Defending the Church

News: Commentary
by Raymond de Souza, KHS, KofC  •  •  August 26, 2022   

The second commandment of chivalry

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Our Lord Jesus Christ, God incarnate, the King of Kings, made the ultimate sacrifice and gave His life for mankind. He died for His spouse, the Church. In this way, He was the model of all knights. And the knights, as vassals of God, must also give their lives for Him, if necessary.

Crusader sword

The swords of the crusaders were shaped like a cross, sometimes having a saint's relic at the cross-guard of the hilt and blade. Often, when a crusader was in prayer, he would unsheathe the sword and stick it into the ground, forming a sort of makeshift cross where he could pray. In this way, the crusaders united their sacrifice to protect pilgrims to the Holy Land with the sacrifice of Our Lord on the Cross.

Many bishops understood the mission of the knights and encouraged them. For instance, in the famous medieval poem of Garran, the archbishop of Reims said, "Ye knights, never forget that God made you to become the walls of the Church!"

Hence the second commandment of chivalry: Thou shalt defend the Church.

Even today, the knights of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem are invested by a bishop. Sitting on a throne and dressed in quasi-medieval regalia, the bishop raises a sword and touches it on both shoulders of the man being knighted. The ceremony is a sacramental of the Church, created to inspire in Her sons a spirit of chivalry to defend the same Church.

The ceremony has been done roughly that way for centuries. To officially be made a knight was among the highest honors a man could receive.  Women, not being called to do battle, were not knighted. Even St. Joan of Arc did not receive the sacramental of being knighted.

Thou shalt defend the Church.

However, this remnant of that great Catholic spirit is in danger of being buried by the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre. The apparent decision of the grand master to advocate the replacement of the use of the sword in the ceremony will, if widely implemented, be the death knell for this symbol of Catholic chivalry in the world. All true knights of the Holy Sepulchre, being the spiritual descendants of the crusaders who defended the Holy Land, should be alarmed and call for the sword's continued ceremonial use.

Sadly, knights were not consulted about the sword's removal from the investiture ceremony. Even the dames of the Holy Sepulchre were not asked whether they wanted to see their husbands, brothers and sons still receive the touch of a sword on their shoulders, or be invested in a way similar to the women who become dames.

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This erosion of masculinity and treatment of knights the same as dames cannot bring good results. Blurring distinctions between men and women seems to be the new "woke" paradigm.

When the spirit of chivalry is dead among Catholics, cowardice reigns supreme. The Bible lists "the fearful" — some translations say "cowards" — among those barred from entering Heaven: "But the fearful and unbelieving and the abominable and murderers and whoremongers and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, they shall have their portion in the pool burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8).

Good Catholic women do not want their husbands, sons and brothers to be afraid of a sword's touch.  Rather, they wish their men to be marked by Christian courage, ready to sacrifice themselves to defend those they love and to be loyal warriors for God, country and family.

When the spirit of chivalry is dead among Catholics, cowardice reigns supreme.

Our Lord exhorted the Apostles to have swords: "And he that hath not, let him sell his coat and buy a sword" (Luke 22:36). 

How can a Catholic man today fulfill the second commandment in the code of chivalry — to "defend the Church"?  First, by believing all that the Church teaches and obeying all Her commandments.

A further way is by studying apologetics, which is the art of explaining the Church's teachings to non-Catholics. Saint Peter is clear about the necessity of learning apologetics: "But sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts, being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you" (1 Peter 3:15).

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