No Cross, No Crown!

No Cross, No Crown!


RCMCrossCrownWhitelogocrop“The world’s greatest need is great men, someone who will understand that there is no greater conquest than victory over oneself; someone who will realize that the real worth is achieved, not so much by activity, as by silence; someone who will seek the Kingdom of God and His justice, and put into actual practice the law that it is only by dying to the life of the body that we ever live to the life of the spirit; someone who will brave the taunts of a Good Friday to win the joy of Easter Sunday; who will, like a lightning-flash, burn away the bonds of feeble interests which tie down our energies to the world; who, with a fearless voice, like John the Baptist, will arouse our enfeebled nature out of the sleek dream of unheroic repose; who will gain victories, not by stepping down from the Cross and compromising with the world, but who will suffer in order to conquer the world.

In a word, what we need are saints, for saints are the truly great men … I assume without further ado that the grace of God is the one thing necessary, and that God will give that grace to those who do His will.” -Venerable Fulton Sheen




In the Parable of the Talents (Mt 25:14-30), we see the Master gives one servant 5 talents, another servant 2 talents, and the third servant 1 talent.  There’s no need to pity the guy who “only” received one talent, once we understand that a talent was 15 years worth of salary (This wasn’t lost on the early Christians). In today’s money, assuming a year’s salary at about $40,000, then a single talent is worth $600,000! So, Jesus uses these extravagant amounts of wealth to symbolize just how blessed each of us has been in our own lives.

The first two servants made the effort to grow their talents, doubling their investments, while the third buries the talent in the ground.  The Master rewards the first two, while punishing the third harshly for simply preserving his talent. “His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!’” (Matthew 25:26).

The lesson here is that when we put our God-given talents to HIS use, He’ll aid us, and we’ll get returns on them beyond what we’d ever imagine. You see? The first two servants did not only receive the extravagance of their master, but they made an “extravagant effort” to “grow the gift!”

What does each of us “really” want? Oh, we could start listing all of the material things, or even speak about love or esteem or appreciation from others, but it can all be boiled down to this: We want joy! Things and people may bring us some temporal satisfaction, but that deep and essential joy is something only God can give. It’s a joy of confidently knowing we are God’s children “in His good graces” – we are on His team – because we are among those making “extravagant efforts” to please God, whom we love; to grow in holiness … we are “striving” to be numbered among His saints in training.

This Parable of the Talents is actually a “double-down” of this point Jesus was making. In the previous passage, Jesus gives the “Parable of the Ten Virgins” (Mt 25:1-13). There he points to five who were wise, by bringing “extra” oil, and five who were foolish, by bringing only the bear minimum. The wise ended up “invited in for the party” (the wedding feast), while the foolish were estranged from the Bridegroom; left out in the cold. In my book, Church Militant Field Manual, I wrote about why these foolish remained estranged from our Lord:

Why did the Bridegroom say, “I do not know you” (Mt 25:12) to the foolish virgins who did not bother to bring enough oil? They represent those who are stuck in that kind of empty religiosity that avoids the extra effort, the sacrifice that is vital in any real love relationship. Instead, they neglect, take shortcuts, or avoid altogether the greater demands of obedient love. Trapped in spiritual sloth (indifference), there is no holy fear and therefore, they are content to keep God at an impersonal, manageable distance, as they remain just a face in the crowd — a pew potato — a bench warmer who is content to be on the team but avoids the effort of getting in the game. “Faith means battles;” said St. Ambrose, “if there are no contests, it is because there are none who desire to contend.”




It’s easy to get discouraged that we don’t have the sanctity of the greatest Saints in history.  But God isn’t expecting that of us. He just wants to see “real effort.”

I’ve come to believe that the desire to enter the fight – against those forces both internal and external – is a desire to enter into a genuine training in holiness, pursuing the goal of becoming one of God’s champions.

St. Paul put it this way:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).


Yes, in this namby-pamby, “everyone-gets-a-trophy” world in which we now live, we’ve lost the “drive to strive.” And yet, this striving cuts to the very core of who we are. The Church Fathers of Vatican II stated, significantly, “All the faithful of Christ are invited to strive for the holiness and perfection of their own proper state. Indeed they have an obligation to so strive.

This past June 11th would have been Vince Lombardi’s 102nd Birthday. He’s one of my heroes. I was in grade school when he led the Green Bay Packers to three titles, immortalizing Green Bay as “Title Town.” In my Field Manual, I pointed to Coach Lombardi’s “drive to strive” that was rooted in his Catholic faith. For example, he went to Mass 365 days a year, and would often serve at Mass, while leading the Packers to their championships.

This is one of my favorite quotes from Coach Lombardi:

“And in truth, I’ve never known a man worth his salt who in the long run, deep down in his heart, didn’t appreciate the grind, the discipline. There is something in good men that really yearns for discipline and the harsh reality of head to head combat. I don’t say these things because I believe in the ‘brute’ nature of men or that men must be brutalized to be combative. I believe in God, and I believe in human decency. But I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour — his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear — is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle — victorious.”


There’s a fancy Latin word that speaks to what Coach Lombardi said, or what Paul wrote to the Corinthians, or what Jesus was teaching in those parables: Supererogation (pronounced, super-rare-ogation). It means, “payment beyond what is due or asked”, from super “beyond” and erogare “to pay out, expend” … it is the performance of more than is asked for; the action of doing more than duty requires.

Notice that, in my pronunciation key, there are the words, “Super Rare.” Unfortunately, that’s true. Jesus would talk about a “narrow path” or a camel trying to pass through the eye of a needle to speak to how rare is this Supererogation … this “going beyond the minimum.”

But, whether it is Jesus or St. Paul or Coach Lombardi, they all knew that our finest hour — the greatest fulfillment to all we hold dear — is that moment when we have worked our hearts out in a good cause and we lie exhausted on the field of battle — victorious. This is the way to “real joy!” This is the way to heaven!




Finally, there is much talk about evangelization or even a “New Evangelization” … we want folks, especially our loved ones, to know the joy of a dynamic and fulfilling life in Christ, and we want them to get to heaven. Some believe that means getting in someone’s face and quoting a bunch of scripture passages. But, that has never been the way Christianity has grown. Pope Benedict XVI once said that the Church “does not grow by proselytism. Instead she grows by attraction.” From the very first days of Christianity, our numbers have grown because folks from the outside, looking in, have been incredibly impressed by the “authentic love” Christians had for God; a real love that was evident by their utter resolve to offer “extravagant effort” to please God in every way. It’s a “ripple effect.”

Yes, we must pray for our wayward loved ones (priest) and, yes, when inspired by the Holy Spirit, we must speak with them (prophet), but if our lives do not demonstrate a true resolve to render “extravagant effort” to please God in every way (king), every endeavor to evangelize is received as superficial, cosmetic – even hypocritical – and unable to convince anyone of our authentic love for God.

This “Training in Holiness” will look at what this “Supererogation” – this going beyond – looks like for saints in training. Please begin this “training camp” by, first, looking at those goals you’ve always had for yourself, but seem to falter along the way. This time you have, literally, thousands of folks in training with you, and a coach inspired by Vince Lombardi, St. Paul and our Lord, Jesus Christ!


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