In my recent article, “Spiritual Warfare: Why We Are Losing,” I stated, “The time is now to prepare an elite fighting force, surrendering to God and then allowing His grace to invade every aspect of our lives.” Admission into Christ’s elite fighting force begins by knowing that by your baptism you have been commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ to fulfill a most dramatic mission; it is the mission of saving souls. This mission cannot be accomplished without entering into conflict with ‘the world, the flesh and the devil.’ It is not a mission for the fainthearted or for those who wish to take the wide road to heaven. It is the path of warfare, of spiritual battle.
“Holiness,” wrote Pope Benedict XVI, “has its deepest root in the grace of baptism, in being grafted on to the Paschal Mystery of Christ, by which His Spirit is communicated to us, His very life as the Risen One.” Jesus Christ is the one Whom the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit and established as priest, prophet, and king. The whole People of God participates in these three offices of Christ and bears the responsibilities for mission and service that flow from them. (CCC 783)
From the very first days of our membership in the Mystical Body of Christ, we are, in essence, commissioned officers in the Church Militant. In other words, the power of the Holy Spirit to combat evil and rescue souls proceeds precisely through the three offices of Christ: Priest, Prophet, and King.
Office Of Priest
The first office we receive in baptism is that of priest (the priesthood of the laity). Fr. Robert Barron says, “A priest prays for others, intercedes, and performs sacrifices. Priests are border walkers. They walk the border between heaven and earth. They are mediators as friends of God and friends of the human race. They bring divinity and humanity together. It means you must be a person of prayer — intercessory prayer — prayer on behalf of others. It pleases God to channel His providential care precisely through us and through the instrumentality of our prayer.”
Whether it’s a Navy SEAL or a Saint, we admire those who put it all on the line — go “all in!” — those who are totally dedicated to the mission. In the military, this dedication is revealed in the “Warrior Ethos,” four simple lines embedded in the Soldier’s Creed:
- I will always place the mission first.
- I will never accept defeat.
- I will never quit.
- I will never leave a fallen comrade.
The last line of the Warrior Ethos, “I will never leave a fallen comrade,” is really striking. When I read this, I think of recent Medal of Honor recipients who reportedly ran through a hail of bullets to rescue their comrades from the clutches of the enemy. It is very similar in the spiritual realm.
When our loved ones are “dead in sin,” they are not only separated from God, but they lose their desire to seek God. Some become so far removed from God that they find repulsive all things spiritual. So, prayer, Holy Mass, spiritual reading, etc. all become boring and, to some, even detestable when they are dead inside: no Divine Life. They are, quite literally, caught behind enemy lines (imprisoned in their worldliness) with no way out unless some campaign of search and rescue is launched.
Pope Francis refers to the Church as a “field hospital after the battle.” Does our love, care, and concern for them extend to their eternal salvation? Pray unceasingly for them!
Remember the Warrior Ethos: “I will never leave a fallen comrade!”
Office of Prophet
The second office we receive in baptism is that of prophet. Fr. Robert Barron says, “A prophet is someone who speaks for God. Their task is to speak God’s word, in season and out (whether that word is popular or not). It means you should be a reader of theology and spirituality so that you might, as St. Peter put it, ‘give a reason for the hope that is in you.’ We’re living in a time when religion is under attack. If someone challenged you, could you give a reason for the hope that is in you?”
For Pope Leo XIII, to be a prophet means we are “born for combat”:
“To recoil before an enemy, or to keep silence when from all sides such clamors are raised against truth, is the part of a man either devoid of character or who entertains doubt as to the truth of what he professes to believe. The only ones who win when Christians stay quiet” he says, “are the enemies of truth. The silence of Catholics is particularly disturbing because frequently a few bold words would have vanquished the false ideas.”
The element of surprise often catches us off-guard when faced with an opportunity to defend the faith from attacks or admit why our faith is so important to us. Those moments often come and go rather quickly. This is why it is essential for us to make the necessary preparations by developing short but powerful statements or quotes that really leave, in a brief moment, a spiritual mark on the recipients. In the public relations world, these are called “talking points.” Or, as Pope Leo XIII called them, “a few bold words.”
A talking point in a debate or discourse is a succinct statement designed to persuasively support one side taken on an issue. Such statements can either be free-standing or created as retorts to the opposition’s talking points. Yes, you should study theology and spirituality but, like arrows in your quiver, you must have these talking points prepared and memorized, ready to fire. More than anything else, before ever opening your mouth, take a deep breath and ask the Holy Spirit to speak through you in love.
Office of King
The third office we receive in baptism is that of king. A king is someone who leads others to God. A good king is someone who leads by example. A good king is someone who puts those in his charge ahead of himself. Christ the King said, “I have not come to be served, but to serve.” And then He got down on His hands and knees and washed the dirty feet of His disciples. He told them, “You want to be great? Then be the slave of the rest.” (Mt 20:27-28, Jn 13:4-5)
As Jean-Baptiste Chautard recounts in his book [easyazon_link asin=”0895550318″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”onep073-20″]The Soul of The Apostolate[/easyazon_link], Pope St. Pius X was conversing with a group of his cardinals one day. The pope asked them: “What is the thing we most need, today, to save society?”
“Build Catholic schools,” said one.
“More churches,” said another.
“Speed up the recruiting of priests,” said a third.
“No, no,” said the pope. “The most necessary thing of all, at this time, is for every parish to possess a group of laymen who will be at the same time virtuous, enlightened, resolute, and truly apostolic.”
Chautard continues, “Further details enable us to assert that this holy pope at the end of his life saw no hope for the salvation of the world unless the clergy could use their zeal to form faithful Christians full of apostolic ardor, preaching by word and example, but especially by example. In the diocese where he served before being elevated to the papacy, he attached less importance to the (count) of parishioners than to the list of Christians capable of radiating an apostolate. It was his opinion that shock troops could be formed in any environment.”
“Shock troops” (or assault troops) is actually a military term that refers to infantry formations, along with supporting units, created to lead an attack. Consider the Allied Forces of World War II moving toward the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. That first wave of men knew full well that their chances were extremely poor of ever leaving that beach alive, but they knew somebody needed to go first. It is no less than profound that the holy Pope St. Pius X would use a military term, shock troops, to describe the most necessary need of our times. The pope was resolute in acknowledging that we are in spiritual warfare as he calls for an uncommon valor willing to be the tip of the spear, the vanguard.
In other words, we need warrior saints unafraid “to lead.”
Fr. Richard M. Heilman is a priest of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin State Chaplain for the Knights of Columbus. He is a regular guest host on Relevant Radio’s The Inner Life, and is the founder of the Knights of Divine Mercy, which is an apostolate for Catholic men’s faith formation..
He is also he founder of the Ladies of Divine Mercy, which is an apostolate for Catholic women’s faith formation. He is the author of the Church Militant Field Manual and the Roman Catholic Man website, which are both dedicated to helping Catholics understand and train for their role in the mission of combating evil and rescuing the souls of our loved ones who have lost the precious gift of faith.