The fourth commandment of chivalry is to love the country where you were born. This is the essence of patriotism.
Patriotism is a natural virtue and a consequence of the Fourth Commandment of God's Law: Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother. The virtue of piety requires rendering due homage to God, one's homeland and one's parents. The word "patriot" comes from the Latin patria, meaning "fatherland," which in turn comes from pater, "father." Just as the knight was called to honor and love his parents, he was also called to honor and love the country in which he was born and raised. Thus, the French knights loved France, the Teutonic knights loved Germany, etc.
Unfortunately, the image of knights has been tarnished in recent years. Hollywood often portrays knights as greedy, ineffectual, hypocritical womanizers (such as in Kingdom of Heaven). University students learn how knights were supposedly members of an oppressor class who murdered, robbed and raped
On the contrary, chivalry had a high code of conduct that was strictly enforced by fellow knights. Its main tenets were summarized in the commandments that we're covering in this series — which, to repeat, French historian Leon Gautier compiled from primary sources from the Middle Ages.
Pope Leo XIII, in his 1885 encyclical Immortale Dei, praised medieval Christendom, the world in which chivalry thrived:
There was once a time when States were governed by the philosophy of the Gospel. Then it was that the power and divine virtue of Christian wisdom had diffused itself throughout the laws, institutions, and morals of the people, permeating all ranks and relations of civil society. Then, too, the religion instituted by Jesus Christ, established firmly in befitting dignity, flourished everywhere, by the favor of princes and the legitimate protection of magistrates; and Church and State were happily united in concord and friendly interchange of good offices.
The pope added that the spirit of Christendom, which undergirds chivalry, changed barbarians into holy men:
Christian Europe has subdued barbarous nations, and changed them from a savage to a civilized condition, from superstition to true worship. It victoriously rolled back the tide of Mohammedan conquest; retained the headship of civilization; stood forth in the front rank as the leader and teacher of all, in every branch of national culture; bestowed on the world the gift of true and many-sided liberty; and most wisely founded very numerous institutions for the solace of human suffering. And if we inquire how it was able to bring about so altered a condition of things, the answer is-beyond all question, in large measure, through religion, under whose auspices so many great undertakings were set on foot, through whose aid they were brought to completion.
We said above that the fourth commandment of chivalry is to love the country in which you were born. How does a Catholic man today fulfill that commandment?
I propose five ways to do so:
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus must be a major element in the soul of every Catholic man who loves and honors his country.
During the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39, when Catholics stood up against the Communists, Catholics expressed devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, including the motto Regnabo in Hispania, "I shall reign in Spain" — attributing, as it were, the words to Our Lord, meaning Christ the King shall reign in Spain. We could appropriately say, regarding the same Sacred Heart of Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Regnabo in America, "I shall reign in America."
Some years ago, on Pentecost, I was privileged to attend a Traditional Latin Mass at the Chartres Cathedral in France. It featured all the pomp and ceremony of the Church tradition, with choir, organ, trumpets and drums. More than 10,000 people, most of them young, filled the basilica, many of them carrying flags of every country in the world. They had spent three days hiking from Paris to Chartres.
At the solemn moment of the Consecration, only the bells were heard in the majestic silence of the medieval cathedral, indicating the heavenly reality that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords was present in the hands of the celebrating bishop. At the same time, the pilgrims all lowered their flags before the Sacred Host being elevated, indicating the subjection of every country to Our Lord Jesus Christ. I was most impressed and moved to see a young man carrying a modified American flag with the Sacred Heart of Jesus superimposed over the stars. I couldn't help but exclaim in the silence of my heart and mind, "God bless America!"