Recently, another church, this time in Brooklyn, New York, saw its tabernacle stolen and the Blessed Sacrament desecrated. This crime comes on the heels of another story of a stolen tabernacle earlier the same month in Katy, Texas. Such unthinkable acts of evil also coincide with recent disruptions of Holy Masses. After the leak of a Supreme Court draft decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, pro-abortion advocacy groups, such as Ruth Sent Us, went to Catholic Churches during Sunday Mass to disrupt the Holy Sacrifice.
In San Francisco, people showed up to St. Mary’s Cathedral in costumes from the Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale. In New York City, crazed abortion fanatics showed up to protest at Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral. In Washington, D.C., mobs gathered around the Supreme Court building, enraged over the news at the potential curbing of abortions in some U.S. states.
In the cases of both New York City and Washington, D.C., Catholic men showed up to defend the buildings in question from the mob and prayed the Rosary together. The cathedral in San Francisco certainly needed a group like this as well. Churches across the world must prepare for the appearance of such mobs, and one can find great examples of saints in the past who stood at the door to defend their churches.
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Perhaps one of the best-known examples of a saint barring his church comes in the story of St. Ambrose of Milan and Roman Emperor Theodosius I. The historian Theodoret describes the story in his work Ecclesiastical History V. 17-18. In the city of Thessalonica, a mob of people killed the garrison commander over the jailing of a star chariot driver, seemingly over an accusation of rape. Enraged, Theodosius ordered the garrison in Thessalonica to murder people of the city at the circuses. Roughly seven thousand people died in the massacre.
St. Ambrose took deep offense to this injustice. He called for Theodosius to do penance as King David did penance in the Old Testament. St. Ambrose also excommunicated Theodosius and barred him from even entering a church, a bold move as Theodosius easily could have had St. Ambrose killed for this. However, Theodosius accepted St. Ambrose’s spiritual guidance and completed his penance; and St. Ambrose eventually allowed the emperor back into the Church. The incident inspired Dutch artist Anthony van Dyck to paint the famous painting of St. Ambrose at the door of the cathedral in Milan refusing Theodosius entry.
St. Leo the Great provides another example when he met Attila in an attempt to defend Rome from the Hunnic hordes. During the 5th century, the Huns posed a serious threat to the Western Roman Empire. In A.D. 455, the Huns marched on Rome after sacking Aquileia, Milan, and Pavia. Hope seemed lost, but St. Leo still marched out to persuade Attila to spare the city. Attila agreed to meet with St. Leo. And after the meeting, the great ruler ordered his forces to march out of Italy.
The meeting between St. Leo and Attila became one of the great mysteries of history, as no firsthand account of the meeting survives. Many modern scholars try to make the case that St. Leo had nothing to do with Attila’s decision to turn around, that St. Leo’s talk of God smiting Attila would not have persuaded him. However, Attila, like most ancients, believed in powers higher than himself, so one cannot discount the possibility that St. Leo’s theological arguments dissuaded the Hun king’s advance. For a full analysis of this great historical event, check out Peter Heather’s Fall of the Roman Empire.
In both aforementioned cases, great Catholic saints stood in the way of perilous dangers in order to defend their churches from more serious threats than anyone in the United States faces today. Theodosius certainly could have had St. Ambrose killed for his opposition, and Lord only knows what might have happened to St. Leo had Attila not taken kindly to his protestations.
In the cases of Catholic churches today accosted by pro-abortion protestors, none of the threats of the past are truly present. Instead, a group of men standing at the doors is usually enough to keep the church safe. Let today’s Catholic men find strength in the courage of the saints of the past and defend their churches from the mobs which approach them. Let them stand, arms locked, praying the Rosary in the face of gathering mobs.
Perhaps Catholics in America can find inspiration from Poland. In 2020, Poland passed a law outlawing abortion due to genetic defects like Down syndrome. Naturally, the Left went ballistic over outlawing the extermination of children with Down syndrome in the womb. Mobs arrived at many churches and carried out acts of vandalism. However, in Warsaw, a group of Catholic men from the group Independence March Guard stood at the doors of churches in the face of shrieking activists. Poland is known for being “first to fight,” and American Catholics can follow that lead.
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]