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A Call to Arms

Fr. Joseph K. Horn
c. 1982
St Michael’s College Prep High School
Silverado, CA

Note from Joe: The following was addressed to high-school aged boys. It’s all an analogy, of course.

Nations used to go to war, but they don’t any more. When the Huns or Vandals went to war, they all went to war. But nowadays nations don’t fight; only some of their people do. America didn’t fight in Vietnam, but many young Americans fought there. In the future, even if there is another world war, we won’t go into combat. But you might. We won’t because I’m too old for that sort of thing. But look at you. In a few years you’ll be at just the right age. You’ll be the age that Bill Roland was when he left this hilltop and shortly afterward was killed in action in Vietnam. We won’t go to war. But you might.

Whether you do or don’t is beside the point. My focus is on the fact that you might. I mean, be honest: doesn’t the talk of wars and rumors of war do something inside you? Some of you may react with fear: I don’t want to fight! Others may react with patriotism: Let me serve my country well! But no matter how you feel about that, you all have one thing in common. The primary purpose of a soldier is not to attack, but to be ready to defend. A soldier is not paid to attack other countries; he is paid to defend our country. A soldier of Christ isn’t one who attacks non-Christians, but is one who defends the Faith.

And these rumors of war should instill in you that common trait: a readiness to defend your homeland. It doesn’t always. Some people let it instill hatred instead, a blind, unreasonable hatred of other countries. Patriotism doesn’t mean hating other countries any more than school spirit means hating other schools.

And how do we get ready to defend our homeland? Boot camp? Yes, but more importantly it is long before that, it is here and now, as students, that you get ready. You keep up on the news; you study history and geography and government so that if called upon to defend your country you’ll know what it is that you’re defending. And you study English and the sciences and have physical education so that you will be able to make intelligent decisions and express them effectively and carry them out efficiently.

So a healthy consideration of possible war ought to make you study well. But is that what school is all about? Are we a disguised military school? Is the purpose of school preparation for war?

No matter how peace loving we are, no matter that we killed the American Eagle in the pathetic 60’s and buried it in the apathetic 70’s, the answer must always remain YES! Countries no longer go to war. But all of us in the final analysis are already at war, individually! What young man escapes the battle against impure thoughts and actions? We all fight the difficult battle against disobedience. Each individual has his own private battles against lying, stealing, cheating, disrespect, laziness, gossiping, gluttony, the list goes on and on and on.

Gentlemen, to prepare for this war, we can likewise study well so that we will know just what it is we’re fighting for, and be able to make wise decisions about it. Didn’t we become soldiers of Christ in the sacrament of Confirmation? Then we ought to be ready to defend the Faith against all attack, whether from others or from temptation.

It’s not easy; oh, no, it’s not easy. But it’s impossible without preparation. How many times have you knelt down and thanked God for the privilege of being here? Yesterday some of you were bombarding me with questions regarding morality, and I got to thinking, what would you do if you were at a public school? Ask the janitor? Telephone the pastor? But if your opportunities here are great, and here I warn you, it may be that God has plans for you. It may be that the spiritual battles that you shall face in years to come require such intense preparation.

Again, some may think about this and react with fear: No thanks, God, I don’t want to fight such battles! Others may consider it an honor to carry some of the weight of Christ’s cross. But in any case, one thing is clear: If you study well now, you’ll find that you are made of the stuff of heros and saints. You’ll be prepared to defend your homeland and prepared to defend your Faith.

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