Seriously, who triumphs, here?

My “Surrender” piece on the home page, and my blog post which expands on it, are creating some angry or confused reactions. I anticipated that, to an extent, and wish I were a better writer, so there would be less confusion, less anger. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit has, via Taylor Marshall, provided a visual aid that touches on my point: our lives are not really ours. The world is not ours. Civilization, even…is not ours:

Look at the picture, and tell me who triumphed. Who won? Your answer is the answer most will agree with. The priest has taken care of what mattered most: his relationship to Christ. The rest is passing. The battle has always raged and it always will. The job of the Christian is to take care of that first thing – the interior relationship with Christ. And then take that into the world, with absolute trust that God, finally, triumphs, no matter what it looks like to the rest of us, in our limited understanding.

It sort of goes well with this excellent recording of yesterday’s readings:

You belong to God, children, and you have conquered them,
for the one who is in you
is greater than the one who is in the world.
They belong to the world;
accordingly, their teaching belongs to the world,
and the world listens to them.
We belong to God, and anyone who knows God listens to us,
while anyone who does not belong to God refuses to hear us.
This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit.
– 1 John 4;4-6

“No war may be waged in God’s name”

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://yimcatholic Allison Salerno

    This is so incredibly powerful. Thank you. This ties in well with what I have been reading with my “School of Community” about detachment from the world enabling us to live life here on earth “hundredfold.”

    We Christians do not detach for the sake of detachment, but rather to hew ourselves more closely to Christ.

  • Brian English

    “Look at the picture, and tell me who triumphed.”

    I am always puzzled when I see Catholics making this kind of argument. What is your point? If a second after this picture was taken a group of Catholic fighters had come upon this scene and gunned down the firing squad, saving the priest’s life, would that have been a good thing, or a bad thing?

    Similarly, should Christians in Egypt and Iraq simply throw open the doors of their Churches and let the murderers come and go as they please? Would it be a bad thing for them to arm themselves to prevent these massacres? Do they have a right to kill the would-be killers?

  • Joan of Argghh!

    I did not read the original post, but must relay a dream I had last night. It was but a moment– in a classroom which for some reason I was cleaning while lessons in history were being taught.

    I quipped to the class, “Our wars are not His wars, our peace is not His peace. That is why we must let Him be God, since He is the most qualified.”

    That was it. I know my mouth was speaking from far more understanding of, “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” which has been a meditation for the New Year assigned to me by the Holy Spirit.

    I wonder. . .

  • Teresa

    I must say I agree with Brian above. Yes the priest won in a spiritual sense but most would cheer if someone took out the firing squad. I read about Catholic clergy, martyrs, and saints every day in the Magnificat and admire them immensely. I daresay not many of us could be so courageous. As Flannery O’Connor once said I think I could be a martyr–if they killed me quickly.

  • Kerani

    I agree with much of what you say here, Elizabeth. At the same time, I completely get the frustration of people who want God’s sense of justice and what is ‘fair’ to match their own. (Mostly because I’m fighting with that myself, most days.)

    It *seems* right to take up arms against evil. It feels glorious to beat down those who imagine themselves strong and who have proven themselves corrupt and abusive. Should we not struggle to defeat those who would do harm, and protect those who can not protect themselves?

    I don’t think standing up in defense of others – or one’s self – is wrong. Just as I don’t think it’s wrong to give a one tenth tithe to the Church.

    But is ten percent all we have to give? Is returning violence for violence the full measure of our mercy?

    Or are we capable of the widow’s mite?

  • Nan

    Viva Christos Rey!

    This is but one of many 20th century martyrs who died because they were priests. While I can’t identify this particular priest, typically Priests in Godless regions continue to serve their flock as best they are able to, knowing it may lead to a premature reunion with Christ. When caught by Satan’s minions, they die a beautiful death in service to our Lord.

    Peaceful martyrdom shows a union with God that often serves as an example to those who witness such death, even if they witness it as unbelievers; see, Centurion.

  • Mike

    I’m really not trying yo be snide, Elizabeth; I’m wrestling with the same issues you’ve addressed. So let me try to understand things a bit better by asking a question: How do you reconcile the opinion piece you wrote today with your (seemingly admiring) post about Lt. Gen. “Chesty” Puller yesterday?

    [I start with the Ideal in Christ. Then I look at humanity, doing the best it can, on any given day, and hope I'm doing the same. :-) Seriously, though, I never said (as I think I have stated elsewhere) that there ought not be warriors, or that war must not be fought. It is all too true that wars sometimes must happen, and when they do, I admire honorable warriors, just as I admire honorable bakers and honorable plumbers. We do what we're called to do, and what we're born to do. But we are charged by our baptism, and our confession of Christ, to serve him first and foremost and part of that is surrendering all that we are, all that we have, all that we do, to his purposes, and that even means knowing when to let go of the past--which cannot be reclaimed or re-lived--so that we may best serve his purpose today. I get an overwhelming feeling from a lot of Christians that they think they can, through either (or both) war against Islam or legislative power somehow bring back Ozzie and Harriet and Ronald Reagan and the hyper-prosperous (and therefore materially enriched) past--as though that is the be-all and end-all of our purposes here--and I keep thinking, "we're not here to save "Western Civilization and the American Way...we're here to conform ourselves to him, conquer ourselves through him. The rest is...passing." It feels like Christians are forgetting that "all flesh is grass," or that all things must they're hanging on, and on, rather than detaching. And that--at least for me--signals that Christ is not the central focus anymore..."we" and our "way" have become central. There is no victory, there. -admin]

  • kmk

    Brian: What would the priest have said, had the Catholics shot down the firing squad? What did Christ say, when Peter pulled out the sword?

    I didn’t read Elizabeth’s original articles, and I am a (female) Army veteran, and all my brothers and father serve or have served in the Armed Forces, so I can’t say I’m a pacifist. By all means, have the guards at the door–those Swiss guards have training in post-medieval weaponry, I’m sure! The popemobile is bulletproof. Sigh. (Guess I should read the articles)
    Thanks for the photo, and a reminder of the larger picture, Anchoress.

  • kmk

    PS “Bulletholes” on right side of image are interesting touch!

  • kmk

    SOrry if I post this twice…
    Brian: What would that priest have said, had a band of Catholics come in and fired everyone up? What did Christ say to Peter when he pulled out his sword and started to fight?

    I have to admit I have not yet read the articles, but as a (female) Army veteran, whose 3 brothers and father have and are serving in the US Military– I am no pacifist–I have to throw that out there! :) I bet those Swiss guards are very familiar with post-medieval weapons, I think–and the Popemobile is bulletproof, too. Sigh.

    Thank you, Anchoress, for that photo, which gives us another glimpse of the Body of Christ.

  • kmk

    Another thought–the era of Ozzie and Harriet and Ronald Reagan–wasn’t that the era when our own leaders were meeting behind closed doors and deciding there were too many “brown babies” in the world and consequently doing things like performing tubal ligations on unsuspecting women in Peru in the ’70′s, and sending in the condoms, birth control and abortion kits with all of our food aid via the USAID, etc? What golden age, again?

  • Joshua Graham

    Let me say that your blog is a daily read for me, and I greatly enjoy it. I think I have a better understanding of what you’re saying since you expanded on it further.

    I am reminded of Matthew 23:23 wherein Jesus corrects the Pharisees on their misplaced priorities. When he lists the most important precepts which they have not kept even as they hold fast to lesser ones, he does not neglect to end his exhortation with “These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (ESV) I think the same could be said of the pursuit of cultural and political righteousness, that we should seek first the Kingdom of God, but in doing so we need not and should not ignore what is in our power to change for the better.

    I’m bad at managing time, but even for me there are more than enough hours in the day to pray and seek God, and still be active in the world to His glory.

    [I wish I could say the same. I know my prayer life is being truncated by my work commitments. And of course, Paul did tell us to "pray ceaselessly." I am increasingly being made aware that we're supposed to "pray and seek God" at every moment, and THAT is the tough part. The praying and seeking isn't allowed to be's of a piece with the rest of it.-admin]

  • Valaki

    We are not (yet) called to turn (our) other cheek to the Moslems. Our brothers and Sisters in the Middle East are.

    I am surprised no one mentioned this excecllent short article:; it provides historical perspective on Islam and quickly dispells some common myths about it.

    Or this excellent book: Serge Trifkovic, The Sword of the Prophet.

    Or mentioned daily miracles of conversion happening due to Christian missionary work such as this:

    There is hope, to be sure, but mindful of St. Francis’ experience I’d set my expectations with caution.

  • Robert

    “Anchoress I commend and thank you for the post. It’s a difficult viewpoint even to float out there, especially on a more conservative site like this one, but it’s one that needs to be thought about and considered.

    I don’t think standing up in defense of others – or one’s self – is wrong. Just as I don’t think it’s wrong to give a one tenth tithe to the Church.

    But is ten percent all we have to give? Is returning violence for violence the full measure of our mercy?

    Or are we capable of the widow’s mite?”

    I think that, along with the link to the Vatican press release, says it well enough.

  • Mike

    I believe that the central issue of this discussion is the virtue Hope. Obviously, the ideal is that we can all live in peace with one another, free to worship and spread the Gospel.

    Unfortunately, this is unattainable in our imperfect world.

    We will never defeat every militant enemy of the faith. We will not always evade capture. Sometimes our attempts to evangelize will fail spectacularly.

    The crucifix and the picture of this brave priest show Christians that even in defeat, Hope triumphs. The horrible attacks on Christians in the Middle East and the possibility of religious persecution in our own country are not illegitimate concerns. (I think some of your readers incorrectly interpreted your article to mean that we should not be troubled by those things.)

    The point is that even the worst atrocities and defeats are not reasons for despair. As long as we do not lose Hope in Christ’s promise, despair is impossible.

  • Iris Celeste

    It is important that everyone not misinterpret what Elizabeth wrote. She doesn’t say do nothing and accept victimhood. Fantasizing about getting someone in the White House in 2 year who will nuke Mecca and Medina the first instance Christians or Americans are attacked and killed is just that, FANTASY. But there is something you can do now. Again do not abandon your brothers and sisters, but you do that with fervent prayer, offerings of self-denial and Masses for Heaven’s intentions (and yes, fight the spread of militant Islam where you can, in your our communities.) Egypt is not a free country. What do you think will happen when Mubarack finds out Masses are being said in Egypt for the intention of the Guardian Angel of Egypt and Our Lady of Zeitoun, which was the Virgin’s apparition in Egypt? If he is smart, and get real, most dictator are not as stupid as Chaves, he will see the possibility of “Christian/Faith Tourism” in Egypt. The faithful streaming in like they do at Lourdes and Fatima. Lots of tourist dollars, but that won’t happen if he allows Churches to be bombed! People, wake up! There are lots of things you can do by allowing heaven to work through you … (and to be perfectly honest, I could use some help …)

    Iris Celeste

  • Iris Celeste

    Here is the link, for $5 you can have a Mass said anywhere in the Middle East for someones special intentions (and I suggest you select some resident of Heaven for the purposes of the well being of our Christian Brothers and Sisters and Israel too!)

    Iris Celeste

  • Jeff

    It is a remarkable photo, I will say that. Having said that, if I had an M-16 and was present that day, I probably would have opened fire on the bandidos about to murder him.

  • Maureen

    Prudence and wisdom to discern what choices are right, and what God wants, at any given moment — that’s what is needed. Sometimes God wants us to fight; sometimes God wants us to put our cheeks into harm’s way. Sometimes God tells a person not to do something, not because it would be evil to do it, but because it’s just not as fitting as what God wants him to do instead.

    You can be a Christian martyr, bravely taking the bullet of the firing squad, or a Christian knight protecting his people, bravely giving the blow in battle. They are both doing what God wills. They are both witnesses to Christ and warriors for him. There is no contradiction.

  • J

    During Pres. Bush time in office, I often wondered if he would become angry and bitter. Even now, after everything is past, he still suffers attacks, he is at peace. Perhaps because of what you said, he did what he thought was right, protected my country and family, and has moved on….at peace. And perhaps that all stemmed from his relationship with God.

  • SteveM

    Re: Maureen “You can be a Christian martyr, bravely taking the bullet of the firing squad, or a Christian knight protecting his people, bravely giving the blow in battle. They are both doing what God wills. They are both witnesses to Christ and warriors for him. There is no contradiction.

    I posted this link before:

    Those guys are not “warriors for [Christ]“. They are killing machines caught up in the maw of history.

    War is savage and ugly and best fought with grim determination. The connection of rancid violence to God’s will is never more than opaque.

  • archangel

    As to Jesus’ temper… all one needs to view is the scene with the money-changers and merchants within the Temple precincts. Further, as to the scene with Peter and the sword… He simply told Peter “enough” and healed the servants ear that was cut off. Two things occurred… He didn’t chastise Peter; He simply told him to stop there. He then used the moment for a point of conversion with one last act of healing. Tradition holds that the servant became a follower at that point.

    So we can conclude that the “Peace-nik Hippi Jesus” is a falacy. He had a rightous temper when it came to how His Father’s house. He also understood the nature of self-defense. He even brought up the point as He was being arrested stating that He had the angels at His command but He went WILLINGLY. Its not that He couldn’t do it. Its not that His followers couldn’t defend Him. He CHOSE to be arrested.

    I really don’t understand the confusion. its pretty simple really.

  • Jeff

    On the prayer front, Israel’s top spy in Hamas, Mosab Hassan Yousef, has converted to Christianity. So that is good news. Here is his answer to the question, “Who was Mohammed in your opinion?”:

    “I believe that Mohammed is a liar. I believe that Mohammed created a lie. He wrapped it in layers of truth, facts, and moralities. Because of those layers, it became a perfect lie. It deceived many, many people. He hid his ugly, selfish face behind this religion. He created this religion to serve his personal desires of becoming the king of the Arabs and the prophet of the Arabs. He sacrificed humans for this lie, and at some point he believed in it and forced everybody to believe in it. Islam and Mohammed are the biggest lie in human history.”

  • Mike

    Anchoress, the picture is a powerful witness, and I admire your call to surrender ourselves to Christ. But your call to detachment from earthly things, which you say we can’t really change anyway, and to recognize that all things must pass, strikes me as a call to pasivity in the face of injustice.

    You refer specifically about a “war against Islam,” which I suppose you mean to refer to the liberation of tens of millions of Iraqi and Afghani Muslims from tyrannical regimes, as an example of our inability to effect change in the world. But what about a war against a culture of death that murders millions of unborn children each year? Would you also not call that a yearning to return to Ozzie and Harriet times? Should we accordingly not engage in sidewalk counselling or legislative lobbying, the better to conform ourselves to Christ?

    I believe we have to take Christ into the world and acquit ourselves of the times we face. Sometimes that means ridding the temple of moneychangers, or jihadists, or abortionists.

    [In this ongoing discussion I've been pretty clear that we FIRST surrender, every day, every minute and then bring that surrender out to the world as per our callings. As to "sidewalk counseling and legislative lobbying," it all depends how its done. -admin]

  • Brian English

    “Brian: What would that priest have said, had a band of Catholics come in and fired everyone up? What did Christ say to Peter when he pulled out his sword and started to fight?”

    Christ also said we should pluck out our eyes, and cut off our hands and feet if they are leading us to sin. No sane person thinks that statement should be taken literally. Consequently, I do not understand why many people feel that the more ambiguous statements like “live by the sword, die by the sword” and “turn the other cheek” should be interpreted literally.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Let us be careful about calling for others to turn the other cheek. It might be that we’re being called to defend them, or, at least, bear witness to their sacrifice. There are real, flesh and blood people dying out there—and ancient cultures, such as those of the Iraqi Christians, and Copts; these aren’t just prettified saints’ stories told by sister for the 8th Grade catechism class. (They are tales of saints, and they should be honored—but, again, lets’ not get too enthusiastic about pushing martyrdom on our brothers and sisters.)

    And detachment from the world is more of a Buddhist, not a Christian belief; Christ certainly didn’t display it, when he wept over Jerusalem, and for his friend Lazarus.

  • Nan


    In the 1920′s Margaret Sanger started her crusade to exterminate, sterilize or euthanize blacks and asians. Her crusade continues today all over the world.

  • kmk

    Absolutely, Nan–and the Birth Control Pill in 1960 accelerated the pace–during our Ozzie and Harriet days. Yikes!

    Christ did tell us to turn OUR other cheek, not someone else’s. “Don’t you mess wid my brudder,” as our daughter told a bully years ago on the playground! :)

    I dunno–I think there were at least a few saints who did some pretty serious sacrificial stuff to their bodies, short of plucking out eyes and cutting off hands. And those martyrs who DID have their hands cut off, or their eyes plucked out, or drawn and quartered–well, if they weren’t doing it for their own salvation (or perhaps someone else’s) out of their love for Christ, well, why WERE they doing it? I still think that, whether shooting the thugs would be the right thing to do or no, the priest would not have approved of shooting them up in that situation.

  • c matt

    I am reminded of the serenity prayer -

    God grant me the courage to change those things I can;

    The fortitude to accept those things I cannot;

    And the wisdom to know the difference.

    In that picture, it seems pretty clear the priest is accepting with fortitude the thing he cannot change – his martyrdom. I do not see why he would refuse to accept assistance from those with the courage and ability to have changed that situation (assuming morally legitimate means were employed). Heck, even Christ prayed that the cup pass Him if possible, but that His Father’s will be done.

  • c matt

    As for the “who triumphs,” as mentioned before, the triumph is the ultimate end of things, the rest merely battles. Whether martyrdom or rescue befalls the priest, the ultimate triumph was his.