Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Fire Of Whole-Hearted Devotion And Loyalty

French cavalry general Jean-Joseph Ange d'Hautpoul
The Trumpet Call.

It happened before the Battle of Eylau, in 1807. Napoleon was driving the Russians before him as he moved forward towards the town of Eylau, when he found himself held up near Landsberg by a strong force of Russian infantry, posted in a defile, with several pieces of cannon in front. They were separated from the French by a deep ravine, crossed by a narrow bridge. Napoleon ordered a body of light hussars to cross the bridge and attack. They did so, but were met by such well-directed fire that they beat a hasty retreat. Napoleon then ordered a body of dragoons to advance and break the Russian square. They also failed. Then the cuirassiers were told to advance. These were the heaviest armed troops in the army. Both horses and riders were encased in heavy plates of steel armour, so that when they charged at full speed the impetus was terrific. 
The General in Command, Jean-Joseph Ange d'Hautpoul, was an enthusiastic admirer of Napoleon, and to be thus entrusted with a special commission was the most prized of distinctions. The cuirassiers charged so furiously that the Russian lines were broken, the square swept away, and the road cleared for Napoleon's advance. 
When General d'Hautpoul rode up to the Emperor to report, Napoleon did a very unusual thing. He dismounted and embraced him before the whole division. Quite overcome by this extraordinary work of the Emperor's gratitude and approval, the general, when he had recovered a little, drew himself up, saluted, and spoke thus: "Sire, there is only one way in which I can show my appreciation of the honour you have conferred upon me today: I must die for your Majesty." Next day he rode into the thickest of the fight at Eylau and fell mortally wounded.


Think of what it meant for a Commander-in-Chief to know he had men like that serving him! With what confidence he issued orders when he knew his followers were longing to prove their devotion by dying for him! It seems extraordinary that men should set so little store on life as to be ready to fling it away like a bauble for a beloved leader; yet that is what the human heart is capable of. And experience has proved that, when a great call comes which stirs men's souls deeply, this spirit of self-sacrifice leaps to life, and men and women go smiling to death for the sake of victory.
Jesus Christ knew this, and He came to appeal to this quality in the human soul. He came to wake to living flame this fire of whole-hearted devotion and loyalty; and the story of the Catholic Church during the past nineteen centuries or so bears witness to the success of His appeal. 
For the Catholic Church subsists age after age, full of life and energy, in the midst of a hostile world, just because of that fire that is kept ever blazing in the hearts of her children by Christ's unique appeal. For His appeal is not merely that of the best and greatest, the wisest and most glorious Leader and Captain the world has ever seen, fighting for the noblest cause it has ever been given to men to fight for — it is all that, too, but it is infinitely more. For, through Christ's lips, God Himself is stooping to ask His creatures for service.
Link (here) to the full article by Fr. Albert Power, S.J.

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