Lesson 41: O.H.M.S.

The holy Catholick Church.

Araminta Appleyard, twelve, sitting in row three, poshed up in her Sunday best, surreptitiously sucking the remains of a toffee-apple. Leonard Lionel Longshanks, fourteen, Catechism bellringer, proud of his first long trousers. Father H. A. Winkle, in his old black cassock and large spectacles. Old Mrs. Snodgrass in the Mother Kate Homes, deaf, crooked with rheumatism. They don’t look much like soldiers in battle- dress, do they? But they are.

For at their baptism the priest said:

Wc receive this child into the congregation of Christ’s flock, and do sign him (or her) with the sign of the cross, in token that hereafter he shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and manfully to fight under his banner, against sin, the world, and the devil; and to continue Christ’s faithful soldier and servant Unto his life’s end.

The Church in this world is The Church Fighting. “Let us pray for the whole state of Christ’s Church militant (military, fighting) here in earth,” says the priest at Mass as he begins the long prayer after the offertory (the offering of the bread and wine to be consecrated The Body and Blood of Christ).

Every baptised person in it (and baptism is the only means of admission) is Christ’s soldier and servant, faithful or otherwise as he or she wills. The “battle-dress” is the sign of the cross made on the forehead at baptism. The enemy is the devil and sin. Satan is as real as Hitler. The war is longer and fiercer than that against the Axis, it will go on so long as the world lasts; but it's victorious end also is sure (St. Matthew 10, 34)-

Until we leave this world you and I, if we are not ashamed of being known as Christians, will have to fight against those three enemies, two outside, one inside, of which we learned in instructions about Holy Baptism (io, 11, 12). It is hard to be a good Christian (St. Luke 9, 23); and, for most of us, the older we grow, the harder it seems to be. But there is an end to everything of this world, even war; and The Church is not only militant, and not only here in earth.