Defender of the Church
by Fr. Alan Benander, O.Praem.
St. Ludolph—a bishop, martyr, and saint of our very own Norbertine Order from thirteenth-century Germany—became a martyr because he defended the rights of the Church against an overbearing civil leader. Duke Albert of Saxony wished to acquire St. Ludolph’s cathedral and, eventually, raze the cathedral to the ground in order to build something else, namely, a garden. However, St. Ludolph resisted the duke, asserted the rights of the Church to keep and maintain her own property, and “stuck to his guns” even to the point of being captured, beaten in a cruel and humiliating manner, and, from those wounds, eventually suffering death, thus gaining for himself the palm of martyrdom and the crown of heavenly glory and joy.
From St. Ludolph’s life, we are reminded that true peace does not come from being “faithful” to the spirit of this world—a spirit that, sooner or later, is going to turn against us anyway—but, rather, by being faithful to Christ and His Holy Spirit. For, as Christ tells us, “Peace I leave you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” Remembering this should help us resist acting out of human respect and should help us, instead, act always out of a proper fear, reverence, and love for God above all others.
Furthermore, St. Ludolph’s example reminds us of the need to be courageous in defending our faith and the rights of the Church against those who would attack our faith and the Church. In our very own day, we are living in a world in which various civil leaders and governments—including those in our very own beloved nation—are seeking to encroach upon, and, actually, already have encroached upon, the freedom of our holy mother, the Church. And, while it is true that obedience to legitimate civil authorities is part of following the fourth commandment—and so we must obey the legitimate laws of the land, such as following the rules of the road or paying taxes—it is also true that, when the laws of the land go against the laws of God or violate the Church’s freedom, we need to oppose such laws.
In other words, we must, above all, live for and fight for the rights of Christ our true King, Mary our true Queen, and the Church our Mother. Thus in our current time and situation, we must resist, as much as we can, such attempts to limit the Church’s freedom, which attempts ultimately lead to an attack on the Church’s faith and mission to spread the Gospel. St. Ludolph’s life reminds us that we need to do this even if it might mean suffering persecution or even death. This reminder is especially important for us up here in the sanctuary, who have the office, or will have the office, of the priesthood, which office carries with it the duty to preach the Gospel. We up here can look to our brother in the Order of Prémontré, St. Ludolph, as a wonderful example of how to preach this Gospel courageously even in the midst of very hostile opposition.
Through the intercession of Mary, Queen of our Order; St. Norbert, founder of our Order; and St. Ludolph, saint of our Order, may we all be as courageous as he was in doing battle with the ancient serpent—by proclaiming, in deed and in word, the truth of Christ and His Gospel, and, when necessary, by defending the rights and faith of His Holy Church, even if we might suffer by doing so. Amen.
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