Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield, man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God’s grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 409)
Not long ago, I surveyed friends who are current or former members of the armed forces, asking them:
What is the most important quality of a good soldier?
- Each soldier responded from his or her own experience, without consulting anyone.
- I received answers from soldiers varying in rank, age, background, gender; experienced in the United States Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force.
Interestingly, all of their answers fit into 3 categories…
1. Commitment to the Mission – Top Response
Other words used to describe this quality: Discipline, Drive, Courage, Fortitude, Determination
One senior officer elaborated: “I always talk to my Soldiers about having a ‘Why’ Factor: That reason(s) that get you up every morning and make you the best person you can be. […] This can be the next rank, spouse, children, family, better finances, education; whatever it is that reminds them of the importance of what they do and why they strive for greatness each day.”
In the spiritual life, we must be focused and committed to our mission: union with God who is Love.
“I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:14-16)
Being lukewarm means that we know enough, but we don’t care enough.
Are you lukewarm in your daily commitment to the mission of Love?
Is it love of God that drives you through trials?
What is your “Why Factor” for living as you do?
- Examine your conscience to determine the dis-ordered personal desires or other obstacles you must address, in order to remain committed. A soldier who is neither disciplined nor committed to the mission is a danger to himself and his fellow soldiers.
Other words used to describe this quality: Honor, Honesty
Closely related to the top response, Integrity is defined as “moral uprightness”, or “the state of being whole and undivided”. Soldiers who gave this response consistently answered with one word. That’s because integrity speaks for itself.
Look at Saint Joseph in the Bible; described as “a righteous man”—yet his words are never quoted. Why? The integrity of his character is reflected in his actions, which speak for themselves.
As necessary and powerful as our words and vocal prayers can be, Jesus clearly says that lip service is insufficient for Victory:
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church applies this to our daily battles; “The battle of prayer is inseparable from the necessary ‘spiritual battle’ to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ: we pray as we live, because we live as we pray.” (no. 2752)
- Start today, soldier! Pray for the grace to be a person of integrity.
- Seek God’s will so that you can accomplish it: Spend a few minutes daily with Scripture and spiritual reading.
- Consult a spiritual leader to provide direction & structure for your spiritual training.
Other words used to describe this quality: Cooperation, Loyalty, Trustworthiness & Trust
A commanding officer elaborated: “I don’t want narcissists that only care about themselves.” Another asserted: “I need this person to foster teamwork, or cooperation. You can be the most patriotic, intelligent, experienced person in the U.S. military and if no one can work with you, or wants to, you’re useless.”
In the spiritual battle, it is not good enough to claim the title “Christian” for oneself and ‘check the boxes’ of expected behavior. Two of Jesus’ closest disciples discovered that we cannot please him if in our heart & mind, we wish ill on others, even those who oppose us.
[Jesus’ messengers] entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him… When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them… (Luke 9:52-55)
Mother Angelica once advised, “Don’t say, ‘If it weren’t for that person I could be holy.’ No; you can be holy because of that person.” What bugs you about people? Are there people who drive you up the wall with their weaknesses or habits? Make it your goal to realize that you cannot win the spiritual war without learning to love those people.
When St. Therese of Lisieux found a particular nun in her community completely disagreeable, she employed this tactic: “Not wishing to give in to the natural antipathy I was experiencing, I told myself that charity must not consist in feelings but in works; then I set myself to doing for this Sister what I would do for the person I loved the most.”
Jesus said, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
3 Keys to Victory
- Disciplined and Courageous Commitment: Decide to live for Christ, and use this decision to guide all other decisions.
- Integrity: Love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.
- Teamwork: Remember that you are not fighting your fellow human, but rather you are fighting against temptation to sin. Practice selfless love, generosity, and kindness to everyone.
Men, Pilgrim Center of Hope invites you to Gear Up & Level Up at the upcoming Catholic Men’s Conference. You are not alone in your battle. Renew your spirit & strength at this annual event for men like you.
Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.
Angela Sealana is Media Coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, having served at the apostolate since 2010. She also serves on the PCH Speaker Team.