Notice that I’ve used in this post a picture of the Crusader’s shield, not his sword. One does not hurt or kill others with a shield; rather, one remains protected by means of it, and with it one may protect others. Nor is it a sign of cowardice, since shields are found only on battlefields; nor does it suggest retreat or surrender, for the same reason.
It is the higher meaning of this shield that I’d like to describe.
The Crusader’s shield represents the Gospel truth that the faithful are protected by the omnipresent Hand of God. This does not mean we will not suffer, or even that we won’t at times be tortured and slaughtered by our enemies. The revealed fact is that many of the faithful will suffer and die for the faith. Christ repeatedly warned us of this, the first three centuries of Christianity demonstrated it, and the modern history of political and atheistic ideologies further proves it. Yes, the faithful will be killed en masse, not only by those forces that oppose God and religion, but also by those that firmly believe that they torture and slaughter us for the glory of God. Hence, the infamous cry of the Muslim Jihadist, “Allahu Akbar,” meaning, “Allah is greatest.” This is the worldly war of the prince of this world, and it is one in which the saints, at the conclusion of time, will be overcome…for a moment. But even then, a divine Hand will protect the faithful, not from the first death of the body, but from the second death of the soul, from damnation.
The Crusader’s shield means that we are not to fear those who can harm us here but not hereafter. Jesus said,
“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather be afraid of him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt. 10:28).
Christ did not teach us to fear the devil. God forbid that Satan should be offered such homage! No, it is God alone Who determines our eternity, based on our faith, hope, and charity, and it is to Him alone that we must offer a reverential fear. Therefore, we are not to live in obsessive fear of wicked human beings or wicked angelic beings. We are to fear, dread, and loathe instead offending the good God of Love. For the consequences of opposing fallen men and angels are only temporal, but the consequences of opposing the one true God through sin and unbelief are eternal.
What is the mission of the Catholic individual who invisibly but truly bears the Crusader’s shield? It is to carry the saving Gospel to all who, to one degree or another, oppose it, confound it, dilute it, or deny it. This includes Protestants, Jews, Muslims, pagans, atheists, agnostics, and yes, Catholics. This is our war, a battle fought against natural and preternatural forces, using only the supernatural instruments of truth and grace. And most remarkably, it is fought for the benefit of our enemies whom we desire, not to kill, but to save and gather in behind the Crusader’s shield.
What is the objective of this crusade? It is to call the elect to the Kingdom of God. It is not to win each and every struggle – be it religious, cultural, political, or military – but to offer our best defense of the Kingdom, in order to fill that Kingdom for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.
This is our victory, and it is the only one that matters. But it will exist beside a trillion defeats, as the modern world madly plunges itself into depths of cruelty and depravity unknown to civilized peoples. We have lost many battles, especially in the domains of sexuality and family, so that perverse laws are multiplying all around us. In spite of it all, we must march on. The Church must continue to proclaim the truth she has received from God to a world that despises truth, because, at all times and in all places, some people will respond to it. Most will not, but some will, so that it must be offered to all. By a miracle of divine grace, some will hear the call of the Kingdom and repent, believe, be baptized, and be saved.
The Church’s great mission is this and no other: to fill the Kingdom of God with the elect. One can take part in this mission, not at the hilt of Muhammad’s sword, but only behind the Crusader’s venerable shield.