Among the sounds of pipes, harps and horns the multitude fell down before the golden statue of Nebuchadnezzar. All worshiped the image save three young men.
The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego — and the captivating image of the “fourth man” within the white-hot furnace — is one most Christians are told as children. However, as adults in an ever-increasingly secular world, the story adopts a more sober tone.
For us Americans, it seems like there has always been a pernicious chorus in the background of our lives asking us to kneel to this or that false hope. Yet, the HHS contraception mandate was the keynote that explicitly brought the idol before the faithful and said “Kneel or else.”
People of God have always refused to kneel and abandon truth. With the fiery furnace in mind, Catholics have gleaned seeds of wisdom from the words of St. Augustine: “An unjust law is no law at all.”
The faithful have taken their angst to social media, signed petitions and supported the bishops in their public denouncements of the Obama administration’s breach of religious liberty.
The president and CEO of our EWTN family and Publisher of the Register has stated, with resounding clarity, “We will not kneel.” In a bold, decisive move of faithfulness to the teachings of the Church and opposition to the clear assault against natural law and religious freedom, EWTN has filed a lawsuit against the wayward Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
With the Church leadership here mustering their brother bishops and civic leaders, what is the average rank-and-file Catholic supposed to do? What all Catholics should be doing: kneeling to the Truth, praying fervently, and then taking up the battle in whatever way we can. With respect to prayer, the Rosary should be our first recourse in this fight. As Blessed Pope Pius IX said, “Give me an army saying the Rosary and I will conquer the world.” Of course the aim is the authentic conversion of souls, not the power of nations.
Though prayer can sometimes take on a glib character in response to difficult problems, Holy Mother Church has historically had great recourse to the power of prayer. One such event is Lepanto.
On Oct. 7, 1571, the Holy League of Europe had gathered under the vigilance of Don John of Austria to meet the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto. In what has been called the most significant naval battle since the birth of Christ, more than A collision of more than 400 ships and 100,000 men ensued. If the Holy League lost, all of southern Europe was lost to the Ottoman Turks.
As the battle raged, Pope St. Pius V called the faithful together to pray the Rosary — a lesser-known devotion at the time. After the Ottomans were crushed in a stunning defeat, Pius V instituted the feast of Our Lady of Victory in honor of the grace the Marian prayers had gained for the military forces.
In fact, the rise of the rosary within the Church can be charted according to military victories and their corresponding feast days. Almost two centuries later, an embattled and strife-ridden Europe was called upon by the papacy to defend itself from the Turks. On the Feast of Our Lady of the Snows in 1716, Prince Eugene of Savoy won a decisive victory over the Turks.
Like Pope St. Pius V, Pope Clement XI was convinced the victories were a manifestation of prayer, and he declared that the feast instituted after Lepanto would become the universally recognized Feast of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary.
In times of despair, various popes have led the Church in prayer, and called upon the protection and favor of the Queen of Heaven and of Christ, the King of Kings. The history of Catholicism demonstrates that when we are fighting upon the literal and/or figurative battlefields and the greater Church militant joins them in prayer, entire civilizations are saved.
In these days — the days for which we will be held accountable — we cannot be naïve enough to believe that the power struggles between the Church and the state can be reduced to politics and statecraft. The earthly victories of princes and popes were predicated upon a twofold principle: to pray and to act.
In the plain of Dura stood Nebuchadnezzar’s graven image and the instruments played for people to kneel. Three did not. When they were tossed in the furnace, Abednego sang a song of repentance, and afterward all three sang a song praising the Most High God. The fourth man appeared among the flames and they were saved.
The music is now all around us, and before us is the graven image of compromise and the threat of an inferno behind it. Those saintly biblical heroes and all of the triumphant faithful that have come before us cheer us on as a “great cloud of witnesses” to our fidelity and perseverance.
What the Obama administration needs to understand is that Catholics do not kneel to idols, we do not break rank before the hordes and we do not fear the consequences of an unjust law.
The Pope’s army prays. The Pope’s army fights. The Pope’s army endures.
The Pope’s army does not kneel to the command to sin and abandon the Truth.
Pray for EWTN and the Register. Support us in this fight. Tell everyone you know that this evil will prevail if we don’t aggressively oppose it with all that we are. The liberty and conscience of all Americans is at stake.
St. Michael the Archangel…