On a recent trip to Fatima, I stopped to spend a night in the city of Obidos, Portugal. As I stood atop the walls of that medieval city, I felt almost as though I were breathing history…but not just any history. I was filling my lungs with a Catholic combative history.
With each arrow loop I passed, my mind’s eye could see a twelth century Portuguese knight, bedecked with armor, ready to risk life and limb to defend Christian civilization against hordes of Muslim invaders. I could hear the alarm bell calling the peasants from the fields to seek shelter behind the walls on which I stood.
As my mind drifted back and forth across a threshold of 900 years, I compared the society I envisioned to our own. The stark contrast overwhelmed me. Medieval Christian man possessed a vision of the Church that has been all but lost in our days.
Unlike modern man who sees the Church and asks: “What is in it for me?” he saw the Faith and asked: “How can I serve?” Thus, he was willing to make any sacrifice and oppose any enemy in defense of the Faith.
While these reflections passed through my mind, I remembered a lecture Brazilian TFP founder, Professor Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, once gave on the crusading spirit. In it he logically developed the theory that true adoration of God can only exist when one has the spirit of a crusader.
Original Sin and Self-seeking Friendship
Prof. Corrêa de Oliveira’s reasoning was very clear. After Original Sin, man’s tendency is to befriend only those who are pleasing to him, and furthermore to seek a personal advantage in such relationships.
The resulting friendship is based on self-love, not love of others. Thus, it cannot be considered true friendship.
Coupled with this self-seeking tendency, fallen man has a loathing of sacrifice. This tendency is so strong that it requires a tremendous effort to overcome.
A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed
However, to develop true friendship both of these tendencies must be surmounted. Thus, true friendship only exists when one is willing to sacrifice himself for his friend without seeking personal advantage. The more one is willing to sacrifice for his friend, the deeper and truer that friendship is.
Our Lord stated this on the night before His Passion, saying: “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Thus, the greatest love one can attain is one by which he is willing to sacrifice everything for his friend.
Additionally, friendship is tested when a friend is threatened. Then one’s willingness to sacrifice is proven. That is why many veterans attest that the greatest friends of their lives were made during war. The daily sacrifice a soldier is expected to make for his friends, seals a bond that is almost unbreakable.
Adoration and the Crusading Spirit
Applying these principles to God, we are not called simply to be His friend. We are obliged to adore Him. If simple friendship cannot exist without a selfless spirit of sacrifice, adoration definitely cannot exist without it. Therefore, true adoration can only exist when one is willing to stand up for God and defend Him, even at the risk of losing his life. This willingness is the very definition of the crusading spirit.
Rekindling the Crusading Spirit
As I stood atop the walls of Obidos with these considerations running through my mind, I was able to put my finger on one main difference between the world of the Middle Ages and our own.
Medieval man had the crusading spirit. The Faith and God were of much more importance to him than technological advances or material prosperity. When the Faith called him to travel thousands of miles to a foreign land with little hope of return, without hesitation, he shouted a resounding: “Deus Vult!” (God wills it!)1
Could it be that the lack of this spirit has contributed, in large part, to the moral decadence of our days? If our society as a whole would stop living selfishly as though God does not exist and adore Him with the abnegated worship that characterized the Crusaders of old, society would undoubtedly be different.
Such reflections, standing on the castle bulwark rekindled in me a crusading spirit. I could only pray that Our Lady rekindle this crusading spirit among Catholics and thus establish the triumph of Her Immaculate Heart on earth.