Membership in the Church Militant and the Catholic Spirit of Knighthood

August 20, 2012 under Syllabus 2012-2013


Are you a member of the Church Militant wearing the armor of God? “The spirit of knighthood is available to all of us. It’s a vocation every Christian was made for. And it will never go out of style.” – Archbishop Charles Chaput


To obtain a better understanding of our mission as a member of the Church Militant wearing the armor of God and how do the principles of knighthood still apply today.

“Today the word ecclesia militans [Church Militant] is a bit out of fashion, but in reality we can always better understand that which is true, that which encapsulates truth. We see how evil wants to rule the world and that it’s necessary to enter the struggle against evil. We see how it does this in so many very violent ways, with different forms of violence, but also posing as a force for good while destroying the moral foundations of society. St. Augustine said that all history is a struggle between two loves: love of oneself even to the extent of defying God, and love of God, to the extent of defying oneself, in martyrdom. We are in this fight and in this fight it is very important to have friends. And as for me, I’m surrounded by friends of the College of Cardinals: they are my friends and I feel at home, I feel confident in this company of great friends who are with me, all together with the Lord.” – Pope Benedict XVI, May 21, 2012.

“We belong to the Church Militant; and she is militant because on earth the powers of darkness are ever restless to encompass her destruction. Not only in the far-off centuries of the early Church, but down through the ages and in this our day, the enemies of God and Christian civilization make bold to attack the Creator’s supreme dominion and sacrosanct human rights.” – Pope Pius XII, October 14, 1953

Bible Readings

1. 2 Timothy 1:7

“For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control”

2. Revelation 12:17

“Then the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus.”

3. Ephesians 6:10-18

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,”

4. Matthew 10:34-36

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household.”

5. 2 Timothy 2:3-4

“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier on service gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to satisfy the one who enlisted him”

6. 1 Maccabees 3:59-60

“It is better for us to die in battle than to witness the evils befalling our nation and our sanctuary. Whatever is willed in heaven will be done.”

7. Romans 12:21

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

8. 2 Timothy 4:7

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Catechism Readings

1. Paragraph 2850

The last petition to our Father is also included in Jesus’ prayer: “I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.” It touches each of us personally, but it is always “we” who pray, in communion with the whole Church, for the deliverance of the whole human family. The Lord’s Prayer continually opens us to the range of God’s economy of salvation. Our interdependence in the drama of sin and death is turned into solidarity in the Body of Christ, the “communion of saints.”

2. Paragraph 2851

In this petition, evil is not an abstraction, but refers to a person, Satan, the Evil One, the angel who opposes God. The devil (dia-bolos) is the one who “throws himself across” God’s plan and his work of salvation accomplished in Christ

3. Paragraph 2852

“A murderer from the beginning, . . . a liar and the father of lies,” Satan is “the deceiver of the whole world.” Through him sin and death entered the world and by his definitive defeat all creation will be “freed from the corruption of sin and death.” Now “we know that anyone born of God does not sin, but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one.”

The Lord who has taken away your sin and pardoned your faults also protects you and keeps you from the wiles of your adversary the devil, so that the enemy, who is accustomed to leading into sin, may not surprise you. One who entrusts himself to God does not dread the devil. “If God is for us, who is against us?”

Small Group Questions

  1. What does it mean to be a member of the Church Militant?
  2. How can you fight the “good fight” in your everyday life?
  3. Are you wearing the armor of God?
  4. Do you consider yourself a modern day knight?

Recommended Resources

  1. “The Catholic Spirit of Knighthood”, by Archbishop Charles Chaput, 1/30/2010 (Included Below)
  2. “The Church Militant” (YouTube video – presenting group may wish to show this)

  3. Pope lunches with friends, speaks of struggle against evil”, by Paul Zalonski 5/24/2012
  4. “The Growing Persecution of the Catholic church and the Re-emergence of the Church Militant”, by Deacon Keith Fournier 5/24/2012:
  5. “The Templars Knights of Christ”, by Regine Pernoud


  1. Consider reading Ephesians 6:10-18 “armor of God”, before doing a task in which you might be tempted by the evil one
  2. Share the Church Militant Youtube video with a friend or family member
  3. Teach the St. Michael the Archangel “Defend us” prayer to a child or grandchild


Michael Copfer

Included Resources

1. The Catholic Spirit of Knighthood, by Archbishop Charles Chaput

I had the pleasure last week of spending time with Suzanne and Jim Broski. Like thousands of other Catholic married couples, the Broskis have a longtime love of their faith and devotion to the work of the Church. What makes their circumstances unique though is this: The Broskis are Colorado’s new state “co-councilors” for the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, better known as the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher. They had come to introduce themselves, and also to outline the Knights’ good work in easing the plight of Christians in the Holy Land.

Knighthood is an institution with very deep roots in the memory of the Church. Nearly 900 years ago, the great St. Bernard of Clairvaux described the ideal Christian knights as Godly men who “shun every excess in clothing and food. They live as brothers in joyful and sober company (with) one heart and one soul. … There is no distinction of persons among them, and deference is shown to merit rather than to noble blood. They rival one another in mutual consideration, and they carry one another’s burdens, thus fulfilling the law of Christ.”

Bernard was anything but naïve. Writing in the early 12th century, he was well aware of the greed, vanity and violence that too often motivated Europe’s warrior class, even in the name of religious faith. Yet he wrote at a time when large Christian populations still existed in the Middle East and suffered under Muslim armed conquest, discrimination and persecution. In fact a trigger for the medieval Crusades—which began in Bernard’s lifetime—had been the harassment of Christian pilgrims to holy sites in what we now know as Israel and Palestine.

Many of the Crusaders who rallied to the liberation of the Holy Land did so out of genuine zeal for the Cross. Europe in the Middle Ages was a continent where Christian faith animated every aspect of daily life. But Bernard also knew that many others who left for Crusade had mixed or even ugly motives. In his great essay “In Praise of the New Knighthood” (c. 1136), he outlined the virtues that should shape the vocation of every truly “Christian” knight: humility, austerity, justice, obedience, unselfishness and a single-minded zeal for Jesus Christ in defending the Church, the poor and the weak.

Life today may seem very different from life in the 12th century, but human nature—our basic hopes, dreams, anxieties and sufferings—hasn’t really changed. The Christian vocation remains the same: to follow Jesus Christ faithfully, and in following Jesus, to defend Christ’s Church and serve her people zealously, unselfishly and with all our skill. As St. Ignatius Loyola wrote in his “Spiritual Exercises”—and remember that Ignatius himself was a former soldier—each of us must choose between two battle standards: the standard of Jesus Christ, humanity’s true King, or the standard of his impostor, the Prince of This World. There is no neutral ground.

Here’s my point: The Church needs men and women of courage and Godliness today more than at any time in her history; and this is why the Catholic ideal of knighthood, with its demands of radical discipleship, is still vividly alive and still urgently needed. Whether one belongs to a wonderful fraternal service order like the Knights of Columbus or the Knights of St. Peter Claver; to an historic knightly order like the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher or the Knights of Malta; or to one of the Holy See’s own pontifical knightly orders like the Knights of St. Gregory the Great; the essence of knighthood is the same: sacrificial service rooted in a living Catholic faith.

That spirit of knighthood is available to all of us. It’s a vocation every Christian was made for. And it will never go out of style.

2. “The Catholic Church is the Mystical Body of Christ”, by Fr. William G. Most

Speaking of full membership in the Church, Pius XII, in his Encyclical on the Mystical Body, said it is the society of those who have been baptized, and who profess the faith of Christ, and who are governed by their bishops under the visible head, the Pope, the Bishop of Rome.

The Church came into being when Christ died on the Cross, but it was formally inaugurated on Pentecost, when He sent the Holy Spirit as He had promised. St. Paul speaks of all Christians as members of Christ, so that with Him, they form one Mystical Body (Cf. 1 Cor 12:12-31; Col 1:18; 2:18-20; Eph. 1:22-23; 3:19; 4:13). St. Paul did not use the word Mystical. It was developed more recently to bring out the fact that this union is unique, there is no parallel to it. It is not the same as the union of a physical body, nor that of a business corporation.

The Church, the Mystical Body, exists on this earth, and is called the Church militant, because its members struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil. The Church suffering means the souls in Purgatory. The Church triumphant is the Church in heaven. The unity and cooperation of the members of the Church on earth, in Purgatory, in Heaven is also called the Communion of Saints. When St. Paul uses the word “Saints” in opening an Epistle, he does not mean they are morally perfect. He has in mind Hebrew qadosh, which means set aside for God, or coming under the covenant. Being such means of course they are called to moral perfection. But of course, not all have reached it in this world.

3. Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament, page 353 commentary on Ephesians 6:10-18 “Armor of God”

Paul warns readers of the spiritual warfare that rages unseen in the Church. For Christ’s kingdom does not spread free of opposition or enemies; rather, it is daily attacked by malevolent spirits under the command of Satan. Our first defense is the armor of God, i.e. the graces given to protect us in times of temptation. Our weaponry is both offensive (sword) and defensive (breastplate, shield, helmet, protective footwear), enabling us to ward off the powers of darkness and to guard ourselves from exposure to their tactics (2 Cor 6:7; 10:3-5; 1 Thess 5:8). Although the devil and his demons were defeated by Christ on the Cross (Col 2:15), they remain dangerous until he comes again to destroy them (1 Cor 15:24-25; Rev 20:10).

Paul alludes to Wis 5:17-20 and Is 59:17. Both passages depict Yahweh as a warrior suiting up for battle against the ungodly. The Church joins him in this holy war as believers are enlisted among the troops and equipped with his divine armory. This OT background suggests that Paul’s imagery is more closely linked to Yahweh’s spiritual armor than with the military gear of a Roman soldier.

To put on the armor of God is to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Called to truth and righteousness, our Savior is our belt and our breastplate. Called the living Word of God, he is the sword who is sharp on both sides.

6:15 your feet…gospel of peace: An allusion to Is 52:7, Isaiah envisions Yahweh reigning on Mt. Zion after crushing his enemies and redeeming his people. News of his victory travels on foot as messengers bring “good tidings” of “peace” and “salvation” (Is 52:7) to the ends of the earth. Paul sees this prophecy unfolding in the lives of believers as they carry the gospel to the world. It is assumed that the steady advance of God’s kingdom means the steady retreat of all opposing forces.

6:18 Pray at all times: A command closely linked with Paul’s preceding instruction on spiritual warfare (CCC 2633, 2742). It indicates that our perseverance in prayer must match the relentless persistence of the devil (Lk 18:1; I Thes 5:17). We can expect no truce between God’s family and God’s enemies before the Day of Judgment (2 Pet 2:4).

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