The musings and meandering thoughts of a crotchety old man as he observes life in the world and in a small, rural town in South East Nebraska. My Pledge-Nulla dies sine linea-Not a day with out a line.
Saturday, 27 March 2021
Chivalry, St. Joseph, and Mother Angelica’s Knights
The Knights of the Holy Eucharist are, unsurprisingly, based here in the Diocese of Lincoln.
Among all the causes young men are drawn to fight for these days, for some reason fighting for the Church is becoming less common. Why is that?
Perhaps there is a disconnect between genuine love of Christ and the chivalrous spirit that once inspired Christian men in everything from defending Christendom to honoring women.
This is just one of the reasons why it’s necessary, in this Year of St. Joseph, to remind the faithful of this saint’s virtue. St. Joseph is called the “terror of demons,” but this worker of divine deeds also exemplified chivalry. And this is a virtue that may be lost if it is not boldly proclaimed.
Chivalry and Calvary
“Chivalry” comes from the Latin word “caballarius,” which means horsemen. It’s therefore easy to see its connection to the word ‘cavalry.’ The word ‘Calvary’ may also come to mind when hearing the word “chivalry,” even though there is no etymological connection. Calvary, or the place where Jesus was crucified, simply gets its name from the Latin name for the hill where He died, Calvaria in Latin.
Nonetheless, for the sake of Christian culture it seems fitting to make a connection between Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and the virtue expected of knights, otherwise known as chivalry. Chivalry was developed as a code for knights who were, beforehand, known for being one feud away from slipping into barbarism. Making a connection between Calvary and chivalry is necessary if only to emphasize the way a knight puts his life on the line for the sake of what he loves.
St. Joseph is exemplary in this sense. He risked much in staying with Mary, despite the reasonable temptation to divorce her, and despite Herod’s men being on the Holy Family’s heels for years. He protected Jesus and Mary, jeopardizing his own life in the process.
But perhaps Joseph’s most chivalrous act goes untold by Scripture. He was willing to put aside his own pursuits for the sake of God and country. If the child Jesus was the savior promised by God to his people Israel, there was no better reason for Joseph to put aside his pride to defend something greater than himself. Many people in St. Joseph’s situation probably would have also divorced Mary, but Joseph chose love and sacrifice instead.
We can say chivalrous knights followed in St. Joseph’s footsteps in this regard. One can speak of the Maccabees who fought chivalrously for Israel as well, but if we’re talking about the first Christian to demonstrate chivalry, St. Joseph should come to mind quickly.
Fast forward about 1,100 years and we discover the kind of chivalry of which we’ve all heard. This is the Code of Chivalry that emerged to meet the needs of the times in the high Middle Ages.
Christian leaders saw the need for masculine fortitude afforded by the knights, but also a need for civility and courtmanship. As such they developed the code of chivalry so the knight could maintain his fierceness while also cultivating a gentle side that showed how he fought for peace. Thus, it could be said that chivalry is at the root of the concept of what it means to be a gentleman. This concept is echoed in the words of Faramir in The Two Towers:
“I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”
The Oxford Languages dictionary used by Google has a fair definition of chivalry: “the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight, especially courage, honor, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak.”
But do we see such chivalry in any religious orders of the Church? You would think so, since at chivalry’s height the Church was also in all its glory.
The Tradition of Chivalry
As great Gothic cathedrals, universities, and monasteries were being built all across Christendom, the honor of knighthood was also gaining prestige. It’s no surprise then that we saw the rise of the Knights of Malta, Knights Templar, and the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre around that same time.
These orders and others arose to fight for Christendom against Islamic invasion, especially in the Holy Land. Furthermore, these orders had the support of at least one pope and saint. Pope Eugenius III and St. Bernard of Clairvoux adamantly supported crusaders in the 11th century.
We can add to all of this St. Maximilian Kolbe’s Knights of the Immaculata. He established the Knights in the early to mid-twentieth century “to win the entire world for the Immaculata and, through her, for the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.” We could also add the Knights of Columbus, who were founded to support the widows of Catholic men. They also serve as task forces extraordinaire in parishes in the U.S. and around the globe.
The Knights of the Holy Eucharist, founded by Mother Angelica in 1998, continue in this tradition. They strive to live holy lives as a way to advance the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. They are every bit as chivalrous as the knights in shining armor who came before them, even if in a different way.
So in a very real sense we see chivalry at work today through orders old and new that fight for the Church and her mother, Mary, just like St. Joseph.
(If you want to learn more the Knights of the Holy Eucharist, visit knights.org. Consider also supporting or even joining their cause to spread devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ through the Eucharist. )