Qualities of the Spiritual Warrior

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Qualities of the Warrior who is Combat-Ready

“Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are indignation and courage; indignation at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain as they are.” St. Augustine.

“A life of storm, from beginning to end; fighting all the way; never a pause, never a truce, never  a rest.” (Churchill)

“Love strong, talk true, act right, correct wrong,endure to the end” (Tennyson, “The Knight’s Code”)

Warrior-Soul because he’s a Lover of God and Souls

For the Ignatian it is natural for him to have a warrior-soul because he’s a lover. As Chesterton expressed it:

“All romances consist of three characters…For the sake of argument they may be called St.George and the Dragon and the Princess. In every romance there must be the twin elements of loving and fighting. In every romance there must be the three characters: there must be the Princess, who is a thing to be loved; there must be the Dragon, who is a thing to be fought; and there must be St.George, who is a thing that both loves and fights.

“There have been many symptoms of cynicism and decay in our modern civilization. But…none [have been] quite so silly or as dangerous as this: that the philosophers of today have started to divide loving from fighting and to put them into opposite camps. [But] the two things imply each other; they implied each other in the old romance and in the old religion, which were the two permanent things of humanity. You cannot love a thing without wanting to fight for it. You cannot fight without something to fight for. To love a thing without wishing to fight for it is not love at all; it is lust. It may be an airy, philosophical, and disinterested lust….but it is lust, because it is wholly self-indulgent….On the other hand, fighting for a thing without loving it is not even fighting; it can only be called a kind of horse-play that is occasionally fatal. Wherever human nature is human….there exists this natural kinship between war and wooing, and that natural kinship is called romance….and every man who has ever been young at all has felt, if only for a moment, this ultimate and poetic paradox. He knows that loving the world is the same thing as fighting the world.” (G.K.CHESTERTON, Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens)

Responsible for the people he leads

The Ignatian as a priest, a leader in the ranks of the Church Militant,  is called to “put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.”  (Eph 6:13-18). The “armor” referred to by St.Paul  is not that of a Roman Legionary  but  that of a Hebrew priest since the priests usually led the armies into battle. This militant dimension has been part of the Catholic understanding of the priesthood since earliest times:  “You were rubbed with oil like an athlete”, said St. Ambrose, “as though in preparation for an earthly wrestling match and you agreed to take on your opponent.” (De Sacramentis)

It is not the fate of priests whose mission is to be ‘hunters ever of the servants of the Enemy” (Tolkien)  to sit in peace. Even less so in these times when “all the power of the Dark Lord is in motion” (Tolkien) in this unprecedented struggle between the cultures of life and death, part of the unceasing cosmic struggle between good and evil. Dramatic times indeed when abortion and euthanasia are increasingly accepted as civilized and cloning and eugenics are at our borders. But will there be a Gandalf to stand on the bridge with sword unsheated to shout “You shall not pass!”?

Readied by the ascesis (self-conquest) of the spirit, the priest’s steadfast attitude is “I’m ready; I’m in a war, I’m enlisted as an officer with responsibility for others and I am here to oppose not appease evil”.  The moment the priest decides to engage in spiritual warfare, there will be fire in his soul. And he will inflame others. Catholics who are serious about living the Faith will rejoice when they meet him because discovering a warrior priest is like meeting Aragorn (alias “Strider”) in the inn at Bree: you know that you have found a reliable guide through Middle-Earth.

With the Gravity of an officer in wartime

Thus the priest conscious of being at war has the mind of a soldier. Alongside his serenity remains a certain air of seriousness, even grimness at times, marking him as someone who has a responsibility to protect others – and that involves identifying and overcoming spiritual enemies. In virtue of his entrance to the ranks of leadership, the priest must lead his people in this conflict by word and by walking ahead of them.

“Thus he [Aragorn] became at last the most hardy of living Men, skilled in their crafts and lore, and was yet more than they; for he was elven-wise, and there was a light in his eyes that when they were kindled few could endure.  His face was sad and stern because of the doom that was laid on him, and yet hope dwelt ever in the depths of his heart, from which mirth would arise at times like a spring from the rock.” (Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings)

When you’re fighting a war, you know that wrong decisions can cost lives therefore careful thinking and talking and strategizing is required. For victory to be gained, the right arms, time, men and places must be chosen. And to state an implication of the above: he doesn’t lead his men into mine-fields through heterodox teaching and imprudent counsel. As a convert to Catholicism expressed it:            

“What happens when you realize you are at war? Drama, adrenaline, attention, alertness, and a sense of perspective; little things no longer loom so large. We do not complain about lumpy beds on battlefields. We do not even talk about our “sexual needs,” much less let them dominate our whole lives.” (Peter Kreeft)

Surely the militant priest knows how to grin and laugh even on fighting days; indeed nothing is as merry as the laughter of a man who comes in from the battle-front for a respite from conflict. He has a sense of the relative importance of actions which is the deep source of genuine humor.  “Do not let us speak of darker days”, said Churchill during the black days of World War II, “let us speak rather of sterner days”: Such can be the attitude of the priest.

The Stern Beauty of Combat

Through looking on the world as both the beauty of God’s creation and  the battlefield for Fallen Men, you will have a stronger serenity of soul : no sin in newspaper headlines will shock you to despair  because you know that  the conflict  with the “Axis of Evil” is  history’s  endless battle, that the  “Sleeping Malice” never ceases to be on the prowl, that Christ’s officers will be the target of  the enemies fiercest onslaughts but at the end of the day, like St.Peter himself you can remain “calm but vigilant”

“[This world] can be made beautiful again by beholding it as a battlefield. When we have defined and isolated the evil thing, the colors come back into everything else. When evil things have become evil, good things, in a blazing apocalypse, become good. There are some men who are dreary because they do not believe in God; but there are many others who are dreary because they do not believe in the devil.” (G.K.CHESTERTON, Charles Dickens)

As William Ellery Channing said “Even in evil, that dark cloud that hangs over creation, we discern rays of light and hope, and gradually come to see, in suffering and temptation, proofs and instruments of the sublimest purposes of wisdom and love”.

Moreover, although the Ignatian fights for love of God and souls, he knows that if he remains faithful in combat to the end the natural outcome is a triumph that no earthly triumph can ever equal:

“The glory of soldiers who serve in the armies of the world is to return home in triumph after defeating their enemy. How much greater and more desirable, then, is the glory of the man who returns in triumph to paradise after defeating the devil!” (St. Cyprian, To Fortunatus)

 “Saint Michael, archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who roam through the world seeking the ruin of souls.” – Pope Leo XIII.

“Build us priests, O Lord, who will have warrior-hearts to face the Axis of Evil within them, the Dictatorship of Relativism around them;  men with hearts of fire and principles of steel. Men who live a life of storm [find synonym] from beginning to end; ever vigilant, always active, never compromising. Amen.”