Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Modern Knighthood (and the Worse Dragons)

A sample for your contemplation...

                Other than the presence of a cardinal and a bishop – and the youth of the deceased – there was little out of the ordinary about the funeral Mass. The cardinal had selected the usual scripture readings, but to the surprise of many his gospel selection was the healing of the centurion’s servant: “For I also am a man subject to authority...”[Mt 8:9] And, as perhaps only Father Bondost might have expected, his homily was surprising too:

                “Many of you will be wondering about all these men in robes, with swords at their sides – older men, mostly. Or about these young men with swords... men you may have already encountered here in Stirling, and you knew they were bold young men, ready and willing to do the hard jobs, to defend the defenseless and protect the innocent, to help in unusual circumstances. It may sound like some sort of exaggeration to call them modern Knights, especially since knights get some bad press in these decadent ages – but they really are Knights. Don’t go by the fantasy stories and movies – don’t expect to see them jousting on horseback.... but when dragons come to destroy, they will be in the forefront of battle. Dragons! You scoff. Maybe not the fire-breathing lizards of mythology, but these dragons are worse, for they are the kind which lurk in human disguise. Yes: they are Knights, not because they ride horses, wear armor, or have swords, but because they are men sworn to virtue.

                “And this young man...  put his own life at the service of virtue – and by divine providence, while he still breathed, one of these knights bestowed the dignity of knighthood on him... who died in defending a young girl from deadly force.

                “This is not the time or place to describe the formalities of knighthood. But there is another sort of knighthood – a sort which is not beyond the reach of anyone, male or female, old or young, strong and hearty or weak and disabled. It is the sort of knighthood to which our centurion alludes.

                “It’s a marvellous story, you know: the singular case in the gospels where someone had the audacity to preach a parable to Jesus! Think about it: this soldier gives quite a perfect little analogy about how obedience works, and very humbly appeals to Authority for assistance. The scholastics of the Middle Ages would cheer this most elegant intellectual presentation; the Popes of modern times would applaud the succinct application of the great principle of Subsidiarity. But there’s more.

                “The centurion did not expect Jesus to ‘join up’ in the Roman military. In fact, he hardly knew what to expect of Christ in the way of action. Certainly he didn’t expect to get that unique commendation ‘Amen I say to you, I have not found so great faith in Israel.’ Our own case is similar: This daring young man was trying to do what he understood as the knightly thing: to safeguard that young lady from danger. He didn’t expect to suffer... nor did he expect to receive that unique commendation of knighthood.

                “All too often we come to our worship as we come to any of our ordinary duties, not knowing what we might expect. Certainly we don’t expect to run the risks this young man ran – nor do we come as the centurion, expecting assistance from Authority. But we do run risks... we need to recall what Chesterton said: The most dangerous thing in the world is to be alive; one is always in danger of one’s life. [GKC The Apostle and the Wild Ducks 165] We are always running risks, even in the safest and sanest occupations. But if we understand what the centurion understood: that there is one with Authority, Whose commands compel obedience – then we also know that utterly unexpected answers, marvellous answers, amazing results can come from such risks. We do not need to swear in our own blood to defend virtue. We are already obliged to live virtuously, as good Christians, as good citizens, as men and women who expect to live as good neighbors in our little towns... for this vast planet, nay, not even the planets of the entire universe, would be big enough for us to live together unless we are willing to live by virtue. Let us then proceed with our duties, and remember how the centurion phrases his request: ‘I am not worthy... but only say the word...’ May God make us worthy to live – and to die – as this young man did.”

[PJF Et In Luna Pax]