We’re at War

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by Fr. George Rutler  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  March 28, 2020   

And every soul must enlist

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I have a rule never to begin a paragraph with a first-person pronoun. I do this not because it would be inappropriate to use the monarchical "We," as in "We have a rule," or the princely "One," as in "One has a rule," but because self-reference confines the argument to personal experience. That is somewhat like the danger of using exclamation points— a clear sign of rhetorical failure, like shouting when your argument is unclear.

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America suffered more than 12,000 killed and 50,000 wounded
while Japan lost 150,000 soldiers and civilians at Okinawa

I have broken my own rule today because it is my birthday. The demands of publishing require that this be written several days before it appears in print. I have achieved three-quarters of a century, which is child's play compared with Methuselah, but I can say at least that I have lived a share of two very interesting centuries.

I was entertained once by a lady who had lived in three centuries, having been born in the last year of the 19th century, and who died in the second year of the 21st century. That is almost as interesting as the fact that she was Queen of the United Kingdom and the Dominions and Empress of India.

On the day of my birth, the Indian 20th Infantry launched the conquest of Burma, British troops crossed the Rhine and American forces began the battle of Okinawa — the harshest conflict in the Pacific theatre. I have no memory of that since I was in a diaper and not a uniform, but the truth is that I was born during a war.

Everyone is engaged in a war. ... we have a free will to choose in whose service to enlist.

That makes me no different from any other life born into this world, since everyone is engaged in a war. Life itself, whether politically peaceful or belligerent, is an engagement "against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against the spirits of wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12).

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Italian terracotta artifact of St. Michael the Archangel by Luca della
Robbia (1475), at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

That moral combat takes different forms, and it was not hyperbolic for our Chief Executive to call himself a "wartime president." A struggle against disease, whose present virulence still remains uncertain, can be as violent as any combat zone.

All struggles are rooted in the war that broke out in Heaven when "Michael and his angels fought against the dragon" (Revelation 12:7). The happy fact is that the dragon, which is Satan, "who leads the whole world astray," was defeated. The sobering fact is that we have a free will to choose in whose service to enlist. 

That account in the Book of Revelation is a mere myth only if soldiers dying on battlefields, or the sick suffering on hospital beds are figments of human imagination. But when Satan fell, he took highly intelligent powers with him, and in every generation they "wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls." Their strategy is intimidation, and they cannot resist the Faith that casts out fear.

Father George W. Rutler is pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Church in the archdiocese of New York. His Sunday homilies are archived. He has authored multiple books, including Calm in Chaos: Catholic Wisdom in Anxious Times and his latest, Grace and Truth. Individuals may donate to his parish. 

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