A Fighting People: Traditional Catholic Blessings for Weapons

On this illustrious Feast, a celebration of our sainted warrior heritage is in order!

Qui non habet, vendat tunicam suam et emat gladium.
“He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.”
(Lk 22:36)

Papety’s The Hospitalier Maréchal defending the walls at the Siege of Acre, 1291, c. 1840

Catholics Are a Fighting People

The Crusades, those glorious (and often misrepresented) medieval struggles for the honor of Christ and the safety of His people, come immediately to mind. These were days when the Church was led by clerics who summoned Catholics to take up weapons and defend the innocent, the sacred sites, and the honor of God and His Church.

Many have likewise heard of the Cristiada, when Mexican Catholics brought blades and bullets against the emerging Masonic government of the early 20th century, as it moved to control all public worship and reduce the Faith to private devotions and non-political exercise. (Sound familiar?) And why?

Because Catholics are a fighting people.

Sadly, the fighting spirit of Catholicism began to wane in the 20th century, with the rise of mechanized warfare and increasingly secular states. The Catholic cause for armed defense of a just social order, flowing from the rights of Christ and His Church, was increasingly contested by propagandists and even their own coreligionists – labeled “fanaticism,” “triumphalism,” and anything other than what it truly was: a reasoned response to divine legislation and its violation.

Yet even in those days, a Pope could be found lamenting that too few Catholics were zealous enough to take up arms for their Lord and His Church, to defend the Kingship of Christ in the earthly sphere:

This state of things may perhaps be attributed to a certain slowness and timidity in good people, who are reluctant to engage in conflict or oppose but a weak resistance; thus the enemies of the Church become bolder in their attacks.

But if the faithful were generally to understand that it behooves them ever to fight courageously under the banner of Christ their King, then, fired with apostolic zeal, they would strive to win over to their Lord those hearts that are bitter and estranged from him, and would valiantly defend his rights.

…While nations insult the beloved name of our Redeemer by suppressing all mention of it in their conferences and parliaments, we must all the more loudly proclaim his kingly dignity and power, all the more universally affirm his rights. (Pius XI, Quas Primas n. 24-25)

The rights of Christ our King are, after all, not an abstraction – and the obligation to recognize and defend those rights in the public sphere is neither “religious fanaticism” nor wishful thinking. In fact, to hold anything other than this truly militant ideal of the supremacy of Christ’s social reign is a very old error.

One can safely say that “squirtgun Catholicism,” in addition to being decidedly unmanly, is decidedly unCatholic as well.

Libera nos, Domine.

Sadly, the clergy of the last one hundred years have been more or less trained as pietists: regarding the Kingship of Christ as an entirely spiritual kingdom, something interior and evanescent, something abstracted to the “cosmic and eschatological.” The general, unquestioning capitulation to Covid CancelChurch has proven this beyond any reasonable doubt.

Although many Catholics have become convinced that somehow it is more Christian to submit to unjust laws, it must be constantly reiterated that this notion (like so many modern errors) has been condemned centuries over by the pontiffs, and recently denounced as nothing but “stolid servility” by one prominent Archbishop.

For, alas, the conviction to fight in defense of a good is derived from the virtue of charity; and it must be clear to all that charity has indeed “waxed cold” in our days (cf. Mt 24:12). Who is now prepared to fight, out of love for Love Incarnate?

Because in truth, Catholics are a fighting people.

And they could be again.

From the Crusader Bible, c. 1240

Can Weapons Be Blessed? Should They?

Yes to both. There are several specific blessings for weapons in the Catholic tradition: swords, body armor, battle crosses, military banners…

…What, never heard of them? You can thank the 1960s’ liturgical revolution for that.

Because in fact, weapons have been blessed for centuries in the Roman Catholic tradition. They are, after all, tools of a morally neutral character. Therefore, weapons both can and ought to be put to virtuous use (particularly when that use involves the defense of life and the sacred), and blessings are conferred on them to precisely that end.

Some Catholic parishes still acknowledge this truth during hunting season, employing the catch-all “Blessing of All Things” from the traditional Rituale Romanum (which any priest can use, at any time) for a blessing of firearms and huntsmen. A laudable practice, indeed. We include the full text of that rite below.

(NOTE: We would love to find a well-designed booklet in Latin and English for some kind of “Blessing for Hunters & Arms,” drawing on the legacy of St. Hubert and the European hunting societies, including the Benedictio ad Omnia.)

From the 1962 editio typica of the Rituale Romanum (identical to that of 1952),
usable per the provisions of Summorum Pontificum:

BENEDICTIO AD OMNIA
Haec benedictionis formula adhiberi potest a quovis Sacerdote pro omnibus rebus, quarum specialis benedictio in Rituali Romano habeatur.

V. Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini.
R. Qui fecit caelum et terram.
V. Dominus Vobiscum.
R. Et cum spiritu tuo.

Oremus. Deus, cujus verbo sanctificántur ómnia, bene+dictiónem tuam effúnde super creatúram istam (creatúras istas); et præsta, ut quisquis ea (eis) secúndum legem et voluntátem tuam cum gratiárum actióne usus fúerit, per invocatiónem Sanctíssimi Nóminis tui, córporis sanitátem, et ánimæ tutélam, te auctóre, percípiat. Per Christum Dóminum nostrum.
R. Amen.

Et aspergatur (vel aspergantur) aqua benedicta.
BLESSING OF ALL THINGS
This form may be used by any Priest for the blessing of anything that does not have its own special blessing in the Roman Ritual:

Priest: Our help is in the name of the Lord.
All: Who made heaven and earth.
Priest: The Lord be with you.
All: And with your spirit.

Let us pray. God, whose word suffices to make all things holy, pour out Thy bless+ing on this object (these objects); and grant that anyone who uses it (them) with grateful heart and in keeping with Thy law and will, may receive from Thee, its (their) Maker, health in body and protection of soul by calling upon Thy Holy Name; through Christ our Lord.
All: Amen.

It is (they are) sprinkled with holy water.

It bears mentioning that we treat of only pre-conciliar Catholic rites of blessing here because, as any experienced exorcist will tell you, the “blessings” contained in the post-Vatican II liturgical books are hardly worthy of the name. The sacramental theology at play after that Council was seriously deficient, and in the midst of the liturgical iconoclasm that ensued, its chief revisionist architect noted: “the area in which the most radical revision and new adaptation will be needed is the sacramentals.”[1] They got the shaft.

And so, just as the ancient Roman Missale was gutted in the creation of a Protestantized construct to replace it, every ancient Rituale text was similarly changed (or deleted altogether) in the 1960s-70s, leading up to the debut of the dismally tepid Book of Blessings (1984), which has successfully reduced some of the most splendid and ancient Catholic rites of blessing to little more than Bible stories with reflections. As one priest put it: “The new Book of Blessings would be better entitled the Book of Pious Wishes.” Best avoid it altogether.

But those traditional blessings… now there’s the good stuff. Let’s take a look.

Pope Alexander III conferring a blessed sword upon Doge Ziani

Of Bishops and Lost Blessings

Nowadays, many bishops are committed to disarming the Church militant, and will even preach on the virtue of subjugation to the state. But it was not always so!

Because the Church “prays as she believes” (lex orandi, lex credendi), few things can better illustrate the true fighting spirit of Catholicism than the Church’s ancient blessings for various battle implements. Below are some English translations (thanks to NLM’s Gregory DiPippo) of four different blessings in the old Pontificale Romanum, the liturgical book reserved to bishops and abbots that was first standardized by Pope Clement VIII in 1595, though its earliest manuscripts date from the 800s.

The images are taken from a Clementine Pontificale of 1595, along with the main texts of each blessing (sans versicles and complete rubrics). Links to full Latin texts are at bottom, so somebody should go publish an illuminated, Latin-English, hidebound tome of all these blessings for traditional Catholic warriors while they’re working on a booklet for hunters.

BLESSING OF ARMOR

Let us pray. May the blessing of Almighty God, the Fa+ther, the + Son and the Holy + Ghost, descend upon this armor, and upon him that weareth it, that he may defend justice. We ask Thee, Lord God, that Thou protect and defend him, that livest and reignest, one God for ever and ever. R. Amen.

Let us pray. Almighty God, in Whose hand rests full victory, and who gave marvelous strength to David that he might subdue the rebel Goliath, we ask for Thy clemency in this humble prayer, that of Thy great holiness Thou may deign to + bless this armor, and grant to Thy servant who desires to wear it, that he may use it freely and victoriously for the protection and defense of Holy Mother the Church, of orphans and widows, against the assaults of enemies visible and invisible. Through Christ, our Lord. R. Amen.

The armor is sprinkled with holy water.

BLESSING OF A SWORD

Let us pray. Deign Thou to + bless this sword, we ask Thee, Lord; and with the guard of Thy holiness defend this Thy servant, who at Thy inspiration desires to receive it, and keep him from every harm. Through Christ, our Lord. R. Amen.

The bishop sprinkles the sword with holy water, then hands it to the person who
is to receive it as the latter kneels before him, saying:

Receive this sword, in the name of the Fa+ther, the + Son and the Holy + Ghost, and may thou use it for thy defense, and that of the Holy Church of God, and to the confounding of the enemies of the Cross of Christ, and of the Christian faith: and as far as human frailty shall permit, may thou harm no one with it unjustly. And may He deign to grant this to thee, Who with the Father and the Holy Ghost, etc.



BLESSING OF A MILITARY BANNER

Let us pray. Almighty and everlasting God, Who art the blessing of all, and the might of the triumphant, look in mercy upon our humble prayers, and sanctify this banner, that is prepared for the use of war, with a heavenly bless+ing; that it may be mighty against opposing and rebellious nations, and surrounded by Thy protection, and be terrible to the enemies of the Christian people, the strengthening of them that trust in Thee, and certain confidence of victory. For Thou art God, that puttest an end to wars (Judith 16, 3) and grantest the help of heavenly defense to them that hope in Thee. Through Thy only Son our Lord, etc.

The bishop sprinkles the banner with holy water, then hands it to the person who
is to receive it as the latter kneels before him, saying:

Receive this banner, sanctified by a heavenly blessing, and may it be terrible to the enemies of the Christian people, and may the Lord give thee grace, that at His name, and to His honor, with it thou may pass in might both safe and sound through the bands of the enemies.

He then gives the man the kiss of peace, saying “Peace to thee”;
he that has received it kisses the bishop’s hand and departs.


BLESSING AND IMPOSITION OF A CROSS

For those who go forth for the help and defense of the Christian Faith,
or for the recovery of the Holy Land.

Almighty God, who didst dedicate the sign of the Cross by the precious blood of Thy Son, and who through the same Cross of Thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ, didst will to redeem the world, and through the power of the same venerable Cross delivered the human race from the decree of the ancient enemy; we humbly beseech Thee, that Thou deign with Thy paternal goodness to bless + this cross and impart to it the power and grace of heaven; so that whoever shall bear it upon himself as the sign of the Passion and Cross of Thy Only-Begotten Son, for the protection of his body and soul, may also be able to receive the protection of Thy blessing. Just as Thou didst bless the rod of Aaron to drive away the faithlessness of the rebels, so also bless + Thou this sign with Thy right hand; and against all the wiles of the devil, lay upon it the power of Thy defense, that it may confer upon those who bear it prosperity of salvation in both soul and body, and multiply in them the gifts of the Spirit.

The bishop sprinkles the pectoral cross with holy water,
and then says the following prayer over the one who will receive it.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, who art the true and almighty God, splendor and image of the Father, and life eternal; who proclaimed to Thy disciples, that whoever would come after Thee must deny himself, and taking up his cross, follow Thee; we ask Thy boundless clemency, that Thou protect always and everywhere this Thy servant, who according to Thy word, desireth to deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Thee, and for the salvation of Thy chosen people hasten to fight against our enemies; deliver him from all dangers, and release him from the bond of sin, receive his vow and bring it to the desired effect. Do Thou, o Lord, who art the way, the truth and the life, and the strength of them that hope in Thee, guide well his way, and grant him all success; so that amid the difficulties of this present age, he may be ever directed by Thy aid. Send to him, o Lord, Thy angel Raphael, who was the companion of Tobias on his journey, and delivered his father from bodily blindness; as he cometh and goeth, may he be his defender against all the snares of the enemy, visible and invisible, and drive from him all blindness of both mind and body.

He then sits, and lays the cross upon him, saying:

Receive the sign of the Cross, in the name of the Fa+ther and of the + Son, and of the Holy + Ghost, as a figure of the Cross, the Passion and the death of Christ, for the defense of thy body and soul, that by the grace of the divine goodness, thou may return to thine own safe and reformed when thy journey is completed.


Conclusion

Those prayers alone can put the “militant” in Church Militant.

Little wonder, then, that three of the four were entirely scrapped from the Pontificale by Pope John XXIII in 1961, with the fourth (the blessing of a cross) being edited and revamped for use as a bishop’s pectoral cross blessing. Notice that this was just before the opening of the Second Vatican Council, in anticipation of the more “ecumenical spirit” soon to prevail in the hierarchy. It must be considered the highest impiety and irreverence to simply throw out such beautiful and powerful rites – blessings that have been in use from the days of Charlemagne or even earlier – at the whim of one Pope who wished not to offend anyone!

Even so (as one liturgical scholar similarly suggests), given the 1,000+ year patrimony of these ancient and venerable rites, we maintain by normal Catholic principles that these Pontificale blessings can and ought to still be used, even ad hoc by individual bishops who are, after all, the chief liturgists and highest authority within their dioceses. We could certainly still benefit from them, and more of the same. (Might we dream of a future blessing for arma ignifera?)

In the meantime, the above benedictio ad omnia can be utilized for the firearms of the faithful, while plate carriers and fixed-blades could receive their own unique benedictions from the nearest bishop – and what an opportunity to evangelize! Banners and battle crosses should be brought back as well, as we certainly have need of “protection in body and soul” and being made “terrible to the enemies of the Christian people.” As the Saints of yesterday knew well:

“May we return from the Altar like lions breathing fire!” – St. John Chrysostom

Particularly for priests like Fr. Horan, who have too long forsaken their birthright of authentic and effective weapons in the service of Christ and traded them in for a mess of pious wishes and supersoakers, we pray that recalling these riches from our Catholic patrimony will strengthen all for the serious warfare of the Christian life, in the midst of a darkling pagan society.

Put away the squirtguns, Fathers. True Catholics are fighters!

Bravo the Restoration!


[1] Annibale Bugnini, The Reform of the Liturgy 1948–1975, trans. Matthew J. O’Connell (Collegeville MN: Liturgical Press, 1990), p. 580. It should also be observed that Archbishop Bugnini was a consummate liar, megalomaniac, despiser of Catholic tradition, and apparently a Freemason. This man invented the Novus Ordo – the form of the Mass that most Catholics have been praying for the last fifty years. Go figure.

RESOURCES & LINKS:

  • For more on the Cristiada, try Quezada’s For Greater Glory
  • For more on the Crusades, try Weidenkopf’s The Glory of the Crusades
  • Scans of old Pontificales: 1595 here, 1776 here. The above blessings only (1595) here
  • Text of the last revision of the Pontificale (1895) before John XXIII’s evisceration here
  • A helpful piece on the social reign of Christ the King with encyclical links here
  • Translated bits from a 1600s’ guide to armed combat (Avisi Necessarii) here

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