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By Carlo Stagnaro,
ARMI Magazine,
Milan, Italy, June 2003,
reprinted with permission of ARMI and translated by Mr. Stagnaro

Many of today's Roman Catholics are bewitched by pacifist sirens, or fall victim to the deceptive melody of nonviolence. Maybe these people don't know that, at the very same time that they argue in favor of certain principles, they are far from orthodoxy and, indeed, make heretical arguments. When one says that "tranquility" or "safety" are values in themselves - that is, when one says that nothing is worth risking, fighting or dying for - one implicitly is denying that a superior Truth does exist; therefore, one is talking against our Lord Jesus. After all, He came on earth and sacrificed Himself to save our souls.

The commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," of course, properly translated from the original with its meaning intact, really is, "Thou shalt not murder." In fact, the use of lethal force in self-defense is legitimate in the Christian tradition. It is written: "You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry. My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword; then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans" (Exodus 22:21-23). So, God Himself states the principle that aggressive violence is illegitimate, while it is legitimate to act against aggression. Christ said: "But now one who has a money bag should take it, and likewise a sack, and one who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy one" (Luke 22:36).

The difference between aggression and self-defense has been understood by theologians since the very beginning of Christian philosophy. St. Augustine of Hippo
pointed out that peace without justice and liberty is an "unjust peace," as opposed to the "tranquility of order." St. Thomas Acquinas noted that "true peace is only in good men and about good things. The peace of the wicked is not a true peace but a semblance thereof." This line of reasoning has been unchanged for at least 1,000 years - except in the minds of heretics. Indeed, the Roman Catholic Church has been so conscious of the importance and relevance of self-defense that it chose several patron saints for those who deal peacefully with weapons. To mention only a few of them: St. Barbara, Patron of Artillerymen; St. Sebastian, Patron of Archers; St. Michael the Archangel, Patron of the Security Forces.

However, shooters still do not have an official patron saint. This is true for firearm hobbyists as well as for those who use guns to protect life, liberty and property. This is why Mr. John Michael Snyder, a former associate editor of the NRA's American Rifleman magazine, founded the St. Gabriel Possenti Society, Inc. (www.gunsaint.com). He tells the story in the brilliant book Gun Saint (Arlington, VA: Telum Associates, 2003). It is a "must have" book for all those who believe owning and using guns is not against the Law of Jesus.

St. Gabriel Possenti (born in Assisi, Italy on March 1, 1838) has been chosen by Mr. Snyder as a candidate for patronizing shooters. Possenti entered the Passionist House of Morovalle, Italy on September 21, 1856, after he had had a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He died on February 27, 1862. Word of his sanctity spread quickly, and many faithful people went on pilgrimage to his tomb. During those times, there was clear evidence of miracles reported through his intercession. The Sacred Congregation of Rites determined particularly that at least two of them were absolutely incontestable (the instantaneous cure of Mr. John Baptist Cerro from severe arthritis, and the immediate recovery of Mr. Aloysius Parisi from a grievous abdominal rupture).

In 1891, an official investigation into the life and virtues of Gabriel Possenti was opened by the ecclesiastical authorities at Terni, Italy. In 1896, Pope Leo XIII authorized the formal introduction of the cause of canonization of Gabriel Possenti. He was beatified by Pope St. Pius X on May 31, 1908. Originally, the date of his canonization was set for May in 1913. However, it was delayed because of the approaching World War One, and he was proclaimed a Saint in May, 1920 by Pope Benedict XV.

The reason why Mr. Snyder has been proposing the recognition of Gabriel Possenti as a patron saint for shooters took place in 1860. After a battle that year in Pesaro, Italy, in which Giuseppe Garibaldi's Piedmontese army defeated Blessed Pope Pius IX's army, several contingents of the former left the main body of the troops, and proceeded to terrorize the countryside. About 20 of them entered Isola del Gran Sasso, where Gabriel Possenti served as a seminarian. When the noise from the ruckus caused by the gang reached the monastery, Possenti asked the monastery rector if he could go into the town to see if he could help the people. The rector said yes.

Possenti found the gang about to rape a young woman, and ordered them to set her free. When they refused to obey, Possenti yanked two pistols out of the soldiers' holsters. (According to Mr. Paolo Tagini, who edits the Italian firearms magazine, Armi Magazine, the weapons likely were 1851 Colt Navy Model six-shot revolvers in .36 caliber or imitations thereof.) At that moment, a lizard ran across the road. Gabriel Possenti took aim, fired and killed it with one shot. Then, he turned his weapons toward the gang which, surprised and shocked, left the village.

"By naming St. Gabriel Possenti officially the Patron of Handgunners, the Vatican could hold up this holy man as an example of the proper use of handguns," Mr. Snyder points out. "This would underscore the good purposes to which these inanimate objects can be and often are put. " Possenti used guns in order to pursue a just end: protecting the victims' life, liberty and property against aggression. "He used a handgun to rescue an entire village full of peaceful, law-abiding people from the grip of a renegade band of soldier/terrorists," Mr. Snyder adds. "He accomplished his mission without causing physical harm, let alone bloodshed, to anyone…(H)e not only defended a village against a band of brigands. He also aimed a bullet at the heart of tyranny, at the heart of terrorism, at the heart of a brute ideology that justified the use of armed force against the innocent… The Catholic Church, as a genuine and consistent defender of the right to life, also could speak out for the right of the individual to self-defense, of the right to keep and bear arms."

The book Gun Saint also contains a report of the dialogue between Mr. Snyder and the Holy See, which sometimes has to face the hard wall of political correctness but thanks to God keeps on going. Allegedly, not even the Church is immune from this ill, this political correctness, which is a real threat to Christians worldwide. But Snyder also found attention: to mention only one of those who understood the importance of his efforts, Archbishop Custodio Alvim Pereira, who realized perfectly that a patron saint for shooters is needed as a symbol for those who are willing to, and do, protect life, liberty and property. Mr. Snyder also has been in touch with Dr. Francesco Possenti, a great grand nephew of St. Gabriel Possenti.

As any good Christian knows, the theological virtues are Faith, Hope and Charity. So, the book ends with a word of Hope: "Since the terrible events of September 11, it really has become clear to all who have eyes to see and ears to hear that our civilization is in a war for survival. Central to this war for survival, although it is not 'politically correct' to say so, is a struggle between those who hold dear the spiritual values of our society and those who abhor, hate and despise those spiritual values… By naming St. Gabriel Possenti, officially, the Patron of Handgunners, the Vatican could reassert in a striking manner the traditional principle that the use of force and the instruments of force in defense of life, truth, justice, and innocence against unjustified and nefarious aggression is not only acceptable but sometimes necessary."


By John Michael Snyder
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