Conquering by evangelizing: Weekly Message for 09-22-2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

In the Fall of 2017, I had the grace of going on pilgrimage to Fatima. On All Souls Day, I visited the Convento de Cristo (the Convent of Christ) in Tomar, a breathtaking and imposing castle that was the see of Templar power in Portugal from the XII century to the XVI century. The Knights Templar (their full name is the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon–since in the Holy Land their headquarters resided on the ruins of the Temple) resisted a Moorish invasion in Portugal and Christianized the Tomar region, later funding Portugal’s great exploratory push. History buffs at this point might point out that the Templars were dissolved in the XIV century after being subjected to a smear campaign that had the intention of confiscating their assets and property. That is true, but Portugal was so favorable to them due to their help in the Reconquista that in Portugal they were re-founded as the Ordem dos Cavaleiros de Nosso Senhor Jesus Cristo (Order of the Knights of Our Lord Jesus Christ) and “inherited” the same assets and property with the blessing of Portugal’s king and Pope John XXII.

I was really struck by my visit to the Convent (castle), and not just because I am a medieval enthusiast. Hearing their history, their accomplishments, and their trials, I couldn’t help thinking about how similar the names “Knights of Christ” and “Legionaries of Christ” are. At one point our motto was “contemplative and conquering,” an expression now tweaked a little to “contemplative and evangelizing.” To be honest, I prefer conquering, but evangelization is actually more accurate as the kind of conquest the Church seeks. It is not proselytism or subjugation; it is winning over hearts to Christ and his cause using whatever means we have at our disposal, whether spiritual or cultural.

The Knights of Christ gave not only spiritual, military, and financial support to Portugal, but cultural support as well, bringing resources from the Holy Land without which Portugal’s great exploratory endeavors would not have been possible, such as maps the Western world had not yet drafted. Evangelization is not just directly spiritual; it is also meant to transform individuals, societies, and cultures from within. That may no longer require swords, armor, and castles, but it does require a spiritual militancy that is willing to fight for and defend not just the truths of the faith, but the truth itself using whatever morally acceptable means are available. As Legionary I take up that battle too, but so do all believers. The Templars were maligned, the Legionaries too, and today all Christians are maligned to some degree by a hostile culture that calls for not just standing up for ourselves, but for Christ and for his cause. 

At the gift shop in Tomar they had miniatures of the Knights of Christ, and one was genuflecting, resting on his sword. It was the epitome of contemplative and evangelizing as a Knight of Christ saw it. I pointed out the praying knight right away and a pilgrim was kind enough to buy me one. A few other pilgrims followed suit and bought it too. I keep it on my bookshelf now, near my desk (along with a tiny statue of Our Lady of Fatima) but pointing toward a standing crucifix to motivate me whenever I need reminding that I am called to contemplate and evangelize tirelessly.

May the Lord help you battle for him and for his cause: the Kingdom of Christ.

Father Nikola Derpich, L.C.
Maximizing the Mass

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