Ignatians: Men of Chivalric Virtue

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Underneath the Ignatian uniform is the armor of chivalry


“An army of deer led by a lion is more to be feared than an army of lions led by a deer” (attributed to Chabrias and Philip of Macedon)


Priestly Leadership demands not just virtue but virile virtue

Christ willed only men to be priests and therefore as Pope John Paul stated:

“Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.” (Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, 1994, n. 4)

There  is no disrespect towards womanhood in this position because it does not touch the equal dignity of man and woman in both nature and grace. Indeed as St. Thomas Aquinas remarked:

“In all matters pertaining to the soul, woman is not to be distinguished from man, and, indeed, she is sometimes discovered to be better than man in respect of the soul, therefore she can receive the gift of prophecy and other gifts of a like nature, but not the sacrament of Holy Orders.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, In Librum Sant. Dist. 25, q.25)

The priesthood therefore is for men and implicitly demands a  man’s virile dedication through the exercise of the particularly masculine qualities associated with a soldier and shepherd – enterprise, tenacity, toughness, decisiveness, and combative spirit. 

For, as Josef Sellmair remarked “If the priesthood were nothing more than a service of love tendered to mankind, women would undoubtedly be more suited to it than men”.

The priest must protect his identity as a “lion” in a culture that would willingly turn him into a fawn. This requires that he forge multiple points of strength in his personality.

Man of Grit

Like any intelligent military leader, the priest knows that achievement is a victory won after a campaign filled with difficulties endured to the end.

As Xenophon (c.360 BC)  in  Cyropaedia (a  book describing the education of an ideal leader) wrote: “He must be ready to suffer more hardships than he asks of his soldiers, more fatigue, greater extremes of heat and cold”. 

Indeed the Lord of History “as he sat on the Mount of Olives” told us of the campaign we must be ready for:

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved.” (Mt. 24:9-14)

Man of Honor

In the chivalric mystique, honor has always been sacred. “Rather death than shame”: all of chivalry, as Leon Gautier in La Chevalerie remarked, is enclosed in these words.

The Ignatian guards his own honor by giving honor first and foremost in all his thoughts, words, and actions to God: “To God alone the honor and the glory” (1 Timothy 1:17).

To God he gives the honor particularly through the adoration of God in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass wherein expiation is made for the infinite outrage of sin against the divine majesty.

And to all who are united to God in the Mystical Body of Christ, preeminently the Mother of God, Our Lady, Queen of Heaven and Earth. Then to the saints.

And as a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, he recognizes the honor that is due to his own body as a temple of the Most Holy Spirit:

“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” (1 Cor 6:19-20)

And that his priesthood, as the priesthood of the Most High God, with the role of mediating between God and men, must be lived with honor.

Spiritual Warrior

In an epoch when we Christians are living in enemy-occupied territory of the Dictatorship of Relativism, lay Catholics need to find in their priests men who defend the Faith, stand up for Truth, train them for spiritual and intellectual warfare in the classroom, the workplace, the public square.

Being a spiritual warrior does not mean being some type of militaristic fanatic: it means not being a coward, a wimp without a backbone for the defense of babies in the womb, the defenseless old people in danger of euthanasia, the children whose innocence is destroyed by mass-media programming and certain government education programs.

It means being strong of spirit; it means recalling that the Jesus who preached the Beatitudes also cleansed the Temple.

The Culture of Death is creating the wasteland of Mordor in a globalized culture: the Church and only the Church can prevent its triumph but the Church’s strength depends, in the mysterious providence of God, on the strength of the priesthood.

Publicly Loyal to the Truth

The priest as leader must be courageous in speaking prudently and courageously the politically incorrect truths of the Faith.

But here a chilling observation must be made: it has become evident in recent years that many priests are not willing to do this! A woman once remarked about an archbishop: “ I wish just for once that he’d say what’s really on his mind – and not simply what he thinks I’d like to hear!”

That simply is not acceptable! “Sacerdos, dux exercitus Domini.” [ “The Priest, leader of the army of the Lord”] (St. Peter Damian) can be no timid friend of Truth!  

Let our motto be that of the heroic anti-Nazi Bishop von Galen, the “Lion of Munster”: Nec laudibus nec timore (neither by praises nor by fear of men [shall I be swayed]).

Therefore if a man is allergic to straight-talking, he would be wise to avoid a leadership role in the Ecclesia Militans ; indeed every seminarian has a serious moral obligation to ask himself before ordination or before accepting positions of authority: “Am I willing to defend the honor of God,  to be a man of steel loyalty to truth prepared to lose every friend  I have in order to defend the Church’s doctrine and discipline and indeed to see myself pushed to the outskirts of the politically-correct society?”

For the bugle call must ring clearly from the Church’s officers if the soldiers are to go into battle!

Leadership must be marked by the ability to say “no”: no to insidious errors in catechetics, “no” to scandalous behavior, “no” to anyone who might harm the members of your flock.


Decisive is the man of virile virtue: he cuts the Gordian knot of difficulties in front of which others languish in indecision often because of cowardice.


The priest must therefore do  what he committed yourself to do on the day of ordination: he must shoulder his responsibility to lead, teach, sanctify! He is called to be a tactful, sensitive, compassionate, kind, gentle shepherd but he is called to be a shepherd, which means a leader, who directs and governs energetically  to maintain the purity of the faith and the discipline of the sacraments protecting the lambs from the wolves on the prowl.

With a Magnanimous Heart

The Ignatian, true to the mystique of chivalry, will form in himself a magnanimous spirit by which he strives for the greater glory of God (ad majorem Dei gloriam, as St. Ignatius placed as motto), seeking to achieve the most and the best for his Divine Lord’s cause. 

And So the Church Prays for Militant Hearts

“O God, Who, to spread abroad the greater glory of Thy name through St. Ignatius, strengthened the Church militant with new power, grant that we, who are struggling on earth, may, by his help and following his example, be found worthy to be crowned with him in heaven…Amen! (Feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, the Church’s prayer)