La Vang and Le Sword

On this day in 1798, in the midst of a brutal persecution, Our Lady, holding her Son and with two angels at either side, appeared to a group of Vietnamese Catholics, who had fled to the rain forest to hide, and where many fell seriously ill. Like the good mother she is, Our Lady instructed them to make tea out of a specific leaf which would keep them healthy and hale. She also said that prayers would be answered in that spot, leading to devotion to Our Lady of La Vang, which has given life to the Church in Vietnam, an officially Communist dictatorship, but where the Church still has life, as she always will.

And on this day in my own native British Isles, in 1549 some zealous Catholics in the south of England took up arms in the Battle of Sampford Courtenay to resist the imposition of the new-fangled Protestant prayer book. Our modern minds might quibble – a war over a prayer book? – but those Catholics knew what they were about: Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi – the law of praying is the law of believing is the law of living. Or, we live and believe as we pray. And if prayer goes off the rails, not least public liturgical prayer, then, quite literally, everything else goes to hell. As Cardinal Manning said to a young Hilaire Belloc, all disputes are ultimately theological, which was in turn echoed by Chesterton, who said that all wars were, in the end, religious.

This is not to say that we impose the Faith by the sword but, at times, we must defend our Faith, and those of the Faith, with such – at least, with the sword of truth, and the armour of righteousness.

He said to them, “But now, let him who has a purse take it, and likewise a bag. And let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one. (Luke 22:36)

On this day also Prospero Lambertini was elected as Pope Benedict XIV in 1740, one of the most learned Popes of modern times. A perusal of his life shows what good can be done via the papal office, who saw the Church through the head anti-religious days of the so-called ‘Enlightenment’. We may hope for better days ahead. God is in charge, and will see us through what battles there be.