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Saints and Soldiers

Catholics and Patriots both honor and memorialize their dead

Catholicism and the military have largely gotten along with each other fairly well over two-thousand years, owing to common themes which hold great sway in both areas.

Fidelity, honor, loyalty, discipline – you name it – most of the qualities that make a good authentic Christian, also make a good serviceman.

So, it should come as no surprise that soldiers have been included in the Church's canon of saints all the way back to Golgotha (St. Longinus, who thrust the spear into Our Blessed Lord's side.) One of the four giant statues, in fact, surrounding the high altar in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome is dedicated to St. Longinus, holding the holy spear.

Among crusaders of the 10th-12th centuries, it was normal custom to kneel and invert their swords (revealing the cross shape) to receive a blessing before going into battle against the Mohammedans.

Statues of saints and soldiers – sometimes one and the same – dot the landscape of western civilization and, in each case, military and faith – they were largely erected for the same dual reason – to honor and offer a model to imitate.

During the Protestant revolution of the 16th century – massively exploited by greedy lords and barons as a pretext for stealing Catholic church properties – statues of saints fell out of favor as they were seen as a "Catholic thing." (About the only "thing" of Catholicism actually preserved by Protestantism has been Sacred Scripture – after a fashion.)

But as Protestant America began to flourish, a funny thing started to happen – statues began appearing all over the place, honoring the dead (a very "Catholic thing" to see happening in a country/colonies that began as rabidly anti-Catholic.)

When it comes to comparing saints and soldiers – the same axiom can be said to apply: "All gave some, but some gave all." Those who gave all – out of love of the Faith and/or love of country – have statues built to honor them. And more than statues – cities and universities named after them; literature written about them; ballads composed about them; in the case of Catholic saints, prayers written to them asking them to intercede to God on our behalf, to add their prayers to our own – like an ally.

The military dead provide an example to us in the temporal order of bravery, discipline, willingness to sacrifice all. The faithful dead do all of that and more – not only do they provide examples to be followed or imitated, they also provide real time assistance in the form of active intercession before the throne of heaven.

The soldier-saints like Ignatius of Antioch and, yes, even Longinus, know a taste of both worlds – military service, as well as service to the Faith – both fighting for a cause higher than just themselves.

Authentic Christians and US Patriots each understand the importance of not just remembering the dead, but drawing real time energy and re-vitalization from their lives and examples, both while they were on earth, and especially now in heaven.

If you've ever wondered why there is an almost "sacred" air around honoring our fallen military – it's because of all this. "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

Gary Michael Voris holds a graduate degree, Cum Laude, from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. Voris earned multiple awards for 40+ years of news media experience for writing, producing, and investigative work from the Associated Press, Detroit Press Club, Michigan Broadcasters Association, as well as four news Emmys in multiple categories. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1983 with an undergraduate major in Communications and a minor in History.

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