WDTPRS – 5th Sunday after Epiphany & 5th Ordinary Sunday: A clarion clear call

This Sunday is another liturgical unicorn, that rarity of coinciding prayers in the Vetus and Novus Ordo.  This Sunday’s Collect is the same in the pre-Conciliar, 1962 Missal for the 5th Sunday after Epiphany and in the new-fangled Missal that the Council Fathers didn’t mandate and couldn’t have imagined when they voted for Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Novus Ordo of Paul VI.

Our prayer presents imagery of a family and, on the other hand, of soldiers.

Familiam tuam, quaesumus, Domine,
continua pietate custodi,
ut, quae in sola spe gratiae caelestis innititur,
tua semper protectione muniatur

Custodio, common in military contexts, means “to watch, protect, defend.”  Innitor, also with military overtones, means “to lean or rest upon, to support one’s self by any thing.”  Caesar and Livy describe soldiers leaning on their spears and shields (e.g., “scutis innixi … leaning upon their shields” Caesar, De bello Gallico 2.27).   Munio, is a military term – sensing a theme? – for walling up something up, putting it in a state of defense.

When applied to us humans, pietas, which gives us “piety”, is “dutiful conduct toward the gods, one’s parents, relatives, benefactors, country, etc., sense of duty.”  Pietas is also one of the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit (cf CCC 733-36; Isaiah 11:2), by which we are duly affectionate and grateful toward our parents, relatives and country, as well as to all men living insofar as they belong to God or are godly, and especially to the saints.  In common parlance, “piety” indicates fulfilling the duties of religion.

However, applied to God, pietas usually indicates His mercy towards us.


Guard Your family, we beseech You, O Lord,
with continual mercy,
so that that (family) which is propping itself up upon the sole hope of heavenly grace
may always be defended by Your protection.


watch over your family
and keep us safe in your care,
for all our hope is in you.

Look at this contrast!


Keep your family safe, O Lord, with unfailing care,
that, relying solely on the hope of heavenly grace,
they may be shielded always by your protection.

“Watch over your family, …with continual mercy/religious dutifulness,…” invokes the images soldiers as well as that of a father checking into the bedrooms of his children as they sleep.  He listens through the night for sounds of distress or need.

The Church is not afraid to combine images of family and soldiering, the symbiotic exchange of duty, obedience and protection. Putting the military imagery in relief helps us to hold both sets of images in mind as we hear Father lift our Collect heavenward during Holy Mass.

We Catholics are both a family, children of a common Father, and a Church Militant, a corps (from Latin corpus, “body”).

Many of us when we were confirmed by bishops as “soldiers of Christ” were given a blow on the cheek as a reminder of what suffering we might face as Christians.

We ought rather die like soldiers than sin in the manner of those who have no gratitude toward God or sense of duty.

We ought to desire to suffer if necessary for the sake of those in our charge.

In this Collect we beg the protection and provisions Christ our King can give us soldiers while on the march.  We need a proper attitude of obedience toward God, our ultimate superior, and dutifulness toward our shepherds in the Church, our earthly parents, our earthly country, etc.

Our prayer reminds us that we belong to communities in which we have unequal roles.

There is a profound interconnection between the members of a family, but also inequality.

Children are no less members of the family than their parents, but they are not their parents’ equals. Even the young Jesus– the God man – was subject to Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:51).  As Glorious Risen King and Judge, Christ will subject all things to the Father (1 Cor 15:27-28).   We are all members of the Church, but with unequal roles.

As St. Augustine said, “I am a bishop for you, I am a Christian with you” (s. 340, 1).”

Our times are dominated ever more by relativism and the obtuse madness of secular humanism. 

Both the military and the family and Holy Church (the human dimension, of course) are being eroded, systematically broken down, even from within the ranks of the “officer corps”, the Churches “fathers”, priests and bishops.

And… these days… the attacks are mounting on faithful priests and bishops while those who abandon Catholic doctrine and discipline to curry favor with the world (et al.), are praised and elevated.  This is more and more a problem and, one day, it will burst forth in open and vicious persecution, perhaps in the next wave of attacks on the Church’s body of doctrine on moral issues: the coming war on Humanae vitae.

Hierarchy and discipline provide the protection needed by marching troops and growing children.  We members of the Militant Church, disciples of Christ, need discipline and fidelity, dedication, pietas, from our officers/shepherds so we can attain our goal.

We need nourishment and discipline in the sense of instruction (Latin disciplina) and sacraments.

Parents and pastors (priests) must fulfill their own roles toward us with pietas, religious and sacred duty!

Their pietas requires fidelity and, above all, sacrifice, being the first to step out in our defense, forming good plans, sounding a clear and certain trumpet to lead us.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Pingback: WDTPRS – 5th Sunday after Epiphany & 5th Ordinary Sunday: A clarion clear call – Via Nova Media

  2. Semper Gumby says:

    Great sermon, thanks Fr. Z.

  3. Semper Gumby says:

    “We ought rather die like soldiers than sin in the manner of those who have no gratitude toward God or sense of duty.”

    Amen. That is worth a closer look, but first good news.

    The Russian Orthodox Church is not completely lost. Georgy Sukhobsky, a cleric of Polish descent and supporter of Alexei Navalny, successfully escaped Russia for Poland after receiving numerous death threats last month.

    In other good news, “Post-liberals” (who are an interesting blend of Neville Chamberlain appeasement, Nazi doctrine, Chinese Communist propaganda, bigoted papalotry and vampire integralism) and others such as Rod “A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism” Dreher have another excellent opportunity to “Live Not By Lies.”

    Two items to set the stage. First, Roskomnadzor is Putin’s state agency for supervising and censoring Russian media. Second, recently in St. Petersburg a schoolteacher, Serafima Saprykina, was forced to resign after reading poems to her class by poets who were persecuted by Stalin.

    Now, given that “post-liberals” are mainly journalists and professors they will recognize an opportunity to stand in solidarity with their persecuted brethren and sisteren in Putin’s Russia.

    The “post-liberals” also have an excellent opportunity to rethink their recent piece of writing (by Deneen, Pappin and Ahmari) published a few days ago by the New York Times, where these three: 1) ignored Putin’s imperialism and instead whined about “liberal [Western] imperialism,” and 2) described Communist China with its Uyghur concentration camps and other evils as a “civilizational equal.” Rod “Live Not By Lies” Dreher called this “post-liberal” piece of writing: “true and important.”

    Human beings have Free Will. Thus, as many of us, but unfortunately not all, have noticed since the 1930s: there are tyrants in the world and there are those professors and journalists who (out of malice, ignorance, and a lust for power) stray into the cult of the Strongman.

    However, God in His infinite Mercy and Wisdom continuously provides abundant opportunities for excellence in education and journalism.

    The horse is a noble animal. The horses of “post-liberalism” have Free Will. They can be led to Living Water, but they can refuse to drink.

  4. Semper Gumby says:

    “We ought rather die like soldiers than sin in the manner of those who have no gratitude toward God or sense of duty…pietas requires fidelity and, above all, sacrifice.”

    Indeed. In the absence of gratitude, duty, pietas and sacrifice what is likely to follow is disaster. A classic example is the self-induced collapse of the decaying Austro-Hungarian Empire. Geoffrey Wawro details the Empire’s incompetence in his 2014 book “A Mad Catastrophe: The Outbreak of World War I and the Collapse of the Habsburg Empire.”

    “Austria-Hungary had been rotting from within for years, hollowed out by repression, cynicism, and corruption at the highest levels. Commanded by a dying emperor, Franz Joseph I, and a querulous celebrity general, Conrad von Hotzendorf, the Austro-Hungarians managed to bungle everything: their ultimatum to the Serbs, their declarations of war, their mobilization, and the pivotal battles in Galicia and Serbia. By the end of 1914 the Habsburg army lay in ruins.”

    The Hungarians were part of the problem, Budapest often undermining the occasional common sense measures cobbled together in Vienna. Still…

    “Of the many errors and miscalculations in this uniquely catastrophic war, Austro-Hungarian decision-making in 1914 was arguably the most senseless- and the most reprehensible.”

  5. Semper Gumby says:

    “We ought rather die like soldiers than sin in the manner of those who have no gratitude toward God or sense of duty…pietas requires fidelity and, above all, sacrifice.”

    Pietas: the duty owed to God and Country and Family.

    With Pietas in mind, a closer look at the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its monarch Emperor Franz Joseph I.

    – During the 1870s most of the monarchy’s military aristocracy left the army in protest of War Minister Franz Kuhn’s cancellation of their privileges. Many of the best middle-class officers also left the increasingly decrepit and under-financed military for professional occupations in education, finance, law and medicine.

    – An 1878 report from the French Embassy in Vienna to Paris describing Franz Joseph I: “He’s sympathetic and well-liked, but he has no character to speak of; he’s a drifter, floating from one system to the next; he has no real friends or confidants; he trusts no one, and inspires confidence in no one, nor does he even believe in himself.”

    – As 1900 approached, “Franz Joseph’s work increasingly became ensuring the survival and relevance of the Habsburg dynasty by juggling the contending capitals of Vienna and Budapest.”

    – 1910 Report to the Austro-Hungarian War Ministry on the Austro-Hungarian Officer Corps by Austro-Hungarian General Moritz von Auffenberg. After noting slow promotions, poor training, outdated uniforms (transitioning to grey uniforms, but surplus blue uniforms for many reservists and draftees would result in massacre by machine gun in 1914), outdated equipment, low stocks of ammunition, low salaries and injury, illness or infraction often resulting in early discharge without benefits, Auffenberg noted among the officer corps “a deep and dangerous complacency that one finds in greater measure only among officers of the Turkish army.” Auffenberg also noted low esprit de corps and the loss of “Landsknechtsgeist” or “happy warrior spirit”: “Walk into an Austrian officer’s mess [Auffenberg visited dozens] and you won’t even find wine on the table.”

    – The Balkan Wars of 1912-13, in which Franz Joseph I (“an unimaginative pessimist in old age”) mobilized the army in support of the Ottoman Empire (however, note the massacres of Christians in the 1890s by Ottoman Sultan “Abdul the Damned”) and against Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece. “Austro-Hungarian regiments reported to their depots singing Serbian anthems and cursing their own monarch. In Austria’s Czech province, mothers and wives of reservists lay across the rails to prevent their men from entraining for the front.”

    Pietas: the duty owed to God and Country and Family.

  6. Semper Gumby says:

    Pietas: the duty owed to God and Country and Family.

    It can be overdone.

    At the outbreak of WW I in 1914 German Protestant pastor Dietrich Vorwerk praised God who reigns on High, above “Cherubim and Seraphim and Zeppelins.” Vorwerk also rewrote the Lord’s Prayer, an excerpt:

    In thy merciful patience, forgive
    Each bullet and each blow
    That misses its mark.
    Lead us not into temptation
    Of letting our wrath be too gentle.

    The Kaiser’s ally, Ottoman Sultan Mehmed V, proclaimed in 1914:

    “Let those of you who are to die a martyr’s death be messengers of victory to those who have gone before us, and let the victory be sacred and the sword be sharp of those of you who are to remain in life.

    By contrast, the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The tune, but not the lyrics, originated in the 1850s around Charleston, South Carolina. It was a popular Methodist Camp Meeting tune particularly among free black churches and army posts. At the outbreak of the Civil War the lyrics included “They will hang Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree” which Confederate soldiers soon replaced with “John Brown’s a-hangin’ on a sour apple tree.”

    In 1861 abolitionist Julia Ward Howe, who heard marching soldiers singing the tune, wrote the well-known lyrics which removed references such as hanging. In 1908 she became the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Julia Howe in 1861:

    I have seen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps
    They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps
    I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps
    His day is marching on.

    Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel
    Since God is marching on.

    In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea
    With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me
    As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free
    While God is marching on.

  7. Semper Gumby says:

    Fr. Z: Outstanding.

    The “Battle Hymn of the Republic” was sung during the 9/11 Memorial Service at the National Cathedral on Sep. 14, 2001. Here is the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” on Sep. 14, 2001 at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, joined outside the Cathedral by a large assembly of our Cousins. I’m told Queen Elizabeth II requested the Hymn.


  8. Semper Gumby says:

    Pietas: the duty owed to God and Country and Family.

    Pres. Donald J. Trump, West Point Commencement Speech, June 13, 2020.

    “West Point is a universal symbol of American gallantry, loyalty, devotion, discipline, and great skill. There is no place on Earth I would rather be than right here with all of you. It’s a great honor.

    Across this hallowed plain have passed many of the greatest and most fearsome soldiers that ever lived…They were the Army Rangers who led the way up jagged cliffs, the airborne soldiers who rained down justice in the dark of night, the infantry whose very sight meant liberation was near, and the mighty forces who sent tyrants, terrorists, and sadistic monsters running scared through the gates of hell. No evil force on Earth can match the noble power and righteous glory of the American warrior.

    Cadets, please join me in sending your parents and families the heartfelt thanks they so richly deserve.

    The members of this class have come from every state in our union. You have come from the farms and the cities, from states big and small, and from every race, religion, color, and creed. But when you entered these grounds, you became part of one team, one family, proudly serving one great American nation. You became brothers and sisters pledging allegiance to the same timeless principles, joined together in a common mission to protect our country, to defend our people, and to carry on the traditions of freedom, equality, and liberty that so many gave their lives to secure.

    It depends on citizens who build, sustain, nurture, and defend institutions like this one.

    It was under the leadership of West Point graduates like the legendary General Matthew Ridgway, that the army was at the forefront of ending the terrible injustice of segregation.

    And they did it because they believed in the undying principles of our founding. They did it because they cherish their homes, their faith, their family, and their flag.

    Some of you have even pushed the limits a bit too much. So for any cadets who have not finished walking off their hours, as commander in chief, I hereby absolve all cadets on restriction for minor conduct offenses, and that is effective immediately. Congratulations. That’s a nice one, isn’t it? Don’t you feel better now?

    Lindy earned both the highest overall class standing and the highest physical program score. She has published scientific research in a prominent journal and set five new records on the athletic track. Lindy, incredible job. Where is Lindy? Where is Lindy? For somebody that did so well, they didn’t give you a very good seat, Lindy. We have to talk about that. Congratulations.

    It has given you soldiers that you could rely on to your right and to your left and now we are entrusting you with the most noble task any warrior has ever had, the privilege to carry out the task of preserving American liberty.

    God bless you, God bless the United States Army, and God bless America.”

    (A helpful analysis of Pres. Trump’s West Point Commencement Speech was provided by Thomas Spoehr in the Washington Times, June 22, 2020.)

  9. Semper Gumby says:

    “We ought rather die like soldiers than sin in the manner of those who have no gratitude toward God or sense of duty…pietas requires fidelity and, above all, sacrifice.”

    Pietas: the duty owed to God and Country and Family.

    It’s not easy. But God never promised us a rose garden.

    A cautionary tale expanding on my two comments above concerning the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Geoffrey Wawro’s “A Mad Catastrophe: The Outbreak of World War I and the Collapse of the Habsburg Empire.”

    The last Habsburg to rule the Austro-Hungarian Empire was Karl I or Charles I (1887-1922). He became Emperor upon the death of Franz Joseph I (who was a prime instigator of WW I, see above) in 1916, and ruled until November 1918 when the defeated Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved at the end of WW I.

    In the Catholic Church he is known as Blessed Karl for good reason, he was a faithful Catholic, a devoted husband and a loving father.

    However, a blunt but well-documented assessment of Karl as Emperor during World War I by Wawro.

    “Archduke Karl I (now Emperor Karl I) sought conditions for a separate peace with the French and Russians through his brother-in-law Prince Sixtus, an officer in the Belgian army. The ensuing Sixtus Affair came to a head in March 1917 and was Austria’s last chance to escape the German-directed war with a hope of survival. The Allied terms conveyed to Austria by Sixtus demanded the surrender of Alsace-Lorraine, the restoration of Serbian and Belgian independence, and Austrian “disinterest” in Russian claims to Constantinople.

    “In view of all the [self-inflicted] disasters that had already afflicted Austria-Hungary, Emperor Karl was **pleasantly surprised by the mildness of the Allied terms,** and expressed himself eager to proceed. Unfortunately, he expressed himself eager in writing, and proceeded slowly [while thousands, even tens of thousands, died each day in the trenches]. When the Germans got wind of the affair a year later, after Karl’s letters were published by [French Prime Minister] Clemenceau to divide Germany and Austria-Hungary, [German General] Ludendorff summoned Karl to German headquarters in May 1918 and jerked him back into line [Wawro also provides a National Archives photo of Kaiser Wilhelm meeting with Karl I].

    “Emperor Karl first lied (the letters were “forgeries”), then blamed his foreign minister (who threatened suicide if Karl persisted), and finally threw himself upon the mercy of Ludendorff and Wilhelm, declaring himself “as innocent as a newborn child.” The terms the Germans demanded were harsh: strict military and economic subservience to Berlin for the duration of the war…Karl weakly bowed to German pressure… President Wilson, initially willing to work with the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now turned disgustedly away…”

    “The war began with Austria-Hungary and the Habsburg monarchy dependent on German arms, and that’s how it ended.”

    Pietas. The duty owed to God, Country and Family. It’s not easy sometimes. We’re all human, and like Karl I attempting to preserve his monarchy, can fail at pietas in tragic and catastrophic ways.

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