regard, we can take courage from the example given to us by our holy and late pope, John Paul II, who did not hesitate to speak the truth in the face of opposition. But admiration is not enough. Throughout history, evil times have given rise to great men. We must not be afraid to be heroes.

In the sixteenth century Christendom faced a threat to its very existence. The great St. Pius V faced this challenge and called upon all the princes of Christendom to defend its borders from an impending invasion of the Muslim Turks. It was a time for heroism, but there were few heroes willing to stand up for the rights of God and the Church. It was time to rally under the banner of Christ the King and His Holy Mother, but only a remnant of Christian soldiers were prepared to fight. These were led by the twenty-four-year-old bastard son of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and half-brother to Philip II, King of Spain, named Don John of Austria. He was among the few who stood up and was counted. Don John was the human side of the victory of the Christian fleet at the Battle of Lepanto, October 7, 1571, Our Lady’s instrument for the preservation of Christendom. Every year Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Holy Rosary (formerly the Feast of Our Lady of Victory) because of the victory at Lepanto.

If it were not for this Marian triumph, Europe would be part of a still existing Muslim Ottoman empire. At this critical time, Europeans must not forget this. The recent elevation of the German, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, to the papal throne as Benedict XVI, bodes well for the preservation of Christian identity in Western Europe.

Today, it is an encouraging sign to see more and more Catholic men waking up to the fact that their responsibility is to be the moral and spiritual leaders of their families and of society. Different movements around the country, under the patronage of St. Joseph and in the form of chivalrous organizations, have cropped up within the Church to address a real need. In other words more and more Catholic men recognize that they do not do enough to live their faith and be witnesses to it, and that, consequently, they need to band together in a common cause to fix the problem.

But are they responding to a real need? Or is this just a reaction of male chauvinists to the ascendancy of women in society? A curious phenomenon that is especially evident within the Church in the United States should help us to answer this question.


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