Sunday, August 21, 2011

Christian Soldiers at WYD

Members of the Spanish Legion, an elite unit of the Spanish Army, guard El Cristo de la Buena Muerte, or Christ of the Good Death, inside the military archbishop's Church ahead of Thursday's visit by Pope Benedict XVI in Madrid, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011. The ancient wooden sculpture is in Madrid for the Pope's visit and is on display outside of Malaga for the first time. It was carried during the Stations of the Cross (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)


Richard said...

The picture of them marching with the crucifix held high on their upright arms is wonderful.

araceli lorayes said...

In my case, the pictures made me uneasy - the goose-stepping soldiers, the crucifix held on upright arms, the postures so stiff they verge on the grotesque, the name of the crucifix, all these elements put together make a statement, an ideological statement. Don't get me wrong; I am an orthodox Catholic, faithful to the magisterium. But in my country, the Philippines, a crucifix or a religious icon is always, always carried by a priest or the laity, never by soldiers. The crucified Christ, when carried in a Good Friday procession, in some towns is towed not just by laity but by barefoot penitents as an act of humility, or in fulfillment of some vow. There is an arrogance, a triumphalism in this part of the procession which is not pleasant to see. It comes across to me as fascistic. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this one conveys strongly how unhealthily close the relationship was between Franco and the church, which probably explains the rampant anti-clericalism in Spain today.

Martin said...


I too don't like soldiers associated with the Crucifix.
Reminds me of the Romans. The only soldier I like is the Centurion.

Et Expecto said...

Sorry if this is slightly off topic, but it needs saying.

As I think you have already commented, the coverage of World Youth Day by the BBC was outrageously biassed. I have submitted a formal complaint to the BBC.

Father, would you publish something encouraging people to make a complaint. It can be done on the website

or it can be done by letter or telephone.

I understand that there need to be at least a thousand complaints to make any iumpact.

mikesview said...

Araceli Lorayes, your remarks are interesting, especially when it is considered that the ancestors of these soldiers probably brought with them the priests and religious who evangelised your country in the first place, and made it the splendid citadel of Catholicism we see today. Long may it flourish so.
There is in my opinion, something in the Spanish national character which, in a perfectly healthy way, accepts and embraces death as a part of life. Compare that with the attitude of the average Briton, who is usually rather embarrassed about the whole subject. We, as Catholics, are often reminded of the worthy aim of having a good death. The Spanish people seem to live their entire lives with this one aim in mind. So there can surely be little wrong with Catholic soldiers publicly displaying their devotion, and in the smartest way they know. They are not goose-stepping, by the way, they are slow-marching, which is quite different. Watch the way the Guards slow-march at trooping the colour (and don't even think of accusing the Guards of goose-stepping!) If you want to see images of goose-stepping, look in archive newsreel footage of Third Reich elite troops, raising their legs almost to waist height.
Being from the Philippines, you may have mixed feelings about Spain; that is, gratitude for the bringing of the faith, but resentment towards a former colonial ruler. In this country, I suspect that you will have been influenced by the liberal smart talk of 'cafe Catholicism' as well as by 'traditional' Protestant English anti-Spanish attitudes, which date from time of the Armada of 1588.
You say you are an orthodox Catholic. But Tubingen theologians and column-writing Monsignori also claim to be orthodox. I am making the point that the individual may not be the best judge of his or her own orthodoxy and you must be especially careful with words such as 'arrogance' and 'fascistic'. For an orthodox Catholic, the highest law is charity.
I know little of the history of Spain in modern times, or of Franco and the church. But in a - then - Catholic country, what possible objection could there be to an observant Catholic as head of state. I know only that I am uncommonly glad that Franco won the civil war and not the communists. Of course, now that he has gone, the forces he defeated have now risen up again and Spain is paying the price for this resurgent liberalism - economic chaos, political instability and course, 'irreligion'; hence anti-clericalism.
Martin's brief post shows his grasp of history to be worse than mine!
He says he doesn't like soldiers associated with the Crucifix, and that he only likes one Roman soldier.
Is he ignoring the fact that before the Emperor Constantine adopted the Christian (i.e. Catholic) faith as the official religion of the empire, many soldiers were quietly Catholic and that at the battle of Milvius in 312, the entire army fought with the chi-rho symbol on their shields? They won their battle, rather well. After that the number of Catholic soldiers - and civilians - increased greatly.
If he wishes, Martin could agitate for soldiers' association with the Crucifix to be much reduced by the removal of service chaplains, probably with the sad results seen in WW1 in the French army, where priests were conscripted as ordinary soldiers. Another glorious chapter in the story of anti-clericalism. With the greatest respect, Martin, stop talking nonsense.

shane said...

What wonderful photos! ¡VIVA ESPAÑA! The champion of Christendom and Ireland's oldest ally.

araceli lorayes said...

To mikesview:

1. The fact that Spaniards introduced Christianity into the Philippines is irrelevant to my observations.

2. Your conjectures about my orthodoxy and my attitudes towards a former colonizer are an example of argumentum ad hominem, and do not deserve a reply. (However, your comments do remind me of what a prominent lawyer told me is courtroom strategy which all lawyers learn in law school - when the facts are on your side, attack the facts of your opponent; when the facts are not on your side, attack the opponent.)

3. If you look up the history of the Spanish Legion, you will find out that one of their founders was Francisco Franco, indisputably a fascist, and that they fought on the Nationalist (fascist) side during the Spanish Civil War.

4. Let us leave the Spanish people out of the discussion and focus on the Spanish Legion. They do have a fixation on death. My father had many Spanish friends - people who had emigrated to the Philippines after the victory of Franco. I remember them telling my father of the Nationalist cry - Viva la muerte! (Long live death!) That sort of thing does not impress me. To my mind, a glorification of death devalues life, clouds the intellect and coarsens the spirit. You are free to believe differently, of course. But Islamist terrorists who blow themselves up also glorify death, and where has it brought us? The samurai culture which spawned kamikaze pilots glorified death, and what did it bring Japan? Catholicism is a culture of life, not death.

John Nolan said...

Franco was not a fascist unless you use the term in the loose left-wing sense. There was a Spanish Fascist party, the Falange. It's also time we stopped looking at the Spanish Civil War through the ideological blinkers of the 1930s intelligentsia and saw it in the context of Spanish history.

Franco's regime was brutal at the outset and always stifling and oppressive, but without the long period of stability it represented it is difficult to see how the transition to democracy in the mid-1970s could have happened so easily.

Even while the old dictator still lived, members of the government,often belonging to Opus Dei, were working behind his back to modernize the country.

mikesview said...

I do not for a moment deny your claim to othodoxy, though who would claim otherwise? My remarks merely pointed out that there are people who have caused great damage to the Church and who also claim to be orthodox. Thus the claim is devalued for all of us. If you read my remarks as an ad hominem attack then you over-reacted, since no attack was ever intended. A thought occurs that an ad hominem accusation might be an ad hominem attack in itself!

If you look up the history of the British army, established around the time of the English Civil War, you will find that the New Model Army (generally regarded as the forerunner of today's army) was founded by one Oliver Cromwell, 'Lord Protector' (i.e., dictator) of England. Don't even mention his name in Ireland: in this country, life was unpleasant even for Anglicans, let alone Catholics. As a Briton, I'm glad that we today have the army, but as a Catholic I have to grit my teeth when I see Cromwell's statue outside the Westminster Parliament. My point is that the founder's reputation should not influence our opinion of the present day soldiers.
Islamic suicide bombers and samurai are an irrelevance; they are suicides and thus not admissible examples. By contrast, a worthy soldier sacrifices his life for others, in imitation of Our Lord's sacrifice. A good death indeed. (Incidentally, how long would an army last if the soldiers kept deliberately getting themselves killed?) No, they surely don't want to be killed, but they face up to the possibility of death in action. As Catholics, we believe in the Four Last Things, beginning with Death. It's what our entire Faith prepares us for. Of course, Catholicism is a religion of life – life everlasting, after a good earthly life and a good death.
Finally, the idea that soldiers can – as soldiers - publicly display their commitment to the Catholic Faith, is something very precious indeed. And I'm still glad the communists didn't win. Aren't you?

araceli lorayes said...

Again to mikesview.

You are correct to say that the Spaniards brought Catholicism to the Philippines. But you do not know the whole picture. The Spaniards also could have lost the Philippines to Catholicism, and for that they would have had to bear responsibility. I am a bit more knowledgeable about the history - and the history of Catholicism - in my country, so let me enlighten you.

The first Spanish missionaries were heroic and, I suppose, holy men. But they were not the norm during the 300 plus years of colonization. It is a historical fact that for centuries the Spanish monarchy and the Catholic Church were closely intertwined, and the Church benefited materially from this relationship. The Spanish crown granted the religious orders vast tracts of land in the Philippines - the friar lands - from which they derived great wealth. And the friars often wielded temporal power, too. In some places, in the absence of a Spanish civil official, the parish priest was also the representative of the government.

The result was a Church that was powerful and rich, but not loved. Why? Because all too frequently the religious were intolerant, abusive, venal and immoral, spawning an entire subclass of mestizos (mixed-blood children) whom they set over and above the "indios". If this is not corruption of the moral and social order, I don't know what is.

The Spanish Church was loathed to the same degree as the colonial government. For many Filipinos in the nineteenth century especially the educated ones (considered as dangerous upstarts by the Spaniards), the Church and the colonial government were one and the same thing. By the early 20th century, during the American occupation, Filipinos had defected in droves to the two indigenous schismatic churches and to the Protestants. The tide was stemmed only with the arrival of American - as well as Irish, Belgian, and French - missionaries. The new religious, coming from a different cultural and political environment, took over the dioceses vacated by the Spanish religious and brought back many Filipinos to the Church.

We owe a big, big debt of gratitude to those American missionaries who preserved Catholicism in the Philippines. Otherwise, anti-clericalism in the Philippines(vestiges of which remained until at least the Fifties)could have been even more virulent than what we now see in Spain, Filipinos would have been predominantly Aglipayans, Iglesia ni Kristo and Protestants, and I would not be reading and commenting on this blog.

Fr. S.A. said...

araceli lorayes, maybe the lesson you could take from this is that you should not be guided by your emotions, as your emotions seem to be judging what appears to be the sincere piety on the part of these men. You say, "There is an arrogance, a triumphalism in this.." These are your emotions judging their show of piety.

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