Many people are familiar with the hallmark red standards and capes of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP). While leftists hate and fear these symbols, those who fight for moral values love them.
Why do TFP symbols inspire so much admiration and hatred? What do they represent?
The most recognizable TFP symbol is the golden rampant lion. In the animal kingdom, the lion represents majesty and courage. In scripture, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah refers to Our Lord Jesus Christ and His eternal kingship over Heaven and earth.
The TFP lion advances toward the enemy, taking a large step forward. The stretched muscles of his legs show this assailing move. His eyes do not gaze upon the opponent in his immediate vicinity but on the infinite. His gaze is focused on the noble Cause he fights for. God is the end of his combat.
The TFP lion displays a red cross on its chest that represents the Catholic Faith. While its claws are ready to attack physically, the lion’s open mouth and distinct outstretched tongue symbolize the vital importance of waging and winning the battle of ideas. The lion faces the left (liberalism and communism) with its chest out and head high. The flamboyant tail adds a touch of elegance to the fight. Moreover, the upright and ornamental tail defies the vulgar and egalitarian traits of the Revolution.
Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, the founder of the first TFP and designer of its symbols, stated: “The lion does not give the impression that he is very heavy, carnivorous or ferocious. On the contrary, he demonstrates elegance, aristocracy and strength. He is a lion that knows how to be a Crusader. Altogether, these elements give the lion charm.”1
The color gold symbolizes the nobility of the TFP’s fight for the restoration of Christian civilization, the Reign of Christ the King, and coming triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary promised at Fatima.
TFP Cape or the “Dreaded Red Sashes”
A liberal student at George Washington University once described her encounter with a TFP campaign in The GW Hatchet newspaper. “Walking to class on Thursday afternoon, I suddenly heard bagpipes and saw the dreaded red sashes. Yes, our good friends, the fanatical members of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, were yet again on the GW campus … I thought about the TFP throughout the day.”2
Indeed, the symbolic value of this piece of red cloth is undeniable. These “dreaded red sashes” are highly visible and act as a force multiplier. Shining and agile in its movements, the TFP cape is designed to call the public’s attention to an ideological issue. Neither a coat nor a habit, its shape is not related to any known garment. It overlays the chest and transforms the one who wears it into a living standard.
Prof. Corrêa de Oliveira explains: “The cape that the TFP members and volunteers wear is intended to isolate, so to speak, their figures from common clothing and transform them, as it were, into busts, projecting them in an ideal and historical perspective. In the eyes of the people, the member, the volunteer of the TFP who presents himself with the cape appears resplendent with his ideals and this easily achieves the goal of the cape, which is to call the public’s attention to him.”3
The red standard of the TFP with its golden lion on a blue pole crowned by a golden fleur-de-lis is used primarily for public street campaigns. It stands out on college campuses, pro-family events, and the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. The “medieval banner,” as many call it, proclaims the ideals of tradition, family, and property.
When the wind blows strong, the banner displays its entire symbolism. But the standard also proclaims the perennial principles it stands for even when the wind settles. Its faithfulness to principles is unconditional.
When the standard catches a gusty wind, it represents the enthusiasm of every soldier of Christ to serve the Church. In periods of calm, the standard symbolizes the reflection and contemplation that sustain the person who must later carry on the fight. The standard pole symbolizes the virtue of temperance, which regulates and restrains the standard and anchors its enthusiasm.
Vibrant red symbolizes the virtue of heroism, the blood of the martyrs, and the value of self-sacrifice for a higher cause. Red also represents the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The TFP founder explains: “Our red standard with the golden color of its lion presents something that speaks of great ideals … [it] elevates the soul to a higher plane, it speaks of battle, makes one feel the nobility and beauty of the right, and communicates at least a little of the sense of the battle to those who contemplate it.”4
The three-petaled fleur-de-lis that crowns the TFP standard symbolizes three virtues: wisdom, purity, and chivalry.
The middle and tallest lily petal is wisdom, the superior virtue that governs all others. The two collateral petals of purity and chivalry bow in submission to wisdom. Above all, the lily points to Heaven and symbolizes the purity of Our Lady.
TFP members wear a unique ceremonial habit, especially for solemn occasions. This habit is full of symbolism and reflects three aspects of the moral profile of a TFP member: slave of Our Lady, warrior, and monk.
The large sword-cross of Saint James on the scapular stands out. The cross is half-red and half-white with a gold thread that separates the two colors.
Red symbolizes the willingness to shed one’s blood, if necessary, in defense of the Church and Christian civilization. White symbolizes the purity of orthodoxy and chastity. Gold represents the nobility of the TFP mission. The crusader cross is large because a TFP member is not afraid to display his love of the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ in a world that despises it.
The blade of the sword-cross moves with each step and evokes the good fight. Nevertheless, the tunic and scapular do not extend to the ground because it is not a habit distinctive of those adopted by religious orders.
However, the hood of the habit resembles the Benedictine cowl but with a sharper and stiffer tip. When folded, the hood frames the head and underscores the vital need for contemplation.
The tunic and scapular draw their inspiration from the Carmelite habit. Many founding members of the TFP, including Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, were Third Order Carmelites. Later, a white tunic based on the Trappist habit was adapted for younger TFP members. In warrior-monk fashion, the tunic falls just below the knees and exposes crusader-like cavalry boots.
Instead of a rope cincture, the TFP habit uses a large-linked chain. This is an outward expression of the spiritual slavery of love to the Blessed Virgin Mary according to the method of Saint Louis de Montfort’s book, True Devotion to Mary. On the left side, where the chain clips together, either three or seven links hang down. Three links symbolize Our Lady’s role as daughter, mother, and spouse of God. The seven links represent either the Seven Sorrows or the Seven Joys of Our Lady.
Hanging from the chain is the Holy Rosary, the spiritual weapon of all time. Lastly, the TFP cape is folded and fixed on the left shoulder of the scapular.
The Importance of Symbols
Ideas and principles are complex to express with words alone. Thus, symbols are needed. Only mention the word “heroism,” and a heroic person or symbol will spring to mind, not a dictionary definition.
Therefore, symbols help people comprehend principles and ideas. Symbols speak of the ineffable, metaphysical and spiritual realm. They are the visible representation of the invisible world.