|"Against the spirit of the world, the Church takes up anew each day a struggle that is none other than the struggle for the world’s soul" (John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope).|
October 24, 2011. The Catholic Church has been a builder
of culture for over two millennia, and has faced different
forms of “culture war” throughout its long and battle-scarred history.
But perhaps never has the Church faced a challenge like
the “battle for the soul of the world” in the
For those with an interest in understanding the roots
and consequences of the cultural battle underway in today’s world,
we present The Battle for the Soul of the World,
by Fr Luis Garza, LC. Originally presented as a series
of lectures for university students attending a leadership conference, it
is offered here as a formation resource for teams and
individuals who will find the lecture notes to be thought-provoking
material for reflection and discussion.
The complete text with study guide
questions can be downloaded in PDF format here. The final
installment of the 10-part series is presented below.
call to holiness and Catholic leadership
Holiness: this is the real
challenge. Holiness is possible and within the reach of every
Catholic (cf. Vatican II, the universal call to holiness). Holiness,
the exercise of Catholic leadership, is the only thing that
changes history, as seen in the following men and women:
Roman civilization collapsed. The Europeans were no more than
nomadic groups moving from one place to another, seeking to
satisfy their basic needs. A holy man heard the voice
of God and founded monasteries, and his monks had to
make a vow of stability. That is, they agreed to
stay in the same place for their whole life. And
so, they had to make their presence in the monasteries
economically viable: they dried the land, improved crops, made basic
crafts (metal included), preserved ancient writings, developed music, architecture and
literature, and established schools. In other words, they created Western
and Christian civilization. Without St. Benedict we do not know
what Europe would have become.
St. Joan of Arc (1412-1431)
during the Hundred Years War between England and France. England
had conquered more than half of France. Joan of Arc,
the daughter of a poor peasant of Lorraine, heard “voices
from God” that told her she would save France. France
was divided between the Burgundy and Armagnac families. She went
to the Dauphin, Charles of Valois, son of Charles VI,
to convince him that France could win the war. He
was completely demoralized and ready to surrender. Joan of Arc
was not only convinced but also very persuasive, and Charles
appointed her Commander in Chief of the army. She was
seventeen. The city of Orleans was under siege for many
months and almost at the point of surrender when a
surprise attack broke the siege and liberated the city. She
had success in every battle, recovered the Loire region, and
got Charles VII to be crowned king in 1429. Then
she went to Paris but was betrayed by Charles himself
and was taken prisoner at the gates of Paris. Charles
was a weak man and contented himself with what he
had achieved, so he gave no more military aid. The
Cardinal of Beauvais condemned her for heresy, and she was
burned at Rouen. She was beatified in 1909, and canonized
in 1920. What would have happened to Catholicism had England
ruled France during the Protestant Reformation?
St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556)
was the youngest of a noble family from the Basque
region in Spain. He was quite frivolous and sought only
to enjoy life in the Spanish court of Ferdinand the
Catholic. He was always a knight and took part in
the defense of Pamplona against the French, where he was
severely wounded. During his convalescence he began to read some
spiritual books (The Life of Christ by Ludolph of Saxony).
Following this period, he abandoned his worldly life and remained
a penitent in Manresa, Barcelona. He wrote the famous Spiritual
Exercises. He studied in Barcelona, Alcalá and Paris (1528-1535). In
Paris he began to gather a small group of followers,
and the Society of Jesus was approved in 1540. They
mounted a great work of evangelization that knew no frontiers:
India, China, Africa and America. Their action was so effective
in Europe that the presence of the Jesuit schools quelled
the spread of the Reformation and of Protestantism. Their firm
adherence to the Pope of Rome was a decisive factor
contributing to the unity of Catholicism, and the Jesuit missionaries
became for centuries the archenemies of the Freemasons, liberals (I
use the historical term), etc.
John of Austria (1545-1578)
not a saint, nor did he have an exemplary life.
However, he was a Catholic leader who used his talents
to help the Church. The natural son of Charles I,
he was later recognized by Philip II but he never
enjoyed the honors of the infante. He was elected captain
of the Armada against the Moors in La Alpujarra and,
with a combination of talent, shrewdness and determination, he prevailed.
At that time, the West was waging a defensive war
against the Turks, whose fleets were ravaging the coasts of
Europe, protecting the Ottoman pirates, and threatening a mass disembarkation
in Italy with the aim of occupying it. There was,
in fact, a real danger of invasion, and Europe did
not have the strength to counter the Turkish advance by
sea because the European fleet, even with its forces combined,
was smaller than that of the Turks. John of Austria
was a gifted leader and a born military strategist, and
given his record in La Alpujarra, he was elected Governor
General of the Holy Alliance against the Turks. He was
able to assemble a cohesive army with soldiers from many
nations and overcome all resentment and desire for leadership among
the different groups. The Christian fleet prepared itself and set
sail to encounter the Turks at the famous Battle of
Lepanto. There the Christians triumphed and definitely sank the Turkish
power into the sea. This battle and its positive repercussions
for the Christians swayed the course of events and dissipated
the imminent danger of seeing any Christian nation in the
Mediterranean fall subject to the power of the Turks.
Christians can be holy and exercise leadership as Catholics and
help change the world. Christ came to call sinners, and
through them, he has carried forward the work of evangelization.
• Strive for a deep spiritual formation, at least equalling your
• Live your Catholic life as a lifelong
commitment, with virtue, prayer, sacraments and apostolate.
• Organize yourselves,
and work together. We cannot evangelize alone. Revive Catholic communities;
promote the joy of belonging to the Church. Together we
can do it.
• Promote Catholic leadership: what you have
received is not just for you. A leader is an
agent of change in existing institutions and creates new ones.
This requires certain attitudes and essential virtues: optimism, charity, humility,
strength, and sense of direction.
4. The call to apostolate
Holiness and apostolate always go together. Every baptized Christian is
called to be an apostle, not only to live well
for his own sake, but also to be a light
to others. As Christ said in the Gospel, “Go, therefore,
and make disciples of all nations...”
There are many forms
of apostolate, but we should strive always to instill an
evangelizing culture in the particular environment where we move and
work. The role of lay people is to be the
leaven that shapes temporal realities according to the Gospel.
Personal Reflection or Group Discussion
1. Why is holiness the true
core of Catholic leadership and the force that moves the
world? What other examples would you offer as supporting evidence
for this claim?
2. Which saint or Catholic leader most appeals
to you personally and why? What traits or aspects of
that person’s spirituality and approach do you find attractive?
people have a special call to translate their faith and
love into apostolic action, both by example and by word
and deed. Is there a particular form of apostolate that
catches your attention or that seems to fit your talents
and interests? Which one?
4. Which apostolates in the Church
today strike you as particularly noteworthy and admirable, and why?