by Fr Richard Heilman | February 12, 2015 8:53 AM
Pope Urban II launched the First Crusade in 1095 with the primary goal of the Christian re-conquest of the sacred city of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. So great was the pope’s speech in Clermont, France, on that day that the crowd was inspired to cry out: “Deus Vult! Deus Vult!” (“It is the will of God! It is the will of God!”). This became the battle cry of brave and noble knights who sought to recover that holy ground.
In our vastly secularized modern world, the need has never been greater to reclaim the surrendered ground of the sacred. While it was nearly a millennium ago that Pope Urban II challenged would-be warriors to “reclaim the sacred,” in our day it was Pope John Paul II, in his January 6, 2000, Apostolic Letter, Novo Millennio Ineunte, who made his clarion call for us to put aside all fear and pursue daring apostolic goals which are rooted deeply in prayer. This is a call to return to our first priority, the Universal Call to Holiness: “All Christian faithful … are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity.”
The spiritual devastation of the last few decades compelled Pope John Paul II to draw up his master plan for the new millennium. In his plan, he emphasized the importance of “starting afresh from Christ”: “No, we shall not be saved by a formula but by a Person.” Thus, he called for pastoral initiatives that would focus on “Training in Holiness” and “Schools of Prayer.” St. Francis of Assisi affirms this training in holiness as the fundamental starting point: “Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.”
Pope John Paul II challenges us to consider, “since baptism is a true entry into the holiness of God through incorporation into Christ and the indwelling of His Spirit, it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity. To ask catechumens: ‘Do you wish to receive baptism?’ means at the same time to ask them: ‘Do you wish to become holy?’ It means to set before them the radical nature of the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Mt 5:48).”
The strategy begins by employing what Fr. John Hardon calls the “Catholic method,” which has three parts. Everything in imitation of the Holy Trinity! Part one: Find the believing Catholics. Part two: Train them. Part three: Organize them.
Part One: Find believing Catholics. This is a Catholic soldier’s FM (Field Manual). It is 100 percent Roman Catholic; its orthodoxy can be trusted. Far from the regrettable modern practice of disposing of many of our Church’s 2,000-year-old treasury of beliefs, practices, pieties, and prayers, this Field Manual celebrates them as God’s revealed plan for us. This continuity with our ancient faith tradition must remain unbroken.
Part Two: Train them. Fr. John Hardon said: “If the Church is sanctifying, if the Church can make saints — and nineteen centuries is a very good record — it means we do what the Church tells us to do to become holy. This means therefore that provided we are truly loyal to the Church, know her teaching, follow it, know her precepts, obey them, recognize her legitimate superiors and follow their directives even when the obedience or the following may be hard, we will become holy. Anyone then who turns his back on the Church or decides to walk apart from the Church or even claims to be following a higher spirituality but independent of the Church is walking in darkness.”
Part Three: Organize them. The U.S. Army Combat Skills Handbook begins, “Modern combat is chaotic, intense, and shockingly destructive … however, even in this confusion and fear, remember that you are not alone. You are part of a well-trained team, backed by the most powerful combined arms force and the most modern technology in the world.” It is reassuring and motivating for soldiers to know they are joined together with such a large and powerful force united in their resolve to overcome evil with good.
Excerpt from Father Heilman’s book, Church Militant Field Manual
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