Sanctity: Our Counterrevolutionary Grand Strategy

Here is the text of my talk from our recent Saint Benedict Center Conference

I. Introduction

My talk today will be a brief elucidation of the following thesis: “The comprehensive and adequate grand strategy for today’s Catholic Counterrevolutionary is the acquisition and preservation of sanctity, both for himself as an individual, and for all those whom he can influence.”

First, some definitions are in order.

Blessed Columba Marmion says this of sanctity, which we will make our definition: “the whole of our sanctity consists in imitating Christ Jesus, in conforming the whole of ourselves to the Son of God, in participating in His Divine Sonship. To be through grace what Jesus is by nature is the end-purpose of our predestination and the norm of our holiness.”

Dom Marmion says that God’s holiness consists in a love of His own goodness — a most just, fitting, and proper love of His goodness. Human sanctity consists in a participation in this. For men, holiness has a negative aspect of turning away from corruption and evil and a positive aspect of union with God, but all this is summed up in “conforming the whole of ourselves to the Son of God” and being “through grace what Jesus is by nature.”

For my purposes, I will define “counterrevolutionary” as “of or pertaining to the restoration of a pre-revolutionary state of affairs.” In our thought here at Saint Benedict Center, a “revolution” and things “revolutionary” are necessarily bad. The French and Russian Revolutions are the notable historical examples that clearly illustrate the evil of revolutions, but revolution, as a spiritual phenomenon, predates these: It is seen in the ideals of Freemasonry, in the Enlightenment, in Protestantism, in the Renaissance rejection of Medieval Christian Civilization — indeed, in the very Fall of Man itself, and in that earlier Fall of Lucifer and his rebel angels.

As for Grand Strategy, Colin Gray in his 2007 book, War, Peace and International Relations: An Introduction to Strategic History, says that it comprises the “purposeful employment of all instruments of power available to a security community.” (War, Peace and International Relations: An Introduction to Strategic History, Abingdon and New York: Routledge 2007, p. 283., cited in WikiPedia article, “Grand Strategy,” online at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_strategy.)

Further, military historian B. H. Liddell Hart says about grand strategy:

[T]he role of grand strategy – higher strategy – is to co-ordinate and direct all the resources of a nation, or band of nations, towards the attainment of the political object of the war – the goal defined by fundamental policy.

Grand strategy should both calculate and develop the economic resources and man-power of nations in order to sustain the fighting services. Also the moral resources – for to foster the people’s willing spirit is often as important as to possess the more concrete forms of power. Grand strategy, too, should regulate the distribution of power between the several services, and between the services and industry. Moreover, fighting power is but one of the instruments of grand strategy – which should take account of and apply the power of financial pressure, and, not least of ethical pressure, to weaken the opponent’s will. …

Furthermore, while the horizons of strategy [are] bounded by the war, grand strategy looks beyond the war to the subsequent peace. It should not only combine the various instruments, but so regulate their use as to avoid damage to the future state of peace – for its security and prosperity.(Liddell Hart, B. H. Strategy London: Faber & Faber, 1967. 2nd rev. ed. p. 322, cited in WikiPedia article, “Grand Strategy,” online at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_strategy.)

We see here the comprehensive nature of grand strategy in proportioning all available means to all a nation’s objectives in matters of war and peace, or, as Robert Hickson might call them, a nation’s “war aims and peace aims.” What Colin Gray and B. H. Liddell Hart say here of a nation (or a “security community” such as NATO), we may apply mutatis mutandis to ourselves as Catholic Counterrevolutionaries.

II. What are our counterrevolutionary goals?

As avowed counterrevolutionaries, we have goals. Let me state a few of them:

  • Militating against unbelief in all its forms, including not only paganism and heresy, but also against two-thirds of the other so-called “three great monotheistic religions.”
  • Militating against the spirit of anti-Papal schism that became fixed in the year 1054.
  • Militating against the order of things that entered the world with the Outrage at Anagni in 1303, which was an ill omen for the unity of throne and altar that had defined Christendom in the Ages of Faith.
  • Militating against the unchristian excesses of the Renaissance, with its desired return to pagan Greek and Roman ideals of thinking and living, of jurisprudence and government, and its consequent marginalizing of the Catholic Religion from people’s daily lives and the ordering of society.
  • Militating against the heresies and social catastrophe wrought by the Protestant Revolt, improperly called a Reformation.
  • Militating against the sprit of the French Revolution of 1789 and the Russian Communist Revolution of 1917.
  • Now, all of what I said is quite “negative,” just as the counter- in counterrevolution is negative. What are our goals positively stated? What we positively affirm against all these negations is principally twofold: First, it is effective and salvific Ecclesial Communion for all — that is, a life of union with the Holy Trinity for everyone through membership in the Mystical Body of Christ, which is, the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, outside of which there is no salvation. Secondly, it is an authentic Christian Social Order that comes through the recognition of the Social Reign of Our Lord Jesus Christ — which is to say that the rights of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King are to be recognized by all civil societies. While distinct, these two goals are interconnected. In asserting these positive goals, we are effectively opposing all revolution in whatever form it may take: ecclesial, civil, social, moral, etc.

In summary, today’s Catholic counterrevolutionary does not simply seek to reestablish the pre-Revolutionary status quo — if by that status quo, we mean some social order predating France’s Revolution. No, today’s Catholic counterrevolutionary must seek to establish both himself and society according to God’s will. In so doing, he seeks to do his part to cooperate with the Trinity in answering these two petitions of the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”

To say that this is the program of a lifetime would be an understatement. It is a multi-generational goal that will only end when the Church Militant ceases to exist because it has been fully assumed into the Church Triumphant.

III. Why is Sanctity our Grand Strategy for these goals?

The French ultramontane thinker, Joseph de Maistre, said: “The Counter-Revolution will not be a reverse revolution, but the reverse of the Revolution.” Revolution corrodes order, whereas the Counterrevolution restores it. The revolutionary tears down, while the counterrevolutionary builds up. The revolutionary is a bully, a murderer; he hurls Molotov cocktails and terrorizes noncombatants. Counterrevolutionaries may not descend to such methods.

Jesus Christ has won. He has “overcome the world,” as He tells us in Saint John’s Gospel (16:33). Saint Paul exhorts us to gratitude to our Heavenly Father for making us partakers in that victory; he says: “But thanks be to God, who hath given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57). For us, it is a matter of our abiding in Him and Him in us to ensure our participating in this victory. Now, Christ’s triumph is a victory over sin and Hell, but it is all-embracing; His conquest is a total victory over all rebellion and revolution. For this reason, remaining in Christ is not only a good strategy, it is a guaranteed strategy for achieving salvation. What can be said of the ultimate victory of salvation may be said mutatis mudandis of our quotidian battles in the Church militant — for these are, each and all, but smaller campaigns in an epic battle that began in Genesis and ends in the Apocalypse.

The first and most important reason why sanctity is our grand strategy is that Jesus Christ is the first and ultimate Counterrevolutionary, and only as His members can we conquer the Revolution.

If Lucifer is the first revolutionary, Jesus Christ is the first counterrevolutionary, for He came to restore the pre-revolutionary state of affairs. That is, He came to restore man to God’s grace and to reverse the worst effects of the Fall. I say “first” counterrevolutionary, not in order of chronology, but in that higher order of metaphysical primacy, according to which Saint Paul refers to Jesus Christ as “the firstborn of every creature” (Col. 1:15), “the firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:18), and “the firstborn amongst many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). Philosophically, to be “first” establishes an order of dependence.

He is the ultimate counterrevolutionary because His victory over Revolution will be total.

In the First Chapter of his Epistle to the Ephesians, Saint Paul writes, “It was [the Father’s] loving design, centred in Christ, to give history its fulfilment by resuming everything in him, all that is in heaven, all that is on earth, summed up in him [that is, in Christ]” (Eph. 1:9-10; Knox translation). Saint Irenaeus of Lyons takes this utterance of the Apostle’s and develops it further. Irenaeus’ doctrine is known as the anakephalaiosis, or “recapitulation,” from the Greek word ἀνακεφαλαιώσασθαι that Msgr. Knox translates as “resuming” and that the Rheims New Testament translates as “re-establish.” The Greek verb ἀνακεφαλαιόω means to sum up, summarize, recapitulate; to gather up in one or under one head; and also to renew. (Saint Jerome, by the way, translated the passage from Ephesians into Latin as instaurare omnia in Christo, which was chosen by Saint Pius X as his episcopal motto.)

According to Saint Irenaeus, all human history, from Adam to his last son, are “recapitulated” in Christ so that what went wrong in Adam will be made right in the Second Adam, Jesus Christ. The first man, created in grace, was made in God’s image and likeness. Original sin made him forfeit the likeness (his participation in divine nature by grace, i.e., his divine adoption), while he retained the image (his rational nature). In Christ, man is restored to his participation in the divine nature by the agency of a divine Person’s assuming human nature. Jesus being the “deified man” par excellence, he restores man to God in Himself. Here is an excerpt on this from Saint Irenaeus’ Against Heresies:

For it was for this end that the Word of God was made man, and He who was the Son of God became the Son of man, that man, having been taken into the Word, and receiving the adoption, might become the son of God. For by no other means could we have attained to incorruptibility and immortality, unless we had been united to incorruptibility and immortality. But how could we be joined to incorruptibility and immortality, unless, first, incorruptibility and immortality had become that which we also are, so that the corruptible might be swallowed up by incorruptibility, and the mortal by immortality, that might receive the adoption of sons? (Irenaeus of Lyons, St., Adversus Haereses, Book III, Chapter 19, online at: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103319.htm.)

We see here that God took on our corruptible and mortal human nature to make that nature incorruptible and immortal. Having accomplished this in His own sacred humanity, Jesus then bestows this incorruption and immortality upon us, His members, as a gift of divine grace. In other words, by divinizing his own human nature, Christ becomes the cause of our divinization — that is, of our sanctity.

Our Lord’s divine words, the holy mysteries of His Life, Death, and Resurrection, His life-giving sacraments, and His sending down the Holy Ghost will communicate this sanctity to those who believe in Him, whom He has given the power to be made the sons of God.

Jesus Himself stated our thesis in other words when he declared, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine: you the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).

We cannot bear the fruit of counterrevolutionary victory without effective union with Jesus by grace.

As for sanctifying others, we are equally, if not even more dependent of Christ. Moving our own wills to the good is hard enough; moving other men’s is even harder. But Jesus tells the Apostles, “As the Father hath sent me, I also send you” (John 20:21). These, his sent ones, will spread His truth and conquer the world for Him. They are the same men he had told only a few days previously, “As the Father hath loved me, I also have loved you. Abide in my love” (John 15:9). Note the parallelism: The Father loves Jesus and Jesus Loves the Apostles; the Father sends Jesus and Jesus sends the Apostles. The Apostle of God (that is, the “sent one”) is first the Friend of God (that is, the “loved one”).

In short, Apostolic action is fruitless without the “soul of the apostolate,” which is sanctity, for no man can give what he does not have.

And really, what is our “Catholic and counterrevolutionary” action if not an apostolate?

If the would-be counterrevolutionary were to ask Our Lord, “but can’t I just win a few victories for you without trying to be a saint, without trying to be holy?” Jesus might reply: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Luke 12:31). Imagine being preoccupied with secondary means in the great culture wars and missing out on the point of it all — the Kingdom of God and His justice.

Besides this — and related to it — without sanctity, the would-be counterrevolutionary can be easily “overcome” — that is, scandalized, discouraged, or even seduced — by the very evil he wants to eradicate. Saint Paul therefore warns us in these words to the Romans: “Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good” (Rom. 12:21).

Here is another reason why Sanctity is our Grand Strategy: Real Counterrevolutionaries are trying to establish a state of affairs that is in accordance with God’s will — not a mode of living for individuals that is according to their own will, nor a society that is run according to “the will of the people.” Now, living according to God’s will is called holiness. Those seeking to do God’s will in society at large are also seeking for sanctity. If they are not doing so for themselves as individuals, and their families as small social units, then they are going about things the wrong way.

I have no time to develop this theme, but it would be good to point out here that effective Counterrevolutionary movements have always employed this means. These would include the great movements of monastic reform emanating from Cluny, Citeaux, Vallombroasa, La Grande Chartreuse, La Trappe, and myriad other foundations; also the Mendicant Friars and their phalanxes of Third Orders in the High Middle Ages; and let us not forget the renewed religious fervor of the Counter-Reformation with its Jesuits, Theatines, Barnabites, and Capuchins. Even Counterrevolutionaries fighting in literal armed conflict, such as the navies of Lepanto, the Polish Hussars of the Battle of Vienna, the Knights of Saint John at the Siege of Malta and generations of Reconquistadores of Spain were overt paladins of the true religion, as well as of Christian culture and homeland; they valued religion’s place in their respective conflicts. And what of those fighting for authentic political restoration? Gabriel Garcia Moreno — a man of great personal sanctity — comes to mind. I’m sure Gary Potter, Charles Coulombe, and Joe Doyle could rattle off an impressive litany of others.

Replies to Objections

Some may object that effective counterrevolution in all the necessary fields of endeavor demands science, tactics, method, strategy — in short, a systematic approach requiring specialized knowledge. And sanctity, they would say, does not provide that.

In response, I offer a few considerations: The first is of a speculative nature: wisdom is the highest kind of knowledge, and Sanctity is the ultimate Wisdom.

The second response is more practical, albeit equally theological in its principles: Christian prudence, strengthened by the Holy Ghost’s gift of counsel, enables us to proportion the means at our disposal to achieve our purposes. At times, this happens with ease and sweetness, the more the resulting actions are results of the gifts. All this pertains to sanctity because it is a matter of practicing Christian virtue and being receptive to the gifts. Since the battle we are fighting against revolution is ultimately a supernatural one, we need supernatural means.

Do not all the manifold episodes of the Israelites fighting and winning against impossible odds teach us that union with the First Cause of all Victory is the most prudent means of achieving victory?

For those immersed in the practical end of things, let me declare that such Christian prudence is not opposed to common sense. We are not opposed to science, tactics, method, strategy, and specialized knowledge. A saint would not recommend that someone bring a knife to a gun fight.

My thesis is not pietism: I do not mean to exclude from our program any activity that is not exclusively “liturgical” or “devotional.” There is a need to cultivate the intellect, to acquire arts, sciences, and prudence in order to respond to our challenges with intelligence and zeal. But if we do not do this in union with God, we are fighting as one beating the air.

My thesis is not quietism: Nor do I exclude the necessity of activity on our part, both in the spiritual life itself and in the external life of our labors for the Kingdom of Christ. Works of the apostolate are of tremendous importance, but they must be enlivened by the “soul of the apostolate,” as Dom Chautard would tell us.

IV. How to Achieve This

Now we consider how to achieve sanctity.

Evidently, we need to practice the fundamentals of a spiritual life: prayerfulness, interior union with God, spiritual reading from reliable sources, the practice of Christian virtue, the sacrifices incumbent upon us to live out the duties of our state in life, and frequent reception of the sacraments, especially Penance and Holy Communion. Beyond that quick summary, I have no intention of giving a systematic treatment on achieving sanctity. Rather, I would like to touch upon a handful of topics that may be helpful to you.

A Radical Faith That is not Minimalist in Character.

The Faith is summarized in the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed — summarized, but not exhausted. The full scope of faith is not, therefore less than their contents, but it is more than their contents. Our Lord tells us, “Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Faith includes all that God has revealed of Himself and His works, from the most cosmically grand to the most intimately personal.

I must believe, for instance, that God wants me to be holy, for Holy Scripture declares, “This is the will if God, your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:3). I must believe that God’s providence surrounds me and embraces every event and person I encounter, and that beneath all the manifold details of my life is the Love of God, for that God “in whom we life and breath and have our being” is defined by Saint John as Love: “God is charity and he who abides in charity abides in God.” I must have a firm belief that the Trinity dwells in me if I am in the state of grace, and to strive to live according to this great truth. This faith also includes God’s goodness, which wishes to communicate itself to us: as Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us, bonum est diffusivum sui (“good is self diffusing”). So much does God’s goodness wish to diffuse itself, that Jesus could say just before instituting the Eucharist: “With desire have I desired to eat this Pasch with you before I suffer.”

Another thing I must believe with this radical Faith is that my Faith will be tried, for that, too, is a divine promise. The first Vicar of Christ tells us, that we “shall greatly rejoice, if now you must be for a little time made sorrowful in divers temptations: That the trial of your faith (much more precious than gold which is tried by the fire) may be found unto praise and glory and honour at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, you love” (1 Peter 1:6-8).

Faith united to the gifts of knowledge and understanding, and a life of prayer, gives us a supernatural vision of the world. By this living and deep Faith, we see the same external realities that unbelievers see, but we see beyond the surface of things to the eternal verities not grasped by the natural man. We see this because our God is the true light, and He communicates this light to us in Faith.

The Prayerful and Docile embrace of suffering.

The Catholic counterrevolutionary has for his weapons the theological virtues, the moral virtues, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost. He also realizes the value of the Cross. Seeing suffering in the supernatural light of Faith, Hope, and Charity, he realizes that the Cross is our way to salvation. The revolutionary aims to make a painless world, a utopia, and ends up causing everyone tremendous pain. He speaks of a bloodless struggle and ends up spilling gallons of blood.

The counterrevolutionary is no utopian, and realizes that suffering is necessary for his aims, but he embraces that suffering himself, in union with that first Counterrevolutionary. He knows that victory is not cheaply bought, and sees triumph in the midst of apparent defeat — for that is the Mystery of the Holy Cross.

The revolutionaries and their revolutions will cause us suffering. Of this there can be no doubt. But in God’s admirable economy, this very suffering is one of the causes of our own sanctification, and therefore one of our greatest weapons against the revolutionaries and their revolutions. This is why Christ remedied the worst effects of the fall without getting rid of them all. Salvation is now possible through the Cross. These words of a great spiritual writer could be directed to today’s would-be Catholic counterrevolutionary: “To be able to say Thy Will be done immediately and calmly in the midst of suffering — that is the perfection at which we must aim.” (They Speak by Silences by A Carthusian, p. 41.)

If we profit from the suffering our revolutionaries inflict on us, we fulfill the words of the psalmist: “They prepared a snare for my feet; and they bowed down my soul. They dug a pit before my face, and they are fallen into it” (Ps. 56:7).

A Generous Love of One’s Enemies.

We should practice a generous love of our enemies. This is both sanctifying and apostolic. I quote from Robert Hickson’s paper, “Dostoievsky’s Prince Myshkin, ‘The Idiot,’ in Our Time and Counterrevolution”:

Moreover, as to “what Dostoyevsky’s books do,” Baring adds:

His spirit addresses our spirit. “Be no man’s judge; humble love is a terrible power which effects more than violence. Only active love can bring out faith. Love men, and do not be afraid of their sins; love man in his sin; love all the creatures of God, and pray God to make you cheerful. Be cheerful as the children and as the birds.” This was Father Zosima’s advice to Alyosha. And that is the gist of Dostoyevsky’s message to mankind. “Life,” Father Zosima also says to Alyosha, “will bring you misfortunes, but you will be happy on account of them, and you will bless life and cause others to bless life.” Here we have the whole secret of Dostoyevsky’s greatness. He blessed life, and he caused others to bless it.

I had read The Brothers Karamazov years before reading that passage of Robert’s paper, but it really hit me only when I saw the passage highlighted by Hickson (with the help of Baring). At the same time, I was having great problems with a certain individual. Strangely, it rather suddenly became easier to deal with that person when I labeled him a Dostoyevsky character, and I say this without the slightest fear of contradiction. It happened exactly that way.

A Confidence that is Humble

Lastly, let us have confidence. “If God be for us, who is against us?” (Rom. 8:31), says Saint Paul. History is full of unexpected good turns that make those words of Jesus echo in our ears: “Fear not, little flock, for it hath pleased your Father to give you a kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

But our confidence is not in our own abilities, our numbers, or our means. Recall the words of the Psalmist: “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will call upon the name of the Lord our God” (Psalms 19:8). The great Apostle Saint Paul said the same when he declared that he could not boast in his merits but only in his infirmities. Our Lord Himself declared to the Apostle that “My grace is sufficient for thee; for power is made perfect in infirmity,” which led the Apostle to cry out: “Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Cor. 12:9). Elsewhere, He tells the Phillipians, in a similar spirit of humble confidence: “I can do all these things in him who strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

The saints were confident and humble. They were confident because they were humble.

[Here, I read from page 104 and 105 of They Speak by Silences.]

The End

In the Grand Strategy of a nation or a so-called “security community,” there are manifold details of means, methods, manpower, munitions, technology, tactics, finances, diplomacy, etc., directed towards their war aims and peace aims. The beauty of sanctity is that it is union with the First Cause and Last End of all, who will unfailingly win — who has already won. After all the persecutions of the Church prophesied in the Apocalypse, Christ the King will come on a white horse leading an army. He will cast the Beast and the False Prophet into the pool of fire, and will slay their armies with his sword. Then, those on Christ’s side — that is, the just, the holy, the saints — will comprise the glorious New Jerusalem coming down from Heaven, adorned as a bride for her bridegroom. This is the Church Triumphant.

He that hurteth, let him hurt still: and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is just, let him be justified still: and he that is holy, let him be sanctified still. Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to render to every man according to his works. I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.  Blessed are they that wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb: that they may have a right to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city. Without are dogs, and sorcerers, and unchaste, and murderers, and servers of idols, and every one that loveth and maketh a lie. (Apocalypse 22:11-15)

  • Peter Walsh

    “My thesis is not pietism …
    My thesis is not quietism”
    The Pietists and the Quietists are already in flight !!!
    (You know who you are.)