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I think I am something of a rara avis among women.  I like war stories.  I like hearing about people’s experiences in the military.  Not to say that I don’t shudder and shrink at the brutality, the inhumanity, the pain and death and trauma.  But I like being amazed and humbled by the realization that people have been willing to put themselves in the way of those things for the sake of country and countrymen, to stand between those horrors and the rest of us.  Sometimes I hear people dismiss or disparage soldiers because war is such a tragedy, such a shame, such a burden.  They don’t consider that if it weren’t for soldiers, then all of us would be more directly impacted and imperiled by war, and we would all be forced to fend for ourselves.  War is never a thing to love or desire or be proud of.  But the soldiers and other people who suffer and endure and even sometimes overcome in extraordinary ways… these are people to be respected and admired and grateful for.  They are heroes, every one.

I know this probably sounds like a post for Veterans Day or Memorial Day.  But these thoughts shouldn’t be reserved for just certain days.  I think them often.  They inspire me.  They motivate me.  They instruct me.  They drive me.  They help me to remember that life is precious and a very dear price to pay.  They also encourage me in the spiritual life, the spiritual war, the Good Fight as St. Paul called it.

This is a war that we are all in the midst of–some are officers, some are foot-soldiers, some are pilots, some are special forces, some are spies, some are medics,  and some keep the fires of home and camp burning.  We too can be heroes.  Even if all we can do is stand our ground and declare where our loyalty lies–in this fallen world and even more fallen society, those things alone can be radical and heroic.  And like all soldiers, we put ourselves between the enemy and those who cannot or will not defend themselves.  We usually do it without any recognition or thanks–nor do we mind such things; we sometimes do it to the derision of those we long to protect.  This is what life is like in the Church Militant, the Church on her long march Heavenward.

I sometimes fear that the Church and Christianity (never mind the rest of our society) have become too soft, too self-indulgent, too complacent, too undisciplined, too indolent–and God knows I’ve been my share of it all, much to my shame and regret.  We all have chinks in our armor, after all, and the enemy is very subtle and slithery and knows just how to get though to us.  But I fear that too many of us have forgotten altogether where we are and what we’re meant to do.  We’ve forgotten our duty.  We’ve gotten so fixated upon false, watered-down notions of peace and love and tolerance and niceness and upon feeling good at all costs without the least concern for being good.  We count our own opinions, emotions, and preferences as far more important than doctrine, reason, and obedience.  We give more loyalty to moral relativism than to the natural law inscribed upon every human heart.

We’ve seen the results of this.  We’ve seen the Church splinter from within.  We’ve seen unspeakable tragedy and scandal shake her down to her very foundation.  THE enemy and those who serve him point and say, “You see?  I knew you Christians and your Church were rotten to the core.  You hypocrites!  You oppressors!  You can’t even save yourselves much less than the whole world.  Give it up!  Cast off the shackles.  Forget about your so-called sins and your so-called virtues.  Be nice to everybody and otherwise just do whatever feels good.  Go with the flow and get a life!”  They say this as if the Church herself and all of her loyal adherents were the source of all the misery and humiliation.  In fact, it is because some people within the Church have persistently and remorselessly done exactly what the enemy would have us do!

What serves the enemy most is serving ourselves.  Loyal service, on the other hand, demands that we lay ourselves down, set ourselves aside, and when necessary let ourselves be nailed to the cross!  Generosity is at the heart of all loyal service, be it in an earthly military or the Church.  Generosity steels our courage and discipline.  Generosity ignites faithfulness, obedience, and charity. Generosity enables us to be selfless.

And so, one of the most helpful spiritual practices I’ve found recently (via my confessor, who always seems to know me better than most anybody, even though he never sees my face) is this Prayer of Generosity, traditionally attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola, who knew a thing or two about service and obedience:

Lord God, I want to love You, not that I might gain eternal Heaven nor escape eternal Hell, but simply because You are my God. Teach me to be generous.  Grant me to give to You and not count the cost; to fight for You and not mind the wounds; to toil and not to look for rest; to labor and to ask no reward, except the knowledge that I serve my Lord and my God.  Amen.

Such simple words to pray.  And such difficult words to live by!  But pray, and it will be given, often beyond our wildest expectations.  I have found this simple prayer to be very powerful.  Transformative, really.  Exactly what I needed to call forth the heroine in me and keep me from straying from my duty, which is to serve God and my fellow man, and to reach Heaven, my true Patria.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I just want to say that I am honored to be part of the Church Militant.  I am honored that God and Church would entrust such service and duty to me.  And I pray I never completely let them down.  I pray I can stand firm until the Good Fight is finished.

Related Posts:

Love and war

Allergy fog post: In which I commiserate with Elisabeth Leseur, ramble a bit about duty, and toss in a strangely relevant anime quotation

 

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So, for a while recently, for reasons I won’t go into, I’ve suffered frustration, exasperation, and indignation on account of men.  More specifically, bad men.  Men who are bad to women (and who have been bad to me in particular).  Men who are bad in general.  And believe me, I have been wanting nothing more than to vent my rage in some public forum… such as this blog.  To just let it all out and prove, once again, how correct William Congreve was when he wrote:

Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned
Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.

But, no doubt due to a God-given measure of grace and self-control, I have refrained.  For one thing, nobody wants to read it–and I don’t blame them.  For another, no matter how justified my anger might be, I would only come across as a bitter, petulant, and overall ugly shrew of a woman–and that is not what I am.  For another, enmity between the sexes only serves the devil–he helped start the whole mess, and he hasn’t ever gotten tired of congratulating himself over it.  And finally… I’m just above that.  My own character demands that I guard my passions and any words that may arise from them.

I also know many more good men than bad.  Men who know my worth and help me to know it.  These are the men who matter.  These are the men I want to write about.  These are the men who bring out the very best in me.

So, here is to all the fathers who have gone before me, from whose lives and blood I have sprung.  Here’s to all the fathers, both biological and spiritual, who have prayed for me and shown me my way forth into the world and toward Heaven, who have protected me and mended my wounds, and cherished me, commending me to the future and to God as a gift and a legacy they are leaving behind them.  Here’s to all the men who have cared more about the future and about their descendants than about themselves and their own interests.

Here is to all my friends–brothers, really–with whom I have grown up and learned.  Here’s to all the men of my generation who have been bold enough to stand firm against the assaults of our culture, those who have refused to dirty themselves and their regard for women.  Here’s to them who have dared to remain pure and honest, respectable and responsible, diligent and dutiful.  Here’s to them who are reviving that rare breed known as the Gentleman and, Lord willing, the Saint as well.  Through thick and thin, these are the brothers who walk by my side.

Here is to all the heroic men who have deemed themselves unworthy, unequal to the responsibilities with which they have been charged, and wrongly believed themselves to be inadequate when in reality, they are just weary from the efforts they have already made.  Here’s to those humble enough to cast ego aside and receive from my lips a whisper of encouragement and belief, or from my hands some small token of support and esteem.  Here’s to them humble enough to regard me as their benefactress, just as Christ regarded Veronica when she gave Him her veil.

Here is to all those men of great stature, and more importantly, great hearts.  Here is to all those men God-fearing and God-worshiping.  Here is to all those men clever, resourceful, and wise.  Here is to those who have allowed me to be daughter, sister, friend, patroness, counselor, teacher, pupil, gift, treasure.  Here is to those who have entrusted to me their love, courage, selflessness, esteem, admiration, respect, and desire–and cherished mine in return.  Here is to those who have been willing to die upon the dread hill, to shed their blood–or time, or money, or toil–that I might live more happily and securely.

Here is to all of those men who have placed themselves before me to show me my own value and worth, my own beauty and preciousness, my own goodness and genius.  Here’s to those who have shown me who I am as a woman and a daughter of God.

There are way too many of you to name–I think, and hope, that you know who you are.  I thank you and love you from the bottom of my heart!  And I humbly call upon you to pray for me, for the healing of my pains, disappointments, injustices, and betrayals at the hands of men, and that someday not too far in the future, I may find a good man, one of your true brethren, to be my husband.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

One more thing–because I’m not a saint yet–to all of those men who do not fit any of the descriptions above:  Grow up, grow a spine, trash the narcissism, and stop making excuses.  You’re an affront to both men and women.  And stop making empty apologies to me when you know I can’t do a damn thing to hold you accountable–that’s way too easy.  Instead, try apologizing to God, because He knows full well how you’ve treated me, His creature and His daughter.  Even if I don’t have a man on this earth to stand up for me, God will.  I promise He will hold you accountable and  I shall receive justice sooner or later.

You readers who have been with me for a while may have noticed that I have not mentioned my annual “Lenten Lesson.”  Usually, I get an inkling of it near the beginning of Lent.  A certain theme emerges.  A certain issue is raised.  A certain goal is set.

That didn’t happen this year.  Oh, I started out with my typical plans: give up sweets, pray and go to Mass more often, attend the Friday evening Stations of the Cross.

But God had other plans, nearly all of which centered around other people.  People in need.  People making demands.  Whenever I really wanted to just go to church or stay home and work on my spiritual life, I found myself going to somebody else or doing things for somebody else.  Whenever I asked God what my Lenten Lesson was supposed to be, He would send me a person instead.

I have to say, I found it very frustrating at times, but whenever I began to feel frustrated or tempted to complain, there was always a voice in my head saying, “Be there for them.  Love them and put them before yourself and your own desires.  Be Christ for them.  Do it for love of them.  Love them for love of God.”  And so, I managed to keep my mouth shut and my face free of frowns (although taming my mind wasn’t always successful).

Slowly, gradually, those words sank into me and took root, and acting as they prompted me to act started to become habitual.  And during Holy Week, I finally realized it: that was my Lenten Lesson!  To grow in charity, that divine virtue of loving God and loving other people for love of God.  When I finally recognized what the lesson was, and realized how much I had been learning through experience, I felt much the wiser, and extremely grateful!

I see now the wisdom in not cluing me into the lesson ahead of time.  Had I known it ahead of time, I may have acted charitably out of a kind of compulsion other than pure, simple love.  I also may have become prideful and focused on myself, instead of focusing on God and others.  By not setting forth the lesson ahead of time, God effectively took me out of it and made it more genuine and more truly other-centered.

God truly works in wondrous and mysterious ways, with such great wisdom!

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