Last week over 150,000 people attended the annual New York Comic Con exhibition nearby at the Javits Center. Many dressed as their favorite comic-book characters: Batman, Spiderman, Superman and Wonder Woman. Along with Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Dick Tracy, they added more color to our already interesting neighborhood.
The saints glowing on our windows and the statues reflecting the votive lights testify that Holy Mother Church produces the most fascinating characters, and—unlike the comic book heroes—these were real. More than that, they changed our world for the better and combated the real Prince of Lies who has menaced more people through the ages than any comic-book villain.
In recent days, as eyes look warily and perplexed on the spreading threat of Islam, I have thought of the genuine heroes who confronted that challenge in their various generations. If we are shocked at the genocide of Christians, the beheading of children, the torture and crucifixion of fathers and their young sons, we should remember the real heroes who were familiar with such slaughter in their own day. In Tours in 732, the Frankish king Charles Martel defeated the Islamic army using clever weaponry against great odds. Then there were Richard the Lionheart, Saint Louis IX, János Hunyadi, Saint John of Capistrano, Don Juan of Austria, Andrea Doria, Saint Pius V, and Jan Sobieski, all of whom lived lives that could constitute an entire college course in history, psychology, politics, and religion. If some of these names are now obscure, that is the fault of those who do not appreciate how, if any one of them had failed, our world would be far more miserable today and its institutions unrecognizable, and it is entirely possible that none of us would be alive.
Europe and, to an increasing extent, our own country are experiencing waves of Islamic immigrants who are not welcome in some of their own lands. Mohammed is the most popular name for boys in London now, and Arabic is the fastest-growing language in the United States. Honest and needy refugees expect the Christian welcome that the Gospel enjoins, for no one is foreign to Christ. But the spiritual gift of discernment should distinguish the immigrant from the invader, and there is palpable evidence that some people of ill will pretend to be refugees when in fact they are of the ilk that Charles Martel and all those other real heroes confronted.
The popular press downplayed the fact that those men and women in the school in Oregon were killed because they were Christian, albeit by a homegrown fanatic. Perhaps the journalists could not cope with the fact that Christ is being crucified every day in many ways. He predicted that, which is why the figures in our stained-glass windows and beckoning from our statues are not Superman and Wonder Woman, but saints and the Lady who is Queen of Saints.
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