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Monday, September 29, 2008

We're at War: Allocutio by Brother Dominic, September 25, 2008

The Legion is an army and the purpose of any army is to do battle. So it would be good to know what kind of war we're fighting and how we can win it.

Much of this allocutio was based directly on an lecture by Catholic philosopher and apologist Dr Peter Kreeft. I will excerpt parts of that lecture and will add my own comments in red. Listen to the lecture here. It's very timely and useful and full of his characteristic wit too.

Peter Kreeft

1. We Are at War

To win any war and any kind of war, I think the three most necessary things we must know are:

  1. that we are at war;
  2. who our enemy is; and
  3. what weapons or strategies can defeat him.

We cannot win a war: first, if we are blissfully sewing peace banners on the battlefield; or second, if we are too busy fighting civil wars against our allies; or, third, if we are using the wrong weapons. For instance, we must fight fire with water—not fire.

So this talk is a very basic, elementary three-point checklist to be sure we all know this minimum at least.

I assume you wouldn’t be coming to a talk entitled “How to Win the Culture War” if you thought all was well. If you are surprised to be told that our entire civilization is in crisis, I welcome you back from your nice vacation on the moon.

Many minds do seem moonstruck, puttering happily around the Titanic, blandly arranging the deck chairs—especially the intellectuals, who are supposed to have their eyes more open, not less. But in fact, they are often the bland leading the bland. I have verified over and over again the principle that there is only one thing needed for you to believe any of the 100 most absurd ideas possible for any human being to conceive: You must have a Ph.D.

For instance, take Time magazine—please do. Henry Thoreau said, “Read not the times, read the eternities.” Two Aprils ago, their lead article was devoted to the question, “Why is everything getting better?” Why is life so good in America today? Why does everyone feel so satisfied and optimistic about the quality of life in the future? I read the article very carefully and found that not once did they even question their assumption. They just wondered, “Why?” And you thought Enlightenment optimist and the dogma of progress [were] dead?

It turned out upon reading the article that every single aspect of life they mentioned, every reason why everything was getting better and better, was economic. People have more money. Period. End of discussion. Except the poor, of course, who are poorer. But they don’t count because they don’t write Time. They don’t even read it.

I suspect that Time is merely Playboy with clothes on. For one kind of playboy, the world is one great bit whorehouse. For another, it’s one great big piggy bank. For both kinds of playboy, things are getting better and better. Just ask the 75 percent of Americans who love Bill Clinton, the perfect synthesis of the two.


There is, however, an irrefutable refutation of the “pig philosophy”; the simple, statistical fact that suicide—the most in-your-face index of unhappiness—is directly, not indirectly, proportionate to wealth. The richer you are and the richer your country is, the more likely it is that you will find life so good that you will choose to blow your brains out. (Perhaps that is the culmination of open-mindedness.)

Suicide among pre-adults has increased 5000 percent since the happy days of the 50s. If suicide, especially of the coming generation, is not an index of crisis, I don’t know what is.

Just about everybody except the “deep” thinkers know[s] that we are in deep doo-doo. The students know it but not the teachers—the mind-molders, especially in the media. Everybody in the hospital except the doctors knows that we are dying. Night is falling. Mother Teresa said simply, “When a mother can kill her baby, what is left of civilization to save?” What Chuck Colson has labeled a “new dark age” is looming; a darkness that christened itself The Enlightenment at its birth three centuries ago. And this brave new world has proved to be only a cowardly old dream.

...John Paul the Great, the greatest man of the worst century in history [called] us the “culture of death.” That’s our culture—and his, including Italy, which now has the lowest birth rate in the entire world; and Poland, which now wants to share in the rest of the West’s great abortion holocaust. and likewise also the culture around us in Singapore.

If the God of Life does not respond to this culture of death with judgment, then God is not God. If God does not honor the blood of the hundreds of millions of innocent victims of this culture of death, then the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, the God of Israel, the God of the prophets, the God of orphans and widows, the Defender of the defenseless, is a man-made myth, a fairy tale, a comfortable ideal as substantial as a dream.

“But,” you may object, “Is not the God of the Bible also forgiving?” He is. But the unrepentant refuse forgiveness. Forgiveness, being a gift of grace, must be freely given and freely received. How can it be received by a moral relativist who denies that there is anything to forgive? (Except unforgiving-ness. Nothing to judge but judgmentalism. Nothing lacking but self-esteem.) How can a Pharisee or a pop psychologist be saved?

But, you may object, is not the God of the Bible compassionate? He is. But He is not compassionate to Moloch and Baal and Ashtaroth and to the Canaanites who do their work, who cause their children to pass through the fire. Perhaps your god is compassionate to the work of human sacrifice—the god of your demands, the god of your religious preference—but not the God of the Bible. Read the book. Look at the data.

But is not the God of the Bible revealed most fully and finally in the New Testament rather than in the Old? In sweet and gentle Jesus rather than wrathful and warlike Jehovah? The opposition is heretical. It is the old Gnostic–Manichean–Marcionite heresy, as immortal as the demons who inspired it. Our data refuted; our live data, which is divine data and talking data. Thus His name is the “Word” of God. This data refuted the heretical hypothesis in question when He said, “I and the Father are one.”


But, is not God a lover rather than a warrior? No, God is a lover who is a warrior. The question fails to understand what love is, what the Love that God is is. Love is at war with hate and betrayal and selfishness and all Love’s enemies. Love fights; ask any parent.

Yuppie love, like puppy love, may be merely compassion [in] the fashionable world today, but father-love and mother-love is war. God is love indeed, but what kind of love? Back to our data. Does Scripture call Him “God the puppy” or “God the yuppie” or is it “God the Father”? In fact, every page of this Book bristles with spear-points, from Genesis 3 through Revelation 20. The road from paradise lost to paradise regained is soaked in blood. At the very center of the story is a cross, a symbol of conflict if there ever was one. The theme of spiritual warfare is never absent in Scripture and never absent in the life and writings of a single saint. But it is almost never present in the religious education of my students at BC. “BC,” by the way, stands for “Barely Catholic.”

Whenever I speak of this, they are stunned and silent, as if they have suddenly entered another world. They have. They have gone through the wardrobe to meet the lion and the witch. Past the warm fuzzies—the fur coats of psychology disguised as religion—into the cold snows of Narnia, where the white witch is the lord of this world and Aslan is not a tame lion but a warrior. A world where they meet Christ the King, not Christ the kitten. Welcome back from the moon, kids.


Knowing we are at war at all times, but especially in such times as these, is the first prerequisite for winning it.

2. Knowing Our Enemy

The second prerequisite is knowing our enemy. Who is our enemy?

For almost half a millennium, Protestants and Catholics have thought of each other as the problem and have addressed the problem by consigning their bodies to graves on battlefield[s] and their souls to hell.

Gradually, the light dawned. Protestants and Catholics are not enemies; they are separated brethren who are fighting together against the same enemy. Who is that enemy?

For almost two millennia, Christians thought it was the Jews and did such Christ-less things to our Fathers in the Faith that we made it almost impossible for the Jews to see their God—the true God—in us.

Today, many Christians think it is the Muslims. But they are often more loyal to their half-Christ than we are to our whole Christ, and live more godly lives following their fallible scriptures and their fallible prophet than we do following our infallible Scriptures and our infallible Prophet. If you compare the stability of the family and the safety of children among Muslims and among Christians in today’s world; or if you compare the rate of abortion, divorce, adultery, and sodomy among Muslims and Christians in today’s world; and if you dare to apply to this data the principles announced by the prophets in our own Scriptures when they say repeatedly that God blesses those who obey His law and punishes those who do not, then I think you will know why Islam is growing faster that Christianity today. [Ed. note: These remarks were delivered in 1998.]

Faithful Muslims serve under the same general God, though through a different and more primitive communications network. And the same, I think, is true of the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Quakers.


Our enemies are not even the anti-Christian bigots who want to kill us, whether they are Chinese communist totalitarians who imprison and persecute Christians or Sudanese Muslim terrorists who enslave and murder Christians. They are not our enemies; they are our patients. They are the ones we are trying to save. We are Christ’s nurses. Some of the patients think the nurses are their enemies, but the nurses must know better. Our word for them is, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Our enemies are not even the canker worm within our own culture—the media of the culture of death, the Larry Flynts and Ted Turners and Howard Sterns and Time-Warners and Disneys. They, too, are victims, though they too are our patients—thought they hate the hospital and go running around poisoning other patients. But the poisoners are our patients, too, for whoever poisons was first poisoned himself.

This is true also of gay and lesbian activists and feminist witches and abortionists. If we are the cells in Christ’s Body, we do what he did to these people. We go into their gutters and pick up the spiritually dying and kiss those who spit at us and even shed our blood for them, if necessary. If we do not all physically go into the gutters as Mother Teresa did, we go into the spiritual gutters, for we go where the need is. If we do not physically give our blood, yet we give our life in giving our time. For life is time—“life-time.” Our time is our life’s blood. (Please don’t have children unless you understand that.)

Our enemies are not the heretics within the Church—the cafeteria Christians, the a la carte Christians, the I-did-it-my-way Christians. They are also our patients, though they are quislings. They are the deceived. They are the victims of our enemy—not our enemy.

Our enemies are not the theologians in some so-called Christian theology departments who have sold their souls for 30 pieces of scholarship and prefer the plaudits of their peers to the praise of their God.

Not even the Christophobes who wear spiritual condoms for fear Christ will make their souls and the souls of their students pregnant with His alarmingly active Life. Not even the liars who deny their students elementary truth in labeling—the robber teachers who rob their students of the Living Christ. They, too, are our patients. And we, too, do what they do—though unwillingly—in each of our sins.

Our enemy is not even the few really wicked ministers and pastors and priests and bishops and rabbis, the abusive babysitters who corrupt Christ’s little ones whom they swore to protect and merit Christ’s Millstone-of-the-Month Award. They, too, are victims in need of healing.

Who, then, is our enemy? Surely you must know the two answers. All the saints throughout the Church’s history have given the same two answers. For these answers come from the same two sources, from the Word or God on paper and the Word of God on wood—from every page of the New Testament and from Christ. They are the reasons He went to the cross.

Yet they are not well known. In fact, the first answer is almost never mentioned today outside so-called fundamentalist circles. Not once in my life can I recall ever hearing a sermon on it from a Protestant or a Catholic pulpit.

Our enemies are demons. Fallen angels. Evil spirits.

Our secular culture believes that anyone who believes this is at least an uneducated, narrow-minded bigot and probably mentally deranged. It follows logically, therefore, that Jesus Christ is an uneducated, narrow-minded bigot and mentally deranged.

Most of our religious culture is simply embarrassed at this idea, therefore it is embarrassed at Christ. For He is the One who gave us this answer: “Do not fear those who can kill the body and then [have] no power over you. I will tell you whom to fear: Fear him who has power to destroy both body and soul in hell.” That is Satan, of course, not God, who work is to save souls, not to destroy them. Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have you that he might sift you as wheat.” And Peter learned the lesson and passed it on to us in his first epistle: “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil as a roaring lion walketh about seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist, steadfast in the faith.”

Paul, too, knew that we are not contending against flesh and blood but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Pope Leo XIII saw this truth. He received a vision of the coming 20th century—a vision that history has proved terrifyingly true. He saw Satan at the beginning of time allowed one century to do his worst work in, and Satan chose the 20th. This Pope Leo, with the name and the heart of a lion, was so overcome by the terror of this vision that he fell into a swoon like a Victorian lady. When he revived, he composed a prayer for the whole Church to use throughout this century of spiritual warfare:

St. 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.

This prayer was known by every Catholic and prayed after every Mass—until the 60s. Exactly when Leo’s Church was struck with the incomparably swift disaster, which we have not yet named, but which future historians must: The disaster that has taken away half of our priests, three-quarters of our nuns, and nine-tenths of our children’s theological knowledge by turning the Faith of Our Fathers into the doubts of our dissenters in a miraculous reversal of Christ’s first miracle at Cana, turning the wine of the gospel into the water of psychobabble. An anti-miracle by the anti-Christ.

The restoration of the Church, and thus the world, might well begin with the restoration of the Lion’s prayer and the Lion’s vision. Because this is the vision of all the saints, all the apostles, and Our Lord Himself—the vision of a real Satan, a real hell, and a real spiritual warfare.

I said there were two enemies. The second is even more horrible than the first. There is one nightmare even more terrifying than being chased by the devil, even caught by the devil, even tortured by the devil. That is the nightmare of becoming a devil. The horror outside your soul is terrible enough, but not as terrible as the horror inside your soul. The horror inside the soul, of course, is sin. Another word, which, if any dare to speak it today, elicits embarrassment from Christian and condemnation from the secularist, who condemns only condemnation, judges only judgmentalism, and believes the only sin is believing in sin.

All sin is the devil’s work, though he usually uses the flesh and the world as his instruments. Sin means doing the devil’s work, tearing and damaging God’s work. And we do this. That’s the only reason why the devil can do his awful work in our world. God won’t allow him to do it without our free consent.

And that’s the deepest reason why the Church is weak and why the world is dying. Because we are not saints.

3. The Weapon

And that gives us our third necessary thing to know—the weapon that will win the war and defeat our enemy. All is takes is saints.

Can you imagine what 12 more Mother Teresas or 12 more John Wesleys would do for this poor old world? Can you imagine what would happen if just 12 people in this room did it? Gave Christ 100 percent of their hearts with 100 percent of their hearts 100 percent of the time and held back nothing, absolutely nothing?

No, you can’t imagine it—any more than anyone could have imagined how 12 nice Jewish boys could conquer the Roman Empire.

You can’t imagine it, but you can do it. You can become a saint. Absolutely no one and nothing can stop you. It’s your free choice.

Our founder Servant of God Frank Duff told us this decades ago in his great pamphlet titled Can We Be Saints?:

Thus, there is another definition of what a Saint is. It is this: One who, with the object of pleasing God, does his ordinary duties extraordinarily well. Such a life may be lived out without a single wonder in it, arouse little notice, be soon forgotten, and yet be the life of one of God's dearest friends.

It is obviously an encouragement to look on sanctity in this way. When we see that those things which so terrified us in the lives of the Saints, because we felt we could not do them ourselves, are not the important part of their sanctity at all, we should feel heartened to begin to-day and make a serious effort for great holiness. Believe this: it is only the first few wrenches given to the will that really hurt. Perhaps the following words of Cardinal Newman will tempt us to take a step forward on the road:

"If you ask me what you are to do in order to be perfect, I say, first do not lie in bed beyond the time of rising; give your first thoughts to God; make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament; say the Angelus devoutly; eat and drink to God's glory; say the Rosary well; be recollected; keep out bad thoughts; make your evening meditation well; examine yourself daily; go to bed in good time, and you are already perfect."

Who are Called to be Saints?

Every person that is born is called to be a Saint. Take it as most certain that you -- no matter how unfitted your life may seem for holiness -- are being given graces sufficient, if corresponded with, to bring you to sanctity. We have already seen that nothing beyond our strength is expected; neither is sanctity the exclusive property of any grade or manner of life. Among the Saints canonised by the Church are kings and beggars, and representatives of every trade, slaves, hermits, city people, mothers of families, invalids, soldiers, and persons of every race and colour.

Here is one of the most wonderful and terrifying sentences I have ever read, from William Law’s Serious Call, “If you will look into your own heart in utter honesty, you must admit that there is one and only one reason why you are not even now a saint. You do not wholly want to be.”

That insight is terrifying because it is an indictment, but it is wonderful and hopeful because it is also an offer, an open door. Each of us can become a saint. We really can. We really can. I say it three times, because I think we do not really believe that deep down. For if we did, how could we endure being anything less?

What holds us back? Fear of paying the price. What is the price? The answer is simple. T. S. Eliot gave it when he defined Christianity as “a condition of complete simplicity (costing not less than everything).” The price is everything—100 percent. Martyrdom, if required, and probably a worse martyrdom than the quick noose or stake, the martyrdom of dying daily, dying every minute for the rest of your life. Dying to all your desires and plans—including your plans about how to become a saint.

Or rather, not dying to your desires but dying to the you in your desires. I think this sounds much more mystical than it is. It is simply giving God a blank check. It is simply islam, complete submission. Fiat. Mary’s thing. Look at what it did 2000 years ago when she did it; it brought God down from heaven and thus saved the world.

It was meant to continue. If we do that Mary thing, that islam, and only if we do that, then all our apostolates will work—our preaching and teaching and writing and catechizing and mission-ing and fathering and mothering and studying and nursing and business-ing and pastoring and priesting—everything.


But how? We always want to know how. Give me a method, a technology, a means to this end. What does that question mean, “How can I become a saint?” Or “Give me a means to the end of sanctity.” It means, “Give me something that is easier than sanctity, which will cause sanctity. So that if I do this something or attain this something, then this something will be the middle term, the link between me and sanctity.”

No. There is none. No prayers, no meditations, no 12-steps programs, no yogas, no psychological techniques, no techniques at all. There can be no button to push for sanctity, any more than for love. For sanctity is simply love: loving God with all your soul and mind and strength.

How do you love? You just do it. A cause cannot produce an effect greater than itself. And nothing in the world is greater than sanctity, nothing greater than love. Therefore, no cause, no human cause, can produce sanctity. There can never be any technology for sanctity.

Of course, God is its cause. Grace is its cause. The Holy Spirit is its cause. “Oh well, why doesn’t God cause it then? If sanctity isn’t a do-it-yourself thing but an only-God-can-do-it thing, then why doesn’t God make me a saint? If only grace can do it, why doesn’t He give me that grace?”

Because you don’t want it. If you wanted it, He’d give it. He promised that: “All who seek find.” It’s back to “just say yes.” It’s infinitely simpler than we think, and that’s why it’s hard. The hard word in the formula “just say yes” is the word “just.”

We are comfortable with Christ and theology or Christ and psychology or Christ and America or Christ and the Republican Party or Christ and the Democratic Party or Christ and phonics or Christ and dieting. But just plain Christ, all Christ, Christ drunk straight, not mixed, we find far too dangerous for our tastes.

Aslan is not a tame lion. Just say yes to Him? You never know what he’d do with you!

I conclude with a claim to infallibility. I give you two infallible prognoses: One, if you we do not use this weapon, we will not win this war. Two, if we do use this weapon, we will win this war. Or more subtly, insofar as we use this weapon, we will win this war, and insofar as we do not, we will not.

We can win, because we wield here the world’s most unconquerable weapon, the strongest force in the universe. To translate it from the abstract to the concrete, the weapon is Christ’s Blood. Not Christ without blood, not merely a beautiful ideal. And not blood without Christ, not a merely human sacrifice and martyrdom, but Christ’s Blood.

Back when there were more communists in Russia than in American universities, Archbishop Fulton Sheen used to say that the difference between Russia and America was that Russia was the cross without Christ, and America was Christ without the cross.

Neither will win. Neither will work. Neither sacrifice without love nor love without sacrifice. But the Blood of Christ will work. For that blood flows from His Sacred Heart, and the heart of that Heart is agape, divine love. That is why it will work—because love never gives up.

And that is why we will never give up and why we will win. Why we whose food is this Blood are invincible.

The hard-nosed, successful, secular lawyer Gerry Spence writes: “A small boy and a bully meet. When the small boy is knocked down, he gets up and attacks again, over and over, until at last he will win. For nothing in the world is as fearsome as a bloody, battered opponent who will never surrender.” Never.

Winston Churchill delivered the shortest and most memorable commencement speech of all time at his alma mater during World War II: “Never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never give up.” That’s all.

We will win the war, because no matter how many times we fall down, no matter how many times we fail at being saints, no matter how many times we fail at love, we will never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never give up.

Pope Benedict tells us that since Mary acccepted God's proposal in our name, we should turn to Her and ask Her to guide us as we struggle to remain faithful in the life-giving relationship that God has established with each of us. In this war against the culture of death, may the Mother of Life Himself be our sword and our shield. May she be as terrible as an army set in battle array to our enemies. And may St Michael and her Legion of Angels be always with us in battle.


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