Sainthood: The Catholic Church’s Medal of Honor

Protestants mistake saintly intercession for worship.  They don’t understand that asking for the intercession of a saint is truly glorifying God by acknowledging their work for Him in their earthy lives.  Consider the Parable of The Sower and how much seed was sewn, but the rather small amount that bore fruit.  Now compare the United States in the years immediately after the Revolutionary War to today.

Since the Revolution, American citizens have served in the military for various reasons, but only a few have seen combat.  However, even fewer have been decorated with the nation’s highest award for valor, the Congressional Medal of Honor. 

Pope Benedict XVI once said that we were not made for comfort, but for greatness.  If we lead such exemplary lives because of our love and zeal for Christ, why should we not be recognized for what we do for Him if it moves others to do likewise?

Recipients and Saints

Private First Class Ross McGinnis had dreamed of the Army all his life.  He enlisted in the Army in 2004 as an infantryman.  While in Iraq in 2006, an insurgent’s grenade landed inside his vehicle.  He warned his fellow Soldiers, but with no time to dispose of it, threw himself on top of the grenade to absorb the blast.  He died while everyone else suffered minor injuries.  He was posthumously promoted to the rank of specialist and awarded the Medal of Honor.

Saint Maria Goretti was only eleven years old when she died in 1902.  A young man, Alessandro Serenelli, tried to rape her, but she resisted.  She insisted that they pray for God’s mercy and forgiveness before Serenelli stabbed her fourteen times.  Doctors tried to treat her, but were unsuccessful.  She forgave Serenelli before she died, saying that she wanted to see him in Heaven.  She was canonized in 1950, the patron saint of victims of sexual abuse.

During the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944, a group of lightly-armed and armored American ships had inadvertently been left undefended from the Japanese.  Lieutenant Commander Ernest Evans, born and raised in Pawnee, Oklahoma and a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, commanded the USS Johnston, a light destroyer.  Seeing his comrades vastly outnumbered and in distress, he ordered his crew to fire on the vastly superior Japanese fleet, who then turned their attention to Evans and the other ships that followed him.  The Johnston was severely crippled in the ensuing engagement, but Evans was undaunted.  Eventually, the Johnston succumbed to her wounds and sank, taking Evans with her.  For his actions, he was posthumously promoted to commander and awarded the Medal of Honor.

In his youth, Saint Ignatius of Loyola was something of a party animal and a playboy.  While in the military in May 1521, he was wounded by a cannonball while in battle against the French.  During his recovery, he asked for romance novels to read, but the only available books were about Jesus and the saints.  He was so inspired by what he read that he decided to become a priest.  In 1539, he and several companions founded the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits.  The new order was approved by Pope Paul III the following year and the Spiritual Exercises, composed by Ignatius, was published eight years later.  During this period after the Protestant Reformation, Ignatius became a key figure in the Counter-Reformation.  He died in 1556 and was canonized in 1622, the patron saint of educators.

The point here is that regardless of age, education, and experience, one can demonstrate zeal and devotion that is worthy of recognition. 

The Ongoing Mission

We are called to spread the Gospel and serve and defend the Church in our earthly lives, which is why we are called the “Church militant”.  So when a Protestant friend or family member objects to sainthood, ask them what they think of our Founding Fathers.  Ask them about our military.  Then ask them if honoring a select few members with the Medal of Honor takes focus off of the Founding Fathers and minimizes the sacrifices of all others who have fought and died in service. 

Some service members joined because of patriotism.  Some joined to avoid jail time, because they needed a job or money for school, to get away from abusive families, or needed direction and discipline.  The saints performed their work because were so filled with a desire to serve Jesus.  Whatever their reason though, all served.  However, only a few will receive the highest honors for their devotion.

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