Chivalric Self-Sacrifice: The Anvil on which Ignatius the Priest was Forged
Chivalry was therefore an anvil on which the character of men called to be authentic priests was swiftly and readily forged into shape. The burning desire for knighthood in these men gave them that tone of Christian manhood true to character in a priest: chivalry of spirit, nobility of purpose, grit of self-conquest, willingness to fight for all that is true and good, noble, pure and holy. For such are the men and such is the character that the Ecclesia Militans always requires in her priest-leaders.
The mystique of chivalry had already shown itself to be a fertile womb of a distinguished line of heroic priests. The ideals of knighthood and priesthood in ages past stood side by side in the minds of these and so many others of Christianity’s greatest men in medieval Europe. Underneath the religious robes of Bernard of Clairvaux, Dominic Guzman, and Francis of Assisi lay the heart and character of the knight. From chivalry these saints had received intuitions of spiritual grandeur and moral strength.
For instance, before St. Francis heard the voice of Christ speak to him from the Crucifix of San Damiano in the autumn of 1205 – “Francis do you not see that my house is falling into ruin? Go, and repair it for me” – he firstly had a dream in the spring of that year in which a man showed him within a vast and pleasant palace armor and arms which he was told were for him and his knights. Francis, the romantic troubadour had learned that “the secret of recovering the natural pleasures lay in regarding them in the light of a supernatural pleasure” (Chesterton), for whom religion was a love-affair and who frequently called his followers either “troubadours of God” or “knights of the Round Table”. And Bernard of Clairvaux, raised amid knights, had incorporated romanticism into Christian prayer and brought chivalry to the peaks of idealism through his authorship of the statutes for the Knights Templar.