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When Nobility Fails
[Image: Vendee-Shield-2.375in.png]

There is a Latin Proverb which runs, "historia magistra vitae est." History is the teacher of life. It was the Roman Orator Cicero that coined the expression and it is taken from his work "de oratore." Now it will not be the purpose of this reflection to give a learned dissertation upon the lessons of human history from the dawn of recorded time to our own poor age. Rather, out of the myriad examples that might be chosen, one particular episode will be but scarcely mentioned in order to apply it to our own day. That episode is the War of the Vendee. It was a war between unequals, a war scarcely to be given our attention given the disparity of the parties involved. On the one hand was the mighty republican government of France, its hands already bloody with the butchered aristocrats and and that of His Most Christian Majesty, Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette. Those of the nobility who were able to flee from the terror went abroad, waiting for better days. All seemed lost for the throne of France and for the Church herself who gave up a multitude of martyrs. There seemed to be no end to the excesses of the Revolution and her godless children. It was not a time that one could expect great things.

God, however, was not bound to an exiled royal family. It is true that the nobility at that time was powerless as well as the king's brothers, but God often makes use of unexpected instruments. It was in this hopeless situation that a light shown in rural France. The Vendee region had been the scene of the apostolic journeys of the great Saint Louis Marie de Montfort only some hundred years before, and his preaching had resulted in a revival of Catholic Faith and practice. While city after city fell to the forces of the Revolution and her propaganda, the Vendee remained unconverted, and though this region also was occupied by representatives of the Republic, the Revolution's hold was tenuous. It was thus in 1793 that an uprising occurred. It was not led by the slain king's brothers, or by the remaining flower of the French aristocracy. It was not a glorious company of the great of this world. It was an uprising made up mainly of peasants and tradesmen, led by members of the lower nobility such as Fran├žois Athanase de Charette de la Contrie. None of the leaders were those whom the world would have chosen to lead. Nothing about the Catholic and Royal Army, as it was called, was expected. It was all a bit shabby if compared to the mighty armies of Louis XIV or even of his successors before the Revolution. The armies of the Republic certainly were more to be feared in worldly estimation, and given the victories of the Revolution over many of its foes, this estimation should have prevented any such uprising from occurring. But it did. Until 1796, the Catholic and Royal army strove to defeat the mighty forces of the Revolution. It had some success in holding back the anti-Catholic armies. But the brave and faithful Catholic and Royal army was defeated at last. Estimates of the dead are numbered in the hundreds of thousands. The Vendee was brought down into the dust. In the eyes of the world, it seemed such a great waste. Why could these men not simply wait for the deliverance of France from the godless? Why would they fight for a royal family out of power and a Church despoiled of all her goods? The war seemed hopeless from the beginning, though there was an effort to join with the exiled nobles and British aid which was not successful. For one without Faith it was pointless. For the Catholic it was better to die for the Faith and for the king than to live dishonoured in a faithless nation.

How does this episode in history teach us anything about our current situation? In our own times, we see a relatively small group of Catholics trying to resist the threats or cajoling of the hierarchy and even of the Pope himself. Why should we not join with the rest of the Catholics under the banner of Saint Peter? Why should we keep resisting when there is no possibility really of success against such a host of foes. Tradition has no great theologians, no great influence, no multitude of priests or religious to overrun the Conciliar Church. Why not try to win the battle more discretely and with less risk? It doesn't seem prudent to swim so much against the tide. Success, however, is not quite the same in the eyes of God as in the eyes of men. God's instruments are not always those whom we would have chosen. We remember the words of Saint Paul:

"But the foolish things of the world hath God chosen, that he may confound the wise; and the weak things of the world hath God chosen, that he may confound the strong." (I Cor. 1:27).

Christ chose twelve very unlikely candidates to begin the conversion of the world. They were not great in the eyes of the world. They were not subtle theologians or expert orators. But they had one thing that the rest of the world lacked. They had the truth. They had the truth and the Lord of Truth. God had chosen the weak and despised in order to bring down the strong and wise. He did not refuse to raise up the great and wise later on in order to glorify his Church and His Name, but he began with the lowly and despised. It is a lesson. The conversion of Rome will not come with the wit of orators or the subtlety of theologians. Modernist Rome has both at its disposal and it is a shell of itself. But those faithful to Tradition have the truth, and it is the God of Truth who will convert souls through the instrumentality of the Mother of God who brought the Incarnate Truth to the world in the first place. So we are brought to a very real crisis. Even in the ranks of Tradition, there are those who have forgotten that they are the foolish and weak. They have grown timid as Rome has brought forth its theologians and orators. How can the Church leaders return to Tradition if we refuse to join together with them? Is it not imprudent to continue pointing out the errors of the Church's leaders, to remind them of the perennial teaching of the Church which is now despised? Would it not be better to remain silent until a better day? All of this seems prudent. It is wise as the world is wise. But God makes use of the foolish things of the world so as to confound the wise. His glory will be manifested to the degree that man's glory is dimmed and his works crumble. Then it will be the victory of God and not man; it will be the heel of the Blessed Virgin and not the subtlety and wisdom of men that will crush the head of the serpent. These timid men of Tradition have grown distrustful of the power of Truth, the power of the God of Truth, the power of the Woman who bore within her womb the Incarnate Truth. Thus it is, that even those who know that compromise is wrong, that know well the fidelity of Archbishop Lefebvre to the Church and to the Truth have begun to convince themselves that it is better to live in dishonour than to stand and perhaps be despised. Some of them are even the great ones of Tradition. They have fought well and for long under the banner of Christ the King. They have long refused to compromise in order to gain the applause of Conciliar Rome. Yet now, their voices have begun to falter. Why not wait to stand against compromise until enough of the leaders of Tradition rise up and stand against this error? Is this not prudent? We need enough of the nobility to stand so that our fight might seem more credible. How like the arguments of those who want to make their peace with Conciliar Rome. How much more effective we would be if we had the Pope at our side, or the bishops, or the theologians and great preachers! The great have forgotten that they had need only of one at their side, and that was Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Was He no longer enough for them?

Another lesson must, unfortunately be drawn. Sometimes it is better to die in the defense of the Truth than to be successful. The Catholics of the Vendee have thus far won only a small page in the annals of history. They do not rank with the armies of Caesar, or of Charlemagne, nor of heroes such as Don Juan of Austria. They were defeated in the eyes of the world, and the glory of France has not yet been restored even with the sacrifice of their blood. Yet the heroism and honour of the Vendeans have merited a more glorious page in an everlasting Book than ever the victories of Caesar or Alexander will win. In the Church Triumphant, the citizens of that Heavenly City will remember in eternity the sacrifice of the poor and despised of the Vendee while the successes of this world will be buried in oblivion. God does not ask us to be successful but to be faithful. It is a difference that can make an eternity of difference.

So if history teaches us a lesson, it is this: It is better to be poor, despised, and weak, and yet remain faithful to the Faith and the Truth, even if that means failure in the eyes of the world, than to fail in the eyes of the only One that really matters- the Lord of Truth Himself and His Immaculate Mother. God does not necessarily wait for the arrival of the noble and wise in order for His Will to be accomplished. His Wisdom is of another order altogether, and that is the only Order that matters.