Franciscan Chivalry

Hospitallers In respect to all the ideas of Chivalry in the modern world, the one which namely gets the most attention is the classical romanticized idea.  The essential idea of a Knight serving his Lady.  Seems like  every girl’s dream, though a bit on the unrealistic side.  I’d like to take a somewhat different approach towards Chivalry, one more Christ centered, rather than making Chivalry a way of life, let us examine it as a spirituality. 

     The Age of Chivalry was brought about by the Catholic Church, as a means to control and guide the people to a more virtuous lifestyle.  Or, if you would like it put simply, it was initiated as a means to civilize the barbaric manner of the new converts. (The Barbarian Hordes which conquered Europe, the Normans, Vikings, and like.)

Fighting was the main profession of men in the Middle Ages, any glimpse at the work of the Norman’s shows their influence of exploration and military expansion, from the Western Coasts of England, through the dry barren lands of the Middle East.  With this being the main occupation of men, it left room for certain acts of dishonesty, war upon the innocent, and disrespect for women.  The Church, in Her infinite wisdom and nature as the Mother of the Faithful, took it upon Herself to put help Her children along the path of sanctification. 

     Chivalry was introduced as a lifestyle.  All levels of society were affected by it.  The Noble Class Giotto_-_Legend_of_St_Francis_-_-11-_-_St_Francis_before_the_Sultan_(Trial_by_Fire)Practiced it, in what may be noticed as the form of the Knight, the lower class practiced it, in regards to duties to State and God, and the Church practiced/preached it, echoing the worth of the human individual in the eyes of God, and the need for love and respect.  War was changed to a tool for good, as we know that there cannot be a world without war, so the Church helped set up rules and guidelines in particular about who to fight, and when.  Namely, in defense of the innocent and weak.

     I will not go into much detail here, as I have touched up on the definition of chivalry, and the historical aspect of Chivalry in Medieval Europe on many an occasion.  So skipping ahead on the history, I would like to focus on what chivalry does; not on behalf on society, love, and honor, but on a more personal and inward side of things.  Chivalry as a form of Spirituality.

     In reflecting throughout history, I find one notable character, namely a Saint, who has attained one of the highest places in the Church Triumphant.  His origins were that of a son of a wealthy Italian Merchant, the vision of future he had for himself, knighthood.  His idea of knighthood, at the time, was one corrupted by the world’s callings, being that of fame, glory, the the prize to be won.  This envisioning of Chivalry was off from it’s true course, as men eventually fell from the true ideal of knighthood, and began to abuse Chivalry for their own social benefits.

     So here we see how one of the greatest Saints of the Church had his origins and ideas, influenced by the world.  Though this was not to be his end.  St. Francis held the key to true chivalry, though not that Ghent_Altarpiece_E_-_Knights_of_Christof the physical sense.  The key, practiced so faithfully by this man, was that of dying to self, in imitation of Our most Holy Savior.  Those who wish to follow after Christ must leave the world, all its attachments, sins, and hindrances, in pursuit of the supernatural.  In pursuit of virtue.  What is chivalry?  The practice of virtue on a natural level, though a practice which can be elevated to the supernatural. 

     Chivalry, on a supernatural level, allows one to practice virtue as an interior benefit, as well as a benefit towards the rest of society.  Since society is based on the human individual, a chivalrous person will begin to effect the whole as well.  Hence, the reason for a chivalrous system during the Middle Ages.  Society’s structure was based off of it, allowing for all of society to benefit by it.  Taking this to the level of a spirituality, chivalry enables us to take on the Crusading Spirit, and seek after Christ in the manner of a soldier.  Fighting this world, and making a conscious choice to serve God, the Church, and our neighbor.  St. Francis did these by his spirituality, total abandonment of the world.  It allowed for him to leave behind the attachments to cling closer to the Cross.  It allowed him to serve the Universal Church in his prayers and sacrifices.  And it allowed him to help his neighbor by the strong examples of piety and virtue, which caused many to take up the garb of the Franciscan Order after him.  

     Seeing this, we can find the similarities between the Franciscan Spirituality and that of Chivalry itself.  Both work for the ‘elevation’ of the human person, whether it be in the spiritual or the worldly sense.

     I will write more soon, as this is getting a bit long winded.  I’ve been working on this when I can, and doing a bit of thinking alongside, so I’ll be sure to post more going deeper into the spirituality.

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About Xavier

I am currently an English Major and Writing Tutor. I love reading, writing, and enjoy creative and free thinking.
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5 Responses to Franciscan Chivalry

  1. Lady Rose says:

    A very good and well written post, Paul. And some really neat thoughts too. You know, I think I just read something else to the effect of what you said here in my history book, I believe it was. I shall ponder it more and try to lower my ideals. ;) Or at least make them more realistic.

  2. Master Paul,

    I would like to present you with what I refer to as “Grail Knighthood & The Grail Code:

    Grail Knighthood: Grail Knighthood is the highest form of Knighthood that there is. Jesus Christ, “The Grail King,” gave us the perfect definition of “Grail Knighthood” when He said, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His Life as a ransom for many.” Grail Knights should be loyal to their King and follow His example. Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords is our model. As His faithful Knights, let us follow His lead and live lives of dedicated service to “God & Our Neighbor!”

    The Grail Code: More than 3,450 years ago – 1,440 years before the Birth of Jesus Christ – more than 2,500 years before the “Code of Chivalry” as we know it – there was “The Grail Code.” I am a Knight who has dedicated his life to living by this “Divine Code.” Therefore, I will always strive to know, love and serve the Lord, my God, with all of my heart, mind, soul and strength. I will always love my neighbor as I love myself. I will do unto others as I would have them do unto me. More importantly, I will do unto others as I would have them do unto those that I love. Finally, I will always follow the “New Commandment” that Our Lord Jesus Christ gave us at “The Last Supper,” which is, “Love one another as I have loved you.” This is the greatest Code to which any Knight can devote their life. It is “The Holy Grail of Chivalry!”

  3. In the play, Man of LaMancha……Aldonza asks Don Quixote, “What does that mean……Quest?” Don Quixote answers, “It is the mission of each True Knight……his duty…..nay, his privilege!

    To dream the Impossible Dream,
    To fight the unbeatable foe,
    To bear with unbearable sorrow,
    To run where the brave dare not go,
    To right the unrightable wrong.

    To love pure and chast from afar,
    To try, when your arms are too weary,
    To reach the unreachable star!

    This is my Quest, to follow that star,
    No matter how hopeless, no matter how far,
    To fight for the right,
    Without question or pause,
    To be willing to march into Hell,
    For a Heavenly cause?

    And I know, if I’ll only be true
    To this glorious Quest,
    That my heart will be peaceful and calm
    When I’m laid to my rest.

    And the world will be better for this,
    That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
    Still strove with his last ounce of courage,
    To reach the unreachable stars!

  4. Master Paul,

    The word Knight is an old, old word. It means a Servant. that is well thought out, because he who would be a Knight, must learn his trade by being mastered by Almighty God, the Master of us all.
    The basic root meaning of the word Knight is servant. This is very important, when we consider the Words of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ:

    “Whoever wants to be first must place himself last of all and be the Servant of all.”

    Jesus Christ also said:

    “If one of you wants to be great, he must be the Servant of the rest; and if one of you wants to be first, he must be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served; He came to serve and to give His Life to redeem many people.”

    If Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, the one and only Son of the Living God said that “He came to Serve,” how much more must we, His Knights, know, love and serve Him and His people here on earth.

    Jesus Christ is the greatest of all Servants. He lived to do the will of His Heavenly father. He gave His Life for the Salvation of all human kind. He is our example. We must follow His example by doing the will of our Heavenly King and Father. To do this, we must feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless and take care of the sick. As Knights, we must defend, protect and support all those that are in need, to the very best of our ability. If we do these things, then our Lord Jesus will one day say to us, “Come, you who are blessed by My Father. Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundations of the world.” If we ‘do not’ do these things, then we will hear these Words from Him, “Depart from Me, you accursed, into the Eternal Fire prepared for the Devil and his Angels.” (See the Book of Matthew, Chapter 24: Verses 31 – 46)

    A True Roman Catholic Knight’s life must be a combination of Prayer, Faith and Good Works. Prayer and Faith are absolutely necessary, but alone, they are not enough. Even the most sincere Prayers and strongest Faith is of no avail without Good Works. the Knight’s Good Works are also essential to the Chivalric Life, but are by themselves, not sufficient. However, when all Three are combined – Prayer, Faith and Good works – the Holy Vocation of Knighthood is truly complete.

    As Knights, we must never forget that we are God’s Servants and Servants of God’s people. We will be judged by Almighty God on how well we took care of our Brothers and Sisters in Christ. If we ignore them here on earth, then we can be certain that God will ignore us and our prayers.

    Although the following was written by St. Bernard of Clairvoux in the 12th century, I believe that it should apply to all Knights, no matter what century they may live in:

    “A New Knighthood has appeared in the Land of The Incarnation, a Knighthood which fights a double battle, against adversaries of flesh and blood and against the Spirit of Evil. I do not think it a marvelous thing that these Knights resist physical enemies with physical force, because that, I know, is not rare. But they take up arms with Forces of the Spirit against vices and Demons, and that I call not only marvelous, but worthy of all the praise given to men of God…. The Knight who protects his soul with the Armor of Faith, as he covers his body with a coat of mail, is truly without fear and above reproach. Doubly armed, he fears neither men nor Demons.”

    The Code of Chivalry was primly summed up by Alfred Lord Tennyson as: “Live Pure – Speak True – Right Wrong – and Follow Jesus Christ, The King.” There could be no more honorable way for a modern-day Knight to live his life.

  5. Master Paul,

    The following poem, “The Valiant Knight,” was written by Father Felix J. O’Neill (1860-1937). He was a Priest of the Doicese of Hartford, Connecticut. He dedicated his poem to Father Michael J. McGivney, the founder of the Order of the Knights of Columbus.

    O’ the ancient Knight,
    Was a man of might,
    Full of valor in heart and hand,
    With his coat of mail
    And his spear and shield
    Not an inch of ground
    Was he known to yield.
    He had vowed to die
    On the gory field
    For his King and his native land.

    Let us lift the cup
    To the Knight of Old,
    For a man of good stuff was he.
    He was fair in fight
    For the Truth and Right,
    As a man of good stuff should be.

    There’s a Knight that’s new,
    Full as bold and true
    As the Knight of the ancient brand,
    And he scorns to hide
    In a coat of mail,
    And he bares his breast
    To the deadly hail.
    All the Powers of Hell
    Can not make him quail
    In the fight for his God and Land.

    Let us lift the cup
    To the Knight that’s new,
    For the son of his sire is he.
    He is fair in fight
    For the Truth and Right,
    As the son of his sire should be.

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