At that time….
…in the land of Despairia, in the Kingdom of Compromiso, two complementary fellows, Vicar Timorous and King Epicene ruled with blatant incompetence and disregard for the people they ruled. The Kingdom was surrounded by warring factions of competing tribes and the King long suspected that one or more of these tribes had plans for an invasion. There was a great intolerance among these tribes for “others.” Resources in Compromiso were scarce, and the poor, hungry inhabitants of this Godforsaken land lived in constant fear of attack.
One frigid day in December, when snow-capped mountains were at their whitest, the King and the Vicar set a time to meet at the Palace to discuss the present state of the Kingdom’s security and what future plans should be made to avoid disaster.
As for the Faith, Vicar Timorous was well aware that the tenets of the Faith were considered quite outdated and a direct challenge to those who would rise up against them. The Church of the Ages was built upon a set of scrupulous Commandments that were as uncompromising as they were demanding. This deposit of Faith was very unpopular with the people of these mostly immoral and violent invading tribes and would surely give them motive for attack.
In addition, King Epicene was bombarded with a continually expanding list of grievances from subjects in communities suffering under his lackluster rule. When challenged on most any issue, the King feigned ignorance, and was dumbfounded. Those who spoke openly, judged his reign a complete failure. The King failed to execute the laws of the land, and he squandered the royal treasure on gifts to foreign tribes to beg for their forbearance. The people of Compromiso lived in squalor and in fear of marauders. This was the same condition as most others in the land of Despairia – they were mostly poor, afraid, and without much hope for themselves and their children.
It is written that the Vicar darkened the threshold of the King’s palace one dreary, sunless winter’s day. As the King’s sire ushered the Vicar into the throne room, the Vicar heard the King dismiss the sire, and the King extended his hand in welcome.
“Good day, Vicar Timorous, your Holiness! I am glad we are meeting today. It has been too long since we have shared our ideas for the well-being of the body and soul of each and every one of my subjects. Our meeting is long overdue.”
“Yes,” the Vicar heartily agreed. “The mood of the people of the Kingdom is dark, and it is high time we addressed the matter of potential threats to our sovereignty from those who wish us ill.”
“Stuff and nonsense!” the King retorted. “You are spending too much time with the malcontents. With their faithless words, they will make even the most scrumptious feast appear bland.”
“Perhaps. But it is becoming impossible to ignore their increasing ire towards me and toward God Himself.”
“Oh indeed, dear Vicar. It is lonely at the top, yes?”
“Please do not mock me, your Excellency. The people are afraid, and frankly, I think you and I are also afraid.”
The King bowed his head in recognition of the truth, then offered his feeble response:
“So what must we do, dear Vicar, take up arms against five massive tribes of potential invaders? Shall we conscript the already poor and suffering people to fight a war?”
“No, my King. We must not poke the bear.”
The men nodded agreement and the King tried to lighten the mood by offering a libation.
“Let’s drink to the future prosperity of the land, then! Have you eaten, dear Vicar?”
“No, your excellency, I haven’t eaten since I started out on my journey here today.”
“Oh well, then,” said the King with relish. “We have a wonderful lamb stew prepared for us. Let us eat, drink, be merry and go on as we have, praying for deliverance and making not a sound of contempt toward our neighbors. All will be well.”
“Surely that is the Godly thing to do,” the Vicar agreed.
But below the surface of their brief convivial conversation there fomented a deadly brew of contempt. The royal subjects, even those remotely loyal to the King, were becoming suspicious. This Kingdom in disarray was under the watchful eye of the would-be invaders, who were looking for a chink in the armor of the King’s guard. That would be the right time to strike. Many people had enough of their weak-kneed King and accommodating Vicar and expressed the sentiment that clearly the two of them would not have been more effective in destroying the Kingdom than if they had actually joined the invading army! The truth was becoming all too clear. Something had to be done before it was too late. But what?
Now the population of the Kingdom of Compromiso was divided. There were still those who supported the status quo. Although they were equally willing to criticize the King and the Vicar for their weaknesses, the people essentially agreed with these flawed leaders. The agreeable ones lived to the west, in the most prestigious part of the Kingdom, and far from the densely populated areas that bore the brunt of the effects of the King’s failed rule. To these folk, it was important not to stir the pot and to remain as invisible as possible to the invading hoards. They preferred hiding to fighting, unless they could be assured a victory, which was doubtful.
To the east, the majority of the people felt the pain of poverty more keenly. They despaired of any hope for the future, and although there were some outspoken leaders among them, they were rarely supported by their peers and considered quite radical, especially when they spoke of hope or freedom from serfdom. The stalwart heroes among them had a two-pronged battle: they had to win the hearts and minds of their neighbors to the west and come up with a plan to defend against the likely marauders.
Let’s listen in on some supper conversation in the households of the west quarter of Compromiso in the town of Appeaso:
“My dear, please pass the peas,” said Joaquim, the head of this household.
“Of course, Joaquim, and please pass the potatoes,” said the lady of the house, Marina.
“Marina, did you hear tell of the meeting between the King and the Vicar which was to be held today at the Palace?”
“Yes I did,” replied Marina. “I heard they were finally going to talk about all the threats coming from the neighboring tribes.”
“We have known about this for a long time. I doubt very much that they are serious. Our Kingdom and defenses are too strong. They don’t stand a chance.”
“Oh but my dear Joachim, are you forgetting that these tribes are beginning to unify against us? When they combine their forces and decide to attack, then what will become of us?”
“Oh you silly woman!” Joachim laughed out loud. “Those barbarians are disorganized and too busy getting drunk. They wouldn’t dare!”
“Well, if they see that our King and Vicar are weak, then maybe they will be emboldened,” murmured Marina, sensing her spouse was losing patience with her questions.
“Weak? Why yes, our leaders are weak!” shouted Joaquim. “Being weak is better than being aggressive or belligerent! Give thanks to God they are not boasting or roaring like stupid lions, for then they would surely aggravate our neighbors and cause them to consider eliminating us. Let them be weak.”
And from the table of an eastern family:
“Let us pray thanks for this bounty, my dear,” began Joshua of Despairia in east Compromiso. His wife Irene prayed aloud: “Our God, we give thanks to you and praise your name for you are all good and your love for us endures forever. We thank you for this food and for all the blessings you have bestowed on our humble family. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Amen.”
“Oh what a beautiful prayer, my dear!”
“Thank you, Joshua. Pastor Paul said this prayer at the last communal feast after Mass. I thought it was very fitting.”
“Fitting indeed. We are facing some difficult times ahead of us. We must stay in Our Lord’s good graces and not allow our anger to overcome our faith in Him,” Joshua added.
The children began eating voraciously, savoring every bite of the modest meal of mostly vegetables grown last summer and preserved. The children were thin and quite undernourished, and the youngest was often sickly.
Joshua offered some news of the day to his family of five:
“Dear family, did you know that the King and Vicar are planning to meet in the Palace today? The town crier announced the news this very morning.”
Joshua’s oldest spoke up, with a tone of indifference:
“So what? What could those two buffoons actually do about anything? They won’t even tell us the truth about what’s going on at our borders! Why should we believe anything we hear from them?”
“Now Samuel, let us not fall into a depression,” his mother said. “God is in charge and they will do His will.”
“No they won’t. They are sinners, both of them,” Samuel insisted.
“It is disrespectful to talk this way my son,” said Joshua, “But I have to agree with you somewhat. I fear their actions and inaction has proven them men of little virtue.”
“Joshua! The children!” His wife, Irene, reached over and covered the ears of their eldest child.
“My dear, they have to know the truth.” Joshua said, taking her hands in his. “Our so-called leaders have betrayed us. We are sheep heading to slaughter. Let us pray.”
“Maybe it’s good that the King and Vicar are weak,” Irene uttered in dismay, clasping her hands once again in prayer. “If the enemy knew what we really believed, they would kill us all for our Faith.”
“And what DO we really believe? That God is good? That the Commandments are real and not just suggestions? Is this what our enemies find so objectionable?” Joshua raised his voice in anger.
Irene also spoke boldly: “Yes, Josh. We believe in freedom, not slavery. We believe that we can make our own destiny, not depend on weak, self-serving leaders and figure heads to provide all that we have. But we have so little already.”
“My love, we should be shouting this from the roof tops no matter what the consequences! Isn’t it better to die defending our faith than to live in poverty and slavery, hiding away in secret all we hold dear?”
“Easy to say, Dad,” Samuel chimed in while the younger children cowered.
“Yes, and very difficult, maybe impossible for most of us to do alone, without the help of the Lord. I trust in Jesus and you should too.” Joshua conceded.
You now have an ugly picture of the mood of the people of the land as these sentiments are repeated over and over from household to household.
God sends help!
We can all debate solutions to the constant turmoil, terror and corruption, and prayer is necessary, at all times. The efficacy of prayer has been proven over the ages. God sends help, often in the form of sacrifices of saints. What turns a sinner into a saint at such critical times? A bolt of lightning? A vision? A call to arms? A pang of the collective conscience? We pray for these things. We pray for a hero, a savior.
Are heroes born or made? What does it matter? God places His royal hand on the shoulder of one who can bear the weight, and the rest of the people find courage through this lens. Fortunately for Compromiso, God sent them a man.
The man was not of the Kingdom, but merely a visitor to the realm. He was a strikingly tall specimen with golden hair and azure eyes that pierced the souls of those who dared try to deceive him. When engaged in debate about the rule of God in heaven or on earth, he took no prisoners. He was a Christian and his faith in the true savior of humanity was strong.
The activists of the day constructed a podium in the town square at which each would opine about how they would change things for the better for the poor and needy population, if only all would turn over what little treasure they kept in hiding. Over the years, the oratory became like empty bubbles of soap, not even of value for washing, and the hoarded treasures began to disappear. But on the day after the infamous meeting of the Vicar and King, a stranger walked up to the podium and began to speak:
“Here ye! I am Baron Donvaldus, but do not let my noble title mislead you. I want to join you and become a member of the realm. I have traveled far and wide in search of a land of milk and honey, one in which every person is respected, but I have found none. And I awoke one morning, listening to the Word of God, reading the Scriptures and what did I see? I saw these words of destiny:” The man quoted Deuteronomy 12:4-6
“4 You must not worship the Lord your God in their way. 5 But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; 6 there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks.”
I am here to tell the truth and to ask you to join me in facing what threatens all of us so that we may each become what the Lord God meant for us — a people who can prosper by their own means and live in harmony with nature and neighbor. We can be a people who are God-fearing and sovereign. We can tolerate differences of opinion, but not evil, nor should we ignore evil intentions. Together we will shake off the yoke of slavery and serfdom, and rule ourselves. I bring with me gifts for you and your families. And I am prepared to make sacrifices. I ask you for nothing but your hearts. Who will join in this fight with me?”
The people gathered around this man, not perceiving him as a god, savior or prophet, but as a fellow traveler. He was one of them, and his words were like manna from heaven!
Over the weeks to follow, Donvaldus approached the podium often to expound on his ideas, and he was invited to the tables of the homes of the faithful. They gave him food and repose. He insisted that peace can be achieved because all men are created in God’s image, and that His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, is the prince of Peace.
The Peacemaker is clothed in the armor of God
Donvaldus was called “The Peacemaker” by those who took his words to heart. His reputation became known throughout the realm and soon the King got word of his presence.
“Who is this man, Donvaldus the Peacemaker?” King Epicene thundered at the servants who surrounded him with over-attentiveness. The servants bowed and shook their heads in ignorance.
“I will convene another meeting with the Vicar. I am sure this Donvaldus must be uttering blasphemies! We will be rid of him.”
The King sent a messenger to summon the Vicar on the first of the next month, and the Vicar sent word back that he would arrive in the evening of that day.
But before these men could meet to discuss the new threat of an enemy within the Kingdom, the King received word from his first Knight that the vandals to the north had invaded. They attacked the tiny village of Victima, and they slaughtered most of the people with no mercy. Men, women and children were caught by surprise. They were unarmed and without defense. While the King and his guard hid in the castle, depending on the low-profile strategy of hiding, the enemy from without took advantage of the lapse in patrols. The King had ordered the warriors away from the border and back to the castle, for fear that if the armored patrol was spotted by the enemy, they may provoke an assault.
Word of the massacre traveled quickly throughout the realm, as survivors ran to warn the neighboring towns. The cries of the people could be heard throughout the night. The King anticipated the Vicar’s visit to pray with him and consult him on the appropriate response to the terror. The King’s warriors waited for orders.
War. That’s what the King wanted. He came to the quick conclusion that War would bring lasting peace. That’s what King’s did. They lead troops to war.
On the other hand, the Vicar had no opinion, as he paced the drawing room in his living quarters after being apprised of the news. Fear and trembling brought him to his knees. He arose, threw on his tunic, cassock and liturgical vestments, and proceeded to the Church to say Mass and pray for deliverance. Then he journeyed once again to the King’s castle to give counsel.
Meanwhile, in the land of Despairia, the people were in mourning. Many had friends in Victima, and they knew that the enemy would come for them next. Heads of households rushed to the podium in the town square in search of Donvaldus, who had anticipated their coming and already prepared his speech and stood waiting for the crowd to settle.
As the people began to flock to the town square, Donvaldus knew he had to be careful of what he said lest he incite a riot. Praying for inspiration from the Holy Spirit, Donvaldus began to ask for the people’s attention:
“People of Despairia, do not fear! This world and this invasion will test our strength, our resolve and our Faith. We must never relent.”
A man in the crowd spoke loudly:
“What are we to do, Donvaldus? Our King will not protect us. The Vicar is without a spine! We are doomed.”
“Only the weak and afraid are doomed.” Donvaldus answered him.
“Those of us who are strong in will and in faith and virtuous will be victorious! Do not waste your energy feeling doomed. Do not waste your time feeling like victims. We will intervene and bring truth, reason, and humanity to this fight. If we continue to make the mistakes of our fathers, killing to avoid being killed and fighting wars every decade only to advance our territory so that it can be taken again in the next war, then yes, we will be doomed.”
He quoted Scripture: Exodus 20:20
“And Moses said to the people: Fear not: for God is come to test you, and that the dread of him might be in you, and you should not sin.”
Donvaldus added: “Have more fear of hell than you have of the enemy. Do not sin! Stand tall and be large in the face of your enemy. The enemy is clothed in hand-made armor and they wield swords. We are clothed in the armor of the Lord and wield truth!”
“I will go to the King and offer to intervene in this conflict. Truly, I tell you, before we go to war, we must find our humanity. Even the most barbarous of them all have souls and we are all blessed with minds that reason. Our enemies may have given their souls to the devil, but we will call the devil out of them. We will pray to God. We will pray our rosaries and wear them as swords. We will fight with the minds and reason God gave us and with God’s help, we will learn to spare the blood of the multitudes that would otherwise perish in the endless wars of the unjust. The last resort of violence does not have to be our first resort. If we do not reject this love we have for mutual self-destruction, generations after us will suffer the same fate as the people of Victima, and they will suffer it over and over again, as we have in our lifetimes. When will the killing end? When we end it. Who is with me?”
Donvaldus received an ovation as never before. The people were tired of their suffering and another war would bring even more suffering. They knew Donvaldus was on to something with a call to peace, but they doubted he would be able to convince the King, when waging war is all the King knew.
“Warriors of Despairia, stand tall and stand by. I will be back soon. Love one another as God loves you, and pray!” He mounted his steed to begin his mission. End of part 1.