Dieu, Le Roi - "for God and King"
In the late 18th century, a little known group of devout Catholics in a western region of rural France known as the Vendee rose up in a counter-revolution and series of battles against the powers that would strike down the faith of their fathers and the universal reign of Christ the King during the long onslaught of the historic French Revolution. These people, mainly peasants, fought valiantly with all they had and, giving their lives for the Truth and under the badge of the Sacre Coeur (the Sacred Heart of Jesus), served to plant the martyred seeds of the faith that still lives strong today, even in a continually embattled state. Too many lost their lives during the Reign of Terror. King Louis XVI famously died at the guillotine, less famously is he known to have heroically resisted the anti-God constitution put in place, and to have publicly forgiven his captors and executioners. His young son Louis Charles died sick and weak from imprisonment and abuse, begging God to forgive his abusers and captors, like his father before him. Further, in another example of selfless and courageous Christian virtue, the Carmelite martyrs of Compiegne sang "Laudate Dominum Omnes Gentes" as they filed one by one to the guillotine, happily giving their lives for their beloved Jesus. Only later did religious freedom of any kind return to the country.
Our family has been inspired by the story of the Vendeans over recent years. Like the legendary stories of the saints of early Christendom, like the various missionaries over the centuries who suffered and often died at the hands of those they would convert for the love of God's Kingdom, like the Cristeros fighting against the Godless government of Mexico, calling out their loyalty with "Viva Cristo Rey!" and dying for their beliefs and efforts not so long ago, it shows how our forefathers are not always those we find in the family tree per se. Sometimes our heroes - often our heroes - are unlikely. These men of unexpected courage employ simple steadfastness or loyalty or a keen sense of the right way to be, and serve in a vital moment to overcome the most powerful adversary in the sense of what matters most and in the lasting things. The heroic people of the Vendee saved the faith for the Church's beloved France even while the Revolutionaries by all appearances "won" - upheaving the spiritual order there with drastic, deadly consequences still playing out today the world over. Helped to save the faith they did because, as has always been the case, the gates of Hell will never prevail against Christ's Church nor can any adversary extinguish the light of Truth or kill off for good the truly faithful. There will always be someone, somewhere, who believes and passes on the faith.
In honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to whom the month of June is dedicated, and also in honor of some of those heroes who preserved the faith for us, at our June First Sunday gathering we held a great capture-the-flag battle between the Vendeans ("the Royalists") and the Revolutionaries ("the bad guys"). Young and old(er) alike divvied up into the two teams (with members hand-picked one by one by captains), and spent an hour charging through the woods and fields in an attempt to capture the flag and take the day. No one got injured (unless perhaps in pride), but several flying leaps and tackles were made, many sneaky, covert operations accomplished, and happy prisoners were busted out of jail, on both sides. In one epic pursuit, a Revolutionary dad apparently hurled himself bodily and went flying impossibly through the air, heedless of the perilous forest landscape, to take down a fleeing Vendean boy who lost his tail in a grand tumble. Ultimately, the Vendeans were victorious, and it was something to see the boy who'd captured the flag hoisted up on a strong teammate's shoulders on parade, and also to see the members of the frustrated Revolution quickly shrug it off and say, "Oh well, at least the Vendee won!" In the week following our gathering, a proud father on Fatima Farm watched his oldest daughter sewing a Sacre Coeur patch for her brother - the start of a joyful new (to us) tradition.
Today, we gratefully live out our faith in small attempts to follow in our heroes' footsteps, in prayer, in firm conviction, in loyalty to the things that matter most and most of all for His glory and the reign of Christ the King. His Holy Mother helps us on our way, and we have found friends of good will to keep us company. May God preserve good families and priests! Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us! Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!
On this little homestead our family aspires to work the land and hand on the Catholic Tradition, walking in wonder and learning to live by the fruits of our labor, in honor of Our Lady of Fatima, who guides us to Him.