Muscular Catholicism: Some Examples
I’ve been using the term “muscular” lately to describe the kind of Catholicism it will take to reconvert the Western world and reform Western culture. A truly muscular Catholicism is a tough combination of faith, prayer, sacrifice and effective action. It enlists the aid of heavenly powers while at the same time stretching our worldly resources to make a difference. Muscular Catholicism goes beyond the realm of ideas, but only in the sense that ideas have consequences. It gets the ideas right, and it is does not pretend that implementation is optional.
Muscular Catholicism grows and develops as committed Catholics are called to actualize the potential God has given them to work for His glory and the salvation of souls. Because every human person is unique, the varieties of prayer-in-action are many, and even if each human person on earth were to respond to his or her personal call, the different initiatives would not exhaust the possibilities open to an infinite God, nor would the effective collaboration exhaust the Divine capacity for good. There is no temptation in muscular Catholicism to rest content, no fear of running out of opportunities.
But some people are more gifted than others at initiating effective new apostolates. For this reason, apart from the roles we play in our own personal circles—where there can be no substitute for our own initiative—it is often more effective to attach ourselves to apostolic projects developed by others. With this in mind, I’d like to call your attention to two examples of Catholic apostolic activity which seem to me to fit the profile for muscular Catholicism, and which may be a good fit for a great many of those who frequent CatholicCulture.org.
40 Days for Life
The first, 40 Days for Life, is by now widely-known. While Catholic in inspiration, the organization fosters the participation of all Christians, united in their defense of human life. The mission of 40 Days for Life may be summarized as follows:
to bring together the body of Christ in a spirit of unity during a focused 40 day campaign of prayer, fasting, and peaceful activism, with the purpose of repentance, to seek God’s favor to turn hearts and minds from a culture of death to a culture of life, thus bringing an end to abortion.
The 40 Days for Life Campaign components include prayer and fasting, public witness outside of local abortion clinics, and dissemination of a positive pro-life message to schools, churches and the media. The 40 day period is, of course, Scriptural, calling to mind the importance of “40 days” in the lives of Noah, Moses, David, Elijah, the people of Nineveh, and Our Lord and his disciples. The organization was founded by David Bereit in his effort to counter abortion in his home town of College Station, Texas back in 2004. Since that time, its campaigns have spread around the world.
The combination of prayer, fasting and public witness has been amazingly effective. During the seven 40 day campaigns so far, a new pro-life sentiment has emerged in many affected communities, hundreds of thousands of people have participated, over four thousand babies are known to have been saved, fifty-three abortion workers have quit their jobs, and thirteen abortion facilities have closed following 40 Days for Life campaigns. Over a third of all participants have been first-time pro-life volunteers.
The next 40 Days for Life campaign runs from September 28th until November 6th.
The Angelic Warfare Confraternity is far, far older and also officially connected to the Church. A fully-approved Dominican confraternity, Angelic Warfare first became active in the 1400’s and was officially founded for the whole Church in 1727 by Pope Benedict XII. It therefore taps a spiritual power that goes beyond the grace active in the lives of its members. Stated succinctly:
The Angelic Warfare Confraternity is a supernatural brotherhood or fellowship of men and women bound to one another in love and dedicated to pursuing and promoting chastity together under the powerful patronage St. Thomas Aquinas and the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Confraternity is a lifetime commitment open to all Catholics, involving registration and formal enrollment, and requiring members to wear the blessed cord and/or the blessed medal of St. Thomas Aquinas, and to say daily prayers for purity for themselves and for all the members of the Confraternity. Non-Catholics desiring to participate may do so, but they may not be formally registered as members. The easiest way to learn about the Angelic Warfare Confraternity is to choose the About AWC option on the website’s main menu.
The Angelic Warfare Confraternity was called to my attention by Fr. Basil Cole, OP, whose work has merited positive comment several times in this space. Fr. Basil reports that he recently substituted as a retreat master for the priest in charge of the Angelic Warfare Confraternity in the Eastern Province (the Province of St. Joseph):
I recently gave a retreat to some seminarians and a conference to COURAGE at a meeting in Chicago because Fr. Brent could not do either. All the seminarians joined and all those who attended the workshop I gave at a breakout joined. I couldn’t believe it.
The Confraternity has, as you would expect, waxed and waned over the years, but it is on the rise again in our day, when chastity is harder than ever to maintain. The idea of uniting the Church militant with the Church triumphant in spiritual battle is a key element in the Catholic Faith. The appropriate prayer, sacrifice and action follow. This is the essence of muscular Catholicism.
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