Championing the Good

News: Commentary
by Raymond de Souza, KHS, KofC  •  •  November 15, 2022   

Chivalry's tenth and final commandment

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The tenth commandment of Catholic chivalry is: Thou shalt be everywhere and always the champion of the right and the good against injustice and evil.

To fulfill the tenth commandment, the knight had to understand and fulfill the basic principle of the eternal law, as explained by St. Augustine in his masterpiece The City of God: Good must be done; evil must be avoided.

That is the principle that underlies God's eternal will. Good has the right to exist; evil does not.

It is interesting to observe the order in which this commandment has been formulated.

St. James the Moor-slayer

First, we are told to combat evil, then we are told to defend good. This is because there is no love of good without hatred of evil. As the Caballeros de Santiago el Matamoros (Knights of St. James the Moor-Slayer) of Spain would have it, "Quien ama, odia; quien odia, lucha" — "He who loves, hates; and he who hates, fights." One can only love virtue if one hates sin. The active love of good is manifested when one combats evil.

Dominican Knight St. Nuno

The Portuguese knight, St. Nuno Álvares Pereira, who defeated the Spaniards in battle to regain the independence of his country, after his long life of heroism, joined a Dominican monastery. But the king needed him to lead the Portuguese army and navy against the Saracens in Ceuta, North Africa. Saint Nuno told the king that he had left the secular life to join the monastery, and he showed the king his Dominican habit.

As the king lamented that St. Nuno had ceased to be a knight, St. Nuno immediately said, "No, I am always a knight!" And before the amazed gaze of the king, he removed his Dominican habit to show the shining suit of armor that he always wore under the habit, ready to be used in combat.

He left the monastery, hopped on a horse, took the army by sea to Ceuta and defeated the Muslims. He returned to Portugal, entered the monastery and, singing the Salve Regina, went in procession to the chapel.

Thus, St. Nuno showed the king that he was always ready to champion the right and the good — the Christian Kingdom of Portugal — against injustice and evil — the invading Saracens.

This thirst for justice burned in the soul of all true knights.

It is this hatred of evil and love of good that characterizes saints. This thirst for justice burned in the soul of all true knights, and to them, in the great day of judgment, Our Lord will say, "Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill" (Matthew 5:6). 

St. Maximilian Kolbe

Knights of the Immaculata

One day, St. Maximilian Kolbe was at the Vatican. He saw through a window a group of Freemasons in St. Peter's Square. They were holding a large standard on which Satan was depicted crushing St. Michael the archangel. In the face of that demonstration of radical hatred, St. Maximillian said to the man next to him, "I will dedicate my life to fighting those people!"

Thus, the army of the Knights of the Immaculata was born. St. Maximilian understood and lived the meditation of St. Ignatius of Loyola in the Spiritual Exercises, "The Two Standards." He recognized the Devil's way and Jesus' way necessitate an irreconcilable battle between the two until the end of time.

How do we fulfill the tenth commandment? Be the champion of right and good against injustice and evil, always and everywhere, by:

In short, by demonstrating faithfulness to the sacrament of confirmation, whereby we became soldiers of Christ.

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Knights of the Crusades

I close this series on medieval chivalry with the parable of the heroic knight:

It was the end of the battle. Everywhere, the strewn bodies of the Crusaders were covered with blood. They testified to their fidelity, to their ideal, and unfortunately, to their defeat. The Muslims had won in the Battle of Tiberias, and the main Christian leaders, and even the King of Jerusalem, had become prisoners of Saladin.

Only one man carried on fighting.

Covered with iron and blood, mounted upon a horse that was both exhausted and foaming, surrounded by Turks, he was the last knight who resisted. He brandished his sword in the air with incredible agility, and the bodies of the infidels who had dared to come too close to him piled up around him.

The Turks contemplated him from far away, and in the fury of their gaze, there was also, in spite of everything, a spark of admiration. Who was this Christian man who did not surrender? What kind of man was that who would never give up, step back or retreat? What mother had given birth to a son of such fortitude? Who had forged this soul that was like a suit of armor and this indomitable heart?

Wounded and bloodless, both knight and steed fell to the ground, the enemies surrounding him. Everything came to an end.

Everything? No.

The admiration did not end. The death of the hero made the admiration grow even more. The Turks, the semi-barbarians, the Muslims — the enemies approached the dead knight and touched the tips of their capes to the blood of the Crusader to keep with them something of a souvenir of the most valiant of men.

Who was that man of an iron heart? Which mother had conceived and given birth to such a hero? He was a son of the Catholic Church. He was a knight.

This happened in the time of the Crusades, in the time when there was faith on earth — times when people would follow the counsel of Christ, Who said, "Now he who does not have a sword, let him sell his mantle, and buy one" (Luke 22:36).

This happened in the centuries of faith and of glory, in the centuries of chivalry — when an army of men, standards lifted in the winds of glory, rushed upon the infidels in a cavalcade of faith and heroism. As Pope Leo XIII wrote, "There was once a time when States were governed by the philosophy of the Gospel." Those were the times of Christian civilization.

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